Taiwanese-American Rapper ØZI Blends the Soul and Spirit of East and West
Born in Los Angeles and raised in Taipei, rapper/producer ØZI has positioned himself as one of Taiwanese hip-hop’s most promising rising stars. Fusing Rap with the melodic sensibilities of R&B, ØZI conjures up a sound that is fresh and contemporary. His self-titled debut ØZI: The Album is an impressive entry in the young artist’s growing catalog.
Created over the course of two years and built around songs like the groovy, catchy party anthem “B.O.” and the seductive, dance-floor ready vibe of “Paradise Island”. ØZI: The Album is what happens when solid songs meet top-notch production to create some truly undeniable ear-candy.
In addition to ØZI's career as a rapper and music-maker, he has also been making some serious inroads into the world of high fashion. ØZI can be seen modeling in various shoots for prominent brands such as Vogue, Chanel, Dior, Burberry and more.
We spoke with ØZI (who was just nominated for 6 Golden Melody Awards) as he prepared to board his flight to the U.S. ahead of his upcoming performance in Los Angeles. During this discussion, we get some great insights into his life, ambitions and a look into his creative process.
Could you start by telling me a little bit about yourself? Where are you from? How did you get started in music?
I go by the name of ØZI and I am a R&B and hip-hop artist. I was born in LA and raised in Taipei. I grew up studying in international schools so I am familiar with both the western and eastern culture; a third-cultured kid so they say.
Wonderful. How did you start rapping? Did you grow up listening to hip-hop?
I started rapping around high school, before that I focused more on writing R&B and nu-metal songs and just beat making in general. Never really thought about becoming a rapper until people told me I wasn't too bad at it. I did grow up listening to hip-hop. I still remember the first hip-hop song that I heard back then, it was 50 Cent’s "Disco Inferno" haha. From him I started getting into Eminem and rest was history. Got REALLY into hip-hop.
Ahh, so you make beats too?
Yeah all the songs I put out are made by me. Well, 99% of it.
Oh wow. I didn't know that. Could you talk a little bit about your songwriting process? Do you start with the music and then work on lyrics or is it the other way around?
Depends really. I always start with laying down chords and the groove fsho. Rest I kind of do everything simultaneously. Sometimes the melody comes first. Sometimes the lyrics. But I always do the hook first. I feel like it’s the thesis statement of the song (laughs).
Right! Could you tell me a bit about how the album was made? When you started working on it and what kind of feeling you were going for?
I’d say half of the songs in the album were written in the span of 2 years, a lot being just unfinished demos in my archives. The purpose of the album was to serve as an introduction to who ØZI is and what he sounds like (hence the name of the album being ØZI too). And it's also my way of introducing R&B and hip-hop into the Mandarin pop music world.
Cool. And how has the reception to the album been since it was released?
Overwhelming haha. It just got named the top 10 albums of the year yesterday.
Really? Damn. Congratulations. That's dope.
Appreciate it man. Thanks.
No doubt. I'm curious, what are some of your favorite songs from the album? Tunes that really resonate with you?
"B.O." (black out not body odor lol) and “Prey” and “Bad Intentions” would be the top 3. “Diamond” being a runner-up. Honestly all the songs hold a special place in me.
Yeah, "B.O." might be my favorite. Beautiful tune.
Yeah. thanks. Glad you like it.
Definitely. Switching gears a bit, I noticed that you've been doing work in the fashion world as well as the music. Could you speak to that a bit and what you get out of working in fashion/clothing?
I think having a unique fashion sense to me is very important to an artist. It doesn’t necessarily have to be hype but it does have to allow you to stand out from other people. For me it’s the red hair, and the way I mix between high fashion and streetwear. As to how it links to my music, I think I try to balance great musicality (high fashion) with audiences’ relatability (streetwear). And to be honest, looking drip is just always an ups.
Word. Well, I know you have a flight to catch, so I won't keep you any longer. Do you have any final thoughts you'd like to share?
Hmm I think a good introduction as to who I am as an artist haha. I am currently working on two HUGE projects, one targeted towards the Mandarin market and the other one towards the western. I can’t say much at this moment but two big shots in the game. So def keep an eye on it. Ones particularly relatable to the Asian American community.
ØZI in LA
1720 E. 18th St.
Los Angeles, CA 90021
Sunday May 19, 2019