|Label:||Time Is Money/Beluga Heights/Warner Bros|
|Next Project:||Untitled Debut Album|
|Twitter:||I.Y.A.Z on Twitter|
Next time you’re cleaning out your MySpace inbox and come across a message from a musical megastar like, say, Sean Kingston, don’t just roll your eyes and click ‘delete,’ assuming it was sent by an impostor – that message just might be your ticket to the big leagues! Such was the case for I.Y.A.Z. Smith; though the British Virgin Islands-bred singer was skeptical when the Caribbean-pop hitmaker first contacted him, he ultimately swallowed his disbelief and played along. Now signed to a deal with Beluga Heights, Warner Bros, and Kingston’s own new Time Is Money Entertainment label, I.Y.A.Z. is preparing to go international with his Booth-acclaimed “Island Pop” sound.
As usual, DJBooth.net hopped on the bandwagon early. I.Y.A.Z.’ debut single, the J.R. Rotem-produced “Replay,” earned a tremendous four-star average when it hit our front page back in May. Six months later, the cut is riding high at #4 on the Billboard Hot 100 (and #3 on our own Top Hip Hop and R&B Chart), and the singer is well on his way to becoming a household name. Tentatively set to drop in March 2010, I.Y.A.Z.’ yet-untitled freshman full-length will come packed with ear-pleasing tracks that listeners will want to “Replay” over and over again.
In an exclusive interview with our own DJ ”Z,” I.Y.A.Z. steps into the Booth to discuss the perennial appeal of feel-good music, his plans to pay Kingston’s favor forward by seeking out up-and-coming musical talent through MySpace, and just how many women it’s possible to fit on a single ATV.
Listen to the Interview
I.Y.A.Z Interview Transcription
DJ Booth: What’s goin’ on, everybody? It’s your boy, “Z,” doin’ it real big, and joining me inside the DJ Booth is a 22-year-old Virgin Islands native whose debut single, “Replay,” has slowly become on of the most popular songs inn the country. Behind the production muscle of super-producer J.R. Rotem, this young man is looking to be the next island-bred urban sensation. Please welcome I.Y.A.Z. – how you doin’?
I.Y.A.Z.: What’s good, what’s good? Thanks for havin’ me, man.
DJ Booth: Absolutely, thank you so much for joining me. “Replay,” is currently sitting at number four on the Billboard Hot 100, it’s at #5 on our Top Picks Chart. We’ve been supporting this record, I.Y.A.Z., since May. Talk about the success here – it’s come about rather quickly!
I.Y.A.Z.: The record officially got put out in September, so the success that everybody sees going on has been between September and now, and I’m grateful for that. We didn’t have a video out, so there was no image to go with the song, and the song was doin’ so good without it. So I’m really happy, I’m really happy that the fans went out and got the songs, ‘Replay’s doing crazy right now, and it’s nothing but love.
DJ Booth: You mentioned it officially dropped in September. We got our hands on a copy back in May. Between May and September, were there any doubts in your mind that this song would blow up like it has?
I.Y.A.Z.: No, I always knew it would take off. There were a lot of other big records out there, like Sean Kingston’s “Fire Burning.” There was competition, [but] I knew it was just a matter of time before “Replay” took off.
DJ Booth: Well, over the last few weeks, “Replay,” has sold more digital single downloads than Jay-Z’s “Empire State of Mind,” and Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance.” How does it feel to be included in the same sentence as heavyweights like Jay-Z and Lady Gaga?
I.Y.A.Z.: Man, it feels good, especially [because] I’ve been lookin’ up to Jay-Z for years. I’ve been watching him do his thing, watching him rip the charts up, and for me to be on the charts with him and even, say, Lady Gaga – ‘cause I heard Lady Gaga was named the number one artist in the world. Like, artist, not who has the number one single or album – number one artist in the world. And for the fact that I’m in that category on the charts, nothing but love. I feel good. My mama’s proud of me, everybody’s proud of me, the Islands is proud of me, and we’re just trying to take this one to the top.
DJ Booth: I’m even proud of you – how does that feel?
I.Y.A.Z.: [laughs] I’m gonna have to take you out for Thanksgiving dinner!
DJ Booth: Let’s backtrack for a second. I wanna give our listeners a better idea of how you got from recording on a laptop in the Virgin Islands, to million-dollar studios in Florida. I read that Sean Kingston, who has joined me several times in the DJ Booth, reached out to you via MySpace. I know I never, ever take MySpace inquiries seriously – how difficult was it for you to believe that he was actually serious?
I.Y.A.Z.: I know, man! You could type “Sean Kingston” in on MySpace, and tons of Sean Kingstons are gonna come up, you know?
DJ Booth: Yeah.
I.Y.A.Z.: Like, he’s hitting me on MySpace, and as fast as he sends the message is as fast as I can read ‘em. He had the fake Jamaican accent, like, “Mon, love your stuff,” and I’m like, “This dude is not about to catch me right now.” So I was doin’ that for, like, a week straight, and I gave him a bogus number, and then he flipped out on the Internet, and he was goin’ in, like, hardcore Jamaican style. [I was like], “Let me give him a chance,” so I gave him my number to call me, he called me from Japan, and then he gave me his AIM, and then we went on webcam. That’s when I actually saw it was him, it was Sean Kingston. And then he was like, ”I want to sign you to my new label,” ‘cause he’s figuring out his new label, Time Is Money, and he wants me to be part of his label. He held that promise.
DJ Booth: Who’s the first person you told about this?
I.Y.A.Z.: My mom.
DJ Booth: What did she say?
I.Y.A.Z.: She was goin’ crazy! At first she was like, “Who’s Sean Kingston?” She knew the song, but she didn’t know who Sean Kingston was. Everything just came together – like, my mom is exactly like Sean’s mom: island moms – and it all came together that fast. In less than a month I was already signed to Time Is Money, and I was shopping to labels. I went to Interscope, I went to Epic, I went to Warner Bros., I went to everybody, and I landed on Warner Bros.
DJ Booth: Sean has obviously seen a tremendous amount of success since he signed with J.R. Rotem. Would you be happy to follow in his freshly-made footsteps, or do you believe that you were meant to blaze your own trail, so to speak.
I.Y.A.Z.: Sean opened up a lane for me, for this new genre of music I’m tryin’ to create. I’m tryinn’ to create a new genre of music, “Island Pop.” It’s a little bit of island, mixed with pop music, mixed with rap music, mixed with everything at once. You can hear it in “Replay,” when I switch it up and give you the accent or whatever. And Sean just basically paved the way for me thus far, and it’s only for me to take this lane, to follow it along the journey and see how far it takes me, and open up another lane for my artists that I wanna sign.
DJ Booth: Always thinkin’ ahead, huh? You haven’t even put out your album yet, and you’re already thinkin’ about what the next step is gonna be.
I.Y.A.Z.: Exactly! That’s what Sean did: Sean came out with his album, everybody thought he was a one-hit wonder, not realizing that Sean was busy doin’ his thing overseas, and when he came back from overseas he was like, “You know what? I’m not even doing a second album yet, but I want a record label.” And he made it happen. You know, everybody has a dream. He had his dream, and he put the dream into play, and now he has his own label, Time Is Money, I’m his first and only artist thus far, and everything is goin’ good. And I’m gonna do the same: I’m gonna get my first artist off of MySpace, and just keep it goin’.
DJ Booth: You mentioned briefly, one-hit wonder, and I want to focus in on that. I have interviewed hundreds of artists over the years who have grabbed our attention because of their catchy, buzzworthy debut singles, but several of them have not gone on to do very much. So, at the point that you’re at right now, what do you do to prevent that from becoming your fate?
I.Y.A.Z.: I believe in, “If it’s not broke, don’t fix it.” I’m gonna stick to the same formula that we have with “Replay.” Feel-good music – people can’t deny feel-good music. Music from the heart is undeniable, and that’s what I’m tryin’ to portray in my album, in my music, and everything I do. The most you could do is, put it out there and hope for the best. I know, you’re into music, too – you know, music changes that fast: one day it’s hot, the next day it’s not. But at the end of the day, what always wins is feel-good music. It’s like, the Black Eyed Peas – that’s feel-good music. Their type of music lasts in any storm. People in depression, feel-good music. Like, somebody just died: feel-good music. No matter what it is – it could be Mardi Gras – feel-good music. It comes in at any time, you know?
DJ Booth: Absolutely. I read that your two greatest loves in this world, outside of music, are women and motorcycles. Would it be safe to say that riding on a motorcycle, with a beautiful woman on the back, is your idea of an absolutely perfect afternoon?
I.Y.A.Z.: Yeah; one on the back, one on the front! [laughs]
DJ Booth: [laughs] Is it still safe to drive like that, though?
I.Y.A.Z.: Yeah, man! We do it in Florida all the time, you’ve just gotta keep it low-key. Well, I’ve got a Can-Am [ATV] right now, and I’m about to get the little booster seat so I can put all the girls in: one on the left, one on the right, and one right by me – keep it movin’! [laughs]
DJ Booth: As long as you’re stayin’ safe. Remember, we have a debut album of yours that has to come out, with you promoting it.
I.Y.A.Z.: Yes, sir. Don’t worry about me, man! Like, my mom always has me on my P’s and Q’s. She would call me right now and ask me if I took my vitamins.
DJ Booth: OK good, cause it’s kinda hard to tour in a full-body cast, you know what I’m sayin’?
I.Y.A.Z.: [laughs] I’ll make it happen, though. I’m good at pulling rabbits out of the hat.
DJ Booth: All right, good. Let’s backtrack again. I remember shortly after we featured “Replay,” at DJBooth.net, I checked out the photo gallery on your MySpace page, and I recall seeing a photo where you posed in, I wanna say, a Gucci gasmask – is that correct?
I.Y.A.Z.: [laughs] Yeah, it’s a Gucci gasmask. That’s [from] when the swine flu was goin’ around.
DJ Booth: Yeah, what’s the story behind this? Where can I get one of these? It’s fashionable and safe!
I.Y.A.Z.: Nah, you can’t get those, man. Me and Sean had those coming straight from China, we got those custom! I’m Gucci Iyaz and he’s Louis Vuitton Sean! You never saw his?
DJ Booth: No, I have not seen his.
I.Y.A.Z.: Go to my Facebook, Iyaz Smith, and there’s a picture of me and him; he has the Louis Vuitton on, and I have the Gucci. Actually, I have a Gucci chain on right now, ‘cause in the islands we wear Gucci link chains. So I have an iced-out Gucci chain right now, white, yellow and rose gold, yellow diamonds, white diamonds, everything. ‘Cause we just love Gucci, so I just try to keep it goin’ – Gucci, let’s go.
DJ Booth: I’ll tell you what, though: if you’re gonna protect yourself from the H1N1 virus, you might as well do it in style, right?
I.Y.A.Z.: Exactly! If you’re gonna protect yourself, do it in style! Like, Gucci, what’s good?
DJ Booth: [laughs] As we talked about in the pre-interview, excitedly, you have a debut album dropping at the top of next year, tentatively in March. Discuss why listeners should be so excited for this debut project?
I.Y.A.Z.: I did think that people would take to the single the way they did, but not this far – like, they actually love it! I have three-year-olds singin’ the whole song, the whole “Replay” song. And that’s basically what my album is about: good music even a three-year-old could sing! I just wanna put it out there for them. The album’s gonna be great. It’s gonna be like the old-school days, when you put a Whitney Houston or Michael Jackson album on, and you just press “play.” You don’t have to change the song, you don’t have to fast-forward to this part, ‘cause it sounds better than this. The most you might do is rewind, ‘cause that little pocket was so great. And I’m just tryin’ to give ‘em a little bit of me. People have to look at the difference between me and Sean: Sean didn’t grow up the way I did, I didn’t grow up the way Sean did. Everybody has their own story to tell, and that’s what I’m doin’ with my album. I think they should go out there and get my album when it [is released], ‘cause I think they’re gonna love it. It’s great, it’s something else!
DJ Booth: So you’re saying the title of your debut single, “Replay,” is exactly what they’re gonna be doing when they get the entire album.
DJ Booth: I like that marketing move. It’s smart, even if you didn’t think of it like that from the beginning!
DJ Booth: All right, wrapping up the interview… obviously, on the horizon is the holiday season and New Year’s. So, what is the number one thing you wanna see on Christmas morning, and what is one New Year’s resolution heading into 2010?
I.Y.A.Z.: I’m'a do my New Year’s resolution first: my New Year’s resolution is just to be successful, man, just to be successful in what I do. And for Christmas, aw man, maybe you guys could wrap Megan Fox for me, and put a little bow on top! [laughs]
DJ Booth: I’ll tell you what: I know a lot of people. I’ll see what I can do. The only thing about it is, if I’m able to get ahold of Megan Fox’s people and have her come for the holidays, she might have to stop at my place before I send her over to yours!
DJ Booth: Is that OK? Do you mind sharing?
I.Y.A.Z.: All right, no problem, man. Sharing is caring, it’s the holidays!
DJ Booth: That’s what I’m thinkin’! Give everybody, I.Y.A.Z., a website, a MySpace page, a Twitter account, so they can find out more about you and, of course, your chart-topping single, “Replay.”
I.Y.A.Z.: All right, man. You can get my new single right now, “Replay,” on iTunes. You can go to my Twitter, twitter.com/iyazlive. You can hit me on Facebook, my Facebook is “Iyaz Smith,” or just check out my MySpace, I have music up there, pictures, bio, you can learn more about me, and my MySpace is myspace.com/iyaz.
DJ Booth: Sounds good! Thank you so much for taking the time to join me inside the DJ Booth and, as always, nothing but the best of luck, my friend.
I.Y.A.Z.: For sure, Z. You already know how we get down. From the Islands straight up to the USA to Europe, lets go – we’re takin’ over!
- Top Hip Hop / R&B Music Chart (April 14, 2014)
- Future - Honest LP
- Nas - Illmatic XX
- Dizzy Wright - State of Mind EP
- Locksmith - A Thousand Cuts
- King Mez - Long Live the King
- Freeway x Girl Talk - Broken Ankles EP
- 25 Most Popular Hip-Hop & R&B Songs of March 2014
- Behind The Boards Interview Series: !llmind
- The Best Hip Hop Songs & Albums of 2013!
Discover the best new songs, videos, and albums added to the Booth.