IT happened in 2018. The-then 18-year-old artiste, Alzran Mifzal Asmarshal or ChronicalZ as he’s better known, became a viral phenomenon after his music video titled Bata Got Hype caught the attention of the social media community, garnering over 100,000 views on Twitter alone, and umpteen shout-outs from Czech-Canadian shoe brand, Bata.
In his video, the young artiste was dressed in an Asian-inspired style, while another character looked decidedly British. Rapping about expressing one’s style confidently, he was wearing shoes from Bata. His rap, Bata Got Hype became the breakthrough song from the prodigy’s discography, three years after he made his entry into the local music scene.
SWEET TASTE OF SUCCESS
How did Bata, an international shoe brand, became a source of inspiration for you, I ask the artiste the moment we’d settled ourselves comfortably for the interview. Smiling broadly, Alz, as he’s fondly known, recalls: “The song’s production started in 2017. But I wasn’t satisfied with the first version. Then, in March 2018, I was approached by a local producer called Harith Zain. He sent me a message on Instagram saying that he’d like to produce a song for me.”
Sheepishly, the affable KL-lite admits: “Honestly, I doubted the potential of the song at the beginning. But surprise, surprise, it became my breakthrough song!” And with that, he got the attention of Bata Malaysia. “The message in Bata Got Hype is actually pretty simple,” explains the artiste. “It’s basically saying to the public that it’s not necessary to spend so much on pricey brands just to look good.”
Chuckling, he adds: “Just look at how I “killed” those outfits I wore in the music video just with a classy pair of white Bata shoes on my feet! After Bata Got Hype went viral, Bata actually came out with a few designs for their school shoes which were pretty trendy!”
If not for Bata Got Hype, Alz believes that he wouldn’t have got that invaluable foot in the door to go on creating his brand of music or be recognised by virtuosos in the music industry and the public. “Because of Bata Got Hype, I was given the opportunity to perform in major-scale events such as Raising the Bar and Sneakerlah, which is the biggest sneaker convention in Malaysia.”
“When I first started writing my own lyrics, I didn’t let anybody know about it because I was embarrassed and doubted my talent,” confides the now-19-year-old softly, when he recalls the early days. Adding, he shares: “But as time went by, I figured that being honest with your thoughts really helps and that eventually became one of the push factors for me to keep writing. To be honest, I wasn’t that serious about it at the beginning.”
It was sometime in 2015 that Alz decided to become more focused on his music. “I have this group of friends that I regularly hang out with, all of whom are into rap music. After I showed them my lyrics, they were surprised. They were the ones who pushed me to pursue this more seriously.”
Proudly, the youngster tells me that he derives his musical inspirations predominantly from our local rap artistes such as B-Heart, Kmy Kmo and Sabbala of Lawa Nie Geng. Voice low, Alz shares: “I’m usually inspired by local stuff; things that Malaysians are familiar with. Take Bata Got Hype for example. I mentioned the brand “Bata” because it’s widely known among school kids for its school shoes.” Another song called Mano Tu?, which he collaborated on with another rapper referenced a popular catchphrase that’s widely used by Malaysians.
Asked what triggered his interest to become an artiste, Alz confides that it was the American pop boy band, Emblem 3, which emerged from Simon Cowell’s reality television singing competition, The X Factor. The group comprises Wesley Stromberg, Summit Jaffe, and Drew Chadwick (with Keaton Stromberg being a former member).
“It was sometime around 2012 and 2014, and I was heavily into Emblem 3,” elaborates Alz, adding: “Their song called 3,000 Miles caught my attention. Drew, who normally would rap suddenly didn’t. He just sang. And I remember thinking to myself that devoid of a rap verse, the song just sounded so incomplete. I think it was then that I realised I was interested in rapping.”
Once he decided to embark on that path, the youngster decided that he needed a “stage” name. Something that would represent him as an artiste. ChronicalZ? I blurt out, curious. The young artiste, who’s also part of a well-established rap movement known as CDN, smiles before enthusiastically sharing: “It’s a combination of the word “chronicles” and my first name, which is Alzran. I decided to go with “ChronicalZ” because I perceive my music career as being the chronicles of Alzran Mifzal.”
CLIMBING TO THE TOP
Building a music career at such a young age — and independently, at that — definitely isn’t easy. Alz acknowledges that he has had to steel himself to keep on the path whenever challenges arise or he feels the doubts creeping in.
Softly, Alz, who’s currently pursuing a diploma in Creative Multimedia at Cybernetics International College of Technology, confides: “Every time I feel like giving up, I’d think about those early days when I first started. It was the hard times that have helped to shape me into a better individual and artiste. I’m glad that I’ve been able to experience the struggles.”
A pause follows as he mulls further his journey. His expression is thoughtful when he continues: “Being an independent artiste at such a young age isn’t easy. I was juggling life as a student too. Making music is not just a whole lot of effort, it’s also very costly. Of course, I wasn’t financially stable. In addition, there were times when organisers would take advantage of us young artistes and that was tough.”
But he decided to persevere. Says Alz: “I get a huge high when people appreciate my music. Imagine walking through the streets of KL and suddenly hearing people singing your song; or passing by a shop and suddenly catching your tune being played. Trust me, the feeling is indescribable!”
The fact that he has a great support system has helped a lot. His family members, close friends and loyal listeners, says Alz, are the reason why he has been able to continue with his passion. Smiling, the youngster confides: “My biggest supporters are my mother, sister and close rapper friend, Addy Khayal. Honestly, they’ve really motivated me to just believe in what I’m doing and to just keep going. My father too. Although he’s so laidback about what I do, barely asking about my progress, but I know deep down he truly supports me.”
TRUSTING THE PROCESS
Do you think you could get any better as an artiste? I couldn’t help asking, noting the minutes ticking away. “Definitely,” he exclaims, confidently, before adding: “I’ve just turned 19. Clearly, there’s plenty of room for improvements for me. As time goes on, I believe that I can only get better. The fact that I have a lot of people in the industry who are guiding me too is a huge bonus.”
The multi-talented artiste is determined to keep surprising his loyal fans with his music. “I’m just going to keep on innovating and be creative — just like what I’d done with my previous body of work,” he says, expression earnest.
Smiling, Alz recalls the time when he performed for one of the biggest hip hop festivals in Malaysia, Raising the Bar in 2017, where he had the honour of sharing the stage with well-established local rappers such as Airliftz, B-Heart, Ical Mosh and Lil J.
“Raising the Bar is undeniably one of the biggest music platforms for our independent rap artistes,” says Alz, adding: “It had always been a dream of mine to get the recognition from Raising the Bar. It’s akin to 16 Baris!” he’s referring to the successful brainchild of Joe Flizzow — 16 Baris (16 Bars), a highly acclaimed rap cypher show in Southeast Asian countries.
Performing on stage at the Raising the Bar event was definitely one of the highlights of his journey so far, confides Alz. Smiling, he shares: “I wore my customised Bata shoes, complete with doodles designed by a close friend, for my performance of Bata Got Hype there.”
Continuing, the young artiste explains that each doodle on his shoes means something. “Each “symbol” you see are representative of the different facets of my personality. Like the fire abstracts? They represent my soul as a rapper.”
Realising that my time with him is slowly coming to an end, I ask Alz, who’s a firm believer in dreams can come true, for his advice, especially for those who aspire to do what he does. He pauses for thought before eventually concluding: “Trust the process, always. If you don’t trust the process, you might miss the opportunity. And definitely that’s a risk you cannot afford to take…”