Today we get to unpack the heart and makings of Z_Lus the Zeal, who not to be confused with his friend Zeal. Mogomotsi Ntsimane was bred in Pretoria but is now based in Johannesburg shares on his musical journey.
He grew up in the church but even with numerous encounters with God in his earlier years, it was in 2009 that his relationship with God became exclusive. “When I was like Jesus I am with you, he was like let me plug you into some cool music; because when before that I never liked listened to vulgar music, I enjoyed people who were clean in their music like Lupe Fiasco, until I was introduced to the Christian cats like Last Days Fam and listened to their music quite a lot…” he remarked. Mogomotsi was introduced to the SA CHH before being made aware of international CHH.
Christian hip hop in South Africa is really just it’s the voice of young people. It’s really the voice of young people because hip hip hop and is always for the youth and the culture. So it’s really it’s really for the young people.Z_Lus the Zeal
His passion for CHH was cultivated by the church he is a part of which was then called His People (now called Every Nation), from hearing CHH before preach and church intros. He started off as a poet and sometimes rapping at Cyphers but it grew into him building his craft and releasing music that spoke from the belly of his faith about everyday situations. His style is influenced by the 90’s boom-bap storytelling rappers such as Common, Lupe Fiasco, and Pharoahe Monch because he identifies as a storyteller and wants his music to do the same; Andy Mineo and Sho Barak he notes to be the Christian contemporaries of the style. His style is a mix of consciousness, lo-fi with a pinch of trap.
As an artist, Z_Lus believes you need to read the room before a live performance so that you can engage and connect with your audience, maintain the sound of your music on and off stage, and be intentional with what you want your audience to leave with. ” Sometimes live performances sound very different from what you hear from the CD or from the actual track. Right. And I really believe that it is that being able to just read the crowd, also just matching your live sound with what you actually sound like because you don’t want it to be different people.
So obviously, when you get there… you need to show that look like you you’ve actually set up in such a way that you’re bringing that sound to the person because it’s that personal. When I leave someone’s live event, I want to capture what I felt at the live performance in what I’m listening to on the CD. But I mean, look also I’m very big on band performances. And hence that’s why I really feel what we do at We Will Worship is also a great thing because it’s not just the beats, it’s like you’re actually performing live. But I guess those are like I guess the three things that maybe I look out for and also PPE for covid right now,” he remarked.
“I think the thing about our faith is that it’s always spontaneous. Actually, if you actually think about it, nothing is really rehearsed. And I think that’s the joy and the childlike faith God expects of us. And like I mean, when you rapping with a live band, what I really love about it is that you’re required to be spontaneous because they’re going to be mistakes that are going to be made, they’re going to be cues, that are going to be left out. You may hear clicks that are not going to be in sync with what the drum is playing and all that stuff. So now it’s up to you to actually control what is happening. So be the captain of the ship of what you are carrying and what you performing. So I think the dynamics are really great. It’s just that obviously you are now performing with vocalists and they are in their own spontaneous element. So you need to flow off of each other and give each other energy so that you are all in the same space, so, I mean, for example, with me, what I’ve enjoyed is that every single time when we are out there, whether we are doing the First Nights or when we are at a gig. You’d find guys like Pastor Langa, and everyone, they’re just ready to see what is he going to do next? Is he going to dance? Is he going to ask us to say something or what? And they always say, yeah, yeah, yeah. I think that’s always a beautiful thing to consider. I mean, it may be tough for a rapper who’s used to just the beat and a performance a capella and all that stuff. But I think performing live is much better with the band because you’re able to expand the song and able to do much more with it than you would just the three minutes twenty-two seconds of the performance,” relayed Z_Lus on the dynamics of working and performing in the We Will Worship band.
Z_Lus has been of the repping Christ in rhymes for over 9 years from his tracks limited to Soundcloud to those available on Slikouronlife and major digital music platforms, the artist has travelled many a topic whilst carefully crafting his skill and growing into having his own voice. His most recent release was his 4-track EP Poiema which is literally translated as workmanship from Greek, it is where the word poem was derived from. He is working on his next EP also to be titled in Greek too. In the meantime expect visuals, “So I don’t just want my music just to be music. I want my music to be a part of the story that people can see visually. That is the biggest space where my head is now because I think that lasts longer than just the song itself; than just the track itself. It speaks into what people see and their ability to capture what I was talking about,” explained Z_Lus the Zeal.
He has been found not just rapping but the fitness couch has also been trending on TikTok this past year. It is there where the visual bug caught him and his niece who is his Tik Tok partner in crime. The content creator will also be finding a creative way to marry his love for SA CHH with his love for TikTok… watch this space. He pointed out that the challenge is the Church didn’t really accept as SACHH artists, but also that could be brought by the standard we produce and the lack of spaces we build. “Stay in the Lord, I don’t beg people but we are in a time where GBV and sexual allegations/abuse are coming out now and hitting our Christian community culture, hitting our churches. So, you know what, stay in the Lord more than staying in the craft, yes we may lean on it, yes we may be artists and creatives who express ourselves but please let the Lordship of Christ be what establishes you as an artist, don’t look at having accolades, don’t let your gift be perverted and don’t allow your gift to be idolised in any way. Because all of these come and go but what remains, you know… If you stay in the Lord God will give you the excellence you need as an artist… Focussing on Him, not youtube, and not your favourite artist…” Z_Lus The Zeal encouraged.
He expressed his gratitude to all those who have shared and follow his musical journey, adding that if you see him wearing a dress on social media don’t worry it is just for gags… If you aren’t following him already follow him @z_lusthezeal to catch the latest of his trending TikToks and music releases.
SACHH raises the flag and raises the bars.