Dubai based, American artist, Zenden Lavon (17) fell in love with South Africa when he recently traveled there for the first time. So much so, that he has released his first single (off his new Album), The Movement, to the Rainbow Nation as one of the first countries in the world to hear his latest material, which he calls his best work to date.
He explains his first visit to South Africa: “I was part of a volunteer program that went to Cape Town, and it ended up being an amazing experience that I will never forget. I got to hang out with other kids and we all bonded over our love of music and there was an instant connection. The culture of South Africa made me fall in love with the country as a whole. It’s one of the most beautiful countries I’ve ever visited- I can’t see how anyone can’t fall in love with it.”
Welcome to the Movement
Zenden says that The Movement, which is one of his favourite songs off his new hit record ‘BE, Vol.1’ , is essentially an Afrocentric anthem – a theme that runs throughout the album. “It’s about freedom, excellence and pride. It’s meant to uplift and inspire the listener to push through anything, while inspiring one to get up and dance at the same time,” he comments.
He adds: “I was listening to old records for hours in my room when I cam across some old George Clinton records. I thought the funk style would be fun to try and rap over. I had already conceptualised the theme of the song so the style and instrumental were the only things that were needed during the process.”
Zenden brought together a variety of different artists for his new album, his second following his first release, Dawn’s Paradise, released during March last year. “For ‘Be, Vol.1’ I handpicked each of the artists for their specific skills and sounds. I have a history with artists like Crystal Goh Rawding and Anya Singh so working with them on Pain and Pink Pantherwas a lot of fun! Collaborating with newer artists such as rapper Nia Nicole and poet Sin Sin on the song Time’s UP was a great experience as well. It was important for me to let these talented young woman showcase their amazing skills on such a profound song where they also killed their verses. I was also fortunate to work with amazing producers, including BoomerDidit, Justus West, Mani Strings and Bo Aganaba – they are talented musicians and really made this project what it is,” he says.
From America to Dubai – and everything in between
Zenden was born (22 March, 2001) in Houston, Texas and raised in Virginia (USA), Libya, Germany, Abu Dhabi and now Dubai, which Zenden and his family moved to in 2013. “My dad works as an executive for a major US corporation as well as a performance and life coach – hence us moving around so much. My mom has her own swimsuit company… so both are constantly encouraging me to be both an entrepreneur and an artist,” he explains.
Not the only artist in the family, Zenden also has a sister (15) who designed the cover for Dawn’s Paradise, and then he also has a brother aged 11, whose big passion in life is basketball.
It was Zenden’s mom who influenced the musical side of him since he was young as she used to sing to him when he was little. “I realised that I wanted to be a singer when I was about 10. I constantly listened and looked up to Chris Brown. I thought he could sing and dance so well, and did it all with such swag that I wanted to emulate him. I started singing in talent shows to get some experience on stage – it gave me such a rush that I absolutely loved and I was addicted!” he says.
Zenden went from singer to rapper when his voice started changing during puberty, turning to Hip Hop once he realised how good he was at rapping. So far, the highlight of his career for him personally was booking a 16 day tour in Japan and performing at the biggest youth music festival in Europe, We are Stockholm, in Sweden.
Still in school currently, Zenden says that he is planning on going back to the USA for college once he graduates. In terms of his music, which he currently describes as jazz/neo-soul fused with Hip Hop, he states that he is planning on pulling in different genres in the future such as rock, folk and even alternative.
As a self-taught musician, Zenden can be found in his room at any given moment where he has built a studio and spends most of his time making music. “I write all the lyrics to my songs and I arrange all the instruments that I can when I’m making music, with live instrumentation added that I can’t play myself,” the young star says.
He admits that he misses America, explaining: “It’s where the whole rest of the industry and the culture are based, so I do feel cut off sometimes.” He does however have a deep appreciation for Dubai as well, stating: “I like how accepting and open minded it is here. Everyone is trying to find something new and creative, so they truly embrace anyone working hard at their craft.”
Getting to Know Heartthrob Zenden
When describing himself, Zenden chuckles that he is “Hip Hop’s biggest nerd”. He continues: “My philosophy in life is something my dad taught me when I started taking my music seriously. He told me that I had to hustle like I was broke in order to rise up and stay on top. That motivates me whenever I feel a little uninspired or low.”
He says that the biggest obstacle that he had to overcome so far in his life was being bullied in Virginia and Germany. “My music really gave me an outlet to vent, even if it was just singing in my room. Music has always been my remedy for sadness or turmoil in my life,” he says.
Fun facts about Zenden include that he DJ’s and models, in addition to making music. He calls them his “side hustle”. He also loves basketball and is an unrivaled comic book and movie fan. He also enjoys creating short movies and videos, as well as composing film scores.
Although currently single (good news, fans!), Zenden says that he is open to anything that happens, although focusing mostly on his music is his main priority.
Zenden concludes: “The big dream for me is being globally respected as a musical artist and mogul. I want to have my own musical empire much like Diddy or Jay Z. I head our family’s music entertainment company and we have established our own label, Rogue City. I truly hope that South Africa loves my new material and that I’ll be able to visit again soon! I miss the people, the energy and the vibe!”
Zenden Lavon’s music is available on most digital platforms, including iTunes and Google Play.
Join the conversation with Zenden on social media – twitter (@ZendenL) and Instagram (@Zenden.Lavon).