In 1995, 14th december specifically, Zachary Smith was born in Columbus, Ohio. At a young age, his family moved to Springfield, Ohio, where he was raised. Throughout his school years, he would jot rhymes down, more as a pastime than a pursuit. Growing up during the early 2000s, he was heavily influenced by intricate rhyming and conscious lyricism. He later discovered a style of rap music that was able to catch the listener’s attention, help others, and glorify God. His jottings began to reflect his intentions in life and his chase for salvation. Pairing spiritual beliefs with his history of unsocial behavior and mental illness helped him to create a more true-to-life version of Christian hip hop. In 2016, he got hold of a microphone and recorded his mixtape “Hi Mom” behind the door in his bedroom. Writing about topics like depression, low self-esteem, and suicide made the project relatable to people in need. But not all of his music is that dark. He works hard to create music filled with humor and music that will inspire others to work hard and follow the One who can save them, Jesus. Although some of his songs and lyrics have been considered controversial or “not Christian” enough, he continues to create music that expresses who he is. Currently, he is finishing up his EP, taking both his lyricism and intensity to a whole new level. This is Smithers.
Kingdom Quest: Interesting. We understand you make good music, but, how would you describe your music?
Smithers: I do my best to make it realistic to life I guess. Lots of times, I feel like Christian music can be too “churchy”, which isn’t always bad, but I think it can push some people away. I try to make stuff that everyone can listen to, but that hopefully helps them and can show them about God. I do my best to try to keep lyricism alive in rap, and keep it sounding good.
Kingdom Quest: Great.Tell us briefly about your early musical influences
Smithers: Yea. I think the whole collective style of the 90s and 2000s rap era has had a big impact on the style of music I like and try to make. Both the lyrics and the beats behind them. I know this is pretty cliche for a white guy to say, but Eminem is probably one of my biggest influences in terms of lyrics and style. I’ve learned so much from him, and he’s definitely the greatest rapper of all time. When talking about how I approach my musical content and topics, I look up to artists like T-Bone, The Rep, Odd Thomas, Cross Movement. They just have a way of making Godly music fun to listen to, and they’re really honest in how they talk I think. Other influences would be Biggie, Tupac, Rakim, Tech Nine, Da T.R.U.T.H., Hopsin, and the album “Resistance Iz Futile” by Corey Red and Precise, to name a few.
Kingdom Quest: This is captivating. So talking about the “the white guy“. What do you think about racism?
Smithers: It sucks haha. I think it’s hard for me to talk about, just because I am white. At least in the United States, the white people aren’t usually the ones being treated poorly. So when someone like me tries to speak up on racial issues, I’m not sure how much attention or respect it’s going to get. But I’m going to say something about it anyway. It’s a huge problem right now, and I really don’t know how to solve it on such a large scale. I know it takes individual people and attitudes to change how we treat others. I think that generalizing is one of the biggest problems with racism. White people generalize black people, black people generalize white people. It just drives everyone farther apart. Lots of whites have this perception that most black people are more likely to commit crimes. And I think that lots of black people generalize police to be immoral, racist people. But it’s not really a specific race that commits crimes or a specific occupation that’s racist. It’s individuals. It’s individual people who choose to commit crimes. It’s individual, and extremely bad, people who choose to racially discriminate and act on it. Now I also know that upbringing has a lot to do with opportunities we receive and choices we make. And I’m not perfect either. You know, growing up white, of course I tend to think certain ways, but I do my best to see everyone as people and to not treat them differently because of race. I do think people need to stand up for themselves, and I think it’s individuals who need to change. Every person makes a difference, it’s just hard because nobody thinks they’re wrong, so no one wants to change. Like I said, this is just how I feel. I didn’t grow up in situations that others grew up in, I just grew up in my own situation. But I really don’t care if anyone respects what I say. What’s important is that we start treating each other as equals, because that’s what we are.
And I know there’s other serious issues involving other races too. But black and white is what I feel most strongly about.
Kingdom Quest: Okay, Zach. Thanks for being honest with your feelings. I hope the world gets to learn from this. Alright, away from racism and back to music. You got great artistry. How would say your music has transfromed over the years?
Smithers: Well, like I said earlier, it started off as just writing some stuff down here and there. I tried to go for upbeat, hip hop type sounds. After a little while, I started to incorporate more multisyllabic rhymes and tried to step it up with the lyrics. When I made the mixtape, on some of the songs I just messed around with it. Tried to be goofy or whatever, weird beats, and just rhyming. I also made some personal, serious songs that meant a lot to me. I guess, in terms of what I talk about, I think the content has just matured a little bit from the mixtape to what I’m making now. My voice sounds a little older I think, and I’m just trying to move forward with lyrics, sound and production.
Kingdom Quest: Okay, thats great. We all know there is no elevator to success, we all got to take the stairs. So what are the challenges you faced as an emerging artist in the industry?
Smithers: I think one of the biggest challenges is getting heard. In today’s world, everyone wants to be a rapper, and with social media, everyone has their own music out there. It can be difficult to be heard and to stand out from the crowd. As more and more people learn to write and record vocals, I think it’s going to really push the game forward in terms of skill. There’s a lot of competition. It’s also been hard for me because I’m not really into the mainstream sound, which is what everyone wants to hear. If you’re not making what the majority wants to hear, not as many people are going to listen. And then, of course, there’s just skill level. I’m not the best, so my music hasn’t always sounded good. People aren’t going to listen to something that sounds bad. What I’m learning to do is create music that I like, but that also has hints of what others want to hear as well. I wouldn’t call it a compromise, I just try to put my own twist on what sounds good. Also, being a Christian artist doesn’t get as much attention as secular music. I’d like to be one of the artists who can break through that wall and make music that everyone will want to hear. But honestly, even though the number of listeners for Christian rap is small, there is so much love. At the shows I’ve done, they weren’t the biggest, but most people are connecting and encouraging each other. It’s one of the things that keeps us going, I guess.
Kingdom Quest: Thats pretty real.. You’ve come a long way, you might just want to share with us the changes you would like to see in the christian hip-hop scene real soon
Smithers: For sure. I like where certain aspects of it are heading. With people like NF, Mineo, Lecrae, they’re bringing realness to the mix. Talking about social issues, emotions, things like that. That’s what rap is really all about. But I think there’s still plenty of room for more artists to step onto the scene and take it to another level. Break down that wall that I was talking about. Lyrics, good beats, good rap. Bring it back and make it better.
Kingdom Quest: Alright. Opps. We running out of time, few more words before we go. We understand you currently working your album. What should we expect?
Smithers: A lot of hard work turned into music. I think it sounds a little more professional than my past stuff, hopefully others think the same thing. I was honest and spent way too much time, money and effort on it. Haha.
Kingdom Quest: Yeah. We can’t help but anticipate…
Finally. What do have to say about the movement “Kingdom Quest”?
Smithers: What you guys do is awesome, man. You guys kill it. Spreading the Good News and making it hit hard. I love your whole mission and how seriously you guys take it. I know that I’ve seen some of what you all expect from each other, and it really shows how good you are as people. Keep changing the world.
Kingdom Quest: Alright Smithers. Thanks for being here and honest tonight. We hope to have you here again in future. Success to you and your music!
Smithers: Good luck to you guys and thank you for having me.