Meet Z The Author, a standout artist from the 2021 Tiny Desk Contest : All Songs Considered Each year, the Tiny Desk Contest attracts thousands of impressive unsigned artists from across the country — including Z The Author, who sent in a song inspired by 2020's Black Lives Matter protests.

Meet Z The Author, a standout artist from the 2021 Tiny Desk Contest

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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

A lot of talent in the world of music. And out of thousands of entries to this year's Tiny Desk Contest from NPR Music, here on WEEKEND EDITION, we've been highlighting some of the standouts. This week, "Khali's Interlude" from Z The Author.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "KHALI'S INTERLUDE")

Z THE AUTHOR: (Rapping) Bleed - hold your head down when you outside. Bleed - mama never let you on the South Side. Bleed - living in the valley of the outcry. Bleed - belly of the beast, here he outcries. Bleed...

SIMON: Powerful words from Zavier Thompson, also known as Z The Author, who joins us now. Thanks so much for being with us.

Z THE AUTHOR: Hey, thank you for having me.

SIMON: Tell us, please, what moved you to give voice to this. I gather it was in the summer of the Black Lives Matter protests.

Z THE AUTHOR: Originally, I wrote the this in my dorm room in the middle of the night just trying to find some type of, I guess, closure for myself in what had been happening in the world and, honestly, in my neighborhood, you know, in my backyard, going outside and seeing people protest, family members and my friends and people that I grew up around, you know, seeing them outraged and seeing them so passionate about somebody that looked like me, something like this happening to them. And I just kind of pondered it for so long and thought about it for so long. And I'd feel like the best way for me to be able to cope with what I was seeing and to process what I was seeing was to write a song about it. And so I just made that beat really fast in the middle of the night, freestyled that basically off the top of my head.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "KHALI'S INTERLUDE")

Z THE AUTHOR: (Rapping) What does it change from trade and commerce of J's and Converse? Some days I ponder which way I wander, which path I follow.

SIMON: The song is called "Khali's Interlude." Tell us, if you could, about Khalisol, who's been an important figure in your life.

Z THE AUTHOR: Yeah, Khali is my brother, man. He's one of my largest inspirations from where I'm from, from Albuquerque. He showed me how to get better. You know, he showed me that it's about the hours that you put in. It's about the amount of passion that you have towards your craft. Those are lessons that I'll never forget. So, you know, it's a special song that he created.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "KHALI'S INTERLUDE")

Z THE AUTHOR: (Rapping) To know what you believe and how much it feel like home, where the Black man raises, where the Black man roam. Twenty-three on his jersey will make the Black man go. But 23 chromosomes, where the Black man from? Are we free?

SIMON: And tell us a little about the rap and hip-hop scene in Albuquerque. I gather it's quite strong.

Z THE AUTHOR: Yeah, it's actually very unique. And I think that benefits us because we really don't have a designed sound yet. I make a specific type of hip-hop. I like, you know, certain sounds, and I like to make my music a certain type of way. But Khali likes to make his music a certain type of way in that - and I think, in my opinion, is so different from me. But then at the same time, you have artists that aren't hip-hop artists that are still here with us and gather with us and create with us. And that inspires and influences us to make even better music. You know, we have singer-songwriter artists, EDM artists that are close friends with us, country artists that are close friends with us, and so on and so forth.

SIMON: Boy, sounds like a real mix.

Z THE AUTHOR: Yeah, it's a real melting pot. Yeah (laughter).

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "KHALI'S INTERLUDE")

Z THE AUTHOR: (Rapping) My name is Z The Author. This is my Tiny Desk, as you can see.

SIMON: And tell us about the video in the Tiny Desk 'cause we see you in what looks like kind of a scuffed up handball court with a couple of school desks pushed together.

Z THE AUTHOR: Yeah.

SIMON: What were you trying to strike there?

Z THE AUTHOR: Yeah. For me and for Erin (ph) and for Isaiah (ph) - Erin Porter (ph) and Isaiah Watts (ph), shameless plug - shoutout to them. There would be no video, no anything, no submission if it weren't for those two geniuses. I love them very much. But I didn't even know that the Tiny Desk submissions were happening at that point in the year. I didn't know until two days until they were due. Erin had told me they were due on the 7th, and she calls me on the 5 of June. She says, hey, you know, Tiny Desk is doing this contest and, you know, like - we literally - she said, you know, just pick one of your favorite original songs. We'll call Isaiah, and he'll come with his camera, and we'll just shoot it. And...

SIMON: Wow.

Z THE AUTHOR: ...That's exactly what happened (laughter). That's exactly what - I picked "Khali's Interlude." I picked the song. We showed up. I brought my mic and my computer and my setup. And she brought the desks, and we just set it up. And Isaiah pulled out the camera, and we did it in one take. You know, we kind of just...

SIMON: Oh.

Z THE AUTHOR: ...Just did it. And we had no expectation at all, like, that it was going to be anything. It was, like, the very last day of submissions. We were just doing it off of a whim, and we didn't expect anything to happen. And now, you know, I've had so many people reach out to me around the world and - not even fans of me, but just friends and acquaintances that I've made just off of this one submission. You know, and it's just a beautiful thing. I'm so happy that we did it, you know?

SIMON: Well, that's wonderful.

Z THE AUTHOR: Honestly, I just plan to take this "music thing," quote, unquote, as far as I can take it - just continue to inspire the next generation and continue to speak what's on my mind and make my family happy and make my community happy.

SIMON: Well, you're off to a great start.

Z THE AUTHOR: Thank you. Thank you so much.

SIMON: It's very good. It's our honor to speak with you. Zavier Thompson, also known as Z The Author, and you can see his Tiny Desk Contest video entry on our website, npr.org. Thank you so much for being with us. Good luck. We'll have fun following you.

Z THE AUTHOR: Hey, thank you guys so much.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "KHALI'S INTERLUDE")

Z THE AUTHOR: (Rapping) Told the boys I won't to stop and then go, like, yah, yah, yah, yah. Yah, yah, yah, yah...

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