New York City and the borough of Brooklyn holds a special place for rising hip-hop star Zay Lewis who recently released his riveting uptempo video “Lightspeed,” a two-minute piece of pulsing, electric blue stainless steel energy featuring fellow Nocoast member Heymvn. Lewis who is responsible for producing the track with friend Heymvn, is one to watch out for as he seeks to make a name for himself on the local rap scene.
Lewis who has deep Brooklyn family roots stretching back some three generations is looking to build on the legacy of rappers such as The Notorious B.I.G., Half a Mill, Raekwon and Shock G. In an interview with The Amsterdam News, Lewis says the new video is meant to capture what it feels like running around New York while on the hustle as a young artist. “The flow in the first verse was inspired by watching the cadence of lights passing in the tunnel as I traveled the ‘A’ train from Nostrand Avenue to the West Village.”
Zay, as he is popularly known, is no typical rapper as he started playing music at the age of 10 when he joined his elementary school band, playing the alto saxophone. One could say that creativity runs deep in his genes as his maternal grandmother was a self-taught pianist and her husband a poet. And while his mom lays no claim to being a musician, she was a dancer with the prestigious Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater and a model, winning the Miss Jamaica USA pageant in the mid 80s.
Born in Kansas City, Missouri, and raised in Illinois, Zay could be described as a nomadic Midwesterner. He spent much of his childhood in semi-rural Midwestern towns, however, as a result of his dad and his various job offerings, this resulted in him living in a total of three states and six different school districts.
Being an only child from the Midwest and with all his family living in New York, meant Zay spent a lot time alone and with his thoughts.
“With the constant moving, I spent a lot of time alone: in my own head, reading, drawing, writing poems and playing pretend. I think I first started writing poetry in the second grade, which was a very formative year for me as I was being bullied a lot and my mom was battling cancer. I think poetry in a lot of ways served as the predecessor to songwriting for me.”
Zay believes the ability to express himself through words were bolstered by his grandmother and mother who would both extol the virtues of his poetry. So armed with a confidence in his words he made a seamless transition into rap while in middle school. “The first time I rapped without getting clowned for it was in high school when a bunch of kids were freestyling over a free YouTube beat playing out of an iPhone. I joined in and they were like “you’re actually pretty good, you should make music.”
At age 16, he ventured into making his own beats after approaching an upcoming rap group at his high school to buy beats, however they quoted him a ridiculous amount of money. That year, he skipped his junior prom and bought an MPC, and teamed up with a friend who was a guitarist to help him. Zay spent the whole summer learning how to produce and he has been at it ever since.
His early introduction to hip-hop came by way of listening to Lupe Fiasco and Kanye in the early 2000’s. Zay lists Kanye among his musical idols, admiring his versatility and the ability to keep his inner child alive. Among his other influences are Kendrick Lamar for his similes and storytelling, Saba for the way he flows and Frank Ocean for his world making style.
Zay’s heart is in the music and the confident Aquarian who has begun to make small strides simply wants to be seen, felt and be free to keep creating things. Zay is focused and fearless and appears destined for success. His guiding philosophy: “I don’t believe in time. Everything that will ever happen is happening now.”
Be sure to check out Zay Lewis’ new video “Lightspeed” available on Spotify and all other platforms.