Asian artists are surely taking the world by storm. Most recently, South Korean boy group BTS made a breakthrough to mainstream listeners above the massive fanbase they already held in a less known scene. While the world of KPOP is considered highkey to those already part of this domain, American audiences are still unaware of the impact Asians and Asian Americans are having on the music industry.
Among the US streets of Atlanta, Georgia, another artist has garnered his own fanbase with fans traveling to see his shows, purchase his albums, and support him in any way they can. I first came across Alan Z when he attended a smaller function in Virginia. He held a strong presence without as many words needed compared to others, and it was more than obvious that he was an artist, ready to stand out and stand up for the Asian American music scene with his original productions and hardworking image.
Alan recently released a new music video for his song “Touch and Go” – a trendy, modern tune that he produced and a video he co-directed. We were lucky to be able to catch an interview with him!
Has your original image/vision for your music changed since you started?
Alan Z: My vision for striving to be a household name and pop sensation never changed, but my image definitely changed throughout the times. When I was younger, I had different management teams, and they pushed me towards either the “grown and sexy” suited-up look, or the preppy, teenage Justin Bieber look. I hated both of those looks for me. Then I started wearing hats and baggy pants, but unfortunately, the classic hip-hop style was out. Fast-forward to now, I got my signature wavy hair and fitted jeans. I miss the old hip-hop fashion, but unfortunately, it’s a new world we live in.
You co-directed the music video for Touch And Go; did you ever imagine you’d be covering all areas of production when you first started making music?
Alan Z: I knew I was going to be hands-on with everything, which I believe is the result of being a perfectionist. Well, that and also because I learned that you can’t depend on people for anything. The video concept for “Touch And Go” has been like three years in the making. My best friend Taaj and I first brainstormed about it in 2014 when I first recorded the song, and I finally decided to finish writing the video treatment and putting together the cast and crew this past summer. It features three love interests and our storylines are intertwined within the main narrative. Whoever is reading this that hasn’t seen “Touch And Go” yet, watch it now on YouTube so you can say that you saw it before I become too mainstream and bandwagon fans discover me way later.
Of your songs, I imagine there are some selections that you hold near and dear to you. At the moment, are there any of your songs that are more relevant than others to your life?
Alan Z: I have a song called “Discriminated” on my new EP “First Time’s The Charm”, where I open up about the discrimination I faced throughout my childhood and how it followed me into my music career, which has been an uphill battle due to racism. But in the song, I’m not just complaining; I’m fighting back against anyone that has got a problem with me. I interpolated the Eminem line “have you ever been hated or discriminated against” in the song for obvious reasons. There’s also my EP intro track “No Handouts”, which was my F-U to everyone in a higher-up position or had the funds to help me but flaked on doing anything for me. So the idea is that I will make it with or without them. No favors, no helping hand, no handouts.
When you first started making music, what did you think it was going to be like for you? Did you imagine it would be like how it is for you now?
Alan Z: When I started rapping at 12 years old, I thought all I had to do was be good and I’d get signed, and then I wouldn’t have to finish high school. I was wrong obviously. I grew up to learn this business was 90% business, 10% music. Especially nowadays talent is not enough without popularity, so I work effortlessly to build my buzz and keep my momentum going. Alan Z is going to be a household name regardless.
The term “selling out” often comes to mind as the popularity of underground artists hit mainstream media. What do you think of artists who do sell out, and do you think selling out is inevitable or it can be prevented?
Alan Z: I think selling out is subjective. For example, me making pop music isn’t selling out in my case because I have an ear for making catchy songs and I have the Midas touch with any record I’m on, meaning I can put a fire hook on a beat and turn it into a potential radio smash. My definition of selling out is doing something that you personally don’t agree with, for the sake of fame or money. I’m down with making power moves, getting endorsement deals, acting in film and commercials, and making radio songs; all of which may be considered “selling out” to some people. However, what I will NOT do is portray Asians in a negative light or drop one of my talents to be more easily pigeonholed, whether it be singing or rapping. I don’t need to sell out now for me to pack stadiums soon and sell out crowds (bars).
Was there ever a time during your career that you considered giving up?
Alan Z: Oh of course. That thought has come to my mind, but no matter how close I come to saying “f— it”, I bounce back and go harder. I’m well-aware that many artists that could be lending a helping hand see me as a threat and just watch me from a distance, and my patience has been wearing thinner by the day by false promises and industry snakes. But my love for music, my never-ending lust for success, and passion for impacting others keep me going. No matter how crazy it may sound to some now, I’m say it here: Alan Z will be a global phenomenon.
Passion in music surpasses any other kind of determination when you start off raw, and Alan Z is a prime example of what hard work can do. Beating the odds and showing his audience that he is capable of doing what he sets out to do, he is definitely one to keep on your radar.
Support Alan Z by following him on social media and by watching his new MV for “Touch and Go”!