May/June 2019

by Jessica Thompson Carr

Razé: Razing The Barre

by Jessica Thompson Carr

Razé: Razing The Barre

The Williams family of South Auckland have already given us plenty of musical entertainment, in the shape of 1990s girl group Ma-V-Elle (Lavina), noughties RnB artist J Williams, and their singer/actress sister Emily who came close to being an Australian Idol winner back in 2005. Ezra Williams (Razé) is following the rewarding path from hip hop dance into music, having released a dozen singles to date, and featuring for a second year as a finalist for the Best Female Artist title at the Pacific Music Awards. Jessica Thompson Carr talked with Razé about her own, rather more complex sound.

T’is a rare thing indeed to find a down to earth, real deal superstar in this quaint little country. Of course, Aotearoa is loaded to the brim with talented artists, but surely few as polished and refreshingly bold as Ezra Williams.

She goes by the performer name Razé, and is currently killing it, with 12 released singles and an EP, several glamorous music videos and an extensive repertoire of ceremonies, half time shows and festival gigs.

Razé has also claimed in three finalist spots for the 2019 Pacific Music Awards happening late May; as the Best Pacific Soul/RnB Artist, Best Pacific Female Artist and for the Best Pacific Music Video (Not About You, directed by Kiel Tutin and Edward Liu).

“I thought I was only there for one nomination and my sister, who is also my manager, kept me from leaving early cos she knew I was gonna get two more! She’s a good actress. I was shook. I was smiling so hard!”

South Auckland born and raised, Ezra began making music professionally in 2016, working with freelance music producer and audio engineer Edy (Eddie Liu) who introduced himself after a dance class. This soon led to their first single, Figure Out, which saw airtime on Niu FM and Mai FM. The Razé x Edy ‘4 Seasons’ EP was released later in 2017, and since then things have been taking off for the pairing.

Born into a family of famed musicians, (her brother is RnB artist J. Williams, her sisters also accomplished singers – Lavina a former member of the group Ma-V-Elle, and Emily who placed second in Australian Idol in 2005), it’s little wonder Ezra clicked into the music scene so readily. She says education was also hugely beneficial to her success in music. She graduated from Manukau Institute Of Technology with a Bachelor of Creative Arts in 2016 and is the current face of the institute’s recruitment drive.

“My course didn’t just focus on music. I did dance, drama, poetry, physical theatre, creative writing… and that’s where I picked up on writing, reading and understanding music. We got to perform a lot, and at the same time I was competing in dance competitions.

“Dance was definitely where I thought I was gonna be… I was so sure I would be a dance star, but music took over, and education really helped.”

Ezra gives credit to producer/friend Edy for pushing her beyond the hip hop dance box, the pair actually meeting in dance class.

“He used to dance too, and he came up to me after class and mentioned he’d heard a few covers I’d put up online, and he had some beats. He wondered if I might write something. That was the first time someone approached me like that and I thought, ‘Why not!’

“I loved it, I love writing, I get inspiration from everything. That creativity really depends on the atmosphere that you’re in and the people around you. Sometimes it’ll be off the fly where Edy will come with a beat and I’ll freestyle over it, other times we’ll work on it together. There’s a creative freedom there.”

Most of her lyrics are personal, but when she hits that writers’ wall she heads outdoors to public spaces, sits in cafes and places herself in someone else’s shoes. It helps her create dramatic ideas that feed into the stories she tells. Her unique vocal tones merge naturally with the hip hop, trap beats created by Edy.

Razé’s music is liberating, best evidenced by Not About You, which is far and away their most listened-to release to date. Peppered with Dua Lipa and SZA flavours her videos are filled with powerful dance moves and a strong presence of female dancers, most of whom are longtime mates.

“Some of the dancers are my close friends, so it’s easy to lure them into the job, haha! All the girls are amazing. I’ve been in the dance community since 2011, so people are familiar with me and there are strong relationships there. It’s amazing, dancing with backup dancers… the energy you get is faaaabulous! You just feel so strong and hyped up. I’m not against having male dancers, maybe one day I will, but being surrounded by strong women, it just makes you feel like you can fly.”

It’s also important for Ezra to represent her Pacific Island heritage in all that she does, and that comes naturally.

“Representing Pacific culture just makes you wanna work harder. All of this makes me so proud to be from the Islands. I think that’s what separates me from other artists who are doing the same thing as me – my culture.”