Meet Verze. An artist from Baltimore who has enjoyed success on a local level but is looking to breakthrough his city limits.
Formerly known as Jay Verze, but dropping the "Jay" to create a single-worded moniker, this seems to have sparked a change in focus for Verze and his team. Talking to Verze, WFA learns more about his musical influence and how even coming up against the biggest adversity did nothing but fuel his hunger to succeed.
Off the back of a summer release in "Verze, Vol 1" - Verze looks to be starting fresh as we head into the final third of 2018.
What is the story of Verze?
I came on to the music scene in my hometown (Baltimore, MD) as the young dude on the block at 15 years old. I dropped my debut project 21117 in 2012 at the age of 17 and was then labelled one of Baltimore’s up-and-coming rappers. Since then, I’ve put out two projects and have been blessed with the opportunity to perform with a few well-known artists. Around 2016, I began my hiatus because I felt that all of my creative juice was gone.
I was dead broke at the time, stressed, and creatively stuck. Fast forward to 2017, I found myself finally getting back into the groove of things until February 3rd, 2017: I was arrested. When I was released the next day, I found out my recording equipment had been stolen. I thought I lost everything at that moment. Long story short, I was able to get my equipment back within the next couple of days and I took that as a sign to never give up, even at your darkest moment.
STORY OF ARREST:
As a side hustle, I was offering recording services for upcoming artist who didn't have access to a studio around Baltimore. I record and engineer all my own music so I was going to people's homes and bringing my equipment with me so they could record in the comfort of their home. One Friday in February, I made a terrible choice of judgement. I was hired to engineer some guys in an apartment complex in the area. I brought one of my homies with me because I didn’t really know the guys who hired me that well. When we arrived at the apartment, things seemed shaky because of the lack of furniture but I was told that they were just moving in. Eventually I started setting up my equipment to get the session started. 20 minutes into the session, I hear the back door of the apartment open and in enters an off duty police officer with a gun pointed at me. In that split second, all of the guys that were there for the session were able to make it out of the front door of the apartment, leaving me and my homie. Me and my homie got booked and charged with 4th degree burglary. To sum it up, they had me in a vacant apartment doing a recording session... 1 of the biggest learning experiences of my life. Definitely made me look at things and people differently. That was my first time ever being arrested and it was for some shit that me and my homie should never have been apart of.
Admirable that you didn’t let this deter you from making music. Now, you grew up listening to The Temptations, The Isley Brothers and Michael Jackson. Have these artists influenced your approach to how you write your lyrics?
Absolutely. Throughout my entire catalogue of music and definitely in my new music, you can hear the focus on melodies and just certain patterns. Music with unique melodies and cadences will always get remembered. The right melody can take you to paradise; just close your eyes and vibe out.
You also learned to play the keyboard and trumpet as a kid, so you were training your ear from a young age. How has this helped you in creating music today?
I guess I can refer back to my last answer. The instruments gave me the ability to learn and understand notes. It taught me about harmony and what it was to truly harmonise. Two different notes playing at the same time can create a beautiful sound if blended properly.
Earlier in the year you released: Livelife4life, a care-free anthem about living your best life. Why did you decide to pen a song like this?
I've always been the type of artist who wanted to create big records; records that you hear in commercials, movies, etc. At that moment in time, I was in a battle with myself because I wasn’t sure which direction I wanted to go sound-wise, but I knew I wanted to make a feel good record that people could dance to, so when I heard that beat... I knew that was it. It was smooth, but lit at the same time, just like me... so it was effortless.
Were you going for a summer vibe when you got in the studio?
Hell yeah, all the way. I recorded “LL4L” in October 2017. We released it in April this year. I knew it was a summer record and I know timing is everything.
Is there a video on the way for this track?
Of course, I’m planning all of the visuals for the upcoming project. We finna just knock shit out. I used to overthink a lot. Now, I’m in a place where I’m like “fuck it, let’s go”.
In a recent tweet, you commented: “Social Media is the cause for a lot of our anxieties whether we want to believe it or not. I’ve been a victim myself.” - how do you allow yourself not to get lost in it all?
I feel like we all use social media and subconsciously compare other people's lives to ours. Maybe not compare, but sometimes we may look at our peers or celebrities our age and wonder why our life isn’t as lit as theirs. It’s definitely normal. I try to channel that energy and use it as motivation. Over the years, I’ve become a firm believer in the art of patience and I’ve learned that time is life’s biggest illusion. When I was 17-18, I definitely felt older than what I was and that put pressure on me early because I wanted to achieve greatness and success by a certain age because of the new young artist coming out. Now here I am... 22 years old, still don't where I want to be, but blessed to be in a position where I’m in a great creative space with a dedicated team around me with no negative energy. We had to cut that shit out.
How do you keep focused on you and your music?
I’m never thinking in the present; I’m always thinking for the future. I know where I want to be and I understand getting there is the only obstacle. That unknown journey of how I’m going to get there is what gives me the thrill to do what I love. I know the opportunities are endless. Being from Baltimore, knowing there hasn’t been a rap artist to take that shit mainstream the major way yet, it still gives me hope of being the first real rap superstar from the town… no local celebrity type shit. No disrespect to any artist in Baltimore holding they own, I just want more.
How do you want people to feel when they listen to your music?
I want people to feel a sense of authenticity, no fake shit. I put feeling into my music. The average listener may not get it the first listen but every flow, every melody, every punchline came from emotion. If you a dope person on the same frequency as me, you should feel that shit just as much.
What do you think of the Baltimore music scene?
I feel like I get asked this question every year and every year the answer changes, but from the outside looking in, you probably couldn’t tell. I think in 2018 we closer than we’ve ever been to breaking through. We got a few artists with major deals now. We got young photographers and videographers/directors coming up capturing a whole new perspective of Baltimore.
What’s next for Verze?
Me and my creative director, Telly Vangelist, always have conversations about different ideas and strategies. He also taught me minimalism; less is more. I have an EP releasing soon... depending when this interview drops *laughs*. That’s all I’m going to say, I don’t want any expectations from anybody. I just want to shock the world.
The music industry is not one which is easy to be noticed, what keeps you going?
I try to not focus on the odds or statistics of success being an artist anymore. I look at my music career as the business that it is. Any business can prosper with the right ideas and game plan. “Everything happens for a reason." I don’t even question that saying anymore. If you could see all of the events that led me to where I am today, it’d seem like a movie. The good and the bad. God is going to put me through what I need to go through to get to the next chapter so I treat everyday as a new page.
Finally, what does success mean to you?
If you have an idea and you can turn that idea into a system to support yourself and family, that’s success. No matter how many failed attempts, no matter how long it takes.
A huge thanks to the artist formerly known as Jay Verze (now "Verze") for taking the time out to speak to us about his not-so-straightforward route to where he is today. Check out his latest release: Verze, Vol 1 on Spotify and be sure to follow his antics on his socials below.