The process of music creation has changed radically in recent years. In the digital age, anyone can call themselves an independent artist if they’ve made a song in GarageBand and uploaded it to Soundcloud. But while some may lament the loss of the ‘craft’ of music, these digital advances have spawned a new age of DIY artists, not constrained by the cost of instruments or a lack of traditional musical training, breaking down the barriers to create.
Enter INFAMOUSIZAK, a budding unsigned rapper from south London who’s carving his own path through the music industry. Although originating on Soundcloud, he isn’t just another face tatted, rapper with colourful dreads like the Lil Pumps and Famous Dexs of the world. Izak’s melodic and eclectic approach to UK rap stands out amongst a sea of same-y hip-hop stars.
Instead, he cherishes mixing elements of afrobeats, classic hip-hop, vapor rap and more. Take his popular track ‘Public Enemy’, which received plenty of radio play (Stormzy’s a fan, too, as he revealed on his Instagram Stories) on which his hard work comes into full effect.
Although you now see his music reaching hundreds of thousands of views, and IZAK supporting the likes of Lil Tjay and Maxo Kream, this self-made rising star had to start somewhere. IZAK always loved music, but four years ago, in university, he began his career when a friend encouraged him to get on the mic.
“My boy was producing in his bedroom – and I wasn’t even doing music. I was playing basketball,” he explains. Many rap heavyweights had hoop dreams – J. Cole and Sheck Wes, who both dropped the ball for a mic –but IZAK, after a little nudge from his producer friend, fell in love with his craft.
“He was like, ‘Yeah man, you should try and take it seriously,'” he says. “‘Write some stuff and put it on a beat’… So I kept doing it anyway, and when I was writing I kinda fell in love with it.”
Not many artists make the beats for their vocals – but how many do you know also mix and master their own music, too? INFAMOUSIZAK is one of the many few who take charge in all aspects of their music. Training his musical ear, he became a self-taught mastermind who took the initiative to learn. “I was tryna copy stuff I heard on the radio or songs that I heard,” he says.
IZAK fixated on YouTube content about mixing and mastering. He would “try and pick up some stuff. There’s one called ‘Pensado’s Place’ where an engineer would tell their secrets.” “The best way to learn something”, he explains, “is to try. If you repeat trying to get good at it, you’ll achieve it through trial and error.”
This can-do attitude hasn’t failed him, and it pre-dates his music career. He knew he didn’t want a job “that felt like work”: “At the time, I was studying and I didn’t see a future for me. I could be a personal trainer or something – but that’s not what I’m really going to be happy doing. So I was thinking, ‘I’m happy doing music. I can see that if I work hard at this, I think I can make it’. That’s my mindset, really. If I put in the time, it’ll work out. I had the mindset before the music was there.”
For your music to blow up, you have to play the game right, but there are no cheat codes to success. IZAK’s hometown has helped to shape his artistry. “I think it has a big effect on me because there are so many people in London who make music,” he says. “There are people looking at it, especially in the last five years, because the music’s been popping. Loads of people in London second-guess themselves, and it has an effect on us. Again, it’ll push people to be better.”
Once he felt confident as a musician, IZAK started posting to Soundcloud, then all music platforms. Racking in listeners from all over the UK – and soon worldwide – his amalgamation of grime, trap, and Afrobeats captivated his rapidly growing fan base. The track ‘Homeowner’ is nearly at 100,000 listens on – showing that his hard work is paying off.
There is, though, stigma attached to originating from Soundcloud: “There will be people who fall under the stereotype [of being a ‘Soundcloud rapper], but it’s just a box they’re trying to put us in. It’s all imaginary.”
As a relatively new artist on the scene, who does IZAK looks up to? When pushed, he names his friends, hailing fellow collaborator 169 (who produces for Dave and Headie One) and his DJ Aubrey Trnql. They have “sick tunes” on the way, he says animatedly. Asked why he could only name them, he replies: “When doing things like this [interview], you’ve got to mention your friends”.
Community is as important as ever for young artists trying to get a foot in the door of the UK music scene. IZAK has done all he can do by himself, but “you’re always better with a team,” he says. Connections are vital in a shrinking music industry, which is why many musicians stick together instead of go against the grain. As IZAK puts it: “There’s an importance in connecting with the people around you mas those will be the same people who will be supporting you down the line.
“You need people to be in your corner. You need people to vouch for you. Sometimes you can do it all but need people to push you… It’s better to connect with people on a similar level, as they are the people who will be beside you in the future”.
Yet there can be a downside to collectivity: “My individual craft is equally important; otherwise I could stay stagnant watching what everyone else is doing”.
Self-reflection is a big part of IZAK’s music. See his latest release, ‘Deep The Night’, on which he explores late-night feels over spacey rap beats. He says he believes that “in the nighttime, the realer side of you comes out.”
Wanting to “create a name for [himself] in the UK, and hopefully, internationally”, he’s ready to move on from just dropping individual tracks. “They’re cool,” he says, “but I feel like I always wanna put out a body of work that represents me at that moment of time… I think that makes music more timeless when someone can relate to it at different times of their life.“
There’s an outward-looking approach, but IZAK also has high hopes for himself: “When people hear the name INFAMOUSIZAK, I want people only associate my name with high level prices of art. I’m proud to create a piece of music in my bedroom and seeing the effect it has on people once it’s out.”