If you look at the digital streaming platforms, you’d realize that in a global sense, one genre dominates all the lists. Rap music is having the strongest moment in its history. Only those who create their own language, style, and difference can find their way in this sea of millions of songs…
Lil Zey proves in her new work “Zor (Hard) ” that she definitely will not drown in this sea. “Zor” also combines the traditional Turkish sounds with the current global trap music and creates its own style.
Lil Zey, who graduated from Berklee, one of the most prestigious music schools in America, breaks down rap clichés. Lil Zey also leaves a verbal mark on her audience. She spits verses that find their way through the sea; “It’s very hard to breathe here, it’s very hard to stay alive, how many roles have been played, how many rookies got wasted.”
With Lil Zey, who is trap music’s gift to the Turkish music scene, we talked about “Zor & Zor II”, which she sees as the milestone of her musical journey. And we’ve become sure that we’ll hear more about her in the future.
At a time when your generation wants to live abroad, you’ve come from America to Turkey and entered the world of music. What made you make that decision?
I knew so many people who are the best in what they do that, neither the songs I made at the time were sonically good enough, nor my self-confidence was good enough to work with those producers whom I saw as idols. If I had stayed there, the job I would have done would be to work for a music company. For me to live there comfortably, I had to work in the same industry for a few more years and gain experience. But it was enough for me to register the tracks that are to be released to the association and to learn the tricks of the trade, including paper works for 2 years. That time was enough to make me aware of the sound there. Young MA- “Ooouuu”, Migos- “Bad and Boujee”, Playboi Carti- “Magnolia”, Lil Uzi Vert- “XO TOUR Llif3”, Tay-K- “The Race”, MadeinTYO- “Uber Everywhere”, I’ve seen the energy created by all these songs and the beginning of a new period, from the city of Migos, Platboi Carti. I experienced and embraced Lil Uzi’s rise from underground to mainstream and the sonic shifts in trends, in Atlanta. I realized that my time there was over after every day started to be the same.
Full Look Burberry
After studying music business and songwriting at Berklee College in the USA, you started working as an A&R. What kind of vocals or sounds were you interested in at that time?
MadeinTYO-style rappers … Skateboard P, I think, created a new trend in music back then. Now, there are many songs like that. But there weren’t that many songs like that when they first came out. It had caught my attention. Because there were R&B producers where I worked, they were making tracks for Sevyn Streeter and Pia Mia, and I was trying to find these kinds of new-school rappers for them.
What was the song or the rapper that first made you connect with rap music?
I remember when I first started listening to rap music, I was playing Lauryn Hill-‘Miseducation of Lauryn Hill’ and 50 Cent-‘Get Rich Or Die Tryin’ on my Walkman again and again. The tracks that made me obsessed with rap music were ‘ Slow Jamz ‘and ‘Ms Jackson’.
“I am still in the process of finding my voice.”
Full Look Burberry, Sneakers Nike Blazer Mid’77 Vintage
How was your process of finding your own voice? Were there any times where you just shrugged off?
I’m always in the process of finding my own voice. So far, it’s been trying. There were different songs that I had experimented with different backing tracks. There are 2-3 times more unreleased songs than released, these songs only exist for me and my friends to listen to. In this process, you understand what you like, and especially what your voice best suits to. I never shrugged off or gave up. Because it was the process itself that made me happy. On the contrary, seeing myself being improved with every track motivated me even further.
How was the feedback when you first released your music in Turkey?
There were a lot of people who thought it was different, people said they didn’t understand anything, people liked and also criticized. My inner circle supported it. But it is impossible to predict external reactions. But I can say that people who like the kind of songs and artists I listen to usually interpret it well because they immediately get the gist of it. The only explanation is that we’re on the same frequency.
“The Zor sequel has been an important journey for me”
Now with your EP ‘Zor’… We see an image of a bird in both the music video and the artwork. What exactly the bird metaphor stands for?
If I explain all the metaphors, nothing will be left for your imagination, so I’ll explain one of them. The pigeon is every individual who is judged by society, who is deemed strange, excluded, who has not been able to choose the conditions they’re in. Actually, it’s a pigeon’s nature to fly, but it’s a prisoner, like many of its kind, maybe in a cage or a coop. It has no say in his life. These people, who were born into the difficulties we talked about in the song, are pigeons.
Did these two songs come out of the quarantine period? What was the story of the process of writing the lyrics and making the music?
Some songs are individual. You like a beat and you go in with the first topic and flow ideas that come to mind. In “Zor”, we created the idea at the beginning of quarantine, but we worked on it without rushing until we got it in a place that we wanted, and its backtracks and narrative continued to adjust until the last minute. At every stage, from the beginning of the tracks to the mixing process, it was teamwork where everyone came up with better ideas each time and completed each other by listening to each other.
I previously had the idea to combine the two tracks into one story and a single music video. When I first heard the sound of ‘Zor II’, the feeling it gave me was that these two songs came one after the other. For example, mathematically ‘Zor II’ sounds like the chopped and screwed version of ‘Zor’, but it’s actually not… There’s a certain ratio in itself. So playing it after ‘Zor’ creates harmony and integrity. But changing from a first-person narrative to a third-person narrative also makes a difference. The use of metaphorical language also got better with the touch of Simulation, who is also one of the producers of ‘Zor’. Already the album is a concept; both in the production process and for the story, everyone gave their ideas for this concept, putting the team spirit first.Full Look Burberry, Sneakers Nike
The music video is like a pretty impressive short film … The locations, the story was your idea?
The music video, like the track itself, was completely a teamwork. In collaboration, we listened to each other, shared our ideas. When you find the story, you can see how it should be. We created the story together, and so we chose the venues together. The director of the video, Osman Özel, came to us with the idea of creating a memory. So we chose to live that memory. The city where the video was going to be shot was going to be either Urfa or Kars, we chose Urfa and went there.
What exactly ‘Zor’ means for your musical journey?
The Zor sequel has been an important journey for me. A reflection of my inner and social struggle is a music and a concept I’ve always wanted to create. The blending of the traditional sounds and the modern sounds used in the current global trap music opened the door to that originality, that state of authenticity. Putting in something from me and the land that shaped me was something I always wanted to do. Because in the end, trap music cannot be considered independent of culture. I believe that if it cannot be considered independent of the culture, of the land where it was born, it should also carry parts of the culture of this place when it is performed on these lands. So, that’s why it caught people’s attention from the start. The birth of these songs made me realize that I should capture the same reality and intimacy in my subsequent work, in the rest of my album.
“Being famous is easier than ever before, but permanence is harder”
As someone who has experience in the music industry, is it easier or harder to impress the masses with your own music compared to the past?
It’s a difficult question… It is now much easier to record any beat on the computer and make a song because of the accessibility of technology. With the help of mediums such as Spotify, Apple Music, SoundCloud, and social media, it is now more easy to publish tracks and discover new sounds. But because everyone is aware of this and uses it, there is much more content than before, and it is also difficult to stand out.
I also believe that you used to have to be really good to be recognized. But you don’t have to have such a talent anymore to make an impact with a single and reach large audiences. I doubt if Lil Yachty, Tupac, and Biggie could have held on in their time… Being famous may be way easier now, but in terms of making an impact or being permanent, I think it’s probably harder than ever before.
The interaction of the trap genre with the Turkish audience was very sudden and fast. As someone who makes their own music, how would you describe the magic of this genre?
I think the magic of trap music is in its sound. Trap hi-hats, 808 kicks, sub-basses are set in a certain order. I think, unlike the usual mid-based radio tunes, it has more bass and treble-based infrastructure thanks to the advance of sound technology. Whether the other elements in the song are happy or dark, the chords are major or minor, there is always this party vibe, a feeling of letting go, a fun beat where you can shake your head and dance. Whether it’s narratively rich rappers like Kendrick Lamar, or rappers like Young Thug, Lil Uzi, or Future who mumble instead of showing their traditional rapping skills, I think trap music’s appeal is fundamentally its sound.
For me, this is the magic of being able to listen to trap music in a club, in a car, at a party, while jamming alone or in any situation really. At the same time, it is a very rich genre that does not have a style or instrument limit that we can melodically fit into the substructure and has both bass-heavy and rhythmic and melodic diversity.
“I will never collaborate with a Youtuber or an influencer.”
Rappers here or around the world are divided into their own groups. Some of them work more closely with some musicians. For example, you have also collaborated a lot. What is the effect of this?
First of all, I work with musicians whose visions I like. The energy of the people in the track can transfuse, I am always inspired by different energies. Of course, I learn a lot from this process, my friends’ approach to the beat, their flow choices, their approach to the writing process is very different from what would have been the result if I had done it alone.
I also think that collaborations are places where I have the opportunity to take risks with the beats I liked yet wouldn’t use as a solo track.
For example, the backing tracks on my Metflix album… Unexpected things can come out of tracks where I push my limits to think differently or take a chance without thinking about how the track will end up.
Are there any things you say you never do in terms of your music?
No … musically, everything can be expected of me at any moment. But I will never make a song that I wouldn’t listen to myself for the sake of streams. I will never collaborate with a YouTuber or an influencer that I can’t consider musically for the sake of getting more streams.
How would you describe rap culture in 2020?
Invader and dominant. Nowadays, it’s possible that your neighbor is experimenting with rap… But also, of course, very diverse…
“The rush of finishing a track is irreplaceable.”
The rush of eye contact with an audience on the stage or the rush of finishing a track? Which is more magical?
The rush of finishing a track is irreplaceable. But it’s too early to answer that question because I’ve never given a concert on stage where I’ve performed my own tracks. I have only been a guest at Khontkar’s Istanbul concerts several times with just one song. I’m sure the pleasure of a live performance is also great. But I love creating more than anything.
What’s your dream venue at this time when live performances are impossible?
Because I’ve been there for many of my favorite artists, such as Ty Dolla Sign, Tory Lanez, Partynextdoor, and because of my accumulated memories, I’ll say House of Blues, Boston is my dream venue. It could also be the State Farm Arena in Atlanta. Erdem, aka EEI, who is the person behind Zor’s magnificent guitars, had always wanted to play the guitar part of the album’s opening track at the Nimes Arena in France where Metallica played… I believe writing down dreams is very useful, so let’s just write it down here.
Full Look: Burberry Sneakers Nike Air Jordan 1
Interview Eda Solmaz
Photo Eylül Ezik
Fashion Director Burak Sanuk
Hair Stylist İsmail İnan
MUA Nuvit Tiryaki
Photo Assistants Hami Özkan & Eren Kandıra
Fashion Editor Asssitants Serhad Ertaşgın
Lighting Erdal Akbaş