The Atlanta music scene has recently been buzzing with talks about a local artist named Alan Z. With recommendations from YouTubers such as JRE from JREKML and Salv from Salv and Family, there’s no question as to why the Kpop world has taken interest as well. This Asian-American artist delivers refreshing raps that are reminiscent of both old and new school hip-hop, accompanied with melodies that are sure to get stuck in your head. So who exactly is Alan Z, and what can we expect from him as an entertainer? He graciously accompanied us to lunch at a local restaurant and shared some fun facts and more about who he is as an artist and exactly how Asian-Americans can also excel in the hip-hop genre. Check it out below!
Who is Alan Z?
“Alan Z is the underdog, the people’s champ (laughs at himself). It sounds like a fighter’s intro huh? I’m a singer/rapper/actor, basically a renaissance man if you will. I’m pretty much just an artist’s artist.”
How/when did you get into music?
“I started rapping when I was twelve and singing when I was fifteen. It’s really been like a lifelong obsession with me, because I started off writing when I was eight, no seven. That transformed into lyrics and melodies.
I was a weird kid. I was in a rough neighborhood, so for the most part I stayed to myself even though I had friends I would hang out with. But really I liked writing, so when kids would be like, ‘Hey lets go out and play,’ I’d rarely go, because I’d rather be in my room writing and drawing. I was really introverted, and I guess my craft just transformed into other artistic expressions [musically].”
If you had to choose between only rapping or singing, which would you choose?
“I think I’d choose rapping, because it’s my main craft. I think singing, I guess, is like an accessory that a lot of people like, you know? For me, how I express myself is so much easier through rapping. Singing is more so… because I have such a huge female fan base. They like hearing me sing, so I do it almost like a favor to you guys (the ladies). You know what I mean?”
What makes your music unique/stand out?
“I’d say I’m a very versatile artist, so you never really know what you’re gonna get with me. I could do an upbeat, like Top 40 type track, then the next minute I could do a trap record. I can do R&B and then switch it up and do a hip-hop laid-back tune. It’s like, I just create for the sake of creating. Not just to, you know, put myself into one category.”
LizzySkpop: “Right, you don’t want to put yourself in a box.”
A: “Yeah, exactly.”
So you say that, “99% of your fans wear heels,” do you intentionally gear your music towards women, or is that just a happy bonus?
“I think it’s both. Actually that catchphrase started off as a joke (smiles). I had that catchphrase in one of my raps, and I just used it from there. Basically where it came from is, well, as you guys probably know, I’m a huge hip hop fan, so in 1997/98 Canibus and LL Cool J had a rap beef. Canibus was up and coming at that time, and there was a lot of buzz around him. He battled with LL; he actually had a diss track about LL. As you probably remember, LL was like the ladies man, you know, all the girls love him. So when Canibus dissed him, he said, ‘99% of your fans wear heels.’ So when I started to think back on that, I thought, ‘That’s a good thing.’ (laughs) And I’m also a fan of LL. I think he inspires me, because he has that kind of lover and fighter side [to him], where he can do songs for the ladies and also do battle raps. I kinda took that and flipped it into a positive thing for myself.
Well then, other than LL, who else are your musically influenced by?
“You guys could probably guess Eminem. To be honest with you, the reason I actually started doing music was because of Eminem. He inspired me so much to express myself in that way [musically]. I also really love Michael Jackson, Chris Brown, Trey Songz, Big Pun, Tupac, Big L, Rakim, Lauren Hill, and Outcast [to name a few]. I’m just inspired by quality music— like legends [such as] The Fugees, stuff that lasts for ages.”
I saw that you’ve recently started doing Kpop MV reactions on YouTube. How did you get into the genre?
(Laughs) “I think that was also accidental (in reference to having a mostly female fan base). One of my friends DJ Cross, a couple years ago, contacted me and was like, ‘I’m trying to do this cover of this group called CNBLUE.’ I was like, ‘I don’t know what that is, but alright,’ because I liked his music. He produces all of his own stuff.
It was a song called ‘Can’t Stop’, and he made it into an EDM/hip-hop fusion. A lot of people really liked it, and that’s when I discovered that whole fandom. I knew of BIGBANG, I knew Taeyang, but that was the extent [of my Kpop knowledge]. I knew of Seven and Rain, but I didn’t know how deep it got. The more I explored it, the more I saw that it was something I could really learn from, you know, because they’re so unique over there [in Korea].
They have their own sound while mixing bits and pieces from America. As far as reactions, you gotta thank [my friend] Mr. PoPo for that. I did my first one with him. I didn’t know how to do it, and he was like, ‘Just do it,’ because we were already shooting a video. After that, I started to introduce my friends to it, because I liked seeing how people react to different things. And recently I got my friend Lango to start doing it. He’s a good friend of mine, and a lot of people really like him.”
L: “Is that the guy with the sword in a recent video?”
A: (Laughs) Yes. He’s a really big Halo fan, he’s a gamer. He literally came to my house with that sword (laughs). He was like, ‘By the way, I have a sword.’ I thought he was coming with like a blade, but it was like a Halo energy sword (laughs).”
Do you have any favorite Kpop groups or artists?
“Right now, I really like BTS, not because I’m like riding the bandwagon, but I think they’re really talented. As far as solo artist, I really like Zion T., Dean, and Crush. People that can really create soulful music, I like that a lot.”
Kpop group members are known to have different roles such as leader, visual, main vocal, lead rapper, etc. What would your role be if you were in a Kpop group?
A: “Interesting. What exactly is a visual’s role?”
L: “They’re basically the face of the group. Like for BTS, Jin is the visual.”
A: “Jin is the face of the group? I didn’t know that!”
L: “Yes (laughs), he doesn’t get a lot of screen time I know.”
A: “Isn’t that ironic though? That’s terrible! How are you the visual but you’re barely seen?”
L: “I know! Let’s not talk about it; it breaks my heart!”
A: “Wow (laughs). Ok, well, I think because I’m such a diva with my art, I’d definitely have to be the leader. Then I’d probably have to disband, and become a solo artist within the first month (laughs). I could never be in a group though. I mean I could be in a collective one where I do side projects with people, but as far as being known for just being in a group, that’s way too much. I feel like I’d just be pushing everyone aside, trying to get my spotlight. It would not be healthy (laughs). I would definitely Beyoncé everyone.”
If you could be in any Kpop group, or a part of any Kpop management company, who/what would it be?
“I think I would definitely do something with AOMG.”
Are there any Kpop artists you’d like to collaborate with?
“Definitely anybody from AOMG, BTS, Ailee, Crush, and Zion T. Honestly I’d work with anyone if they reached out, because it’s different. And I’d definitely like to write for them as well, because I know they use American writers and producers.
Are you into any KDramas?
“I actually watch a lot of Chinese and Taiwanese dramas. I recently saw “The Princess Weiyoung,” and it was really good. It’s really intense— a lot of people die. Spoiler! (laughs) It has a lot of plot twists too. I use to watch a lot of idol dramas too, because when I was younger, I wanted to act in them. I still watch some, because I’m interested their production as well.”
Who are you currently listening to?
“Currently I’m listening to Childish Gambino, Bruno Mars‘ new album. Let’s see, who else? Trey Songz just dropped a new mixtape, so I’m listening to that as well. I listen to Royce 5’9. He’s signed to Shady— that’s Eminem’s label. There’s also a new group (laughs) that Eminem signed. As you can tell I’m a fan of Eminem. [The group] has Westside Gunn and Conway, and they have new music out, so I’ve been listening to them. Honestly, I stay pretty current when it comes to rap, so I can study what’s [currently] going on. I recently started to appreciate trap music, so I’ve been listening to Future and Uzi Vert. I don’t know, I guess to me, I’ve learned to appreciate the stuff that I can do, as opposed to what I can’t. Things like lyricism, charisma, and, you know, like catchiness— all that I learned for myself [through studying music in general].”
I know you just filmed a music video, what can we expect from it?
“It’s totally different from “Distance” (his last single). Speaking of trap, it’s like a melado trap song. It’s a little more upbeat and grimier. There isn’t a love interest, and it’s a lot grittier. And as for what to expect, it’s uhh, something you can’t expect (laughs). Expect the unexpected.
The song is called ‘Pay Me.’ We’re shooting our final scene this weekend, then we’ll start the editing process. After that I have another music video I’m doing too.”
What song of yours are you most proud of?
“Hmm, there’re a few I haven’t released yet, so I don’t want to reveal them, but the one I can reveal is definitely ‘Distance.’ There’s definitely a reason why that was the first single. It exemplifies what I do best. I sing, I rap, and I do both equally. And it’s a personal story about one of my exes that I’m sure everyone can relate to. And I think because it was such a hard thing for me to write about, for me to actually get it out, and people to be like, ‘I really relate to this,’ I feel like I did some good.
What’s next for Alan Z?
“My new single ‘Pay Me’ is about to drop, and we’re probably gonna release limited edition face masks, but [only] a limited amount. In the video, we all wear face masks, so that should be something fun. We’re working on merch. I’m also still working on my EP, and I have acting projects as well. I was just cast as one of the main characters in this new web series Fear. We start filming later this month. It’s an urban, coming-of-age story about a group of college kids. It’s kinda like a modern day Degrassi.”
A few “just for fun” questions before we part! Sweet or Salty?
Vacation in the mountain or on a beach?
“Definitely the beach, because I kinda get freaked out when I don’t have service (laughs).
Suburbs or the City?
“Definitely the city. ”
Sunrise or Sunset?
“Sunrise, because I feel like that’s always like the dawn of a new day. A sunset kinda implies your day is over you know?”
With that, we ended our interview with the Atlanta rapper, but this is just the beginning for Alan Z. His upcoming EP hosts friends such as JRE, Salv, and many more, so it’s sure to make a splash when released. In the meantime, click HERE to visit his official Facebook to keep up with his current news. You can even see some pictures of his recent appearance on “Star,” the TV show on FOX from the creators of “Empire.”
With rapping, singing, and acting under his belt, it’s safe to say Alan Z is someone to keep your eye on in the future! He proves to be versatile and knowledgeable about his craft, so we can’t wait to see what the future holds for him! With his increasing popularity, hopefully he’ll make his way into the K-Music scene as well and become a household name for fans across the globe.
You can check out his MV for his single “Distance” below, as well as some shots from our meet up.
LizzySKPOP is a WTK writer who stans GOT7 above all things in life and loves to try Korean beauty products. She also enjoys the music of MONSTA X. BTS, BIGBANG, and many more. Although she is pretty new to the Kpop world, she is already a hardcore fan and finds more groups every day to love. No matter what though, she will always love GOT7 the most and constantly relives the moments when she was able to see them up close and personal like at a hi-touch events and a personal Skype session! She is proud aunt that has spread the love of Kpop to her nieces as well.
Media: Main Rose Photography for WTK