I remember riding around with my good buddy Drew back around the time I was 15-17 years old. We’d ride around after working our part time jobs at a major music theatre in the Chicago suburbs. Our purpose was two-fold: 1) To goof around and act as silly and as stupid as we could! 2) To tune in to WJKL “TheFox” and listen to as many new bands and artists as we could, in order to try to discover the next big musical act worth following.
That musical passion has continued up to this day, and has lead me to the next great musical artist that many of you have probably never heard of, but should. His name is Nosson Zand, and he is a Jewish rap/hip-hop artist, who blends elements of rap/hip-hop and rock, along with positive lyrics, inspired by his Jewish faith, to create some of the most exciting and interesting new music being heard today in the independent music scene.
I interviewed Nosson recently by telephone, and although technological problems prevented me from getting our interview recorded verbatim, what follows is a brief summary of our interview that will hopefully allow you to begin to get to know Nosson, the artist, and the man, a bit better. It just may influence you to give this guy a listen. Even if you are primarily a rock and roll fan, as I am, you just may come away impressed with the musical talents this young artist has to offer.
RRR: When did you begin rapping?
NZ: I began when I was 14 or 15 years old. I got a lot of feedback, both positive and negative, from friends who were really into the hip-hop music scene. By the time I was 16 or 17, I began to think that I could really do something with my music. My first show was at my high school, and shortly after that I got a chance to perform at the House of Blues.
RRR: Pretty impressive! How did you get word out about yourself and your music?
NZ: Early on, it was primarily word of mouth. Some people also got to know me from some open mike performances too, as well as from recordings of my music that I made using a karaoke machine.
RRR: This past summer, you have been touring with the extremely popular reggae/rap/rock artist, Matisyahu. How did you get from karaoke performances to touring all over the United States with Matisyahu?
NZ: Well, after college, I spent some time in France, learning more and becoming more observant in my Jewish faith. During that time I recorded some stuff that some people seemed to really like, and encouraged me to continue my musical pursuits. Eventually, I moved back to Boston, MA. I was a fan of Matisyahu’s, and one night went to watch him perform in concert. Before the show, I happened to see him at a nearby synagogue and we got to talking. I let him know that I dug the kind of thing he was doing—blending great reggae music with his Jewish faith, and that I was doing the same sort of thing, albeit on a much smaller scale. He was interested in that, and had me rap for him while he beat boxed for me. He wound up liking me enough that he asked me to perform with him! After that, he invited me to tour with him, but I already had a trip planned to Israel to learn and grow more in the faith. After my trip, I contacted Matisyahu, and asked him if his offer to tour with him was still standing. He said it was, and since then I have toured with him two times.
RRR: How did your music evolve into it’s current form, what I would describe as cutting edge rap/rock/hip hop, with a positive lyrics that seem inspired by your faith?
NZ: It was a natural progression for me, because of my desire to rap about life. And as I was becoming more observant in the faith, it impacted how I was viewing and seeing life.
RRR: Has there ever been any tension between your religious faith, or your faith community, and being involved in the music scene?
NZ: I have actually found the Torah and Judaism to be very liberating. My rabbi, who is a follower of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, encouraged me, and all of the faith community, to use the talents God gave us. This teaching emphasizes that everything can be used for good or evil. My Rabbi did not want to see us throw our talents away by not using them. At that point, I really decided to try to pursue my musical career seriously.
RRR: You have an EP out called “The Return”. And one of the songs that I was really impressed with, is “Fortress”. In my opinion, it has some elements of Jay-Z and Linkin Park, and seems to be very hopeful. Can you comment on that song?
NZ: When I think of the fortress, I think of something providing me with protection from both myself, as well as negative things in this world. It is not a song exclusive to the Jewish faith. It is symbolic of protection that everyone might find from themselves and evil or negative things in this world. We all need a fortress at times.
RRR: Nosson, where can people find out more about your music?
NZ: I have a myspace site with streaming music on it; and I also have a new web site called kosherhiphop.com, where people can get more information on how to purchase the EP. In addition, it is also available on itunes and Amazon, for download.
RRR: Nosson, thank you very much for your time. I will really be encouraging Rock and Roll Report readers to check your music out! I think it is very unique, and definitely worth listening to!
NZ: Thank you very much! And I just want to say that if people like the EP, I am working on a full length album, and they haven’t seen anything yet!