Run Wild Run Free EP
Courtesy of TDE

Meet Zacari: The TDE Singer Whose Missed Path On 'The Voice' Led To Greater Blessings

The singer-songwriter was first known as a saxophone player but he sang his way to being signed with one of the most coveted music troupes.

In April 2017, Zacari left his first mark in the music industry when he appeared on Kendrick Lamar's album, DAMN. He was one of three features on the Grammy Award-winning project, standing next to Rihanna and U2, but his work on “LOVE.” made it a standout song on the album. Prior to 2017, the songbird was known as Zacari Pacaldo, an aspiring singer from Bakersfield, Calif. who has always known what he was destined to be.

His path into the music business, and what eventually led him to Top Dawg Entertainment, started right at home. The 23-year-old was born into a musical family. His mother Ede Pacaldo, a former drummer for rock bands, taught Zacari how to play the guitar, and his father passed down his love of blues and jazz music, which eventually led to the young singer being in a jazz band in high school.

Before he made his way to Los Angeles and underneath the wing of his manager Moosa Tiffith, son of TDE’s Anthony “Top Dawg” Tiffith, Zacari had a stint in Alaska where he worked for the summer after graduating high school. In The Last Frontier state, the musician spent his time in a lodge washing dishes, "but making good money," and most importantly being surrounded by wolves, which he has a storied love for. The musician strolled into VIBE's offices, flanked by a tiny entourage and subtly dripped down with a dangling claw earring, a fire red jacket and his signature curly hair tied up, to talk about his brief time on The Voice, who Zacari the artist truly is, and what to expect from his musical offerings going forward.

 

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@revolve x @fwrd 🔥 #revolvefestival 📸 @starksbxs

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VIBE: Where did you get your inspiration for your EP Run Wild, Run Free?
Zacari: I lot of it came from real experiences up to this point. Even some lyrics are from high school and some other things. For this first EP, I wanted to make sure that you get to see my experiences and what's left at this point, even going back that far to high school. Even my experiences in Alaska as well, where I worked after high school. It all comes from that, it comes from growing up in the church making music, my parents, and the type of music they listen to as well. My mom was a rockstar. She used to be in bands, she taught me guitar. My dad was big on blues and soul music. I was in a jazz band in high school, so it's all those different elements and genres I was into. And of course hip-hop. My family and me, we've always had love for lots of different genres and different sounds, so it's all my experiences and all the music that's influenced me up until this point.

Did you always know you wanted to do music coming from this background?
Yeah, since I was a little kid. There's old videos of me on the news as a little kid doing singing competitions and stuff like that. I even auditioned for The Voice like three times. I made it pretty far. I made it to the point where they review you and then they pick your interview—The singing part's done, now we just want to know if you have a crazy backstory—and I guess my stories were never that exciting.

So your path could have been completely different had you gone The Voice route?
Yeah, I'm glad I didn't go to The Voice, but just the fact that I was preparing for it and practicing and going out and seeing what I could do is a big influence. Even playing for my church, that started in the seventh grade where I was leading a band. Seventh grade all the way through high school.

Did attending church influence the type of music you make?
Yeah, definitely.  I'm always conscious about what I'm saying and I always want to make sure that I can at least leave the project with a positive outlook on it. I'm always thinking about what my parents would think if they heard the song. My family or my church, it's always kind of in the back of my mind when I'm writing music.

How long were you working on Run Wild, Run Free?
This EP we were working on for almost three years, probably. A lot of the songs are two years old and the lyrics go back even further than that. It took three years to find a sound I was confident in. You go back on my old stuff that I still have, I've grown a lot. I was blessed to be in a situation where I could just be in the studio and that's it. I was sleeping on couches and stuff like that. My manager Moosa would help me pay my rent just so that I could stay in the studio, because when I first moved to L.A. I was on my own. I was working two jobs and going to the Musician's Institute. Once I met my manager, he really helped me get in situations where it was like, "f**k everything else, just be in the studio."

You mentioned your sound earlier. How would you describe the type of music you make? Or what kind of genre is it, if you wanted to categorize it?
It's hard to categorize it because there's so many different elements that I draw from. R&B is an easy one to go to because that's the best way you could put it, but there's more. There's a lot of folk and indie elements as well. All the guitars in the album, I played. And there are folk parts coming from when I would cover old folk songs and John Mayer stuff. It's more like an experimental or indie R&B. Some of the songs are straight up R&B but on the other side of the EP there's a hip-hop sound like with "Midas Touch," and then "You Can Do Anything" has the guitars and the folk-type style.

 

What do you hope your fans get from this EP? What do you hope they're going to take in from you?
I really want it to be like a breath of fresh air. It's a short EP, it's only like 20 minutes long, so before work or after work or when they're stressed, I want them to just play this. Press play, put their phone down and after that I want them to feel ready. I want them to feel refreshed. I want it to be a break, like a vacation almost.

And what should fans expect from Zacari in the future?
Definitely a full-length album. We held back on this EP for sure. We almost added stuff and changed things but I have a lot more music in the cut. And also I'm definitely going to start doing more shows. That's one thing I'm focusing on, too. We just got a band so we're transitioning the EP into live versions, so it's fun to be working with a band again like I did back in church. It's a whole other thing of doing live performances. I'm excited, I love performing.

For a full-length album, who would you be interested in collaborating with? Who do you feel fits your vibe?
I definitely want to get a verse with SZA. We've been bothering her forever and she's always like "yeah, yeah, yeah." Definitely SZA. I also want to work with [Lil] Uzi [Vert] or [Playboi] Carti. I want to get some sh*t from them. They're leading this new sh*t to me right now. There's a lot of that same genre, or people putting out the same sh*t, but to me it's Uzi and Carti at the top of that. I'd rather listen to them over any of the other people, if that makes sense. If I'm going to be listening to that sh*t, I'm going to the top standard and that's Carti and Uzi. Uzi's crazy, his melodies and his energy is insane. And then Carti's the same way. You can just press play on his sh*t and that sh*t hypes you up for the whole day. "Die Lit" is insane.

 

 

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all these TDE nominations 😭 so happy for everyone. BLACK PANTHER UP FOR ALBUM OF THE YEAR.

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SZA's your label mate. What was your journey into Top Dawg Entertainment?
It was mainly my manager. My manager Moosa is actually Top's son. He found me and he was managing me for years before he brought me around anyone, which is crazy because I'm the first artist he's actually discovered and brought into TDE. He worked with his dad, he managed [ScHoolboy] Q and he did all that but I was the first artist he started bringing around people. The first person I met was [Ab-]Soul. Me and Soul got along and that was before I met Top or anybody. So I was hanging out with Soul, I knew Zay [Isaiah Rashad] before then. Moosa hit up Q to use the studio while he was on Blank Face tour, so I was working in Q's house a lot. And then when Moosa finally set up a session with Kendrick and Kendrick cut the “LOVE.” record that's when his dad Top was like, "yeah bring him through. We've gotta talk." It was a long process. It wasn't like Moosa had found me and he took me to TDE. It was a long process. It was all organic, though. That was the best part of it. It was never forced. Everybody welcomed me, man. TDE is dope, TDE's really a family. You see it from the outside and you don't know what it is but on the inside all these people really grew up together, it's really tight knit.

Have you learned anything being around other TDE talent like SZA, Kendrick, Soul?
Yeah, I've learned a lot and they'll talk to me about anything. It doesn't even have to be on some music sh*t. Q will talk to me about money. I'll go and ask him all kinds of questions about money. It's a crazy thing getting money from having nothing. This year I'm paying taxes for the first time—not the first time, I've had jobs before and paid taxes—but for like three or four years when I was in L.A. not making anything, I didn't have to pay any taxes. That's one thing I'm stressed about is my taxes. I'm happy I just put a lot of sh*t away. And then even talking to Kendrick about patience and stuff like that. That's a big person I talk to about anything, he's always kept it real with me. I can text him and call him and he'll respond to me. And that's the same with any member of TDE.

How'd you meet the right people to get in the music industry?
It goes back far but it's really destiny, man. My roommate's cousin when I first moved to L.A. is Originist, who's a member of Soulelection. They went to J. Louis' house with them and that's where me and J. Louis made our first song, that first night I met him. And then me and J. Louis become like best friends so we're making music all the time, we're hanging out. He starts working with Bryson Tiller and I'm driving him to the studio and the house. So I'm chilling, and Bryson's hella cool, he let us all hang out, make music. Then Bryson had left the house studio for a couple of weeks and I remember Isaiah Rashad had come into use the studio with my manager Moosa. And I was playing saxophone too for Zay. Zay was like, "oh yeah you play sax? Play some sh*t on there." My manager Moosa took my phone number as a saxophone player. And I just kept tapping in with them. I played them the music I had with J and the Soulelection stuff and asked him to manage me. And that's how that worked out.

I met Teddy Walton there, too, the other producer. J. Louis and Teddy Walton did most of this EP. We're all really homies, we hang out we make music and I think that's a really important part of the sound, too. We can do a lot of trial and error and build everything from scratch. I met all those dudes at this one house, it's a studio house in the Hills that artists rent out if they're coming to L.A. to stay. It has a house and a studio separate. I met so many people there: my manager, Teddy, photographers, clothing people that we literally all still talk from this house. Producers, Sevn Thomas, Syk Sense. Syk Sense is on my project, too. We literally all went to this house and it's been going up since then.

Has the industry been what you expected it to be?
Yeah, kind of, but honestly I got really lucky with my team and my people. We see a lot of the industry sh*t but I don't have to go through a lot of bullsh*t with my team. TDE and all my producers are all my friends so we're a very tight knit group. We're all honest with each other, you know what I mean? You really trust the people. Everybody that I work with I trust. They're really my friends. It's all about meeting the right people and earning trust and building relationships, so we kind of do our own thing. We don't really go through none of the bullsh*t. I haven't. So I'm lucky for that, ‘cause you see people that go through sh*t in the industry, but I'm confident in my sh*t. Everything that I'm doing is supposed to be happening, I'm going with it.

 

 

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Man happy birthday brother 😂 @groovyq

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You're from Bakersfield., Do you feel that they're proud of you?
Hell yeah, man. I love my city, man. I see them all over my social media and stuff. I'm actually trying to do a show out there.

When you go there, is the energy nice?
Yeah, ‘cause there's a venue there called Jerry's Pizza and it's like one of the main venues in Bakersfield that I used to go to shows. Whenever I go back to the city a lot of people come up to me in my town and talk to me and it's really dope, because in L.A. people recognize me but in L.A. people are less thirsty to come up to people there. In Bakersfield, it's really dope to be able to talk to people and the fans out there.

You see a lot of artists and they tell you that they're inspired now, so it's the best thing. Because not a lot of music comes out of Bakersfield. Korn came from Bakersfield and some country. It's dope to be one of the first new wave contemporary to come out of Bakersfield. It's dope man, I really love Bakersfield.

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Orange Is The New Black's Uzo Aduba took to the stage following Lee's welcoming statements. The Emmy-award winning actress and gifted orator delivered a passionate rendition of Mandela's May 10, 1994 inauguration speech.

"Our daily deeds as ordinary South Africans must produce an actual South African reality that will reinforce humanity's belief in justice, strengthen its confidence in the nobility of the human soul and sustain all our hopes for a glorious life for all."

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After guests dined, Graça Machel, stateswoman, activist and Mandela's widow spoke. Donning a small blonde Afro, a pink silk scarf and a navy blue knee-length dress, Machel expressed her appreciation to all those who continue to champion her late husband's work and even quipped about her love for leaders.

Aduba returned to the stage this time as a moderator leading an intimate conversation with representatives from the Nelson Mandela Foundation, Nelson Mandela's Children Fund, and the Nelson Mandela Children's Hospital. Before the afternoon was over, guests were treated to live entertainment from Grammy-award nominated singer-songwriters, Chloe X Halle.

Two hours wasn't enough time to appreciate Mandela's legacy or even come to a full understanding of his life, but guests left thankful, full and gracious to have spent the afternoon honoring a man who showed the world, "It only seems impossible until it's done."

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Take Five: DJ Khaled Talks ‘Father of Asahd’ And #Summergram Partnership

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VIBE: What are your thoughts about your new partnership with Pepsi's Summergram? DJ Khaled: This seems like the perfect fit. I am excited to work with Pepsi – they are always spreading positive vibes and the Pepsi #Summergram collection is a lot of fun to play around with. You know I’m always posting to Instagram and these new AR filters help bring my content to the next level. Look out for more Pepsi #Summergram filters from me all summer long.

It seems like you’ve been intentional with this album rollout even more so than your past projects. What can you tell me about your strategy for this rollout? I decided we can’t do anything dinosaur anymore. For this album, everything had to be big. From the music to the rollout, everything had to be big! And watching it all come together is just beautiful. And I love to see the excitement from my fans! At the end of the day, it’s all for my fans.

What was the toughest song to create? To work with so many different artists and so many moving parts, I imagine it can be challenging. Every challenge is a blessing. The toughest ones to make are usually the biggest ones. I’m blessed to work with great artists and be able to create beautiful music together.

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Courtesy of Think BIG

How CJ Wallace Turned His Connection To Notorious B.I.G. Into A Cannabis Brand

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Wallace went on to found Think BIG, alongside Willie Mack and Russaw. Think BIG, he explains, is a brand and social movement encouraging society to embrace the cannabis industry and realize its potential to heal and stimulate creativity. In its first plan of action, the brand launched its first product: The Frank White Blend, named after one of B.I.G’s many aliases.

Right now, there is a common focus on the recreational use of cannabis; consumers are flooded with images of kids, middle-aged adults, and celebrities sparking up to escape their realities or “have fun.” Prior to the arrival of Psalm West, Kim Kardashian threw a CBD and meditation-themed baby shower for her fourth child in April 2019. In addition to lifting you off the ground, however, Wallace, Mack and Think BIG want to introduce society to the healing and creative benefits of cannabis. Mack learned about cannabis’ healing powers in a major way during his youth.

“As a kid, watching [how] the AIDS crisis ravaged the world and seeing the LGBT community fighting for cannabis to help them with nausea during AZT [antiretroviral medication used to prevent and treat HIV/AIDS] was my first indication of [thinking] cannabis was a drug, but people are actually using it to try to stay alive,” Mack said, noting that he had several family members who were dealing with HIV/AIDS.

Similarly, Wallace uncovered the alternative nature of the plant when his family experimented with it as a form of medication for his younger brother, who was diagnosed with autism. After testing various strains, Wallace confirms they found the right balance, but since cannabis isn’t an approved medication, his brother is unable to use it publicly. “This is helping my youngest brother every day,” he insists. “It’s unfair because we can’t give it to him and let him take it to school and have the school nurse actually prescribe it to him so he’s constantly getting that regular medication. You can’t take it to school, but the kids in his school are being given opioids, which has crazy after effects.”

Creatively speaking, Wallace and Mack consider cannabis to be the “ultimate ghostwriter.” It’s no secret B.I.G. was an advocate. From numerous consultations with his family members, he learned his dad often smoked while recording. (Mack also notes famous smokers like Johnny Cash, Louis Armstrong, and Bob Marley.) Just about every corner of the music industry has dabbled in recreational smoking, but no genre has been hit as hard as hip-hop. While fans love to watch Snoop Dogg smoke on Instagram Live or share a spliff with Kid Cudi during a concert set, the hip-hop community as a whole is met with backlash and often times targeted by police due to cannabis.

“I feel like anything associated with black men is just immediately going to be deemed bad or evil,” Wallace says, referencing the negative connotation rappers receive. It’s Wallace’s mission, however, to adjust that perspective. “I feel like it’s really up to us to change that narrative. That’s why I try so hard to stop saying words like ‘weed.’ Cannabis, it’s actually a plant," he continues. Both Wallace and Mack noted the terms "weed" and "marijuana" hold negative connotations and are commonly used in connection with minorities. "We were lied to for so long. If we were given proper knowledge from the start, I feel like the entire hip-hop community and the entire way we talked about it would’ve changed.”

Beyond educating consumers with their message and products, Think BIG also seeks to improve the criminal justice system as well as launch charitable projects. According to “The War on Marijuana in Black and White,” on average, a black person is 3.73 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than a white person. Such racial disparities reportedly exist in all regions, states, and counties around the United States and largely contribute to today's mass incarceration crisis.

In recent years, the U.S. government has made significant strides to correct this injustice. California, Nevada, and Maine are among the first states to legalize cannabis; states such as New York have already begun the process of exonerating offenders convicted of nonviolent charges and marijuana possession. Despite the steps forward, Wallace and Mack say there is a long road ahead.

Not only is it difficult to eradicate a vicious cycle that has left many black and brown people behind bars, but it is also hard to forge spaces for them to succeed in a rapidly changing industry. “Being able to understand how to navigate the industry that’s constantly changing and to do it without a bank account or full funnel of money, makes it that much harder,” Mack says. “Then on top of that, you got people sitting in jail who should be out of jail for nonviolent possession of cannabis. So, we’re faced with having to work four times as hard to make half as much because of the color of our skin. It’s a constant fight and we look at it as how can we set an example, share our knowledge, [and] show more information?”

It takes a group effort, Mac says. While Think BIG is setting a place at the table for black businesses in the cannabis industry as well as shifting the conversation around the plant, Mack suggests other ways to get involved that ultimately uplift the black community. “It’s much easier to enter into the market based on something you already know,” Mack insists, pointing out the opportunities for design firms, packaging, and communication firms to join the movement.

Wallace and Mack know the journey ahead is going to be a roller-coaster ride fit with many twists and turns, but they’re ready. “You got to dream big, as your dad said, and think big,” Mack says. “Everyone else in this industry is thinking about global billion-dollar companies, why shouldn’t we?” As for Wallace, he understands how difficult the process is and will be, “but, it wasn’t more emotional than the first 21 years of my life.”

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