Being a new artist comes with a few reservations and a dash of anxiety. However, For someone who just started taking music seriously this year, Columbus artist Kashis Keyz has already made major moves towards getting his music out there. With influences ranging from old school jay-Z and Nas to J. Cole and Kendrick Lamar, Keyz’s transparency as an artist is a part of what draws listeners in. From music to apparel, the 24 year old is working to make a name for himself.
Tell our readers a little about you and your connection to the city.
“I was born in Columbus but moved to Connecticut when I was four. I moved back to Columbus when I was 14 years old. I lived in Blacklick and didn’t know anybody besides my cousin. That’s when I did a lot of writing. I had nothing else to do so that’s when my writing really started elevating. I home schooled my first year back, but after that, I went to Licking Heights. It’s crazy because it was way more diverse than I thought.
How did you get involved with music?
I’ve always been into music. I started rapping when I was probably eight years old. Nas and Kanye really inspired me. My grandmother had a non-profit business and I performed Nas’ “I Can” to the beat. I eventually switched the song to Jesus Walks. Not log after that, I just got tired of reciting other people’s raps. I wrote my own song at 12 years old and won third place in a competition.
When did you start taking music seriously?
I just started taking music seriously around March of this year. I dropped my project in June. I put together and performed at two shows. The main way I’ve been growing my fan base is just by talking to people and performing in intimate settings.
When did things begin to change for you?
When I went to UC. That changed everything. That’s when I began. I went there and didn’t know anyone. It was like new beginnings. For the first time I could be whoever I wanted to be. I was just looking at this campus like wow.
How did you come up with the moniker “Kashis Keyz”?
My real name is Cazembe, it means “the wise one who is victorious.” People couldn’t pronounce my name. I started telling people my name is Keyz and I rap. I began comfortable with that. Keyz the rapper. Kashis came from just rapping. I wrote that went, “punch lines like Cassius Clay.” The name is a duality. When I started with freestyling, I was in negative circles. That’s Keyz. Kashis is more like the bookworm, conscious rapper.
How did you begin to promote your music?
I did a listening party June 14th. It was small; about 15 to 20 people came out. It was a really intimate environment. I invited different types of people out. You have people there who mostly listen to Lil Yachty and people who listen to Lauryn Hill. Everyone vibed with it. Someone told me, “This made me glad to be black,” and that was all I needed.
The listening party went well, but I was really nervous beforehand. I had a lot of doubt that day. I was just like, what if nobody comes? I hyped it up this whole time, what if people think it’s boring you know? But it turned oit really well people were into it.
Tell us about your current project, Key of Soul.
I wanted to put out soulful music. This would be me introducing myself, and my sound, to the public. There’s nothing on there that you can really play at the club, but you can play it at a kickback or an art gallery. I wanted to do something true to my craft; witty wordplay and lyricism. I’m trying to uplift people. I want to be able to do what everyone does, but differently.
I also have shirts to go along with the project. I didn’t realize how essential apparel can be to one’s success. There isn’t a lot that sets someone like me apart. To be able to say I have apparel for every tape that drops is something different.
What about the release of the project?
Well, I dropped it late. I was so nervous. I had trouble uploading it, and once it was uploaded I didn’t get many likes or comments. The next day I woke up to 796 views on Soundcloud. I was just like damn! People like it! You can’t judge everything by likes because in real life people support it.
What do you think makes your journey different from your peers’?
I bloomed a lot later than others. Most others graduated and followed a planned path. If you don’t understand that you’re a late bloomer, you think you’re not doing what you’re supposed to be doing. That’s not the case.
How can people keep up with you?
All of my social media is Wordplaykeyz. I’m in the process of opening an online shop, but in the meantime, people can contact me if interested.
You can follow Kashis Keyz on his social media.
Soundcloud – Soundcloud.com/wordplaykeyz