Local Artist Spotlight: ZELLi

Local Artist Spotlight, Upstream Music Fest + Summit, Local Music
Dusty Henry
photo by A.K. Romero

Leading up until the Upstream Music Fest + Summit, a Northwest regionally focused festival with over 300 acts, KEXP will be featuring a new local artist from the lineup with an interview and suggested tracks for where to start. Today’s post features Seattle rapper ZELLi, performing Friday, May 12.

Think about how your favorite rappers carry themselves live. The bravado, the confidence, and the infectious energy that makes you not second guess when they tell you to put your hands up. For ZELLi, that's just her everyday life. It's easy to imagine her brushing her teeth or ordering her coffee like she's hyping up a crowd at Madison Square Garden. So when she gets on the stage and spits over bombastic beats, you can imagine just how vibrant her performances can be. We chatted with ZELLi to get some insight on her debut EP, her favorite types of beats, and what's coming next. But really, all you need to do is listen to her music and you'll hear just how magnetic she can be. Last year you put out your first EP, SOLID. I imagine that was a lot of people’s first introduction to you and your music. What did you want to communicate about yourself with your debut?

I’m good. This EP took a lot to pull together, and now that I have — I’m solid.

Previously you’ve talked about the music video for “Solid” as being about rebirth. Who were you before and who do you think you’ve reemerged as?

Before, I was living up to the standards of others because I wasn’t in tune with myself. Now I’m vibing on a wave of being unapologetically me and I’ve never been more satisfied.

You work with a few different producers on your EP. What do you look for in a great beat and how much does the production impact what you’ll rap about?

Rump shakers, 808s, booty claps — whatever brings the twerk team out to play. The production is what moves the people, I’m just here to show and tell.

The title-track has an interplay of Destiny’s Child’s “Say My Name”. Do you find yourself drawn to pop world? If so, what about it appeals to you most?

Oh, yass! It’s poppin', which is exactly what I’m about.

Your live shows are so energetic and infectiously fun. Do you feel like you have to turn on the charisma when you walk on stage or is that all naturally you?

That’s all me baby. What ya see is what ya get.

Do you have any new projects in the works? A full-length album or any other collaborations maybe?

Luna God and I are coming together for a project. I also linked up with T. Carriér for a song, which means I gotta head down to The Bay for a music video. Sleep Steady has been lookin' good lately, I wouldn’t mind hoppin' on somethin' for them.


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