Salient Co. Lab

On the eve of the Salient Co. Lab release party we had a chance to sit down with Founder Mezmure Laureate (Mez). Reigning from the kingdom of Ethiopia, Mez is an upcoming artist with a dream of bringing likeminded artists together to create magic. His dream was realised when he launched Salient Co. Lab in February and officially introduced the members of the movement last week Saturday at Tom Tom Bar and Eatery. Featuring artists from the collective and several other supporting acts, the event was a display of New Zealand musical excellence. Here's what Mez had to say about his music, the collective and the future. 

AOMS: What inspired you to write 'Mercy'? Can you tell us about your experiences? 

Mez: I used to sit down and try to create music, I would sit there and try to construct a whole new fresh melody then I got to a point where I realised that you cant make music, you can only put forth what you know. When I wrote Mercy I was having rather depressing thoughts and felt a flood of negativity that was caused by looking at was happening in the world. It was in that moment that I decided to get my thoughts on paper and the rap for Mercy was the result of that. 

AOMS:Tell us about Salient Co. Lab and the rational behind the collective?

Mez: Salient Co. Lab is an international music collective that was launched in February. Whenever I try to explain how the idea of the collective came about, it almost sounds arrogant but it all started from when I was sitting in my bedroom a long time ago and writing. As I was working on a piece I managed to convience myself that I was going to blow up one day. From that day forth I started acting like I was going to make it. So I thought I would love to have a group of people who I can work with who share the same vision. In short the collective is a marketing platform that is rooted in supporting each other.

AOMS: What governs the sound that is produced by members of the collective?

Mez: Conviction. I feel like whatever our art form is and whatever our style is, we all put what's real in our music. It is all about being true and from that we found a common ground. I kind of see us like an orchestra, they are all different instruments that produce different sounds. If they all play the same melody, it sounds beautiful. While we are all doing our own thing sound wise, we are creating to the same shit. 

AOMS: If it was a matter of life and death who would you say are the five artists that have influenced your sound and why?

Mez: Far out, personally I can't define when someone is becoming an influence or not but I can definitely answer the question with who I am listening to. So off the top of my head I would say Erykah Badu - the Queen of soul, Andre 3000 - his versatility showed that you can break down flow and not be so robotic, Frank Ocean, Miguel and Tyler the Creator.

If it was a matter of life and death I would say Tu Pac, J Cole and Kanye West. Having grown up with gospel music, I was in third form when I was introduced to Pac. I did not know hip-hop until I listened to him, everything he says is truth. With J Cole, I have been a fan since day one; he is amazing because he has Pac's delivery and energy, Biggie's flow but has Nas' lyricism. He has the best of everything and I can relate to everything he says. Now when it comes to Kanye, I understand that he shoots himself in the foot a lot but I also understand why he is angry. No one can deny that he is one of the greatest artists. The thing about him is he found a perfect balance between what he likes and fitting into the music market. Every year he adapts and changes. In Holy Grail he was dropping mad trap bars, people weren't on that tip. Now trap is cranking but he was bumping it back then.

AOMS: How did you get into music? Did you have one of those light bulb moments when you realised that music is what you wanted to do?

Mez: I went through a process and everyday I feel like I am hungry for something and that is how I was directed in to it. At the beginning of this year I had my wake up moment so I can safely say that I did not choose music, I gravitated towards it. 

AOMS: Personally, what drew me to your music was your willingness to be vulnerable and real. As an artist, how do you deal with that aspect of putting your heart on your sleeve?

Mez: The Japanese have a proverb that goes along the lines of "We have three faces, one for the public, one we allow those close to us to see and the third face is the one that only we can see." That third face is what talks when I write my music, it is that third face having an opportunity to present itself as the outside me won't let people see that. I won't be vulnerable, I am tough and I am the man but deep down I have my insecurities that also need a voice and that voice is music. 

AOMS: Now tell us, where do you see yourself in 5 - 10 years?

Mez: I don't see myself in 5 - 10 years. Every morning I wake up and I am reminded that it could be the last time that I wake up. Don't get me wrong I do plan and envision where I see myself but I can't guarantee if this is the last breathe I will enjoy so I am just chill with it.

To follow Mez and his music find him at:

Mezmure Laureate

Salient Co. Lab 

Drums & Dialogue

Africa Film Festival New Zealand