Written by Calvin Schneider
Meet rising star rapper Jacob ZL. Raised in Flatbush Brooklyn, Jacob has been rapping his whole life. His intricate word play and ability to make you understand his pain is what drew me in immediately. He first came to my attention when he released his hit song, “When I Die”. Heavily influenced by the sounds of NYC, he bases his music off of his real life experiences and his day to day shenanigans. He recently dropped a new song and video, Killing Me Lately. But who is Jacob ZL really? We got a chance to sit down and find out. Read what he has to say about himself below.
So to start off, who is Jacob ZL?
I never really know how to answer this question. I’m just an artist from Brooklyn who enjoys making music and spending time alone. I think you’ll get a better idea of who I am by listening to my music than having me tryna’ answer this myself.
Do you think being from NYC has helped shape your sound?
Yea, for sure. I’d be a completely different person if I grew up anywhere besides NYC. I believe in the idea that you’re the sum of your experiences- if I hadn’t been through what I’ve been through, I’d be on a different type of time for sure. Because everything about my music is based off of my personal experiences, if I grew up somewhere else and hadn’t been exposed to the grittiness of NYC, my music would both sound different and have a different subject matter. NYC is ingrained in everything I do. From the way I talk to the way I carry myself when I walk down the street, it’s just part of who I am. Growing up in Flatbush specifically played a huge role in shaping me. Rap is so ingrained in the culture out here- if I’d grown up somewhere else, I don’t know if I’d have been exposed to it at such a young age. I was idolizing Pro Era and Flatbush Zombies when I was in middle school, and their music definitely impacted me. With all of us being from Flatbush, I was just like, ‘damn, I wanna be like them.’
You’ve been recording music since high school; was there an instance that made you choose to do this full time?
Going to college made me realize there isn’t anything I genuinely love doing aside from making music. I’m mad thankful to have had the opportunity to continue my education past high school, but I constantly felt like I was wasting my time. It offered me the perspective I needed to realize that nothing makes me feel as fulfilled as music. I feel beyond attached to it- if someone just took it away from me I’d probably just fall into an existential void (lmao).
Tell me what’s coming up next for you
I’m working on my first official project, Love Seldom, Trust Never. I have about 100 songs recorded at this point, so it’s just a matter of sorting through them and figuring out which ones work best in tandem with one another. I have ode bad anxiety, and a byproduct of that is I continuously overthink what songs to release and how to release them. I swore to myself that I’d become more consistent with it, so I promise that new music’s coming sooner than later.
What’s your normal songwriting process?
Eat 8 jellybeans then count to 103 in Spanish
You dropped your hit song When I Die almost exactly 2 years ago, what has changed for you since then?
Aside from growing into myself and becoming more confident, nothing. I’m hungrier than ever.
Who do you think your biggest musical influences are?
I listen to a wide range of genres so my musical influences are all over the place. Lil Wayne was the first rapper I really found myself idolizing, so he’s usually the person I like to directly credit with inspiring me to make music. My parents’ music taste also had a pretty big influence on me. While I was growing up, my parents listened to a lot of Bob Dylan, John Coltrane, Bruce Springsteen, Jay-Z, Lauryn Hill, and Janis Joplin. Being exposed to those artists at such a young age definitely shaped the type of music I wanted to make. Aside from them, I’ve been really influenced by King Krule, Robb Banks, Linkin Park, Joey Bada$$, Kendrick Lamar, Freddie Gibbs, Young Thug, and Mac Miller. There are a ton of other artists that I can’t remember off the top of my head though, feel me?
Who are some new artists or producers from New York that you’ve been fucking with?
Shoutout all my guys. 360, NXGN, The Øthers. I feel like I have a ton of talented friends who push and inspire me, so I’m thankful for that.