A black and white image of the musical duo MIDWEST SALOON.
Cover Image © MIDWEST SALOON

Black Perspectives #05: NAZZZTAE (1/2 of MIDWEST SALOON)

Let’s Talk More About Music

SSD: First, where can people find your stuff if they wanted to check out your music?

NAZZZ: They can find our music on all major streaming platforms, like Apple Music or Spotify. They can also find us on YouTube, SoundCloud, and ReverbNation – all under “Midwest Saloon”. Or just google “Midwest Saloon”.

The MIDWEST SALOON logo in black and white.

SSD: You touched on “passion” and “emotion” a bit earlier, have you always been a passionate and emotional person, or did that come with starting to explore music?

NAZZZ: I was raised by mostly women, so I typically don’t shy away from my feelings. Most people take [that] as me being aggressive – but in actuality, I just live in the moment and speak from the heart and that mirrors in my music. I never looked at myself as just a rapper because, to me, that’s too basic.

SSD: Why is that? What’s wrong with just being viewed as a rapper?

NAZZZ: When you look at the image of a rapper, to me, it only goes so far. I would feel boxed-in if I considered myself that. A rockstar, to me, is so much more. If you think of the image of a rockstar, [the] sky is the limit! Anything from crazy big hair, to platform boots, and chains.

A rockstar to me is more of a generalized category of people that also includes some rappers, but rappers that are on a larger level than just a [typical] rapper. 2pac was a rockstar to me. He was more than just a rapper.

Being a rockstar leaves room for creativity beyond the expected, and that’s the energy that I have. To me: Home is a feeling, not a place. And I would call any stage or place where I could feel like a rockstar home. I could be in a totally strange place, but if I can lift my mindset and feel the strength, courage, and freedom of a rockstar, then I would feel right at home.

So in short, a little about me is that I am a rockstar. I am exactly what my childhood experiences told me I would never be.

[W]e are not rappers. We are rockstars.

NAZZZTAE

SSD: Nice. I dig it – I dig it. Pac started as a dancer, then grew to fame as a rapper – but went beyond that by being an actor, poet, writer, and activist to many — so I get the example. Dude was definitely a rockstar. But this interview isn’t about him, it’s about you.

How WOULD you describe your music?

NAZZZ: Our music is edgy, unhinged, and passionate, and I think that is an accomplishment in itself and something the universe craves. We don’t ever plan to put ourselves in a box, and a listener would never know what to expect from us.

Again, we are not rappers. We are rockstars. And won’t settle for anything less.

My quote is always, “Rappers die. Rockstars never do.“  MIDWEST SALOON is mainly about energetic music that will give you a boost, not the trap music that makes you want to shoot. LIFE is a big party to us, [so] why shoot it up?

Various images of the musical duo MIDWEST SALOON.

SSD: Yeeeeah – growing up in Kansas City, MO – it can be dangerous attending certain musical gatherings. At least that was the case when I lived there.

What responsibility, if any, do you feel Black Musicians have to their audience?

NAZZZ: I believe Black Musicians have the responsibility to entertain their audience, and that’s it.

I think the audience needs to understand the difference between what is real and what isn’t. What’s just entertainment, and what’s real life.

A lot of the topics Black Rap Artist harp on, I don’t necessarily agree with. However, I cannot tell an artist what’s best and what isn’t to speak on.  We have a lot of Black Artists that are VERY positive too, so it really just depends.

I do think every Black Artist (or any Black Person with a platform for that matter) does have the responsibility to speak up on behalf of the Black Community anytime there is unrest or something unjust going on.

Their opinion does stand out and can be heard a bit more than the common person’s.

SSD: Ok – ok – we’ll come back to the topic of unrest, in a way, later. What would you say is missing right now from music?  What do you like about music right now?

NAZZZ: I think a lot of passion is missing from music right now.  I think a lot of people are doing it for the wrong reasons and are promoting a lot of things that aren’t realistic, just because it sells. I think ALOT of honesty is missing from music these days, and I also think A LOT of artists sound the same. A lot of rap [songs] these days are about death and drug dealing, and I think it’s time to switch it up a bit.

One thing that I like a lot about music these days is the beats. I think the production of music has gone up while the talent has gone down. There are a lot of dope producers out here creating these artists that people love so much, and they stay behind the scenes – but in reality, they are the true artist. Without them, some of these “celebrities” would still be local[ly known only], and these celebrity artists are VERY lucky to have them because they are very hard to find.

SSD: What inspired you to get into making music?

NAZZZ: The world around me inspires me, anything that brings me emotion. I am a very emotional being and I express emotion in a raw unfiltered and passionate way. My primary avenue of expression is [and always has been] music.

When I was younger, we did not have a lot. So, the cheapest way for me to express myself was through writing. All I needed was a few sheets of paper and a pen. Further inspired by other artists like 2pac and hearing my sister listen to people like No Doubt, Mariah Carey, Lauryn Hill, and Usher (etc.) – I would love hearing how the words would rhyme as they lyrically painted a picture of the way they perceived the things and emotions going on around them. I loved it so much I began to write my own rhymes in poem form and wanted that same outcome and that same feeling of fulfillment.

Outside of music I’ve always been a natural entertainer. I love to bring out joy and smiles in others.  I was pretty much the class clown, commanding attention and doing something with it (whether it was good or bad at the time).

I’m an artist in every way; feeling the need and desire to inspire and be inspired through it.

SSD: Why the name MIDWEST SALOON?

NAZZZ: The name “Midwest Saloon” came about because we needed a group name. There were 3 of us at first.

I thought of MIDWEST SALOON because I’m from the Midwest, which is rarely represented in music or pop culture at all.  It’s always the West Coast, East Coast, or the South. So outside of the St. Lunatics, I felt the Midwest needed more representatives. The “saloon” part came from my favorite thing to do, which is to go out.  A saloon also symbolizes inclusiveness, comfort, joy, and spontaneity. That is what MIDWEST SALOON is all about! You get all walks of life coming through the saloon to get a break from the troubles of whatever they are going through or to just have a great time and meet new people.

Addicted 2 Kickin' It: MWS Style (Album cover -- 2021)

To me, this is the best part of life.

People dancing, smiling, socializing, and creating those moments that can last a lifetime in the Saloon. 

That’s how I want the world to see MIDWEST SALOON and our music. That’s the feeling I want them to have when they come to a show or hear a song. And that’s why we went with that [name].

SSD: Who are your favorite musicians and why?

NAZZZ: My favorite musicians? 2pac was a big inspiration for me because I loved his passion and rawness. I loved 2pac‘s energy and honesty. Somebody a little more current that I like is Juice WRLD. I love how relatable his music is and how he evokes his emotion into his lyrics. I love his melodies. Lauryn Hill, hands down, is my favorite female artist simply because she can do it all and never had to necessarily do what most popular Black Female Artists (mainly rappers) have to do to sell.

SSD: Tell me about your happiest moment so far as an entertainer.

NAZZZ: My happiest moment so far as an entertainer was performing at the Greek Picnic Summer of 2021 in KC. That was probably the most people we had ever performed in front of. [It was an] all-Black crowd and they seemed to accept us. It seemed like they enjoyed the show. There were probably no less than 600 out there at the time. 

I was very nervous because it seemed like a tough crowd, and [I] didn’t want to do it. I conquered that negative self-talk [though], and was very proud of myself afterward. It was over a hundred degrees that day and we were outside, but in my opinion: the weather wasn’t even as hot as we were that day. 

We also did another show that night at an event that we put on called “The Saloon Summerfest” at the Record Bar in downtown Kansas City, MO.

That was a very happy day full of growth for us.

SSD: What inspired the track “Alone”? I vibe with that one.

NAZZZ: “Alone” was inspired after an argument with a girlfriend.  Whenever I experience intense emotions, I try and get a song out immediately because that’s when I’m feeling it the most.  I guess you could say it’s sort of like therapy.

When I can get the emotions out on paper exactly the way I feel them, and make it rhyme at the same time, I know somebody can relate [to it] and that is what makes me feel good.

I don’t see the point in going through an extreme feeling and not at least getting a song out of it. At the time it was a possible break-up experience, and I felt alone. But then I had to remember I still had myself to take care of, and for a lot of people getting to know yourself is like getting to know a stranger.

Sometimes you can get so caught up in someone [else] that you forget who YOU are. We change constantly every day, and we have to keep up with that also. If you lose too much of yourself in somebody else, when or if that person decides to leave, then you feel you have nothing.

So, “Alone” was about breaking things off with the outside influences, and getting to know the individual inside while building that person up. The stronger the emotions the quicker the words come to me, I wrote that song verse and hook in 25 mins.

SSD: I don’t think enough people understand the emotional investment involved in the music-making process sometimes, so I’m glad you touched on it.

Flipping that a bit to consider another medium that evokes emotion: If MIDWEST SALOON’s music could be the soundtrack to ANY film, but only one — which one & why?

NAZZZ: I would say Django Unchained because MIDWEST SALOON is not about the chains. We are about the raw passion of laughter and freedom.  Doing what we want when we want – how we want.  We are like bounty hunters in search of a dream and will not stop until we find it. We are not only bounty hunters, but are outlaws at the same time, in search of ourselves. 

We are here to free those who feel held captive by their day-to-day and just need a moment.  MIDWEST SALOON has a little something for everybody. 

Like Django, we should be legendary, and we are here to take the world by surprise. We are here to take our shot. And like Django, we don’t miss.

SSD: What do you hope to accomplish as you continue to pursue what you’re doing?

NAZZZ: I want to give back to the world as much as I have taken, that is what I hope to accomplish. There is so much on this earth to be enjoyed, that was shared through the creations and vibes of many different artists here and gone. I’ve enjoyed a lot of it myself, whether it’s music, food, clothing, a movie, nature, a person, whatever.

I want to give back to existence on a universal level, and give unforgettable moments that will last my lifetime and beyond. I want relatable music and visuals that will land me a career in entertainment that is well deserved. I want to leave a legacy of energy, consistency, spontaneity, and endurance. 

I want to be the world’s night out. 

I want to take the whole world to another planet through my music and other content branded by MIDWEST SALOON. I want to bring [real] life to those [who are] “just living”.  I want to be a breath of fresh air in a world that I feel is so boxed-in. I want to accomplish legendary status and, eventually, [join] The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

I want the world to know I was here, and through my art – won’t be leaving anytime soon. 

[I want to do all of this] while inspiring millions along the way, [and] I hope to have multiple hits on the billboards and many shows throughout [my] existence.

You only get one life, and my dream is to make this one memorable.

That is what I hope to accomplish.

SSD: To be inspiring, you have to be involved and on the move — and I know that MIDWEST SALOON is out there.

What role, if any, do you think music plays in activism?

NAZZZ: I think music plays a huge role in activism past and present. Music plays a huge role in everything in life. I don’t think it’s the music people listen to on a daily basis, but everything from Marvin Gaye’s “What’s going on?” to our song “Breathe”.

I think music brings people together in solidarity no matter the race, taste, or place – and that’s exactly what we need.

There is a soundtrack in life for everything, and maybe it helps us stay on track. Life, in general, has a beat. And similar to a heartbeat, music is something we all need to help bring anything, especially activism, to the forefront

Life is not a party if we are dying, and not just dying – but dying by the hands of the very people who are supposed to be protecting us.

NAZZZTAE

SSD: What is one song of yours that you’d want to make sure people unfamiliar with MIDWEST SALOON heard?

NAZZZ: One song I think people need to hear of ours is “Breathe”. I say this because it shows vulnerability and flexibility in our craft.  MWS is not just about the party. We feel things too. We understand and address social issues.

Life is not a party if we are dying, and not just dying – but dying by the hands of the very people who are supposed to be protecting us.  The very occupation that, as a citizen, we yield to- and feel vulnerable to-, which is only a power that we as a people allow. For them to have [that job], and for them to take advantage of it, is ridiculous. And I’m not speaking on every police officer, because there are some good ones out there. But we cannot ignore the fact that they are not all good. 

The video, and mix of the song, was all done by MWS – and we felt that if we have a voice, why not use it? That was us doing our part, through something that we love, to show the world our take on the injustices that affect us and our community, as well as so many others.  That song was very personal to us.

SSD: What’s a tip that you’d give someone who sees you, is inspired, and wants to follow in your footsteps?

NAZZZ: Life is nothing but a dream, follow that and live like it. If you knew that you were in an “actual dream” you would feel as though there was nothing to actually fear, and [you] would have complete freedom and confidence because it’s your dream. Well, that is how I would tell someone to look at life.

Be free and live with confidence. Do what you’re passionate about and what makes you feel full. Do it fearlessly because that’s how you inspire. Your energy and passion are what people love, it’s the energy that makes the moments and, as a result, makes your life the dream you never wanna wake up from. No regrets.

The only way to grow is to step outside of your comfort zone. If you are too comfortable you are no longer growing. You are settled.

Keep pushing and keep being uncomfortable – that way, eventually, you will make it to the top.

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