Bazzi

Exclusive: Bazzi Talks ‘Cosmic’ Debut, Touring with Camila Cabello, & Love for Drake

All eyes are on Bazzi. After shooting up the charts with his platinum-certified hit “Mine,” he’s ready for one of the biggest moments of his life. The New York-born and Michigan-raised singer drops his debut album Cosmic today via iamcosmic/Atlantic Records.

“Putting out this album is bigger than going 20x platinum or a huge brand collaboration,” he tells Rap-Up. “The music is everything. I don’t want to play with gimmicks. I want to make Bazzi solely about the music. No finesse. Nothing else around it. Just songs. It’s so powerful and people have forgotten about that aspect of the music.”

Some artists might have their eyes on the glitz and glamour, but Bazzi says that isn’t his priority. “I don’t want fame and money,” he adds. “That stuff is fun, but the goal has always been to make music that people can tune in and listen to. That’s been the dream and the want.”

In between dates on Camila Cabello’s “Never Be the Same Tour,” Bazzi spoke with Rap-Up about his connection to the former Fifth Harmony sensation. He also talked about name-checking Mariah Carey on “Mine,” why Drake is the only contemporary artist he looks to for inspiration, and how he might just drop a rap project at some point in the future.

It feels like your move to Los Angeles inspired Cosmic. How did that impact your life?

I would say the move impacted Cosmic completely. It’s my first time standing on my feet, experiencing life as an adult. When you do that, you go through a lot of things for the first time. Being out here impacted the entire project in good and bad ways. When it comes to music, the good and bad both help because they give you something real to talk about. Art isn’t necessarily always perfect and beautiful. Sometimes, it holds pain and honesty. Being in L.A. for the last three-and-a-half years, it’s given me a lot of perspective and real stuff to talk about in my music.

You have lyrics that feel true-to-life like, “I’m still on your Netflix, girl, I know you love me” on “Why.” How did your real-life relationships inspire the lyrics?

“Why” is a great example of that. So much real emotion in that song, talking about a super toxic relationship. Music is cool because those little lines and examples can pull strings in your heart because they hold so much truth. You’re giving people insight on what your life looks like and what some of these moments felt like. Every single line in “Why” was so concrete-real. I think it’s cool because something could be hurting me personally, I can talk about it, and it’s almost like a getaway or relief for [listeners], knowing that somebody out there relates to them and is feeling the same way they are. It makes people not feel alone and we don’t want to feel like we’re by ourselves on this super confusing journey. We want to feel comfort or a friend who is going through what we’re going through.

Who are some of your musical influences that inspired the album?

I’m very influenced by older legends like Prince, Michael Jackson, Guns N’ Roses, some of the original culture shifters. That’s what I’m trying to do and I feel like things have grown a bit stagnant, a bit similar. I look up to people who didn’t compromise their artistry for mainstream success. I’m inspired by that because I want to make music for the world, that everybody can listen to. But a lot of times, people confuse popular music or being mainstream with selling out. I’m inspired by Prince and Michael Jackson, people who didn’t have to sell out to reach the world.

“I’m inspired by Prince and Michael Jackson, people who didn’t have to sell out to reach the world.”

Are there any contemporaries you look to for inspiration on that front?

Umm, not too many, to be honest. If any, it is Drake because he’s doing something similar in the aspect of, he’s not compromising his artistry for mainstream success. He comes hot every single time. It’s consistent, good, and relatable. People feel what he’s saying. If anybody, it would be him. You have to respect somebody who’s hit it on the target as many times as he has, being a young artist trying to do something similar. But besides him, there’s not too many that I’m inspired by.

It’s interesting that you mention a rapper. You’re a singer, but “Myself” has a rapping quality to it. Where do those hip-hop influences come from?

Yeah, man. 100 percent. I was born in New York. That whole genre of music is really impactful on me. I love that it’s easy to talk about something real on a beat that’s just moving. If you look back at Eminem or [Dr. Dre], or anybody who had that simplistic production, I’ve always been inspired by that. I think my genre and sound is interesting because I am singing on these songs, but it’s flowing. It’s music, you’re listening to the melodies, but you’re also paying attention to what I’m saying, which is rare for singing music. That’s why rap is so big. It’s less about the melody but more about what people are saying. I think I’ve kind of infused a bit of both of the worlds in my music, which gives it an interesting twist.

Are you about to drop a rap mixtape at some point?

It’s funny you say that because I would never count that possibility out. I love music and I know myself personally, so I feel like I could dabble in different styles of music without changing what I’m doing. I’m always Bazzi. Under that umbrella, I can do so much other than what it sounds like now, while still staying Bazzi and holding my artistry and originality. To be honest with you, I’ve thought about it. I don’t know. I’m 20 years old, so in a couple of years, who knows? Maybe even a couple of months. Whatever is weighing in my heart, whatever I’m inspired by at the moment, I’m definitely not fearful to dabble in it.

“The music is everything. I don’t want to play with gimmicks.”

On “Mine,” you say, “You a star just like Mariah.” Has she heard the line? Has she reached out to you?

She actually hasn’t yet, but I feel like she might. I’m just waiting on the DM.

Are you a Mariah fan? Is there a chance for a collaboration?

Yes, I am a fan of hers. I’m very keen on respecting people who have accomplished things that I’m trying to accomplish. You have to respect people who’ve been through it and have done the things that you’re trying to do. That’s where you find inspiration, knowing that someone made it possible for you to come in and sell 50 million records. If it’s happened before, it can happen again. So the respect for her I have is very large, but I wouldn’t see a collaboration between the two of us as of right now. Who knows? I’m very based on feelings, so maybe in two years, I’ll have a song like, “Oh my God! Mariah on this would be insane.” But as of now, I couldn’t really see anything between the two of us.

You’re on tour with Camila Cabello. How did you two connect?

She did an interview and they asked, “Who is one of your favorite artists right now?” She said me. Then, her team reached out about touring and I thought it’d be great because I think where me and Camila do connect is, she has a song called “Never Be the Same,” and I’ve always loved that song. It holds a lot of nostalgia and feeling and I think my music is similar in a sense. It’s nostalgic and makes you feel something. That’s not something you can put a finger on. I really like “Never Be the Same,” so I think our sounds would mesh in that sense.

What would a collaboration between you and Camila sound like?

I’m not entirely sure. I really don’t like to think about things that haven’t happened yet because it kind of crushes the opportunity of something incredible happening in the moment. If I set the bar for it to sound like this, when I get in the studio and both of our abilities mesh into something different, I’ve kind of disappointed myself, in a sense. So, I like to go in with a completely open mind and notebook and see what we’re feeling together. I think the best music vibes happen organically and on true collaboration, being in the room with somebody, feeling their energy, and seeing what you guys can build together once you’re with each other.

What do you hope listeners take away from Cosmic?

I want to let people know I’m human, to let people know they have an artist they can tune into, and relate to, and feel at home with. People are so alone. I know how I feel and even right now, I hate feeling like I have nobody to connect to, nobody that feels the same way I do. It’s a super dark feeling. I know most people feel like that. We live in an age where vulnerability is wack and corny to say how we actually feel, and we build huge walls for our emotions, and that’s why everybody is so sad. I want to be the guy who says, “It’s okay to love somebody, hate somebody, feel alone, or feel sad. Come listen to me and relate those emotions to what I’m saying.” I’m just here to inspire.

–Andres Tardio