Premiere: Introducing ZEKIEL and his bold new single, Skipping School
In addition to working with some of Australia's best names, ZEKIEL is stepping out on his own right.
If you're unfamiliar with Mackay-raised musician ZEKIEL, let's quickly get up to speed. The 23-year-old alt-rapper - now based in Sydney - is a keen collaborator amongst the Australian pop world who's worked with some of our best and most brilliant artists (Thelma Plum, Jack Gray and Cosmo's Midnight among them), signing to Australian label heavyweight Island Records (Tame Impala, Matt Corby, Vera Blue), while also chipping away at his own music simultaneously. While his behind-the-scenes work as a top-liner and songwriter often finds itself in the pop/electronic space, ZEKIEL's own work is part-pop, part-rap; quick-firing vocals and trap-influenced productions meeting an accessibility and catchiness you'd find on commercial radio rap but not in a way that feels displeasing or cliché like many others within this space.
Take his new single Skipping School, for example. It's a high-octane, high-energy burst of ZEKIEL's signature flavour, with crashing percussion and thick bass kicks forming a US-inspired trap-rap production for ZEKIEL to flow above; his vocal carrying a confidence unmatched as he sings about school drama and pettiness. "Skipping School is a metaphor for when someone is too cool, or thinks they’re too cool, for you," he says. "It’s about me realising at the very last moment that the girl I thought I wanted to be with wasn’t at all what I wanted! This new girl started at our school in grade eight and it wasn’t until two years later that I mustered up the courage to actually tell her that I liked her. She basically had a hold on me for those two years and I did a lot of dumb shit to try and impress her, when I finally told her, she shot me down in about two seconds flat!"
"I wrote the hook on the back veranda of my house in Brisbane," he continues on the track, which was written/produced alongside DREXL (Robert Conley and Jack Gray). "I was feeling pretty boss that day and the whole thing was just in this very low, deep tone. I brought that idea to Jack and Rob – we had a couple of quick passes at it, just adlibbing melodies back and forth, and quickly vibed out the chorus, the rest of the song fell into place super quickly."
It's an exciting entry point for a musician who feels like the next generation, so dive into the track below ahead of its full release tomorrow via Island Records, and better introduce yourself to ZEKIEL while you're at it:
Tell us about yourself?
I’m Zekiel. I’m 23 years old, from Mackay, North Queensland and I’m a hip-hop artist. I moved to Brisbane when I turned 18, my only goal was to get away from the small town I’d decided to leave behind. I’ve always been passionate about hip hop culture in its entirety but until I arrived in Brisbane, I had no idea how big the world of hip-hop was. I wanted to write songs with and for other artists, and I spent the next five years getting involved and building relationships within the community. It was a process of honing my skillset and trying to figure out where I fit into the puzzle.
I found my feet collaborating with close friends and before long I felt the draw to Sydney. I moved down here about six months ago and hit the ground running. I found my peoples down here and really discovered the artist I could be.
What’s the vibe music-wise?
It’s hip-hop. It’s pop. It’s songwriting. It’s ZEKIEL. I love melodies, I love a good beat but personally, I try to focus on storytelling more than anything. If I can connect to a concept or an idea, I can really hone in and bring it to life. If the lyrics stir a feeling or connect with somebody, then my job is done. Sometimes that feeling could be melancholy, other times it could be joy, that’s the beauty of songwriting and music. You are in control of what people hear and feel. I love that.
What are your production and writing processes like?
It varies all the time. Sometimes I’ll hear a beat and inadvertently find myself mumbling under my breath, trying to find a flow. Other times, without chords or a beat, I will play around with melodies and write a hook in my head. For me it’s about channelling inspiration from the not-so-obvious places, I like to be perceptive and observe the small things. That means at any time of the day whether It’s 4 o'clock in the morning, or 8 o'clock in the evening, inspiration for a track is to be found somewhere. Whether it’s an errant thought, a bright hue of colours or catching the last words of somebody else’s conversation without any context, there’s always something. It’s about bringing it to life and doing that story justice. I worry about the sound palette and sonic direction of the track afterwards. For me, the story trumps all.
Can you tell us about your new single, Skipping School?
Skipping School is a metaphor. This track is really about gravitating towards bad influences and in this case, my bad influence was the new girl at school. She was without a doubt the coolest chick I had ever seen, beautiful, down to earth and funny as all hell. The first time I saw her, my only thought was – “damn, I really, really need to get to know this girl“, but school was a weird time, popularity meant a lot, acceptance meant even more and nobody had a clue what the fuck was going on. At least I didn’t. I was subscribing to anything ‘cool’ just to fit in and be a part of it all. In Skipping School I wanted to highlight that struggle of ‘not being cool enough’ or people thinking they are ‘too cool for you'. That’s the metaphor. She’s cool, I’m school.
Any tour dates coming up?
Announcements to be made ASAP.
What does the rest of 2019 have in store for you?
SO BLOODY MUCH. I’ve got a bunch of singles to drop before the end of the year. TOUR DATES. Working with some international artists/producers/songwriters at the SongHubs Songwriting Camp on the Gold Coast for four days at the end of August. Writing and recording an EP for early 2020.
Where can we find more of your music?
JUST GOOGLE ME. IF THE ‘FRENCH ZEKIEL' POPS UP TELL HIM TO CHANGE HIS NAME.
Follow ZEKIEL: FACEBOOK