Arz’s big-hearted UK rap music has made a big impression throughout 2021, and the London MC is a teenager on the rise. Music Week meets him to find out why emotions always come first...
When Rome Myers picks up the phone to Music Week in his bedroom on a cold, clear morning, he confides that the place is rather untidy.
“My room’s a mess, man, the past few days have been mad busy, so I’m just cleaning up,” he says. “There are clothes everywhere and I’ve got like five water bottles half filled up, I don’t understand why I do that. There’s bare stuff around the room.”
So far, his impression of teenage life seems pretty typical, but when you discover that the clothes cluttering his room are in fact carefully planned outfits for a trip to Los Angeles to write and record new music, it becomes clear that Myers isn’t quite living the life most 17-year-olds do.
We meet him at the end of a year during which his entire life has changed. In December 2020, he dropped out of college, abandoning interests in law to make music full-time as Arz, the rap alias he settled on soon after he started writing lyrics and recording videos with his mates in North East London a few years back. Eagle-eyed fans might recognise him from a cameo in Krept & Konan’s Ban Drill video, while his self-released debut EP, Love Letters, came out in April this year, catching the ear of revered UK exec and EGA Music president Colin Batsa, who quickly offered a deal.
Then came current single Alone With You, which samples Billie Eilish’s Hostage and provided the first viral moment for Arz’s emotive brand of rap. The track hit No.25 in the UK and has 167,444 sales to date, according to the Official Charts Company. On Spotify, where Arz has almost two million monthly listeners, it has 31,500,114 plays.
“The past few months have been the busiest time of my life, but it’s sick,” he says. “I’m rolling around doing what I love with all my closest people.”
I’ve always tried to come with something refreshing, I’m never gonna do it the same as other people
Arz lives in East London with his sister, who is also part of his management team at Power In Numbers and now has a role at EGA Music alongside Batsa. The rapper, who has only played two gigs to date, admits he’s still learning about the music industry, but it’s clear that he knows he’s found the perfect mentor in Batsa, who has recently steered D-Block Europe and Aitch to breakthrough UK and international success.
“I didn’t know about Colin’s work before, but I wasn’t tapped into the industry, I just wrote music,” he reasons. “It’s dope. He’s the big boss. Any questions I have to ask him about anything, he’ll just give me a real answer and tell me what he truly thinks. You know how the industry can be! You don’t know who you can and can’t trust, so it’s nice when you really have that gut feeling that you can trust someone, it’s a comfortable thing.”
That feeling of safety is of paramount importance to Myers, he wasn’t about to hand over the patchwork of thoughts and feelings that he puts into his work to just anybody.
“I want to make sure my art and my path are in the hands of somebody who knows what they’re doing and, more than anything, trusts me, loves what I do and believes in me,” he says.
And while many in the industry worried about breaking acts during the pandemic, Myers and team just went about their business. As a result, a refreshing new rap talent has emerged: Arz’s sound is touched by the atmosphere of slow jams and R&B, his bars crisp and clear, allowing his lyrical candour space to breathe. One line in Alone With You goes, ‘I can’t talk ‘bout sex every day on the track/So I talk ‘bout the shit I feel’, and that serves to sum up Arz’s appeal in a crowded UK rap scene.
He’s the first one to say that the emotional feel of his music makes him stand out.
“That’s literally the aim, man,” he says. “I’ve always tried to come with something refreshing, so when I do something I’m never gonna do it the same as other people. But I’m telling a story, literally, it’s not even like I’m trying to be different, this is what I live, how I feel and what I do. Alone With You was a song for my girlfriend at the time, it was just how I was feeling, you know, like, ‘Let me just make a song for her.’ It was something nice.”
We discuss Myers’ favourite rappers (2Pac, Eazy-E, Nas, 50 Cent) and he makes the point that modern rap lyrics might benefit from more care and attention. He holds the art of writing close, pointing out that it offered him a refuge growing up.
“I used to borrow my friend’s dad’s car and sit in there so we had somewhere to record, rapping over 140/150 BPM beats, then I’d put freestyles up,” he says. “Outside it was hood stuff, just bare things going on, you know how the ends are. Going home and writing music was a little hideaway where I could be cool, comfortable and be in my element.”
He’s still writing at home when he can, but nowadays, Myers can invariably be found in the studio. He’s intent on expanding his sound, and is sure that he can make a big impression in 2022, when he’s due to release a mixtape tentatively titled SBG.
“It’s an expansion of what you’ve heard up to now, more detailed and just harder than what I’ve done already, it’s just more,” he says. “It’s getting to know me, like reading a book. All my vulnerabilities, good days, bad days, everything.”
He knows, too, that his breakout success means the bar is set high. But the numbers he’s racking up are no distraction.
“I feel like looking at numbers kind of messes with your head a little bit, you can get used to seeing big numbers, then you drop something else and the numbers aren’t the same and then your head’s gone,” he reasons. “But I do go through comments and DM requests sometimes, it’s nice to feel appreciated and the love is mad, that is a really good feeling.”
More than anything, though, Arz wants to make hits, songs that make a lasting impression.
“I have to maintain what I came through with and I think I can do that,” he concludes. “I’m thankful that this has happened and I’m happy that I know I can come with bangers for the rest of my time.”