Instrumental Insight • ZenZan
ZenZan is an enigma. The 22-year-old Arkansas native made his way into the Chicago world by way of early collaborations with Hurt Everybody's Supa Bwe. Their stand-out track "Thot Goddess" turned two years old this past week and has since racked in over 130,000 plays. Just as much as it was (and still is) a crowd favorite, the additional ZenZan-assisted Hurt song "In Seoul" is a sing-a-long favorite. Since assisting with those early tracks, ZenZan has continued working with Hurt Everybody, as he assisted with both of their 2015 projects: I Know Where the Lights Goes and 2K47.
Rather than simply residing in Arkansas, ZenZan has been all over the country. In 2015, he spent about 2/3 of the calendar year in Illinois, splitting time between Chicago and Elgin. It was during this time that he was able to work with Mick Jenkins, Twista, and Hurt Everybody, all on the same track "Stay Awake". It remains one of my favorite singles of the year and ZZ's bass-heavy instrumentation is perfect for the hazy posse cut.
While ZenZan spent 2014 dropping (at least four) instrumental EPs, 2015 was spent working with rappers. Over the year, ZenZan provided the backdrops for Chicago names like XVRHLDY, Cartel MGM, Murph Watkins, AK (of Do or Die), and more, while also collaborating via email with rappers like Californian Zee Will, Georgia's Ka-Flame, and Ohio duo BA$H.
Not to be waiting around for rap verses, ZenZan has also (thankfully) been delivering instrumental tracks on his SoundCloud. He only has five songs on his page, but they come and go by the week. He might get bored with a track or he might sell it, then it's on to the next one. Most recently, he's given us really strong instrumentals "Papa Bless" and "November Woman", as well as collaborative beats "Alice" (with Milwaukee producer PBeezy) and "Skywalkers" (with German producer Jimmy Newtron).
Perhaps the most interesting thing about ZenZan is not that he only wears suits; it's not that he releases amazing instrumental projects on SoundCloud and then removes them shortly following (try to his Summerside EP online); it's not that the prolific producer was home schooled, is very well-mannered and well-spoken; it's not that he rarely listens to hip-hop, despite constantly crafting it.
It's that he makes all of his beats on his trusted and loyal iPad.
Full of quality apps and a slew of strong samples, the ivory pipe smoking jazz head is one of the strongest producers in the Chicago scene. Just as I began this article, I'll mention again here: The ubiquitous ZenZan is an enigma. Enter the sounds of ZenZan by enjoying our "Essential Listens" playlist above.