On his third album, Boston-based rapper AZA offers a bridge for social dialogue and brings listeners “only good karma”

In a return to the conscious rap era of the 90s where artists like De La Soul and A Tribe Called Quest were front and center, AZA shares his unique perspective on social bias and his search for inner peace through soul beats, smooth flows and reggae stylings on his new album, Bl4ckPack. “I was sent here to bring the knowledge back,” AZA himself states on the track “Elevation.” 

His musical influences are apparent on songs like “Consistent,” as he reminisces on listening to Kanye West’s vintage-style beats. His love of soulful music influences the production style on the album, which incorporates jazz, hip hop, reggae, and gospel. Partnering with producers T.wav$ and Boston-based Villa, AZA uses a combination of live instrumentation and sampling, which you can hear on tracks like “Sages,” where there’s a comfortable synergy between hard-hitting live drums and 808 mixing to create a relaxing reggae sound.

With lines like, “We make jazz outta doom,” AZA writes social commentary blended with creative wordplay to enhance his central themes: selflessness and creating art out of less-than-ideal situations. ”On “Reach,” AZA mentions his fraternity brother, who was diagnosed with bipolar disorder coming out of college, and his desire to give him a platform to express his artistic talents and be compensated by his company. Similarly, on the song, “Consistent,” he says: “It took some years, but we finally safe / So now you can put that burden on my plate.”

As a Harvard Medical School student with a PhD in Neuroscience from MIT, it’s hard to imagine how AZA finds the time to make music. But, he says he sees music as therapy and is a “core part of everything I do…allowing me to create a platform for sharing ideas and building community.” He explains further: “Music is one of the vehicles for driving socio-cultural change and it’s important for me because it helps people re-examine what a scientist, physician, artist, or activist should look like.”

This sentiment comes to life on the song, “Elevation,” where he raps, “I know the third world / I know everything white, everything black / I already beat the odds for that PhD… Still a cop pulled me over, asked to see ID.” This song is also where the album reaches its height sonically, with a smooth, bouncing, soul beat alongside a melodic jazz keyboard and haunting female vocals. There’s also a recurring hook where the words “only good karma” are sung with a warm, reverberating vocal effect that can easily get stuck in the listener’s head.

AZA is taking big breaths on these songs, and you can feel his clarity and balance. Listening to this new arrangement of inspiring, melodic soul music almost feels like meditation, helping the listener to “vibrate higher” as he says on “Elevation.” The new album will be released on February 23rd alongside Bl4ckPack.com, a new platform that uses art, science, and philosophy to empower communities to collectively create solutions to social problems and make a positive impact.

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