This story appears in HYPE magazine #33, available here.

lordkez's Testament

In a world hungry for genuine voices, lordkez shines bright, reminding us that through music, we can find solace, meaning and the courage to embrace our true selves. In our latest cover story, she unpacks her debut album, Testament

Written by: Lolwetu Pakati | Images: Children of Midas

lordkez’s artistry transcends the boundaries of traditional R&B. With a unique aesthetic, mesmerising voice and thought-provoking messaging, the artist has swiftly claimed her throne as the queen of alternative music in South Africa.

 

Her recently-released debut album, Testament, is indeed a testament to her immense talent, showcasing her ability to cocoon metaphoric songwriting and emotive storytelling within the R&B, hip-hop and neo-soul enclaves.

 

Born Keziah Zoë Meyers, lordkez’s journey began in the quaint mining town of Kimberley. Raised in a close-knit community, music found its way into her life through the walls of the church her grandfather once led. It was within the sanctuary’s choir that the young artist discovered her first taste of musical expression. However, in the midst of the tranquil town, she never dared to envision a future where music could be her profession.

“Growing up in Kimberley, I had never seen anyone pursuing a music career. I didn’t even know that was possible,” lordkez reminisces, her voice carrying a hint of nostalgia. “I thought I would have a very normal life; get married and settle down, because that’s what everyone around me did.” Despite the lack of visible role models, Keziah possessed a refined outward creative expression often associated with the artistic hubs of Cape Town and Joburg, which led many to mistakenly assume her origins.

SEARCHING FOR A SENSE OF BELONGING 

While Keziah was still a teenager, her mother decided to uproot their lives and relocate to Abu Dhabi to pursue her teaching career. With their home packed and their dreams in tow, Keziah, her mother and her sister embarked on a transformative journey to the Middle East.

 

Amidst the bustling cityscape of Abu Dhabi, young Keziah found herself feeling out of place, like an imposter in her own skin. The stark differences between her and the people around her left her searching for a sense of belonging. In the midst of this internal struggle, she found solace and a genuine connection when she befriended twin sisters who were also from South Africa.

 

Bonding over their shared heritage, lordkez and the twins immersed themselves in music, poetry and random freestyle sessions. “We were hanging out, and I remember just randomly singing with them, but it wasn’t anything serious. That’s when they told me that I should consider making music,” lordkez recalls with a light-hearted laugh. 

Like most artists, her early attempts at music left a lot to be desired – at least, according to lordkez herself. “I listen back to my earlier songs that I uploaded on SoundCloud, and they were just… not very good,” she says. “I cringe so much I can’t even listen to them. But people were genuinely supportive, and that meant a lot.”

 

Those same songs, however, caught the attention of Stay Low’s Vaughn Thiel, her current manager and a pivotal figure in her musical journey. Vaughn, recognising her potential, reached out to her, laying the foundation for a close professional relationship that continues to this day. lordkez is currently signed to Stay Low, which is home to Priddy Ugly, Herc Cut The Lights, Mars Baby and several other artists. Her dedication to pushing boundaries and exploring the depths of her musicality has set her apart, propelling her towards R&B stardom.

A TESTAMENT TO SELF-DISCOVERY AND SELF-ACCEPTANCE

Rock bottom lead to ‘Confessions’, a gritty and raw track where lordkez just lets it rip, shattering the anxiety surrounding the expectations placed upon her as a young woman. “This was one of the heaviest songs, it wasn’t going to make it on the album initially, which, in retrospect, is so crazy,” she says. “Overall, it’s me just confessing everything that has shaped me into the person I am today, whether it be losing friends, lovers or family. I wanted to just take my heart out and put it on a plate on this one.”

 

In a vulnerable state, lordkez sought solace in her mother’s embrace after the pressure became too much to bear. Writing the song was a moment of reckoning, reminiscent of Jesus’s weakest moment on the cross when betrayal loomed large. As she puts it, “It felt like that same emotion of pain that he was going through; it felt like I could relate. It felt like I needed to address myself because I felt so lost and didn’t know who I was.

“It’s about being human and being okay with that. That’s what Testament is for me: the journey of getting to know yourself and learning to be okay with that. So, it’s kind of like my testament of who I am as a person and as an artist.”

Rock bottom lead to ‘Confessions’, a gritty and raw track where lordkez just lets it rip, shattering the anxiety surrounding the expectations placed upon her as a young woman. “This was one of the heaviest songs, it wasn’t going to make it on the album initially, which, in retrospect, is so crazy,” she says. “Overall, it’s me just confessing everything that has shaped me into the person I am today, whether it be losing friends, lovers or family. I wanted to just take my heart out and put it on a plate on this one.”

 

In a vulnerable state, lordkez sought solace in her mother’s embrace after the pressure became too much to bear. Writing the song was a moment of reckoning, reminiscent of Jesus’s weakest moment on the cross when betrayal loomed large. As she puts it, “It felt like that same emotion of pain that he was going through; it felt like I could relate. It felt like I needed to address myself because I felt so lost and didn’t know who I was.

“When I wrote that song, I was at my mother’s house. She had just moved back from Abu Dhabi, and I had left Joburg because it was getting too much for me to handle. I was sitting on the floor in my mother’s apartment,” she says, “on an air mattress because we didn’t even have a couch. I was talking to my mom about everything, and she turned and looked at me and told me that I have something to say now. I was sitting on the floor crying; my hair was a mess, and I was wearing my old clothes that my mom had brought with her from Kimberley when I was a child. It was one of the most terrible moments in my life. I was sitting there and picked up my book and just started writing.”

 

At that point, she recalls, it wasn’t even a song. “I just started writing everything that I felt. All of the feelings that I was going through – I poured them out onto paper. I wrote down how I lost trust for people and how I was feeling absolutely demolished.”

 

‘Confessions’ encapsulates the transformative power of art as lordkez bares her soul, embracing her vulnerability and finding the light at the end of the tunnel. Through her music, she empowers herself and her listeners to confront their own demons and emerge stronger.

“The entire experience was intense and, even now, I find it hard to believe that we accomplished what we did. I’m also amazed that Bas was enthusiastic about the collaboration. I had some apprehensions because it was something he had never done before, but his willingness to embrace the vision speaks volumes. I have an immense amount of gratitude and appreciation for him because he truly is a legend in my books.”

LOVE AND RELIGION: A DELICATE DANCE

One of the defining themes in Testament is the intricate dance between love and religion. lordkez explores this delicate balance through captivating collaborations and introspective tracks. In ‘Judas’, the opening song of the album, she draws inspiration from the betrayal of Jesus Christ by Judas Iscariot in the Bible. “There were these stories going around about me, and I was very innocent in all of that, so that’s where it came from,” she says.

 

Collaborations play a significant role in lordkez’s musical journey. She enlisted the talents of her dear friend and frequent collaborator, Shekhinah, for ‘Water’, which stands out as one of the more light-hearted tracks on the album. “It’s a love song, but more of a longing song that isn’t directed at a specific person. We allow each other the space to just go off in the studio, and that’s what makes our collaborations so special,” she says.

The chemistry between lordkez and Shekhinah is undeniable, as they had previously joined forces on the popular song ‘Bella Donna’ from Midsummer. Their musical partnership continues to captivate audiences with their seamless collaboration and creative synergy.

 

Dreamville artist Bas embarked on a romantic journey alongside lordkez on the album’s lead single ‘Enthralled’ to tell a mystical story against the backdrop of what looks like scenes out of a fairytale. “I wanted to create a music video that tapped into the fun aspect of storytelling and allowed me to express my inner child, rather than focusing solely on romance. The team behind the creation of the music video, the Children of Midas, were absolutely incredible; they are high-level. I don’t even think I can thank them enough for putting my wildest dreams into something tangible. Their expertise and talent were on another level.

 

“The entire experience was intense, and even now, I find it hard to believe that we accomplished what we did. I’m also amazed that Bas was enthusiastic about the collaboration. I had some apprehensions because it was something he had never done before, but his willingness to embrace the vision speaks volumes. I have an immense amount of gratitude and appreciation for him because he truly is a legend in my books.”

“Shortly before my grandfather died, I made a music video, and my entire family was in it. He was standing there, looking all dapper. My aunt was the one who told me, ‘You know, you’ve immortalised him now because whenever you’re sad, you can go watch the video.’’

The spontaneous collaboration between her and Bas took place when he was in South Africa last year in March for a series of performances. “And we found ourselves in the studio together,” she says. “I was genuinely surprised by the situation. He played ‘Enthralled’ for me, and I was absolutely blown away. At that moment, I felt inspired and started writing then and there. I still can’t believe that I have a record with Bas. It’s truly surreal and humbling.”

 

By fearlessly exploring these themes, lordkez opens up a space for dialogue and introspection, inviting listeners to reflect on their own experiences and beliefs surrounding love and religion.

SPIRITUALITY IN MUSIC: A JOURNEY THROUGH LOSS AND GRIEF 

While love and religion form the foundation of Testament, the album is also deeply intertwined with themes of loss and grief. Through her music, she navigates the emotional terrain of these experiences, offering a source of solace and catharsis for both herself and her audience. On the track ‘Eternity’, lordkez pays homage to her late aunt, infusing the song with deep emotions and vulnerability. Through her heartfelt lyrics, lordkez reminds us of the profound impact that loss can have on our lives and the healing power of art and music. ‘Eternity’, featuring Jelani Blackman, was the most vulnerable song on the album, she says. “It’s my auntie’s voice speaking in the beginning; she passed on in 2021 during COVID-19, and she’s my guardian angel now.

“Shortly before my grandfather died, I made a music video, and my entire family was in it. He was standing there, looking all dapper. My aunt was the one who told me, ‘You know, you’ve immortalised him now because whenever you’re sad, you can go watch the video.’’

“As much as it also sounds like a love song, I was singing about grief,” she says. “To love is to take the ultimate risk, and this is a song about losing the greatest love. I recorded this song and didn’t touch it for a year. I didn’t want it to be a deep, heavy song that wasn’t going to trigger anyone because my aunt talks about love in the song; I wanted it to be a love song. 

“I got so excited that Jelani Blackman is on the song because I was really looking for someone with a deep voice because I wanted it to sound sensual. Shoutout to him for matching the energy on the song.”

A WANING LOVE STORY 

One notable collaboration on the album is with her labelmate Mars Baby, on the poignant track titled ‘Flowers’. This heartbreak song delicately explores the gradual process of witnessing someone fall out of love. It starts with subtle changes, such as not receiving text messages from a lover and progresses to the absence of gestures, like receiving flowers.

 

‘Flowers’ has quickly become a fan favourite. However, lordkez admits that the song evoked a profound sense of sadness during the video shoot. “When we shot the video for it, I was so depressed because the song just kept playing over and over again, and it just made me feel so sad.”

Collaborating with Mars Baby on ‘Flowers’ was an intentional choice for lordkez, as she believed his perspective as a man would enhance the song’s depth and impact.

THE VISUAL JOURNEY: ART AND MUSIC CONVERGE

Beyond the realm of music, lordkez’s commitment to artistic expression extends to the world of fine art. Her first art exhibition, titled The Last Supper, drew inspiration from her album with themes of religion, caricatures and maximalist artistry; the artworks complement the sonic experience of the album, creating a cohesive visual narrative.

 

lordkez’s multidisciplinary approach allows her to create a complete sensory experience for her audience. The fusion of music and visual art provides a deeper understanding of the concepts explored in Testament, emphasising the inseparable connection between the two mediums.

 

With Testament, lordkez has not only etched her name into the annals of South African music but also established herself as an artist whose authenticity and vulnerability know no bounds. Her debut album is a masterpiece that will undoubtedly stand the test of time, serving as a beacon of hope and inspiration to young music lovers.

This story appears in HYPE magazine #33, available here.

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