It should come as no surprise that the eclectic versatility of Izza Kizza's style has generated widespread comparisons to fellow rapper Missy Elliott. And while his first two mixtapes deviate from the standard hip hop fare, both Kizzaland (2008) and The Wizard of Iz (2009) are welcome "breaths of fresh air," as the music industry continues to churn out countless numbers of stale artists. Thus, Izza Kizza's charisma and witty lyrics are simply added bonuses, which conspire to make his work all the more memorable.
Upon review of The Wizard of Iz, Izza Kizza managed to squeeze some time out of his busy schedule and settle down for an interview with Clayton Perry — reflecting on Timbaland, the digital mixtape movement, and the inspiration taken from L. Frank Baum's classic novel, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.
As a child, I was a real big fan of The Wizard of Oz, especially when it was retooled by William F. Brown and Charlie Smalls—for the Broadway stage—as The Wiz. The original author, L. Frank Baum, stated that he wrote the book to give young readers a sense of possibility and imagination. How you do you relate Baum's mission to your life as a musician?
I can see why he would say that he made The Wizard of Oz that way. His spark of creativity opened a lot of doors and a lot of people's minds, even in how a lot of moviemakers shoot movies nowadays. A lot of the dopest movies are left-field. To me, the dialogue and storyline are representative of everyday life, regardless of whatever situation you're trying to accomplish. Everybody has a dream embedded inside of them, no matter where you are – small-town or big city. And we are always on a never-ending journey to find ourselves. When you think about Dorothy, she spends a great deal of time soul-searching. And after going through so much stuff, she was so happy to get back home and to her normal self. I kind of relate that with what I've been through in my experience and use that dialogue to tell my stories. If you listen to my mix tapes, it's all about how my life got flipped upside down and you find these people along the way that help you along your journey. I think my mixtape gives people a sense of what I was looking for and what I am looking to do. Some of them are personal. A lot of them are hip hop. At the end, I even have a Tin Man song that's all about feelings. So I related the dialogue from The Wiz to show how I got through life and continue to get through life.
Is there a particular person that you met along the way that you credit as a mentor in the business?
Going through life you find out different things, and the different people that you meet, they're all associated with energy or extra life force that you need. My manager was one of the people that pushed me over the years and taught me how to be sharper. I had to get through smaller phases in my career to be able to get to the much bigger phases. A lot of people around my way have been supportive. And in order to be able to work with people, especially when you have a relationship with them, you need to know how to let it be a love-hate relationship. Sometimes, with your brother, you're going to wake up in the morning and you're all pissed off with each other. You still got to live together. So all of my friendships and relationships have shown me that, "Okay, there is going to be a lot of stuff going on, a lot of stumbling blocks but just keep it moving."
Over the course of your career, the Internet has played a major role in your publicity machine. At the moment, you have several videos on YouTube and you have seen the mixtape industry evolve full-scale into the digital generation. Although you haven't had a major label debut yet, you've managed to secure a nice following online. So in what ways has the Internet benefited you best?
One of the things that I learned in the industry is first, you have to learn how not to do it. I want my listeners to be as confident as I am about the music. The internet is definitely a tool to get people to become solid listeners and learn to know you. I was talking to Missy Elliott the other day and one of the things she brought up to me was people don't love the artist no more. Lil' Wayne and Kanye West – people love those dudes. It's very, very rare nowadays that people get a relationship with the artist and love the artist. The love is there but you kind of fight for it. You have to put it out there. When I'm putting records out there for free, I feel like people will love that. It's like I'm not saying, "Hey, go buy this album." I'm giving them some of my music to listen to and get to know me and enjoy the music. One of the things that I live by is you have to get people to want your material for free before they buy it. I have the internet to reach out to people. I want people to embrace me and embrace my movement. It's important to have those fans, those people and make them say, "Okay, we like this guy. We want to hear more." It makes them appreciate it more. Everybody is trying to reach that next level but sometimes – and this is another thing Missy told me – you can play it slow instead of going for the quick fame. Another thing I live by is anything worth having is worth waiting for. Get people to know you, build your foundation from the ground – it makes your fan base solid.
When you look at the musical landscape, are there any specific things you want to change or redefine?
I just want to bring something new. I don't think it really needs to be redefined. I feel these artists that are coming out like T.I. – people need to hear that aspect of music but people don't need to hear that aspect of music from two T.I.'s or three T.I.'s. One true T.I. and that's it. Everybody, let's try to find something else to bring to the game. I try to just bring my own thing to the game and I just use the art form to inspire me, not particularly to use the same style. I'm not really trying to redefine the style. I'm trying to enhance the style, if anything.
Well, your music and influence have slowly crept its way into the public consciousness. And "Millionaire" was recently included in the soundtrack for the Madden NFL 09 video game. Besides this accomplishment, what other memories shine bright?
The mistakes are memorable and I'm making sure that I don't make the same mistakes next time. You know how they say you never know how to do until you make a mistake? I always use those mistakes, even when I'm talking to people who want to get in the game. To me, learning those mistakes is the most valuable thing and learning how not to fail is definitely important.
Is there one particular mistake that you learned a lot from?
Punctuality, just learning how to be more prompt. You miss a lot of good opportunities by not being punctual. You have to know yourself. I got to a point where I let so many people define my style. If you're not careful, you'll forget your own style. You'll forget who you are. I learned you got to keep your integrity. You got to keep what makes you different. You got to stay focused on you.
Your first two mixtapes, Kizzaland and The Wizard of Iz, were mixed by Nick Catchdubs. How did the two of you link up? And what keeps your musical relationship going?
This dude is awesome, man. I work off of relationships, you know. I like doing stuff with people that I know, that I can relate. Meeting Nick was really, really cool. Anything we do, we do it like a team. Anybody we deal with, we try to make sure that those people understand that we're trying to build a team of individuals to make the project excel. We don't want to just deal with anybody. We only deal with people who we think are going to take the relationship seriously and are in it for the longevity. He's such a hard worker, man. Why wouldn't anybody want to spend time with people who definitely appreciate what they do? I can feel that when I listen to the record and that's why I deal with him.
According to various sources, you are currently signed to Mosley Music Group. How would you describe your musical partnership with Timbaland?
Well, let me set the record straight. I am no longer signed to Mosley Music Group! [laughing] I had a situation with Mosley Music Group in the beginning and Timbaland gave me some good tips. He gave me this secret, the recipe to making good records. He told me a little bit about how when you're making a record in terms of the music, how to make it go together the best. But I think that everything kind of got political. We had a vision and we had a direction. But he had a lot going on and he also had a direction. So we kind of like veered off into our own directions. Right now, I just felt like I got to focus on me. Timbaland is a very, very good producer and I'm looking forward to doing a lot of records with him in the future. But now, I'm just trying to define who I am as an artist. I want to make sure that I'm confident with that. You got to know because a producer can't tell you who you are.
Sonically, The Wizard of Iz is different from Kizzaland. How would you describe your evolution between these two mixtapes?
Kizzaland was like a collection of records that I've done over time. That was more along the lines of me getting to know myself on the microphone and seeing what works best for me. I came out with a lot of them and I was like, "Wow, these are awesome records." We just put them on there because they were fresh and new. Kizzaland didn't really have the dialogue whereas The Wizard of Iz is more focused. I was finding my voice. We're just scratching the surface of what I really could do. It still hasn't reached its full potential. I'm getting to know myself as an artist and it shows in the record.
For more information on Izza Kizza, visit his official website.Powered by Sidelines