Spotlight on Young Kazh: Canadian Ties & Kalifornia Dreamz
Our Spotlight feature for May-June 2015 is Young Kazh of 100 Mad / Kuruption Camp / BAXWAR
HipHopCanada has been covering Sacramento-native Young Kazh since back in 2007, and have had the privilege of watching his career develop exponentially over that period. We’ve interviewed Kazh several times over the years, most recently in 2012 alongside Victoria-born Compton-resident Rappin Rick James. At the time, Kazh and Rappin Rick were discussing the details of a Kuruption Camp project that was on the way, but as of late Kazh has been focused on his recently released solo effort, Canadian Ties.
While the 31-year-old Edmonton-resident started rapping 17-years ago in the late 90’s, I didn’t actually discover his talent until early 2007 when I came across a record called “Right Now,” a hard-hitting gangsta rap banger produced by The Chef from Vancouver-based Firehouse Records. I wanted to feature the song on HipHopCanada so at some point I found a contact through a mutual friend and decided to reach out to The Chef. Firehouse was working closely with Kazh at the time, but it wasn’t until speaking with them that I discovered Kazh was actually doing time in Seattle, Washington at a Federal Detention Center known as SeaTac. What started as a quick call to get an MP3, turned into an elaborate discussion about interviewing Kazh while he was still in prison. With the details ironed out, the interview was scheduled and eventually conducted mid-Spring 2007.
“Young Kazh is the future of real hip-hop. He reminds me of 2Pac.” – Fredro Starr of Onyx
Along with the sick batch of unreleased records I had been going through, it was Kazh’s story that made the interview most intriguing to take on. It would be my first with someone in prison and I remember wondering how it would impact the answers to the questions I had put together. Something like, “is it insensitive to ask him what he’s inside for?” or, “is there anything I can’t ask due to restrictions put in place by SeaTac?” I had already conducted close to 50 interviews at that time but this easily made for the most nerve-racking experience I’d come across due to the elaborate planning and circumstances.
I wanted to get to the root of his story and really give the reader a sense of who he was, what he was going through, and why I thought they should even give a shit to begin with. With a highly over-saturated market of rappers, it’s hard to convince a reader that they need to give a new artist a chance. And really, can you blame them? But the music spoke for itself and it needed to be heard.
I was thrilled with the reaction the piece got and knew Kazh was satisfied with the outcome, but when I interviewed him in 2012 I really understood the impact it made.
“Well first off, I wanna say thanks for that interview. It came at a time I needed to know I was more then the person that was locked up. It lifted me up and set me on this mission.”
His appreciation was humbling and a reminder as to why I’ve found so much love supporting Canadian hip-hop for close to 16 years. People like this.
Young Kazh has rapped for more than half of his life, but his journey really took an upward turn in 2008 once the majority of his legal woes were behind him. While presumably vacationing in Hawaii on October 10, 2004, Kazh was apprehended and charged with Class A and C felonies. He was caught with an eye-popping 12 pounds of marijuana and 7 pounds of methamphetamine. He stayed in Hawaii for 13 months awaiting trial and after being sentenced he was designated to Seattle, Washington where he became a resident of FDC SeaTac until July 2007; not long after I had interviewed him. As his mother was a Canadian citizen, Kazh had dual US-Canadian citizenship and opted to return to Canada when his sentence was complete.
After completing a 5-year probationary period, Kazh went to Niagara Falls and at some point a decision was made to cross the border into Buffalo. The move would cost him another 4-months of freedom as he was flown via the infamous Con Air (Justice Prisoner and Alien Transportation System) system back to Seattle for incurring Canadian charges during his probation period. But aside from an additional 57-day stint in 2013 in B.C. for some drama that went down at a 2008 hockey game (the charge was actually from 2008 but wasn’t dealt with in the courts until after Kazh had turned himself in), Kazh has had no legal trouble and remains focused on building his career.
Life After Lockup
One of the first things the young rapper did upon returning to Canada was form the Kuruption Camp with a group of other artists and producers. Along with Kazh, after some shape ups to the line-up, the 2015 version consists of Big Shot, Zes Nomis, Supaman Kaliente and Dizzi Badhandz. The crew dropped a mixtape back in 2012 and eventually a new KC mixtape will be put together down the road. It’s one of several group oriented projects that Kazh is involved with that could be released over the next year or two. Along with Kuruption Camp, Kazh used 2008 to build another alliance that he’s maintained to this day. He’s a full-time Battleaxe Warrior and eager to drop new material for his fans under the BAXWAR banner. Again, Canadian Ties remains the primary focus at this point, but there’s lots to look forward too if you’re a Young Kazh fan. Especially since we haven’t even touched on his affiliation with Onyx’s 100 Mad family.
Kazh joined the 100 Mad (founded by Onyx’s Sticky Fingaz) team in 2011, alongside a few other Canadian artists like Snak The Ripper, Merkules and Bishop Brigante. So far there seems to be some optimism at the idea of an actual 100 Mad compilation seeing the light of day.
“Yes 100 percent, we working all the time and touring together. The songs are there it’s just a matter of all the right songs.”
Either way, expect more collaborations between Kazh and Onyx. We recently caught up with Onyx’s Fredro Starr and he offered his own co-sign on Kazh’s talent and potential:
“Young Kazh is the future of real hip-hop. He reminds me of 2Pac.”
A short message but a strong statement from a highly respected hip-hop vet who worked with and knew Pac personally. It’s those types of views that likely made jumping on Kazh’s Canadian Ties album a no brainer. That collaboration also happens to be only the second time in hip-hop history that Onyx and Mobb Deep have appeared together on the same record, with the first time being 2007’s “QB Meets Southside”. With the original “Canadian Ties” getting such a great response, today’s video release of the Snowgoons-produced remix should give the album sales a nice jolt of energy. Both the original song and remix feature Onyx, Mobb Deep, JD Era, Snak The Ripper and Merkules.
Kazh has revealed to HipHopCanada that the next video will be “That Grip” featuring Fredro Starr and Kokane, directed by Big Shot Music Inc.
The Canadian Ties album is an 11-track independent release that also boasts guest appearances by (in order of appearance) Regina, SK’s Pimpton, W.C., Vancouver singer-songwriter Noble, Kokane, Bishop Brigante, Spice 1, Makempay, Swollen Members, Anita Prime, Devin The Dude, Moka Only and Yung Villain. You can find it on iTunes, Spotify, Google Play and various other outlets.
Next up, Kazh will be gearing up for the release of another new project called Runaway – a 10-track project that we’ve just received some exclusive details for. Among the 10 songs, there will be a tune called “Everything” featuring Merkules and Mobb Deep’s Havoc, a song called “Fallout” featuring Sticky Fingaz and Sese, and features with Romero Dinero (Saskatoon) and K-Riz (Edmonton). He’s also indicated an interest in getting Prev and Neph featured on a tune but that remains to be confirmed. In any event, we understand this will be a free project that Kazh will promote through his website, YoungKazh.com, so stay tuned.
Young Kazh is HipHopCanada’s Spotlight Feature for May-June 2015 and he’s graciously taken the time to speak with us for a brief question-answer session. You can check it out below.
Young Kazh: Q&A
HipHopCanada: Kazh, welcome back to the HipHopCanada community. Before we jump into your new project, Canadian Ties, let’s talk a bit of history for those unfortunate souls that are just getting familiar with you. You were born in Sacramento but ended up in Canada. How did that come to be?
Young Kazh: My mother was born in Victoria B.C. She moved to California when she was 18, and stayed out in Sacramento with me and my two younger brothers till I was 10 years old. Then it seemed like every year I was either in Victoria or Sacramento.
HipHopCanada: What are your earliest memories of hip-hop and becoming a recording artist?
Young Kazh: Great question; I was 6 years old and my little brothers’ father Marvin always played LL Cool J. I loved it soon as I heard it. Recording came in Victoria when I was 14 with Derek Powell, Aaron Perez and my dude Ryan Gibson (R.I.P.). There was a lot of young competition like Zes Nomis, Emotions, and Swollen lead the pack and we followed through the door they opened.
HipHopCanada: What is 100 Mad and what’s your connection to the crew?
Young Kazh: 100 Mad is a label that Sticky Fingaz started. It’s a family crew. Perry Papadakos is the dude who keeps the wheels turning. Then you got Snak, Merkules, Makempay, Larceny and myself under the label as artists.
HipHopCanada: Should we expect an official 100 Mad project down the road?
Young Kazh: Yes 100 percent, we working all the time and touring together. The songs are there it’s just a matter of all the right songs. That’s up to Sticky, Fredro Starr, and Perry. Trust me I want it to come out just like you do, it’s gonna be crazy hearing variations of all of us together.
HipHopCanada: What about your connection to Battle Axe and the Battleaxe Warriors movement? Are you a member of BAXWAR?
Young Kazh: My connection to Battle Axe is family-like. We bump heads, we don’t always agree. Swollen showed me so much about music and I’m grateful to have ever met them, let alone have the privilege to pick their brains when it comes to the music side of my life.
HipHopCanada: In your view, for better or for worse, how has the Canadian hip-hop scene changed since you started up over a decade ago?
Young Kazh: Drake opened so many eyes and ears. I mean, as a dual citizen I love that Canada has its own lane and its own sound. It’s a great thing, the music in Canada has only gotten better and so have the fans.
HipHopCanada: There’s a lot debate about whether the immense amount of success Drake has seen will trickle down to other Canadian MCs. Some people think it’s only a matter of time until other rappers break through the door, while others are convinced it’s nothing more than a fluke that has created a lot of awareness but limited opportunity. Toronto rapper D-Sisive recently dropped these bars about Toronto: “Where we actually believe we’re on the map now / But the planet only wants to hear one of us rap now.” How do you feel about it?
Young Kazh: Drake’s success is Drake’s success. If anyone thinks that will repeat that they’re out their mind. Drake is one of a kind. I remember when Drake started climbing, and working with local artists and American artists. To be honest, Canada didn’t really care for him at first in my opinion. However, when Lil Wayne put his hand out, all of a sudden Drake was the shit and Canadians started acting like that was their dude. And I get that, but in my mind Drake was always good even before he was famous. It’s just opportunity and how and when it presents itself.
HipHopCanada: Ok, let’s talk about what everyone else is talking about – your project, Canadian Ties. Anyone familiar with you should know you’ve worked with Canadian rappers, producers, directors etc. for a minute. But why the title? What was the overall concept?
Young Kazh: The title came from the single, however it sat well with me because I was born in the U.S. from a Canadian woman (Shout out to my moma) and my idea with this project was to showcase and break borders and unite artists from different coasts and their fan bases. I tried to put a Canadian and an American on every track, if not then an artist from the east coast and an artist from my state, California baby.
HipHopCanada: The artwork is incredible. Who gets the credit for that great effort?
Young Kazh: The artwork is amazing. My boy Original Bighead hand drew each rapper, I seen some of his work and he is a good friend to my big brother Fredro Starr. It just took a phone call, we the same type of people, he crazy as me and maybe a little more street, who knows.
HipHopCanada: Which song on the album was your favourite to record? Why?
Young Kazh: The most exciting song to record was “Canadian Ties,” there are so many great artists involved and it was a great moment for me. I was just happy to have created a classic song, something that would never get lost, it feels like I made a contribution to original hip-hop.
HipHopCanada: No doubt! And which song turned out the best – or which is your favourite?
Young Kazh: Every song has great feelings and meaning attached to it and I’ve been blessed to be able to work hard and record music with artists that helped me develop my love for hip-hop music. With that said, my favourite songs are track 3, “You’re the One” and track 10, “Taking Shotz.” I open up in some songs more than others. “You’re the One” is about my fiancee and our daughter. “Taking Shotz” is about how having my son has changed my outlook on my life and my father. R.I.P.
HipHopCanada: My condolences for your loss. With such deep subjects, how did you decide on which artists you wanted to feature, if at all? Were there any collaborations you were hoping for that didn’t work out?
Young Kazh: I picked the artists myself, I just tried to break the mold and unite artists on different sides of the map. I was really excited to work with Papoose, however the timing didn’t work out properly. I also sent a message out to P. Reign, I don’t know him that well, but I’m good with his people. One day him and I will work on something. Just those two, to be honest.
HipHopCanada: Mr. Gibbz was the project’s Executive Producer. How did you connect with him? How involved was Gibbz in selecting beats, features and, ultimately, what ended up on the album?
Young Kazh: Mr.Gibbz was the first person to put any of my music out. When I was 17-years-old he had an artist he was working with from Detroit. We made a record together and then we actually lost contact over the next few years. We re-connected 3 years ago and both had made a lot of progress musically. We did the Kokane and Fredro Starr feature first. From there the album was birthed. He had equal say in beat selection and I choose all my own features. Tracks 2, 5, 7 and 8 are all live instruments all from his knowledge and his connections. Those songs are so beautiful, growing up a fan of old school hip-hop I appreciate the artistic shit, you feel me.
HipHopCanada: Canadian Ties was mastered by Andy Krehm at Silverbirch Productions who has won and been nominated for tons of big awards. Had you worked with Andy in the past? What did it take to get him on board for the release?
Young Kazh: Andy is amazing. The master was the only thing about the tape that took along time to decide on. Mr Gibbz worked with him in the past on a few different projects and I loved what I heard and the forward progress he has continued throughout his career. He’s won several awards and has been nominated for 50 Juno Awards. That’s where I want to be at, so it was fitting.
HipHopCanada: I wanted to ask about each of the Canadians on the album; your connection to them and why you wanted to feature them on Canadian Ties.
Let’s start with the Regina rapper featured on track #1, Pimpton. How did that come about?
Young Kazh: I met Pimpton only a month before the tape came out, and he was the last feature on the album. I was visiting Saskatoon and my young homie Romero Dinero put me on to him first. Then Madchild, JD Era and him were doing a song and had my dude Big Shot filming the video. We ran into each other, he stands out, he’s different.
HipHopCanada: Vancouver singer Noble Taylor?
Young Kazh: I’ve known Noble since I was 18 years old. I wrote the first verse to ‘You’re the One’ and I reached out to him. I could already hear him on it, you feel me, and he felt it right away. The producer of the song, Makemdef, always creates beats that bring that deep side out of me.
HipHopCanada: Snak The Ripper?
Young Kazh: It was my first time working with him, I’ve been a fan. What he’s accomplished in the last 5 years is amazing. He’s a leader of the Canadian underground hip-hop scene, and he’s a great addition to the song. He’s a real good dude, he gave me some real good insights.
Young Kazh: Merkules is my dude, we cut a lot of records together. Besides our 100 Mad affiliation, I’ve known of him for the last 8 years. Watching his progress I think he definitely deserved a spot on the song, even if you took away the fact that we are both 100 Mad.
HipHopCanada: JD Era?
Young Kazh: Madchild put me onto him, and my boy Chubbz from Soundproof Studios introduced me. I liked his album, the buzz around him, and I think he’s dope.
HipHopCanada: Bishop Brigante?
Young Kazh: Bishop has been my dude for a long time, we always support each other when it comes to music. Since I was 17 I think he’s had some of the hottest bars in Canada.
HipHopCanada: Swollen Members?
Young Kazh: We have a lot of unreleased songs, “Destiny” is just one of them. They’re my homies and they will always be featured on my albums.
HipHopCanada: Moka Only?
Young Kazh: I’ve been a fan of Moka Only for a long time, he’s a good friend. He smokes weed like I do, that’s why I put him on “High 4 Life.”
HipHopCanada: The “Canadian Ties” video has been getting a lot of love and caught a ton of people off guard. How much of a challenge was it to get a video with so many different artists involved from so many different locations?
Young Kazh: Off top, thanks. I’m thankful for all the love. JD Era hit me during the filming process and said “I like how you work, you got all of us on it real fast.” The hardest thing was the footage, but even that wasn’t too hard. Timing worked out well, Mobb Deep just came off a tour, so they were home. Onyx was the same situation. Merkules was in Edmonton recording his new album, JD Era was on the road at that time so he also ended up coming through Edmonton. Big Shot always has a vision, so he planned out all the shots beforehand and just took advantage of the convenient timing of everyone’s schedules. Big thanks to Snowgoons for doing the scratches on the cut and for hosting the video! We also got a remix version and video coming soon.
HipHopCanada: Maybe you can correct me if I’m wrong, but is this not the first record featuring both Mobb Deep and Onyx since “QB Meets Southside?”
Young Kazh: Yeah this is their second record they have ever done together. Trust me when I say it was exciting for everyone involved.
HipHopCanada: Will the album have any more video support? If so I’m assuming you’ll be working with Big Shot Music Inc. to bang it out?
Young Kazh: There will be three to four more videos for this project, all will be filmed by Big Shot Music Inc. Right now we are working on Track 5, “That Grip” featuring Kokane and Fredro Starr. About a month from now we will be dropping that.
HipHopCanada: Without taking too much attention away from the main course, I have to ask about another project I got word of dropping in August. Can you talk about what people can expect from the forthcoming EP?
Young Kazh: We plan to drop it sooner than August. Merkules and I are working on a 7-track EP featuring Sticky Fingaz, Method Man, Stitches, and Madchild. Hopefully Kevin Gates… Merkules wants to do a record with him and I’m all for it, so I’m working on that for us.
HipHopCanada: What was it like to work with Method Man?
Young Kazh: Working with Method Man was incredible. I mean come on, we’ve all been Wu-Tang fans at some point in our life. I respect them dudes’ music a lot. When I met Method Man he was exactly who I thought he would be, no fake shit, just a solid dude. Me, him and Kemo hung out for like 6 hours and recorded the song. That was my most nervous session ever because Meth was watching me from the engineer room. That was a great moment in my life and career.
HipHopCanada: I bet. If you had one tweets worth (140 characters) of space to convince someone unfamiliar with you that Canadian Ties was a must-buy release, what would you say?
Young Kazh: I am a real dude and I always spit real shit. I work with dope artists, it’s real hip-hop for real hip-hop fans. No gimmicks. No lies.
HipHopCanada: Any last words for the HipHopCanada community? Shout-outs?
Young Kazh: Shout-out to my mama, stay strong! To my beautiful girl and our two kids. Also to King George and his wife. Look out for a new free EP with my boy Duct Tape Blind called Kome Get It. Big Shot is dropping a short film called The Choice featuring “Canadian Ties” on the soundtrack, look out for that! This project with Merkules that’s close to dropping. Shout-out to Zes Nomis and Dizzi Bhadhandz, Spiro and Aspect! To Tre Nyce for writing the hook on “Destiny!” Respect to you Jesse for reaching out and showing love. I remember our first interview, I was in the feds in America and that brought my spirits up. Shout to HipHopCanada for not letting jail block an interview! Shout-out to Tara and my big fan Hayden! Also, my lil’ nigga Matt Wade and I’m out. 100 Mad! Battleaxe!
Interview conducted by Jesse Plunkett for HipHopCanada
Photography by Meaghan Konopaki