7 Sep 2023 ///

The Genesis of Lordkez

‘God save the gifted. These are the confessions of the young and destined’ from Lordkez’s debut album, TESTAMENT

Kezia Meyers AKA Lordkez might be a generational artist. That is, she could come to define a moment in South Africa’s sonic history. In the past, Lordkez has been described ‘agnostically genreless’ – a phrase alluding to her ability to traverse RnB, rap, soul, electro and so on. With one of the strongest artistic expressions I’ve seen in some time (ie. her visual signatures are as clear as her musical abilities) Lordkez’s debut album, TESTAMENT, is precisely this; a testimony to her proficiency across multiple sonic articulations, and a kind of contemporary gospel that lays down scripture for how Lordkez envisions herself to be as an artist. The album is a 12-track, religious iconographic-infused invitation for listeners into a wild garden of Lordkez’s inner, spiritual and sonic sanctum. We have no choice but to simply, irrevocably, stan.

Originally from Kimberley, Kez describes her formative years, the genesis of her pathway, saying “I’ve always had an ear for music. I discovered it through the organ, actually – my mom plays the organ in church and she taught me how to play it. So, I’d play the organ during church services, my grandfather was the priest and I’d sing a bit in the choir here and there. We even had an organ at home and I can remember making cute, little songs.” With a family for whom music was an altar of expression, she describes her influences,“my mum played a lot of Whitney Houston, India Arie, Boyz II Men and a lot of old school RnB. My dad would play gangsta rap. Nas, Tupac – the legends. I grew up with this strong fusion between those genres and then the practice of music as a form of worship. I never really had hopes and dreams of being a famous artist, but I can see now that artistic performance has been a calling all my life.”

Testament Cover Artwork & Tracklist

Lordkez conveys the kind of knowing that she was always destined for this. In our conversation, the beginning descriptions of her life feature subtle time-stamps of music as always present; as being innate to who Kez is. It took moving to the UAE, though, and out of her comfort zone for it to first be realised beyond just the sonic play that she had growing up immersing herself in (those sweet songs on the organ, for example). Lordkez says, “I moved abroad to Abu Dhabi and made a group of friends who made music. They really encouraged me to make a song and I hadn’t even considered it before – I was like, ‘yeah, why not??’. That first deep house track put everything in motion, even more so when I started performing live at poetry evenings.”

When Kez returned to South Africa, she headed to Cape Town to study sound engineering at SAE. A number of symphonic events led her to meet Vaugn Thiel and Fred Kayembe of Stay Low and Stein Entertainment – a record label and management company that has carved out one of the most important positions in South Africa’s independent music scene. On this chance ‘scouting’, Kez reminisces, “Vaugn and Fred, my now management, ‘discovered’ me off of SoundCloud. I came to Joburg and I wanted to shoot a cover for an album and make a video. I had this hilarious conversation with Vaughn where I was like, ‘I want to drop an album and I plan on dropping it in two weeks’ to which he said, ‘okay, so where’s the music?’ I didn’t have any. We ended up making my first EP, Revenge Season, in about nine studio sessions. It was wild.”

Testament Cover Artwork & Tracklist

This year, Lordkez released her debut album. It took some years from that initial EP to this point – but it had to take some time. The album, TESTAMENT, required a kind of initiation that only the best kind of art can be born from. As Kez explains, “it took a year to put together the Testament. I had taken a step back to focus on myself as a person – my mental health and so on. During that time, I was writing poems and spilling out what I was feeling. The first track that was born from that was ‘Confessions’, in my mom’s new place in Cape Town, sleeping on a blow up mattress. I was confronted with thinking I had to give up music in order to bend to the pressures of society. My first inclination was to write and in that moment, it was decided – I wasn’t going to quit. That process, which ultimately led to the Testament, built the confidence in me that I had needed. It also brought me my sonic style.” Produced mostly by Mars Baby, another member of the Stay Low family, Lordkez realised the importance of her team during this process and being surrounded by the right people. Along with family and the spectrum of the human experience, she describes the profundity of TESTAMENT’S birthing process, that it took returning to “my relationship with God, my relationship with my family. Grief, heartbreak, losing friends, finding love – feeling betrayed. Testament is a space that I channelled my experiences of all the human emotions I had gone through. The album, while full of these things, is ultimately about self-discovery and the pursuit of finding comfort, particularly around my beliefs.” 

No work is ever created in a silo, as Lordkez explains that “I learned so much through putting together this album, especially from those around me who helped me do it. It’s definitely a team effort in every way. I have so much love and respect for my team because they helped me reach that level of comfortability within vulnerability, confidence without arrogance.”

Undoubtedly clear for Lordkez during this metamorphosis, has been the development of her iconographic style; religious symbolism from track titles to the album cover, this body of work showcases a unified vision, held together by sacred threads. On using religious symbolism, Lorskez explains that “my spirituality is a part of me. I like to utilise my gift for my music as an offering, as a way to express gratitude for having been given this gift in this life. I really wanted my debut album to be a testament to the person that I am. It has a lot of religious references, particularly Christian, because of my traditional Anglican upbringing. I paid homage to that as my testament – that was my beginning.” Regarding the deeply moving album cover, evocative of the sainthood tradition of Catholicism, Lordkez describes how “the cover art is inspired by Our Lady of Sorrows. The pain, the expression – her face in the statue in Spain, conveys every emotion. My dad is Catholic so I was brought up knowing the saints. I felt like I connected with Our Lady, her stoic pose of emotion is still so profound for me.”

Lordkez Compilation Visuals

I ask Kez whether the infusion of the symbolism and the contents of this project borough her towards a spiritual awakening – to which she says, “Absolutely. I had a time where I was exploring all different religions. I was in love with Hinduism, specifically Kālī Ma and Shakti. I resonated with those energies so deeply. Islam too is so sacred, especially the dedication towards prayer and purification. I dipped into astrology, tarot and other modalities. I believe that collectively, all of the gods are one God. I know that can sound crazy to some people, but I came back home to God through learning about different gods; I needed to come back to myself and to my roots, and understanding the different aspects of God brought me back to my genesis, my beginning.” 

The brilliance of TESTAMENT to me is the reinterpretation of religion through a spiritual lens; the two have become separated from each other in many ways, with our generations facing great loss in the faith of institutions that previously held the position of ‘truth-keepers’. This is not without its risk though, using the vision of Our Lady of Sorrows could be seen as a heretical act – as Lordkez says “I’m very aware that the way I have used the references that I have could be perceived by others as offensive. I’ve come to realise that I can’t align everyone to the vibrational wavelength that I’m expressing with TESTAMENT. I know the intention is neither blasphemous nor mockery. It’s something that I feel I was divinely guided to do; to show God, to honour God through art.” Earlier, I said that Lordkez might be a generational artist. Her intuitive explanations affirmed this to me; this is an artist invested in the detail and depth that it takes to build a dreamscape to share their message. Kez explains that “I want TESTAMENT to be comforting to listeners. I know that when I went through some deep experiences, I would have loved 12 tracks to just hold me. I hope the album can do that for someone.”

Enthralled – Cover Art

Flowers – Cover Artwork

Holy Matrimony – Single Artwork

One of my favourite tracks from the album is ‘Enthralled’ made with Sudanese-American rapper, Bas. It is a feat of Lordkez’s tender, High Priestess (from the tarot Major Arcana) expression as an artist. The song is a sign of things to come, to which Kez reflects “that was such a beautiful experience. Bas is a friend of STAY LOW, he was in Joburg for a couple of days. We were in the studio and he was playing some tracks, he played ‘Enthralled’ and I was like, ‘woah, what is this?’. He said I could have the track, which was crazy. That song is so unique. Bas being so open to receiving me on the song is something I have deep gratitude for, he really didn’t have to do that. In the music industry, it’s so competitive. As an established artist, you don’t have to do that kind of thing for another artist. He did, though and the experience gave me a real kind of hope for being in this space.”

Lordkez is a holy vision and has been handed the sword of sonic doctrines, inviting her listeners into a world that is contained, safe, explorative and magical. I leave our conversation fully in awe of where she will go as an artist and spiritual being. As to what you can expect, Lordkez says that “I am going to experiment a lot more going forward. Testament has established my sound, so it’s a good reference for what you can expect from me – but it won’t always be. A lot more live shows, too. I’m performing at Rocking The Daisies on the mainstage. The same stage that Stormzy will be performing on. How crazy is that?”

Watch ‘Enthralled’ music video feat. Bas HERE
Watch ‘Eternity’ music video feat. Jelani Blackman HERE

Listen and purchase TESTAMENT HERE

Written by: Holly Beaton

For more news, visit the Connect Everything Collective homepage www.ceconline.co.za

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