AZ Names The 7 MCs Who Influenced Him The Most

From his very first released verse, AZ declared “Others such as myself are trying to carry on tradition.” Those illustrious guest bars from Nas’ Illmatic apply to AZ’s views on Hip-Hop. Weeks ago, the East New York, Brooklyn MC released Doe Or Die 2. While speaking in-depth about the long-anticipated sequel to his 1995 debut, Tha Visualiza listed the seven MCs who most influenced him.

“[My style] was developed through time and trial-and-error. When you idolize certain artists, you more or less pattern your style [off of them] in the beginning. I’m a lover of words, so I think I patterned my style [after] those that I idolized, and then I kind of developed my own style. To me, it’s like carrying on tradition in my mind. Like, okay, I’ma take a page out they book, but I’ma add my scriptures to it; I’m gonna pick up the torch and keep it goin,'” he begins at 2:39.

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Asked who the MCs were that he idolized, AZ answers, “It was several. But those that probably influenced me the most when my brain started absorbing real information—’cause when you’re young, you get more caught into the beats, so [Fatback Band’s] ‘King Tim III’ and [Run-D.M.C.’s] Run were like, wow. But I [was really] young though. But then with the Rakim [era], then you hear the [Big Daddy Kane], [Kool] G Raps, the KRS-[ONE]—I gotta say all they names, ’cause each one of them played a part—Slick Rick and Chuck D. These seven—my world revolved around them. When you think about content, you think about fluidity, and flow, and word structure, it all turns into a one thing, so that was just my life at one time.” Elsewhere in the interview, AZ speaks about some of the MCs he may have influenced.

In recent years, Rakim has sang the praises of AZ; The God MC narrated a 2018 documentary on greatness of S.O.S.A. Earlier this year, AZ joined KRS-One, Kool G Rap, Big Daddy Kane, and Chuck D on DJ Kay Slay’s “Rolling 110 Deep,” and its music video.

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The time codes for episode #65 of the What’s The Headline podcast:

0:00 Intro
1:15 AZ names his biggest Soul music influences
2:39 AZ details how he developed his Rap style
3:31 AZ names the 7 MCs who influenced him the most
4:50 AZ speaks on how life in New York has changed since the release of Doe Or Die
7:20 How AZ has changed his lifestyle to be healthier
9:35 AZ weighs in on the Big Daddy Kane and KRS-One Verzuz
10:40 Why he decided to have Idris Elba open Doe Or Die 2
11:40 What AZ still wants to accomplish in his career
14:17 The responsibility and benefits that come with owning his own record label
15:25 What he looks for in artists he would sign to his label
16:00 Working with Lil Wayne, Conway The Machine and The Alchemist on Doe Or Die 2’s “Ritual”
19:03 Why AZ wanted Rick Ross on Doe Or Die 2
20:11 How AZ selected the other MCs he featured on Doe Or Die 2
20:58 Featured verses that launched MCs careers
22:15 Not realizing the impact of Illmatic while recording it
22:50 The musical chemistry between AZ and Pete Rock
23:40 How he became AZ the Visualiza
24:26 AZ reflects on reuniting with The Firm and Dr. Dre on Nas’ “Full Circle” from King’s Disease
27:30 Why it took many years to make Doe Or Die 2
30:30 What AZ from 2021 will tell AZ from 1996
31:15 The pros and cons of keeping up with the music scene
33:10 Why it was more pressure to make Doe Or Die than making Doe Or Die 2
33:50 AZ’s book and his plans for 2022 and beyond

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AFH readers can catch regular discussions about the culture on our What’s The Headline podcast. What’s The Headline has recent interviews with Blu & Mickey Factz, Kurupt, Evidence, Skyzoo, Pharoahe Monch, Prince Paul & Don Newkirk, Statik Selektah, Lyric Jones, The LOX, MC Eiht, Havoc, Duckwrth, photographer T. Eric Monroe, and Lord Finesse. All episodes of the show are available to view or for listening wherever you stream your pods.

Press photo by Andrew Kelley provided by MAC Media.