Sometime last year I was blessed with the opportunity to be interviewed on a platform called Foxii Network. I jumped at it without hesitation because I realised that I could share the Shottaz story with a unique audience. What was meant to be a concise discussion spawned into a 30 minute video of pure insight. If you haven’t seen the interview, you can check it out here, and they have other cool content too so be sure to check that out. After the interview was released, I got a few people hitting me up about things we covered in the video. The feedback was varied, but one common theme became apparent as the DMs kept rolling in. When discussing my musical background with Foxii, she unearthed the fact that I’ve always been in music groups. In my high school days, back in Zimbabwe, I rolled with a crew called X-Plode (not really sure about the spelling tbh). Then in New Zealand, we started the Yung Shottaz very early in my musical journey. As you know, we dropped the “Yung” and flexed the numbers but to this day I’m still part of a group. In 2012, I was involved in a project outside of the Shottaz setup, but even that was a collaborative piece, alongside my good friend Raiza Biza. You can imagine that based on this history, people were questioning my ability to make music on my own.
When the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, you run with it
Contrary to the narrative above, I have made solo music throughout my journey. Before creating the Yung Shottaz, I wrote songs on my own and recorded a few demos that sadly never saw the light of day. Without getting carried away, I’m confident that I would have been fine had I continued being a solo artist. I had the ability to write a decent hook, and back then I put a lot of energy in my verses, which always sounded complete. The same can be said about each member of the Yung Shottaz without a doubt.
Our singer, Da Bem, is to this day one of the most naturally gifted entertainers I’ve EVER met. The boy is musically talented, having an ear for a catchy melody. I can safely say that Bazz, as we affectionately know him, could have made it on his own if he wanted. The same can be said about my bro Ash, aka Swisz Dubbz, who has a unique rapping style and is a serious lyricist. Like Bazz, Ash has a very good musical ear and is unafraid to let you know if your work is hot or not. More often than not, Ash is able to pick if a song is going to be a hit. Then there’s Hlats! I’ve always said to the bro that it would’ve been a blessing to collaborate with him on one or two songs, let alone fashion a whole career alongside him. Without gassing the dude up, I rate him very high in terms of lyricism and vocal delivery. Not too many people can match him. When I first met Hlats, he was a solo musician with a lot going for him. He had songs for days, and his charisma on the mic can’t be matched by many MCs. Needless to say, each one of us could have done our own thing to varying levels of success, but together we elevated to a whole different level.
Trust fall – when you know your back’s covered, moving forward becomes a breeze
One of the main advantages of being part of a crew is the support element. Don’t get me wrong, I realise that our crew was quite unique. We were close friends before we started working together on the music, and dare I say we grew tighter as a result of forming the crew. This created an environment where we had a strong support system as we navigated through uncharted waters. Because our crew was a first of its kind in New Zealand, we dealt with a lot of challenges that most other musicians don’t have to contend with. A lot of people didn’t understand our music, and it felt like we had to fight twice as hard to get any breaks. What allowed us to keep going was that we always had each other’s back. This meant that when we faced adversity we didn’t crumble, instead we’d pep each other up and go again. When one of the crew faced a challenge, music related or not, the others would always be there to soften any impact. As you can see, the benefits of working in crew stretch far beyond music, they impact life in general. As a result of moving as a cohesive unit, we were able to achieve a lot of things as the Yung Shottaz that I’m super proud of to this day.
From four to two, still a dominant crew
In 2012, we not only changed our crew name to Shottaz, we also released an album called Stimulus. Not only was this the first project released under our new name, it was the first time the crew weren’t in the same place, mentally and physically, when crafting a project. To clarify this point, every single project we had released until that point was recorded with all four members involved in every session. Stimulus was different. We were all at very different places in our lives. Hlats was raising his young family, Ash was making his transition into a bonafide app developer, Bazz was battling some demons, and I was living in a different city altogether. As a result of this, the project was disjointed from a crew perspective. After recording a bunch of songs, one theme became glaringly obvious. Out of the 20 odd songs we crafted, only 2 members of the crew were seriously active, Hlats and myself. Through the process it made more and more sense to focus our energies between the two of us and when we finally released the project it was clear a decision needed to be made. As you now know, the Shottaz are a two man crew but I must admit that I dream of the day we are back to a full complement.