SSFP talent watch: Zachary AJ aka Mr Freezy
In the first instalment of SSFP’s “Talent Watch”, we were delighted to sit down with emerging artist Zachary AJ, aka Mr Freezy, to discuss his work, inspirations and the future for South Sudanese music.
Over the coming weeks, SSFP will showcase a number of artists who represent the future of South Sudan’s cultural growth.
Zachary AJ, full name Zachary Ajïth Ayuen, is a rapper, singer, songwriter and poet based in Bor. Since leaving school in 2018, he has founded and become CEO of the music group TNW Movement.
“I started loving music and writing lyrics way back in 2014, but school didn’t give me the chance to go after record deals, so I kept everything on the low till 2018”, he said.
It was then he recorded his first single ‘Street Kids’, a reggae song that was a hit amongst all who heard it.
In August that year, however, he underwent a change in style. Moving away from reggae, Zachary began recording hip hop and rap with TNW Movement. It was at that moment his musical career took off, as he released hits such as ‘No Limits’ and ‘Introduction’.
However, it’s not just about the music. Before launching his career as an artist, Zachary told us how “I had written a lot of poems and songs about all the hardships people go through around the world and South Sudan in particular; rights violation, wars, economic crisis”.
Inspiration and hope are consistent themes in Zachary’s musical journey. “I've always been following pop stars like Chris Brown, Jason Derulo and Justin Bieber and I knew we Junubin could become stars like them”.
Referencing hip hop culture, he told us “I've always wanted to do best like the legendary American rapper Nas. I still have a long way to go though”.
With this at the forefront of his mind, music became a “messenger tool”. He was inspired with hope that his message, thoughts and opinions would reach out and touch all people who heard them. Zachary estimates around 70% of his music, both recorded and written, is storytelling.
This is clearly seen in his latest release, “Barnabas’ Homeland”. Reminiscing on his new song, he describes how he “told a story about the liberation of South Sudanese people, how they martyrs struggled, fought and died for Junub only to have it left in a mess even after independence”.
“So I'm a messenger and my songs carry messages of peace and patriotic concerns.”
But what did Zachary have to say to the next generation of South Sudanese musicians, those youth trying to build a name for themselves in African music?
“To my South Sudanese upcoming stars trying to make it through, I'm so sorry that we don't have a well built industry to throw us to the top, but putting hands and minds together and we can build an undisputed empire. Keep your heads straight up, push through it and there's gonna be a day that you'll be standing in the hall of fame!”
In many ways, Zachary’s musical message of hope and inspiration seems to reflect the concerns and dreams of the South Sudanese people more widely.
He mentioned that in music released earlier in October, he’d sent a message to South Sudan that still needed telling.
“I'm sick of this peace we've always been singing, and I gotta tell.
These niggas are greedy and selfish, I hate that and I gotta tell.
We wanted independence, got it but nothing is changed, and I gotta tell.
I'm about to turn ‘Black Panther’ just for my people, and I gotta tell.
211 Stay blessed!”