Interview with Azeem Haq
What got you into music, and if you had not gotten into music what would you be doing today?
I got into music at 14 years old when I asked my uncle how to produce a song. He gave me my first multitrack program and a midi piano, and I taught myself how to create music. If I didn’t pursue music, I would’ve probably wanted to go into the medical field... although my science grades might’ve gotten in the way of that.
What do you like to do when you are not playing music and how does that influence your creativity?
I enjoy spending time with my family and friends. I also like to get outside and connect with nature, as being stuck in a dark studio all day can often drain energy and inspiration.
How long has your band been around?
I started with a hip hop band called EOS in the early 2000s, and then went solo in 2012.
Where are you based out of and how did that influence your music?
I’m from Toronto, more specifically Scarborough, even more specifically Malvern. Where I’m from was hugely connected to my music, as I’m from a very culturally diverse community, and I was influenced by various cultures like Caribbean, South Asian, African and more.
How did you come up with the name of your band and what does it mean to you?
It’s my actual name that my mother gave me. Azeem means ‘The Great One’.
Tell me about your most memorable shows.
I opened for Classified, Maestro Fresh Wes, and Choclair in Toronto for the Canadian Classic Tour. It was an honour for me because I was heavily influenced and inspired by all 3 of them early in my career. The crowd had great energy that night too and showed me a lot of love.
What is your favorite venue to play at, and do you have any places you want to play that you have not already?
Playing at Opera House Toronto is nostalgic for me because it was the first venue I ever performed in. I would love to perform at Rogers Centre one day, as I loved going to that venue as a kid for Blue Jays games.
If you could play any show with any lineup, who would be on the ticket?
Eminem, Cypress Hill, Wu-Tang Clan, and me.
What is some advice that you would give to someone who is just getting into playing in a band and some advice that you would give to your younger self?
Just create. If you have a passion for music like me, just enjoy the experience. Don’t approach it trying to get rich and famous, do it for the feeling. I would also tell myself to put away any doubt and ‘go for it’.
If you could go back in time and give yourselves advice, what would it be?
Don’t worry about what people think, follow your heart.
Of your songs which one means the most to you and why?
‘My Everything’ means the most to me because it’s about my mom. The song tells a story of how I was born, and the hardships she had to go through. She protected me since day one, and the song is a ‘thank you’ to her.
Which songs are your favorite to play and which get requested the most?
My song called ‘Runnin’’ is fun to perform live, as it’s a hard hitting, angry, political track with a fusion of rap and rock. I enjoy bringing the live energy, and can often get a bit wild and ‘theatrical’. Most requested is my latest single ‘My City’ featuring The Game, Fredro Starr, Lazarus, and JRDN. Second most requested song is probably ‘Taking It Back’ because I guess everyone can relate to heartbreak. The other big one was ‘Go Leafs Go’ because Leafs fans are crazy.
What is the creative process for the band, and what inspires you to write your music?
If I have something specific on my mind, I always start with the beat. I produce a basic instrumental with the main melodies that I want, and then I write lyrics to that. I usually add more production after I have an idea of what the lyrics and vocals sound like. Sometimes I create the beat without anything in mind, and let the emotion in the music dictate what I’m going to rap or sing about.
What kinds of messages do you like to get across in your music?
I like to keep things positive but I also like to be honest, and life isn’t always positive. My music is a report on what I’ve experienced and witnessed in my life. I want people who listen to my music to experience emotion and energy that will hopefully affect them for the better.
Do you ever have disagreements in your band, and how do you get past them?
Constructive criticism is part of the game, it’s always good to get opinions. But as an independent solo artist, I have that freedom to decide things on my own. I’m very particular when it comes to my music, but I always keep my ear open to feedback, whether I use it or not.
What are your plans for the future, and do you have anything that you want to spotlight that is coming up?
I’m constantly creating, and you’ll be hearing new music very soon. Nothing specific to promote but I will say I’m working on some Desi bangers. Brown people, get ready.