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Zed Kenzo gets personal about inspiration, sobriety and new EP

Zed Kenzo, dressed in a black-and-white outfit, stands in an overgrown field with a long rusted shed behind her.

— Kim Shine, Production Manager, HYFIN

On a first listen to Zed Kenzo’s new EP “Zechariah,” my first thoughts were: "This is dope," "This is Milwaukee," and "Hold up, why isn’t she on?"

The production; the rawness; the playfulness; the experimentation. Wow.

It’s been  three years since Zed released a full project. Her talent is still there, but her growth and clarity are wildly apparent. She’s been through things (heartbreak, substance abuse), and she’s ready to talk, to inspire, to really be seen.

I sat down with Zed Kenzo for an open, honest, fun and brave conversation about her music, her health journey with substance abuse, why she left Milwaukee and the freedom that’s guiding her life now. Zed calls this new EP a re-introduction, and it definitely gives insight to who “Zechariah” is and why.

Kim Shine:  You are not in Milwaukee right now. You are far away from us. Where are you, and why did you leave us?

Zed Kenzo: I am in Massachusetts. I am in the South Shore right outside of Boston. I left because I needed to get my stuff together and start over. I’m sober, and that’s been a huge part of my journey right now for the last six months. Coming out here gave me an opportunity to meet different people and start this journey. I decided to just stay because I really like it.

KS: What sparked you getting sober? What sparked you just wanting to change and go deeper not with just your music, but with yourself, too?

ZK: Just years and years of feeling stuck and feeling like I was holding myself back. I was just tired and sick and not making the right decisions. It’s progressive. It’s a disease, and then people don’t really acknowledge that when you have any kind of substance-abuse addiction. I just was scared, and it took the right kind of people coming into my life, really good friends, that actually cared about me and could see that, "Hey, you’re doing this to cope, and that’s not what you should be doing." I was like, "All right, I’m going to go get help."

But I’d been wanting to stop. I was drinking a lot. That was my thing. I wanted to stop, and I’ve been trying to stop on my own, and I just couldn’t do it. Yeah, do I feel like I could’ve maybe been at a different place than I’m at? Probably, I don’t know. But I just didn’t see myself living like that anymore.

KS: Well, I thank you for just sharing that because like you said, it can be hard to do. Thanks for that and just being honest about it. But how do you feel today? How do you feel right now?

ZK: I feel great, very happy, very healthy, just really focused right now. Music is so important to me, and I thought I was going to stop. I was like, "I shouldn’t do this anymore." And then I woke up, and putting this project out is another ignition of what’s to come. This isn’t the moment; this is more of me building momentum up again. I just feel inspired, and I’m just ready to keep going.

KS: When you were working on the project, were you doing that in Boston, or where were you?

ZK: I had just been wrapping up my recordings right before I came here. That was in March earlier this year. I had been recording pretty much the whole beginning of the year and a little bit last winter is when I was doing a lot of my writing. I wrapped everything up before I got here.

KS: And you self-titled it. Any reason behind that? Are we getting introduced to you? Re-introduced to you?

ZK: Re-introduced. I would say, honestly, I was thinking of rebranding myself, and then I changed my mind. I’m going to stay Zed Kenzo. That was a part of it, too. But, yeah, I guess just as a reintroduction to me. This is who I am. Hi, again. I’m Zechariah.

This is just an excerpt of a much deeper conversation with Zed Kenzo that covers everything from the intersection of hip-hop/punk/metal to a special message for the people of Milwaukee. You can read and hear the full interview at HYFIN.