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Beats that resonate

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WORLD Radio - Beats that resonate

International rapper shares a message of hope for all listeners


Photo courtesy of Zuby

MARY REICHARD, HOST: Today is Thursday, February 17th. Good morning! This is The World and Everything in It from listener-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Mary Reichard.

MYRNA BROWN, HOST: And I’m Myrna Brown. So Mary, let me ask you something. When you hear about rap music, what comes to mind?

REICHARD: Street cred, maybe? Raw, angry emotions.

BROWN: Well, I suppose a lot of people think that. But I know a rapper who doesn’t fit that at all. In fact, he doesn’t really place himself in any particular category or under any labels. And he is decidedly not worried about being politically correct!

ZUBY: I am a black, British, Nigerian, male, uh rapper. I’m not the only person who shares those labels.

MYRNA BROWN, REPORTER: But unlike Zuby, few 35-year-olds can say they’ve visited nearly 40 countries without ever feeling like a fish out of water.

ZUBY: Whether I’m in the UK, USA or the Middle East or Nigeria or Eastern Europe. I feel like I fit in everywhere. I’ve been to places like Poland and Serbia and Estonia and certainly I’m not seeing a lot of people who visually look like me, but because I’ve grown up surrounded by all types of people, I feel comfortable wherever.

Born Nzube Udezue—Zuby for short—he spent the first year of his life in England. In the late 80’s his father, a doctor, and his mother, a journalist, relocated to Saudi Arabia for work.

ZUBY: Where I grew up it was primarily an expat community. So a lot of people from the USA, Canada, UK, other Arab countries, Europe, Asia all over the world.

The youngest of five, Zuby says his Nigerian-born parents were Christians in the predominantly Islamic country.

ZUBY: Going to church there was a little bit different because there are no church buildings per se, but there was a church community. We used to do church in the local theater or some time in the school gymnasium. So yeah, we were raised in the faith.. Raised… I was going to say in Sunday school but it’s actually Friday school because the weekend there is Thursday and Friday, not Saturday and Sunday.

When Zuby turned 11 years old, he was sent to an international boarding school back in England. The transition was difficult.

ZUBY: When I was in Saudi, I was primarily learning American history and then I go to the UK and suddenly it’s about kings and queens, the Battle of Hastings and the Battle of Waterloo and all this stuff, so that was quite a shift.

And the change wasn’t just academics. As a young athlete, Zuby went from playing baseball and soccer to learning the game of Rugby. He says he never liked Cricket. But the biggest challenge was what he calls mindless conformity.

ZUBY: There were quite a lot of rules. For example, the first five minutes and the last five minutes of every meal had to be in silence. I can’t tell you why, just because that’s the rule. I have no problem with rules that make sense. If you have a rule and I ask you why the rule exists and you say it’s because it’s the rule. It’s a stupid rule.

At the age of 16 the opinionated and bright Zuby was accepted into Oxford University to study computer science.

ZUBY: And to get into Oxford I did you need three A’s. And I got four A’s so I aced everything. And then my first exam I ever did in Oxford, I got 14 percent. So uh… yeah, that was quite sobering. (laughter) Yo, I did my best - it was just hard. It was just really, really hard. But also, I knew that, within six months I knew this was not what I was going to spend my life doing. I’m going to get this degree, I’m not gonna quit, I’m not gonna drop out. I’m gonna get this degree, I’m gonna to get it done, but my future is not being a computer programmer or a software engineer.

While at university Zuby developed a love for hip-hop music. Before he graduated, the 20-year-old accepted a job at a management consulting firm in London. But he didn’t start work right away.

ZUBY: I released my second album, which was called The Unknown Celebrity. I did some performances around the UK. I was traveling and selling my CDs and promoting my music.

While still making beats, he began his consulting job in 2008. He juggled both for the next three years.

ZUBY: Then in November 2011 I took the plunge. I took the leap. I left my job. I resigned and I’ve been self-employed since November 2011 - over 10 years now.

Known as “the rapper with a difference,” Zuby’s lyrics are clean, positive and inspirational.

But the bald, bearded and buff Zuby rejects categories because he says it limits his reach.

ZUBY: If you market yourself as a Christian rapper or Christian musician, you can often end up preaching to the choir. Because someone who is not a Christian, whether they’re of a different faith, or they’re atheist, or they’re agnostic or anything else, they’ll just see the label and say oh, that’s not for me. I run a black-owned business. Right? (laughter) But I’ve never marketed myself that way because my stuff is for everybody. Everyone can see what I look like. And I’m happy to talk about who I am and everything.

Traveling solo internationally since he was a pre-teen, Zuby says there are two ways someone with his background can look at the world.

ZUBY: Number one is that I don’t really fit in anywhere or I fit in everywhere.

He says he wants to help others find that space.

ZUBY: My kind of north star goal is to have a significant, positive impact on over ten million people. I know God has given me a unique set of talents and a unique background and abilities. I'm very aware that not everyone has these opportunities. Given that I do, that’s also why I had to leave my job. I don’t want to die anytime soon, but when I do I want people to say, man that guy made a really positive impact. So that’s my goal.

Reporting for WORLD, I’m Myrna Brown.


WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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