Get to Know Zayskillz [Interview]

Ian Hansen

Boston producer, artist, entrepreneur, and just about anything you can do creatively, Zayskillz, is the epitome of finding up and coming artists and building his brand from the ground up. His recent project, definition of skillz, features some of the hottest names in the underground hip hop space right now such as, yvngxchris, Highway, and SGPwes to name a few. Get to know ZaySkillz below:

Congrats on the release of your first project, how fulfilling is it being able to have it out and bring together big names in the underground?

I had a bunch of studio sessions in 2022. I was all in the studio in sessions with Highway, Yvngxchris, and everyone else. I built up all of these songs from all of these studio sessions, and I was like, “why not make a project out of all of these?” I got confirmation from everyone to drop it, and I just put it together. Throughout the whole year of me producing for the underground scene, everyone kept asking for a project from me. I just thought it was a perfect time and it made sense.

What does it take for a producer to get to this point where they can make a project like this happen? What is the importance of networking and building.

It is important to have a different sound and something unique and something that can stand out to an artist. I also think building with someone you see that is small and has a good sound. Build with the artists and get on an artist early. When I started and had no placements, I’d work with local people in Massachusetts. In 2019, me and my cousins would listen to Summrs and we were like, “These are some new artists.” We have always been hip to the underground scene. I hit them up and got connected to them.

How would you say you developed your sound as a producer over time?

I would just try to figure out how to stand out from other people. I listened to a lot of other types of Hip Hop. I came up on Nas, Mobb Deep, and Wu Tang. I would also listen to new age stuff like Lil Uzi Vert, and I would try to mix it.

What got you into DJing?

I have been DJing before producing, and I got it from my father. My dad was actually a DJ and would do local clubs. We always had a DJ set at the house. I always knew how to DJ so I had an opportunity with Yvngxchris. From there, I started DJing his tours, DJ’d Box Fest, and all of that.

How did that connection with Yvngxchris form to what it is now?

Just by me working with him and finding his stuff super early on Tik Tok. I just hit him up to send him beats, and a year later we got a song called “Excuse Me,” and his label just contacted me to get to know me and I said I DJ’d and they were like, “Perfect, Chris needs a DJ.” That is how that came about.

What has been your craziest memory DJing and also in the studio creating your project?

With DJing, touring in Toronto and playing a couple of songs before Chris came out. I was playing classics and underground music, and I had the whole crowd jumping and singing the songs. It is the best thing. In the studio, working with friends. I got to work with a lot of producers like Iankon, Bhristo, and a lot of cool people. I always looked up to those guys. We have a group called Paradigm Oao too.

What goals do you have going forward with yourself and Paradigm Oao?

Developing the group more because we have a lot of unique producers. Other than that, developing my own brand as well. I have a clothing brand that has dropped. I also want to shoot videos for the project, like we are shooting a video for the “Bad Kids Get Rich'' song with Yvngxchris. We are shooting that in Los Angeles. I want to build it more. Even if it is dropping tutorials, I want to do everything.

How important is it as a producer to have your own aesthetic, be the artist, be your own brand, and everything else?

It is very important. Sometimes, producers get overlooked. People will look at us as just the person behind the beat when they don’t really know. It is good to put yourself out there and take it to another level. I make music my damn self too.

What was your favorite moment making this project?

Putting the songs together. I would say the Onlybino songs. Those two we had the intros and outros and it is the aesthetic I am going for my next project is just like those transitions. That was fun making with Bino because we had the idea with the transitions. It was a cool moment.

What advice would you give to new producers or DJs who might not know how to move around in the industry?

I would say find people super early. If they are super unique, get on to it early. You never know if that person will go on tour the next year. Who would have thought Yvngxchris would go on tour the next year after I found him.

What are your favorite VSTs?

I like Massive and Prism. I use the machine to make beats too.

What do you like to do outside of music?

I really only got the music. I don’t do much outside of music. I will go to shows. I love music, and I have always done it since I was young.

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