RNH Magazine interviewed author Zangba Thomson about life, music, and the challenges he had to face.
RNH MAG: Who inspired you to pursue a music career?
Zangba: I grew up listening to Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston, and ’80s R&B/Pop. Then one day, I unexpectedly walked into LL Cool J’s video shoot at the 165th street Bus Terminal– by the Colosseum Mall– and I saw LL with his arms around two female models. That up close and personal view, much closer than what I got from Yo’ MTV Raps– left such an everlasting impression that I took a special liking to the emceeing aspect of hip-hop.
But what really solidified the art form in my heart was when I saw Boogie Down Productions’ My Philosophy music video. Immediately, KRS’s wordplay, his philosophy, and raps about Africa hit home, and I began writing his own lyrics. Later, I became influenced by Nas, Tupac, and Jay-Z.
RNH: What challenges did you face as a youth in pursuit of your music dream?
Z: I was born in Bong Mines, Liberia—the country formed by free African-American emigrants. When I arrived here in America—adapting to my new concrete environment became my biggest challenge—but I adapted well, and made friends with the right people– who introduced me to the underworld of Southside Jamaica, a neighborhood in Queens, New York. I peeped game and moved accordingly—eventually the streets nicknamed me Bam Jigge—because I was always fresh with the clothes. I won a few fistfights there, and survived a few brawls and shootouts; but music wise—I got my first recording on a Cutmaster C’s ‘Back To School’ mixtape—alongside my rap buddies–Guerilla Maine and Boo Harv. Back then—I used to travel on the bus for hours to Public Enemy Studios on Franklin Avenue in Hempstead, New York. I cut my first demo there on cassette tape—and years afterwards—Large Professor recorded my second demo in his basement.
Large liked my style, so he took me to a professional studio to record a verse on Straight Rhymes, a song he wanted to use on his ‘First Class’ album, which featured Nas, Busta Rhymes, and Q-Tip. But due to politics, Straight Rhymes didn’t make the cut, and I found myself right back where he started. Then my late friend Kentele sent me a kite from Southport Correctional Facility. Days later, I had a pivotal meeting with rap mogul 50 Cent, in front of 50’s grandmother’s house.
50 checked out me and Guerilla Maine’s song. He loved the lyrics but said that we needed a chorus to make it happen. A month later, 50 got shot and I lost contact. After that, I recorded Three Black Boys—and people were asking questions about the boys. So I adapted the song into the urban, best-selling novel Three Black Boys: Tomorrow After Supper. It ended up selling well over 1,600 copies in Harlem during its first week. I had so many obstacles but I feel the biggest was adapting.
RNH: Describe your feelings when you’re recording music in the studio?
Z: I have my own studio—so I only record when the spirit inspires or move me to record. Other than that—I don’t record because I like to do things naturally—and I like recording myself with a timer—and I like being by myself when I’m recording because I work better in solitude.
RNH: What is the message behind your music?
Z: Be Sincere, love others, and be true to yourself.
RNH: Explain what your name means?
Z: The heart of the soul.
RNH: Describe your style of singing or rapping?
Z: Laid back– conversational.
RNH: What do you fear the most in this business?
Z: I don’t have any fears because I live in love. With love, there is no fear.
RNH: Are you excited to be featured in RNH Magazine?
Z: Words can’t explain what I’m feeling right now– but if I had to choose two words– I would say I’m extremely excited.