There’s no denying that the music game has been heating up all over, especially in Florida. But the rap game can’t stay as is in Gainesville…it’s time for a change. It’s time for a new, versatile group to step up and dominate. It’s time for them AZ IZ Bois to burn it up! Raised in Sugar Hill, cousins Derrick (a.k.a Scat) and Derek (a.k.a. Young Flame) make up the unstoppable, music-driven group AZ IZ. “We like to be diverse and mix it up here and there. AZ IZ doesn’t make hood music, we make good music. We could easily do that 24/7, but that’s not how we are all the time. We rap based on our instincts and emotions.”
Scat, the cool and mellow older cousin who keeps it real, possesses the business and marketing sense, while Young Flame, the slick talker and beat master who sets everything ablaze, makes up the other half of this determined and street savvy--yet educated--duo. “We strive to be versatile so we can please a variety of people. We keep it original, keep it AZ IZ and not like others. What we give you is what it is and that’s us every time…take it or leave it.”
Music was always a focal point for both Scat and Young Flame, especially throughout their childhood when vital skills were first established. Following in the footsteps of their older cousin P-Nut, Young Flame learned how to make beats, record on the computer, and write songs all at the tender age of ten. Scat, on the other hand, learned to play percussion instruments at an early age and though music was a big influence in his life, it took a back seat to high school football.
During college his involvement with rap expanded during the freestyle sessions he and a few friends held every night. He was excited for friends like J Fox when they started to pursue their rap careers and this turned into motivation; however his music vision was different from his friends. Luckily, in 2001, he snatched the opportunity to follow his dreams when his younger cousin Flame moved back from North Carolina, and they started the group AZ IZ. “Though we are cousins, we’re really close like brothers. With both of us growing up with a love for music and constantly being around each other, it was destined for us to make music together.”
Throughout high school, Young Flame perfected his beat-making and recording skills and started using this vital talent to the group’s advantage; but with his cousin in Tallahassee for college, the long-distance strained and delayed their projects. After a year or two, Young Flame then spent time traveling to visit Scat in Atlanta, Georgia, who moved there after college, to record, distribute their music, and make connections with key entertainment people. Flame then went off to college at FSU, but unfortunately hated it and traveled home every weekend to record. After eventually deciding to make music a full-time priority, both cousins moved back to Gainesville to focus on AZ IZ.
The group made the conscious decision to keep their music business legit instead of going the cliché drug route that so many rappers unwisely choose, jeopardizing everything including their future. This straight and narrow path proved to be a financial challenge, and the group started thinking outside the box for ways to get their music heard. So Scat started working for Under Surveillance, a promotional company for the popular nightclub Venue, where he was able to promote their music as well. AZ IZ soon hit the road not only to record in nearby cities that had better studio options, but also to build networks and promote outside of Gainesville. Finally in 2007, they released their first street album “The Prince and The Boss”, which featured only sixteen exclusive selected tracks out of fifty-five recorded. With the CDs booming in the hoods for $5, the group was able to profit more than enough to cover their expenses and purchase new music equipment such as a keyboard and beat making software. “It’s funny because people to this day ask for that CD, but we only have one copy left. For that we’re definitely humble, but we’re ready to show fans how we’ve grown into our own sense of identity.”
AZ IZ sought to take their music to the next level and started learning to be more creative and efficient. They set their sights on finding a hit single and building key relationships while attending select music workshops such as the Greg Gates Music Conference, the Gainesville Music Summit, the Hood Magazine Conference and TJDJs Music Pool. They took the knowledge they gained and used it to help secure performances and promote their music. Though AZ IZ was doing what they loved the most, many challenges persisted, and lack of resources, such as a manager, forced them to put a temporary hold on music.
But the group couldn’t stay away, and it jumped back to the task rejuvenated and ready to surpass where they left off with the 2010 release of Gainesville Muscle Vol. 1, hosted by DJ Smoke from Chicago. This was a special project to the group because they wanted to help put Gainesville on the map and prove that big cities weren’t the only ones with real talent. With assistance from DJ Smoke and more money saved up this time around for production and promotions, the mixtape was featured on 270 websites, such as “Dat Piff” and “Coast 2 Coast”, and it had over 40,000 downloads. “We want to make Gainesville Muscle a well-known brand where all artists can connect, build relationships and offer support to each other like other major entertainment cities do such as Atlanta. That’s why we are currently looking for features for the upcoming volumes… we want to connect with everybody.”
AZ IZ is currently preparing for future performances and hitting the streets hard with their new single “Same Ol, Same Ol,” a track that describes what a real hustler does on a daily basis. “The streets just need to keep their eyes open and pay attention because we will be everywhere and we’re in no rush to leave. AZ IZ is hitting the streets harder than ever before and if you see someone passing out something in your hood, take it…it’s probably an AZ IZ CD.”
With the present kicking off, the future isn’t far away. The group has plans to eventually create their own record label. “We are going to keep pushing hard so we can help other artists. Since no doors were opened for us, we’ll make them for others. That’s true success to us.” But it doesn’t stop there…with a hot, new mixtape out and a freshly built studio, them AZ IZ Bois will be at work non-stop creating more hits and making sure the music game doesn’t stay just that… AS IS!