“Ever since a youngin’ I was dealin’ with depression. ‘Til I knew I could turn my voice into a weapon.” - “Anxiety”
Depression is an important subject that rapper Asaiah Ziv tackles in his latest album I’m Depressed, But Happy.
So, who is Asaiah Ziv? An entrepreneur since the age of thirteen, Ziv is a talented artist that learned how to make a living with music early on. As a producer and rapper from Las Vegas, he is no stranger to fame; by the age of 17, he made Billboard charts as a well-known Christian rapper named Kidd. But after realizing his passions lie beyond the genre, he retired from Christian rap and was reborn as Asaiah Ziv.
In this interview, Ziv explains his music (which he describes as Trap Cobain), how he handles depression, how he has dealt with the loss of his mom, and the connection he’s made with his fans through openly discussing mental illness.
Norma Jean: When did you first get into making music?
Asaiah Ziv: When I started I was super young, like twelve, thirteen, I started DJing. My brother was a DJ, so I would sneak in his room and fuck around with his equipment. And my dad, he used to have a salsa band. So I remember growing up around that. I always just wanted to do music. When I was young, I used to DJ at a restaurant called The Salsa. And every weekend I would do a DJ set, and they would give me around $200.
NJ: Damn! That’s pretty good.
Ziv: I was like thirteen at this time. It was cool. But that’s when I started.
NJ: When did you decide that music was going to be your main focus?
Ziv: Honestly, music has always been a huge part of my life. I can’t even go a full day without listening to music. I have to listen to music. It’s just my passion, and ever since I was young I figured out how to make money off of music. So I’ve never worked a 9-to-5, never experienced working a regular job ever in my life, because I’ve been doing music ever since I was a little kid.
NJ: You’ve been an entrepreneur from the get-go.
Ziv: Yeah! So I’d rather do [music] than anything. Even if I’m struggling, ya know? It’s worth it.
NJ: You gotta do what you love. So you describe your music as “Trap Cobain.” Can you tell me a little bit more about that?
Ziv: Yeah! I’m like a huge [Kurt] Cobain fan. So I’ve been doing the rapping stuff for a while, the singing stuff is kinda new to me. And I’ve always had a love for rap music, and when I started doing the singing stuff I really wanted to bring that into my music somehow. Like be more rock-heavy in my music because that’s what I love. Trap Cobain is literally if Kurt Cobain were to do a trap album, like that’s how I want my sound to be with great messages, crazy concepts, and crazy wordplay but with heavy trap-influenced rock.
NJ: That’s tight! So, your latest album, I’m Depressed, But Happy, talks about anxiety, depression, and a number of other things. In the song “Anxiety,” you talk about how you use music to battle your depression. Can you me a little bit more about that?
Ziv: I feel like everyone has their dark times where they struggle and they’re sad, and they think about shit. For me, ever since I was a little kid I always felt this heavy depression. And it was in part due to my environment. I was always around sad shit. My mom being sick, going through phases and addiction. My dad was just off doing his thing. I mean it was a crazy world to experience at a young age. And I lived in Chicago on my own since I was fourteen, for like three years. There, I experienced crazy stuff like a gas station [getting] shot up. I feel like everything that’s been built up is what has made me who I am today. But there’s always that anxiety tapped in my head that I feel. That’s why I smoke so much weed. (Laughs)
NJ: (Laughs) For sure!
Ziv: So I feel like we all deal with [anxiety] somehow. But it’s all about trying to be positive and trying to live a better life.
NJ: Your mom went through addiction?
Ziv: Yeah, she went through various addictions from drugs to alcohol, that’s what made her sick.
NJ: Damn. I noticed while listening to one of your tracks, “Lemonade,” there’s a recording of your mom saying that she had been trying to call you but you never answer. And in another song you also talk about how you never keep in touch—was that because you were trying stay away while she was going through her addiction?
Ziv: Yes, I’ve lived on my own since I was 14. My mom and I had a rough relationship because being the youngest, I was at home with her through most of her addictions. I got really bitter towards her [during] my whole childhood. Only a year or two before she passed [did] our relationship [become] so awesome. [It was] only because as I got older I understood what she was going through. I made a promise to her that I [would] answer every call from then on—that’s when I moved to L.A.—I actually wrote and released that song a few months before she passed.
NJ: Right, man. Since you address depression and anxiety a lot in your music, do you have fans reaching out to you about their struggles with the same issues?
Ziv: When I had my website up, I had an open chat in there that I created for my fans with depression and that were suicidal. I created it so that people who feel alone or had no friends could go on to this chat and just talk to each other, get their numbers, and help each other.
Sometimes me and another artist, Arty Basqiyah, he used to go on to the chat and would reach out. We’ve been kinda open about depression. My DMs [were] always open for people that [were] going through shit. I’ve talked to people that were trying to commit suicide and other crazy things. But I guess that’s what comes with it when you talk about things like that.
NJ: That’s pretty cool that you’re so open with talking with your fans.
Ziv: Yeah, for sure.
NJ: Talking more about your album, what was the most important song to you and why?
Ziv: I love all of them. But I think the most important one for me was “August 10th,” because that was the one that I wrote when I lost my mom. So I wrote that song the night of [her passing]. I didn’t even really write that song, it was something that just poured out of me. It was a crazy, crazy night. And that’s why that song means so much to me.
NJ: That’s why you close off your album with that track?
NJ: As a self-produced artist, can you take me through your creative process?
Ziv: Usually, I’ll just make a beat. Once I make a beat, I usually create a melody by mumbling and singing stuff on top of the beat. And then I’ll just keep whatever I like [and] I’ll write to it afterwards. So usually it’s the melody first, then I write what I want to talk about or the message. It’s kinda weird—my process—because it changes a lot. It just goes wherever my head’s at.
NJ: You were formally known as Kidd. Why did you change your artist name?
Ziv: Because Kidd was tied to my old Christian rapper days. I used to be a Christian rapper for a couple of years, and I was pretty well known. In Christian rap, I was on Billboard charts and [at the] top of iTunes hip-hop. It was cool, but I started to get to a place where I was questioning a lot in my life and I just didn’t want to be a phony. I didn’t want to portray a message that I didn’t believe in one-hundred percent. So once I wanted to break out of that scene, I just wanted to change my name to kind of disconnect. That’s why I chose a name that sounds like an actual name. Asaiah Ziv sound like a person’s name, but it’s not. (Laughs)
NJ: What does Ziv mean?
Ziv: Well, Asaiah Ziv together means “God-created brilliance.”
NJ: Oh! Okay. So I’m curious, who is your top artist that you’d really love to collaborate with?
Ziv: Cudi, for sure!
NJ: Kid Cudi? Yeah! He’s dope.
Ziv: Aside from Kurt Cobain, he’s my favorite artist. Like, I have him tatted on me. (Lifts hand to show his Kid Cudi tattoo on his hand.)
NJ: Nice! Actually, I discovered his side project, WZRD, because you put one of their songs on your stories on Instagram.
Ziv: Yeah! WZRD. That’s a good album.
NJ: So tell us what’s up next for you.
Ziv: I’m talking to a few labels right now, but really I’m just focused on dropping as many singles as I can and just trying to do more visuals. That’s kinda what’s been tough for us, to get me visuals, because the only guy I know that’s been doing my visuals is Mike Leisure, and he lives in L.A. My whole goal is to have more videos.
NJ: Yeah. I watched the “Lemonade” video. That shit is sick.
Ziv: Word! Thank you.
NJ: What’s your guilty pleasure?
Ziv: I know that this is kinda weird, but I have an obsession with candles. I love candles. I’ll buy hella candles for no reason.
NJ: (Laughs) Is it scents that you like about them or what?
Ziv: Yeah! Definitely about the scents. For the house, I’ll buy five candles for no reason.
NJ: Do you have a favorite candle brand?
Ziv: I fuck with Bath & Body, the mahogany candle. They got the fire.
NJ: (Laughs) Well, on a more serious note, what kind of advice would you give to someone going through depression?
Ziv: Um… Just like, I know this sounds cliche, but you just have to go through it. It’s just the only way, ‘cause people have to go through things like that. They have to experience it, but at the end of the day... your mind is powerful… you just have to really believe it.
Keep up with Asaiah on Instagram.
Watch Asaiah's music video for "Lemonade" here.
Check out his music here.
First two photos by Mickey Jackson.
Ting Ting Chen