SPOTLIGHT SERIES | Myazwe on Transparency, Collaboration, and Bringing His Stories to Life
Welcome to Spotlight Series, a regular feature shining a light on emerging local music makers in the stellar music community in Manitoba.
By Zoë Mills
After dropping three major projects in three years, rapper Myazwe Ntungo (known mononymously as Myazwe) earned international acclaim. On March 31, 2023, he released his first project in years—a five-track EP titled How've You Been?—which details the struggles that shadowed his success.
Born in Winnipeg to Zambian parents, Myazwe grew up surrounded by music. From a young age, he was inspired by church choirs, TV music videos, and his musically-inclined family members (such as his cousins, who many know collectively as The Lytics).
Myazwe released his debut album E: My Experiences on Empty in 2017 followed by an EP just a year later. Less than 12 months after that, in May of 2019, he dropped his sophomore album, Things I Never Said.
“That album changed the trajectory of my career,” says Myazwe. “People took me a lot more seriously. I got a lot of opportunities after that.”
These opportunities brought him around the world for high-profile performances, including opening for YG and Tyga.
In the midst of this well-deserved success, Myazwe experienced what he calls some of the darkest times of his life.
“Most know me as the guy who’s always smiling, the guy who’s always lifting the energy in the room[…]but this is a project that was made out of everything opposite of that.” Myazwe wrote in an Instagram post to announce the release of How've You Been?
“I feel like singles are little pieces of a bigger story. It’s a chapter in a book. Projects like this tell a much bigger story, and I like big stories.” - Myazwe
The EP explores themes of addiction and isolation with poignant and transparent lyrics.
“It's a way for me to discuss these topics in a special way because I'm not one to talk about my problems often. With the music, it's a way for me to release those emotions.”
The new tracks also boast experimental melodies and an impressive range. Myazwe says he wanted this album to offer his audience something they’d never heard from him before.
“The feedback was amazing. Absolutely amazing. Especially considering I hadn’t dropped a project in years,” Myazwe says. “To come back and get such great feedback and people asking for more—I couldn’t be more grateful.”
Myazwe hopes that by sharing his stories, those listening will feel seen and inspired to overcome their own struggles. He says much of the music he listened to growing up offered similar honesty.
“Even though some of my favourite artists grew up completely differently than me, these [struggles] are something everyone goes through. [The music] brings our worlds together.”
Myazwe worked with Dave Mac and Uchenna Nkwonta to create an introspective short film for the EP.
“I really wanted to bring the music to life. A lot of my favourite songs became my favourite songs because of the video that they had,” Myazwe explains.
He recalls some of his favourite music videos: Missy Elliot’s "Get Ur Freak On", Eminiem’s "The Real Slim Shady", and Jay-Z’s "Izzo".
“The first time I ever saw a Jay-Z video, I was like this guy's the coolest dude ever! I was six, seven years old, and I chose him as my favourite rapper from that day. I want [my audience] to see me in this dope, creative way.”
While music television isn’t what it used to be, Myazwe’s grateful for the new channels that exist for today’s emerging artists.
Myazwe recently performed his single "The Plot" for Unreel Sessions.
“It’s super dope, especially for artists who don't have as much exposure,” he says of the video showcase platform. “I've never been shy when it comes to working with new people, I actually embrace it a lot. Collaboration is the best way to grow.”
What’s next for Myazwe? He’s bringing more stories to life—prepare for more video-based releases on his YouTube and another EP before the end of the year.
For Myazwe, it’s important to make holistic and impactful projects, rather than dropping the odd single here and there.
“I feel like singles are little pieces of a bigger story. It’s a chapter in a book. Projects like this tell a much bigger story, and I like big stories.”