Alabama-born artist Azazus grew up surrounded by music.
His father was a traveling gospel artist, and Azazus first attempted making music professionally when he was in the sixth grade. Nearly 15 years later, the 28-year-old artist sustains his devotion to music, working as a songwriter and producer in the Gainesville area.
The Gainesville musician's newest single, “Me All Black,” is inspired by Marvel’s “Black Panther.”
Azazus’ second single of the year, “Me All Black,” will drop Friday.
The song’s release date corresponds with the three-year anniversary of Marvel film “Black Panther”, a detail Azazus said was intentional. In addition to lyrical references such as “I’m all Black like Wakanda,” the song is inspired by the movie’s celebration of Black culture and representation.
“[Black Panther’s] super suit is all black,” he said. “To be the hero of your own story, you have to be comfortable in the skin you're in — your skin is going to be your super suit.”
This message of embracing your skin color, especially for people of color, Azazus said, is the key theme he’s trying to convey in “Me All Black.” Often, society paints people of color in a manner riddled with racial stereotypes and microaggressions — portraying them as “tough, thugs or delinquents,” he said. Azazus said he seeks to go against this stigmatized perception of marginalized communities, providing his listeners of color with the confidence to take charge of their own narratives.
“I just want people to feel comfortable being themselves,” he said.
Apart from “Black Panther,” Azazus said he also drew inspiration from anime, one of his personal favorite genres of entertainment.
Upon moving to Florida, he said some of his first friends were fellow people of color and anime fans in the Gainesville area. These relationships further introduced him to the cosplayer community, he said. Azazus said a couple of the friends he made around this time were involved in cosplay full time, even traveling to worldwide conventions. Being exposed to this world where individuals become their favorite characters, Azazus said, had a huge influence on his own art.
“I knew I wasn’t confident enough to dress up as a character,” he said. “So [I decided] my tackle at this would be music.”
Fans of the Gainesville musician have responded with enthusiasm when it comes to his music. His 2020 single “Onlyfans” went viral on social video app TikTok the summer following its release, receiving over half a million streams from users across the globe. Azazus has also totaled more than 5,000 followers on Instagram.
Music producer Claudy Destin, 25, first connected with Azazus over Instagram after the Gainesville musician left a comment on one of his posts. After listening to some of Azazus’ music, Destin said he grew to love the artist’s energy and rhythm — a sentiment he said has contributed to his excitement in anticipation of the release of “Me All Black.”
Continuing to produce music and perform during the pandemic, Azazus said, has been no small feat. The artist, who has lost family members to COVID-19, said he is more than familiar with the severity of the situation, which makes balancing full-time work as a musician with a concern for the health of himself and others a struggle.
During a showcase he hosted Saturday, Azazus said he made a point of encouraging the audience to practice proper COVID-19 guidelines, and he plans to do the same at an event he will be hosting Feb. 27.
In honor of February being Black History Month, Azazus said he will also be encouraging acts at the Feb. 27 show to come prepared with a Black history fact and close their sets by sharing how they are contributing to their own Black history. The desire to release “Me All Black” in time for Black History Month, Azazus said, was also one of his main motivations to drop the song so soon.
“I want people of color in 2021 to feel more comfortable in their skin,” he said.
“Me All Black” will be available to stream on all platforms Friday.
Contact Veronica Nocera at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @vernocera.
Veronica Nocera is a first-year Journalism major with a History minor. This is her first semester on staff for The Alligator, where she works as Avenue News Assistant. She also writes for Rowdy Magazine.