It’s been a while since we’ve got new music from Jez Dior, but he blessed us with his debut Handle With Care, a raw, deeply personal album that mixes alternative and hip-hop sounds, earlier this month. We spoke to him about the album’s creative process, his hiatus from music, and how he was ahead of the whole “rappers in kits” trend.
Los Angeles based rapper and diehard soccer player and fan Jez Dior released his debut album Handle With Care earlier this month after a bit of a hiatus. In the time it took to release new music, Dior spent time growing, learning, and racking up more experiences to write about. The result of which is an intensely honest and sonically deep piece of work for hip-hop and rock ‘n’ roll fans alike to dive into.
Hot off the heels of his new release, we were able to catch up with Dior, discussing his music, writing style, and of course, a few things soccer as well.
Urban Pitch: Handle With Care gets really personal. Can you talk about some of its themes and what it means to put so much of yourself into your art?
Jez Dior: I wanted to tell the story of the first 27 years of my life and I wanted to bare all and really give these kids who listen to my music everything. They’ve been so loyal to me, and have waited for a long time for my album to come out. I think the reason why they stuck around is just that they can really relate to my story and what I’ve been through. I wanted to make sure that the first album they really had contained everything that I could possibly give them.
Honesty is a real big theme for the album and I wanted to get my real story across by being as truthful as humanly possible. Over the last few years, I really haven’t released that much music. I think that I personally have to go through things in my life to be able to write about them. That’s why I think it took a little bit longer to release. But in the long run, I think it’s a good thing. And so far it has been resonating with these kids. So, I’m happy.
Is it hard writing so honestly and personally all the time?
Well, for me, I think I’ve always used music as a form of therapy my whole life. I started writing music when my dad left my family around when I was like 11 or 12. I think that writing about all these things actually help me. My two ways of therapy and getting away from everything are playing soccer and writing music. Those help me clear my head.
There’s a fun mix of alternative and hip-hop in this album. How did you come up with the sound of your music?
Well, growing up, my dad, before he left, he was into music, and he played music his whole life. He was super into rock ‘n’ roll, so, I was surrounded by that when I was younger. And I think my music is sort of a mix with everything that I listened to growing up because I love hip-hop, and then everything my mom and dad listened to. Personally, I get kind of bored doing the same thing over and over. So I think that every time I put out a project or even a couple songs, people usually notice that there’s a little bit of a difference. I always try to keep it fresh and innovative.
Who and what else are big influences in your music?
I’ve tried not to be influenced by other people’s music when I’m making music. A lot of the times when I’m writing a project, I don’t listen to that much music just so I don’t get inspired by other people’s music. It’s really easy to. But, when I was growing up, the reason why I started rapping was because I related so much to Eminem. I related to his honesty and his truth in his music. Nirvana was always a big influence for me. Kurt Cobain just really put his all in it. I’ve always been inspired by peoples’ attitude and honesty.
You obviously love to play and watch soccer, do you incorporate any soccer fashion when you’re performing?
It’s funny because I’ve been wearing kits on stage for a long time. Depending on the city, I’ll wear their team kit, especially in Europe. So it kind of annoyed me when I first saw that becoming a trend in hip-hop because me and my friends have been doing that.
What are some of your favorite kits to wear on stage?
I really love Inter’s new third kit for the season that I just got. The Nigeria kit from last year was really sick. I wear a Brazil kit a lot since I’m Brazilian and that’s the national team I follow. And, I really like retro kits. Yesterday, I was looking into buying an old ’90s Newcastle kit.
Who are some of your favorite teams and players?
I’m a diehard Inter fan, always been and always will be. My mom’s side of my family is Brazilian. When I was about 5 years old, the original Ronaldo was on their team. So I just loved him, and my family was in love with him. From a young age he was just my favorite person in the world. And when he left, I never stopped following [Inter].
FORZA INTER pic.twitter.com/ZnR2Ie5xnH
— Ballon Dior (@interjezzy) September 21, 2019
Is there any part of making music that reminds you of the beautiful game?
I think [music and soccer] are the only other things in the world that really clear my mind and I’m not focused on anything else but that. Soccer and music are both my de-stressors and stressors. At the same time, those are the two loves of my life. People always ask me, ‘What would you be doing if it wasn’t music?’ Well, I would hope that maybe I’d be professional soccer player because if it wasn’t that, and if I wasn’t in music, I have no f*cking idea what I’d be doing.
If you could get a celebrity futsal team together of yourself and four other musicians (dead or alive), who would you choose and why?
We got to go with Bob Marley. I mean, he actually played. Liam Gallagher from Oasis. We can put Fat Joe in goal, because he could block mostly anything. And, one more, we’ll go with Justin Bieber since he plays soccer too.
What’s the best feeling when you’re playing soccer? And what’s the best feeling when making music?
I’m a striker, so for me the best feeling is scoring a goal. It’s also great to win with your team, but I really do like scoring my goals. The best feeling about making music is release day and finally getting to share music with the world and see people’s reaction. Because, as a professional musician, at the end of the day, I’m not just making music for myself anymore, I’m also making it for my fans.