Following his fearless single “Michael Jackson,” Mzwétwo (pronounced mz-way-two, we know you were wondering) is gearing up to drop his Gallantino II EP, a moody sequel to his previous Gallantino from earlier this year. Mzwétwo, like most modern artists, is hard to classify. He operates as a producer, rapper, singer, multi-instrumentalist, and an overall mysterious character. It’s evident from first listen that he’s a talented musician; it’s less clear where he’s going to take his abilities. His music thus far boasts heavy, lo-fi production, deep reverberating vocals, and if you’re lucky- strident and forceful rap verses. The New Zealand native was most recently featured on Red Bull Sound Selects, and opened for Flatbush Zombies at the Sound Select Block Party last summer.
Mzwétwo gave FDRMX a peek at his latest EP, Gallantino II, a murky hybrid of hip-hop, soul, and rock. The rough production styling is either genius or simply a stepping stone to a better studio, but his vocals, warped and restless, are what sticks. The lo-fi production is “out of necessity at the moment. I don’t want to be an internet artist or anything like that. My vision is to make innovative pop music but I just don’t have the access to those resources just yet.”
First we had to ask about his tongue-twisting moniker. Where does it come from? Perhaps the ‘two’ signifies a partnership? Is it the name of a very rare Pokémon? Turns out, “it’s really “just an alteration of my real name Mzwethu…it just looks way more fresh with the ‘thu’ instead of two.” For those who’ve never heard of him, Mzwétwo explains that he tries to take “the musicianship of rock n roll, the groove of rap and soul, the structure of pop music and [mashes] it all together to make the Mzwétwo modern rock n roll, progressive rap sound.” It’s an effective illustration, since his music doesn’t really fit snugly into any one genre. This “musicianship” aspect is most visible on Gallantino 2. Mzwétwo plays keys and guitar, and pays close attention to the details of songwriting and production, noting “the first tune I wrote on guitar is actually on the next EP, Gallantino 2.”
Rather than idolize rappers, Mzwétwo seems to pull creative inspiration from a slightly older generation of rock stars. “Morrissey, David Bowie, Guns Roses, The Ramones, Jimi Hendrix, ACDC, KISS… I steal a lot of ideas from those artists. All the things they accomplished are just so inspiring. To me, rappers are in no way as cool as these guys.” It’s a unique approach, and could be what sets him apart from an array of forgettable rapper-producers on the internet right now. “From the stage show, recordings, performance, dress style, branding – I wanna steal the best from all of those bands, and bring it to the future.” Z also appreciates emerging artists like “Raury…I love where [he’s] going, that’s super dope.” He even admits to “jamming a couple tunes off Ariana Grande‘s album – if that counts?” But ultimately he always goes back to “classic shit- Bob Dylan, Ray Charles, Kanye, Jay, etc.”
There are no plans for a tour outside of New Zealand- yet. But Mzwétwo’s been buzzing on the internet, and lists “get Gallantino 2 & 3 out” and “start playing live more regularly” on his bucket list for this year. Still, with a plethora of music outlets to choose from, it’s difficult for artists to break through the internet bubble. “I feel like anything that happens on the internet is like punching someone through a pillow…With the internet your growth is really available for people to witness. People can really really fake it till they make it & a ‘you look better in real life’ moment is very rare…I’m more of a ‘real life’ person. I’m a real life entertainer; I’m fly in real life, my music works in real life.”
The question that remains- what does the future hold for Z? Is he a singer, a rapper, a producer, or all of the above? “I go through phases in terms of what’s resonating with me. For example when i was making Gallantino 2, I hated current rap music so I started singing more and doing rock, soul shit. But now, I’m doing Gallantino 3 and there’s more rap influence in the writing because I’m starting to enjoy rap music a bit more. As for collaborations, Mzwétwo says he would love to be produced by someone like Rick Rubin. “He has a great grasp on rock, rap & pop music which is exactly what I’m trying to do.” From a producer’s standpoint: “I would love to produce for Miguel too.” It’s hard to pick favorites off of Gallantino, especially when the content is so varied, but Z hints at new work off of his upcoming EP: “I have this song called Young Stunna and that’s one of my favorite songs to perform. I’m looking forward to having that out.” In the meantime, we can look forward to more “visuals, visuals, visuals” from the New Zealander. He’s released a twisted black and white music video for “Horror.” If you’re impressed, you can stream Gallantino here, and keep a close eye on his Youtube channel here.