Having begun his journey into music at the tender age of 14 as a garage MC, IYKZ, hailing from the north side of Hackney, honed his musical skills by studying the crafts of some of the greats such as Tupac, Biggie, Michael Jackson, and more.
IYKZ was committed to finishing his education, so whilst studying for a degree, he found a small following on Myspace after being pushed to make a profile by a friend. This led to his first mixtape "P2P" where his music videos were featured by platforms such as GRM Daily and All HipHop. Rave reviews on IYKZ’s "Warm Up Session" for SB.TV led to the creator Jamal Edwards MBE featuring it in the company’s advert for Google Chrome, which was broadcasted in 2012.
That same year, IYKZ worked closely with an old friend and now Afropop artist, Maleek Berry, on his next three projects with collaborations from artists such as Scorcher, Jermaine Riley, and Afrobeats superstar Davido. After six years under alias Ikes, the rebranded IYKZ was to revisit his Hackney routes on the 2017 mixtape “Kings Crescent on Queens Drive” containing singles such as "KIL" and "They Know (Wan Mo)" ft Maleek Berry.
Feb 2018 saw IYKZ release project "Closure" which proved to be his most focused and honest material to date. Based on the break-up with his ex-girlfriend, IYKZ used seven songs as therapy to deal with the breakup. Synergy Maleek Berry came about once more in their 2019 summer anthem "Show Me Mercy" produced by Legendary Beatz (Wizkid, NSG, Skepta, Drake). A series of online freestyles, content pieces, and singles such as “Sick & Tied” and “Roots” kept IYKZ busy as he adapted to the lockdown, now recording himself in his simple yet efficient home studio setup.
“It’s a volume game now; in the past, I’ve been way too precious with my material. This climate gives me a chance to stay consistent, hungry and create forward…” - IYKZ
WHAT OR WHO INSPIRED YOU TO GET INTO MUSIC?
I’ve always loved music as a hobby, just kicking rhymes for fun, etc but I pretty much became fixated on becoming an artist full-time when I uploaded some music onto MySpace (I know right? Old school!) and the response I got inspired me. It wasn’t all positive, but it was the fact that I could connect with people from all around the world, that was really big for me. This was 2006.
HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR STYLE OF MUSIC AND PERFORMANCE? HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR PHILOSOPHY AND STYLE AS AN ARTIST?
I’m a wordsmith, words are my thing. You can say I’m a rap artist, although I don’t put too many labels on what I do or even try and define it because, for me, every record is a different journey and experience. That’s my motto, I try to take my listener on a different ride every song. Keeps things exciting.
WHAT DRIVES YOU TO CREATE, AND HOW DO YOU DEFINE SUCCESS FOR YOURSELF IN MUSIC?
Inspiration and my sheer love for music and expression through sound are what drive me to create. It’s my happy place, where I go when I’m feeling happy, or sad and lonely. Success to me is the effect you have on people, it doesn’t matter how many to me. As long as I’m releasing music and affecting people worldwide, that’s true success to me.
THROUGHOUT YOUR CAREER, WHO HAS HELPED YOU THE MOST WITH DEVELOPMENT AND SUPPORT?
It’s difficult to pinpoint a specific person, I’ve never really had that so the only person I look to is myself, I look within. My ability to be honest with myself and never take things personally has really helped with my growth as a person first. I then became a better artist because of that human development.
SOMETIMES BEING IN THIS BUSINESS CAN BE OVERWHELMING. DO YOU HAVE ANY TIPS FOR MAINTAINING PERSPECTIVE AND NOT SWEATING THE SMALL STUFF?
Ultimately you’ve got to get to a place where outside noise (good or bad) doesn’t affect you mentally. We’re all human and that’s easier said than done but I’d say work on the inner love for what you create. That way when you deliver it to the people, you’re content either way.
WHAT CAN OR SHOULD THE NEWER GENERATION OF MUSIC CREATORS, AND MORE SPECIFICALLY BLACK MUSIC CREATORS, FOCUS ON AS THEY ENVISION A NEW MUSIC FUTURE?
I think as a generation and community we’re losing originality. That’s because social media has put so much pressure on the youth when it comes to appearance and expression. Before standing out was the dream, now fitting in is the aim. We as Black people should always go back to the essence of the sound and not focus so much on the subgenres that are popular as they never last. Think "forever."
WHAT WOULD YOU LIKE TO SEE THE MUSIC INDUSTRY DO TO TRULY BE A REFLECTION OF THE CULTURE AND COMMUNITY IN WHICH IT CREATES?
That’s a tough question as I don’t think it’s anyone's responsibility to reflect anything. The current landscape is one where independence is championed, so we gotta be careful to want it both ways. Everyone is trying to grab a bit of market share and we all have our own P&L (profits and losses). It’s a level playing field.
BLACK ARTISTS, SONGWRITERS, AND CREATORS HEAVILY INFLUENCE MOST TRENDS IN MUSIC, ENTERTAINMENT, AND SOCIAL MEDIA - BUT THEY OFTEN DON'T RECEIVE THE RECOGNITION THEY DESERVE. DO YOU HAVE ADVICE FOR DEVELOPING CREATORS WHEN IT COMES TO PROTECTING THEIR WORK?
Yes - understand leverage. So don’t do all the work to go viral on the internet and then sign your work over to a major corporation. Outsource assistance where you can, up until you can no longer handle the workload and need to scale your business. Then you can look to “partner” with a much larger entity.
DO YOU HAVE ANY OTHER ADVICE FOR YOUNG ARTISTS AND MUSICIANS JUST STARTING THEIR CAREERS, BASED ON WHAT YOU’VE EXPERIENCED?
Be yourself, find your truth. So many people are out there just like you waiting to experience what you have to offer. Only you can tell your story, so go tell it. Once you conquer fear and what it prevents you from expressing, the world is yours.
WHAT DO YOU HAVE COMING UP IN 2022?
Single after single and release after release! 2021 was a real quiet year for me. My father, unfortunately, passed away and things got really dark for a minute, but I’m back and better than ever. I think I just owe it to my supporters to flood them with content all year round and I intend to do just that, so hold on tight…
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