Draze performing at a 2015 Seattle concert.

With ‘Born to Win,’ Draze Pays Homage to Zimbabwean Ancestry

by M. Anthony Davis

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After success from his last single, “Black Wealth,” that not only accumulated over 2 million views across social media platforms, but launched multiple Black marketplace events that showcased Black businesses nationwide, hip-hop emcee and musician Draze is back with another new single, “Born to Win.” 

Both singles will be included in an untitled album set to release this summer. “Born to Win” pays homage to Draze’s Zimbabwean roots with a new sound that he calls “Ancestral Art.” 

“Being a Black man, and being from both Seattle and Zimbabwe, it was the merging and the meshing of these two worlds,” Draze explains. On “Born to Win,” these two sounds are merged seamlessly. The track opens with Ngonidzashe, who is Draze’s younger cousin, singing in their native language. His melody smoothly washes over hip-hop drums, before he transitions to English and is followed by Draze who delivers a verse that explores nuances of being a Zimbabwean growing up in Seattle through lines like, “ I remember the third grade them n***** they had waves, I had them beady bees you know the Zimbabwean grade, so they threw shade.” 

The song paints a picture of that mixing, and as in the line above, the clashing of the different cultures Draze experienced in his upbringing. By fusing the unique sounds of his Zimbabwean roots with American hip-hop culture, Draze presents a sound that takes the newly popular sound of Afrobeat to the next level. “Born to Win” is poised to be a cultural anthem.   

“Right now in world music, African music is being embraced, but a lot of it is Afrobeat,” Draze says. He points out that a lot of Afrobeat we hear in America is more dancehall and hasn’t been fully integrated into hip-hop. With his upcoming album, led by the singles “Black Wealth” and “Born to Win,” Draze plans on fully infusing traditional African sounds into hip-hop and making Ancestral Art a new sonic movement. 

When describing how Ancestral Art can influence hip-hop, Draze explains, “This is like the first time you heard Run-DMC do ‘Walk this Way,’ or the first time you heard A Tribe Called Quest album, or the first time you heard Chance the Rapper use the choir with the Gospel music. You heard, ‘how great is our God,’ then he started rapping. I’m doing the same thing, and it’s really who I am.”

Draze says that “Born to Win” wasn’t planned to be a single, but people have already started getting behind it. In Zimbabwe, they love it, and he hears that at home it is already forming into an anthem. So, now Draze has embraced the idea and he has shot a video that will be released soon. 

The upcoming album will dive deeper into Ancestral Art and feature songs in Shona, a language spoken in Zimbabwe. It will also feature culture, references, and sounds from Zimbabwe that are intertwined into the hip-hop sound Draze has crafted in Seattle. Speaking of the mixing of cultures and sounds, Draze is reminded of his upbringing. 

“I really was the guy who you would see up at Garfield and then when you go to the festival, I’m up on stage [with my parents] playing marimbas. My mom trained most of the people in the hood. A lot of people took [marimba] classes from my mom at some point. So, I was American born and Zimbabwean at home. So I’m Zimbabwean raised and American born.”

M. Anthony Davis (Mike Davis) is a local journalist covering arts, culture, and sports.

📸 Featured Image: Draze performing at a 2015 Seattle concert. (Photo: Susan Fried)

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