"I always want to stay true to my roots of storytelling": Zamaera speaks on her journey in rap and upcoming EP

"I always want to stay true to my roots of storytelling": Zamaera speaks on her journey in rap and upcoming EP

When enough sparks fly at a heatseeking intensity, a colossal fire is born. That’s the trajectory of Zamaera’s latest single 'Z vs Z'. Empowerment is the default currency in the rap realm and in that single, the Malaysian rapper scathingly interrogates her earlier self, affirming self-examining honesty for the virtue that it is. Her flow is militant and spellbinding – words unravel with an uncompromising power via a voice that is impassioned and fiery from its commitment to the cause. All of this underscores one thing: That Zamaera interprets rap as possibility to myriad other forms of self-discovery, not just a sound. In that respect, her lane is distinct and superior.

Soon, she’ll lift the veil on her debut EP via Lakefront Records, the production for which is helmed by 14-time Billboard-charting producer Floyd "Timeless" Thomas. Ahead of the full reveal, she speaks to Bandwagon about the music that’s so close to her heart.

You’ve had an incredible year. How has the whole rush been?

It's been amazing. I'm just trying to take everything step-by-step and enjoy the adventure and the process. The response has been very positive, especially in Singapore. The city is so amazing. I had a really good show at Baybeats as well.

Yes, you played one of the best sets at Baybeats 2018. The energy in the crowd was palpable.

Thank you so much! That's so nice of you to say. First of all, the organisers did an amazing job of accommodating the artists and ensuring that we had everything we needed in order to put on a great show. I really want to give it to the Esplanade for that. Also, the fact that so many Singaporeans came out for a show made it a special experience for me. I knew I had some sort of a fanbase here, I just didn't know that it was this big. 

Getting on stage and seeing people who were dancing from the very beginning was something else. There was this one guy in a red shirt, in particular who was so hyped! Having people like that at the show makes me feel so good about entertaining the crowd, even if it's just for 30-40 minutes. We curated a special set for Baybeats because that was the first time I playing all my new songs and the vibe was really positive – I felt the love from Singapore.

What's kept you busy lately?

The things that have been keeping me busy are the same things that have always kept me busy, which are rehearsals, vocal development and really making sure that my performances get better with each show I play. Performing for an audience is like meeting someone for the very first time. They can listen to your tracks or watch your videos but really, what's important is creating that moment, that experience on stage.

What's changed the most for you since Don’tZzOnMe?

Wow! That was so long ago! But it's still happening. Rap is an evolutionary process for me; how I rap is always evolving and changing. It was a lot of fun and it wasn't just me. It was a rap series I started on Instagram and that became the mixtape. Engaging with people on social media was really fun and exciting. Since then, I've felt that every single song I've written keeps getting better and better. 

Congrats on the incredible 'Z vs Z'. It's known that it's written as a letter to your younger self. What sort of headspace were you in when you wrote that song?

That song is based on the concept of growth and progression. I was part of a development programme last year and it made me reflect a lot. When I wrote the song, I had to open the book of the past, which is really scary for someone to do because you don't want to confront the weaknesses, flaws and mistakes you've made in life. But you come to grow and learn to accept that these things are of the past and don't define you as a person today. That's always been how I write: My style is very reflective. I just want to continue to put myself out there in a way that people can relate to as well.

It's definitely a very personal song. Did it do what you wanted it to do for you, emotionally?

Yes. I get affected by everything I do so I'm emotional in that sense. But this song struck all the right chords in me. I went through a whirlwind of emotions; it was like battling with myself because I was putting myself on blast. I had to ask myself so many questions like, "Am I going to tell this to people about myself?"; "Am I really going to write this or that?"; "Am I going to talk about this or that?". But I've realised that it's only when you share something that's a weakness of yours that people can relate to you. Writing it was a good experience for me. It challenged me a lot.

Your writing style is extremely dense, detailed and focussed on narrative. Why are these things important you?

Well, I always want to stay true to my roots of storytelling. When you tell a story, you have to give the people details in order to get the message across. That's the only way the person listening to you can empathise. It's just like reading a book. Enid Blyton was my favourite author as a child because she could make me imagine the story so well. That's what I want to do with my songs. I want them to be abstract enough so each person can make them work for his /herself and adapt them to their life.

Given all that's happened, this has to be asked: Nicki or Cardi?

To be honest, it's difficult to compare them both because they have very different styles and they have different ways of showcasing themselves creatively. I pick Nicki only because I've followed her for a longer period of time. She writes really really well. Actually, one of the ways I learned how to pronounce and articulate words was from her New York accent. She's been a point of reference for me for my delivery for a minute now.

Lastly, it's known that you have an EP due out soon. What does it mean to you?

I'm really excited about this project because it's my first EP and the first project that's going to be released by Lakefront Records and myself. The whole one-year-long developmental process led to this record. The producer Floyd "Timeless" Thomas did such an amazing job of translating my emotions and thoughts into this album. Being given this opportunity to turn this creative line of work into my career is a blessing. I can't wait to share it with the world.