Rapper/Singer Genecist was on his metaphorical last leg when he released his self-titled project in 2017. A compilation of handpicked songs from his vault, The Genecist Project showed an energetic, daring side to the rising artist that wasn’t as apparent before. With pleasant features, power-packed bars, sultry vocals, and feel good production, its shocking to know that Genecist was prepared to retire his music career at that time; Thankfully, he didn’t.
Recognizing the successful strides of Buffalo’s music scene, and eager to leave his mark, Genecist kept creating. An active member of longtime, local R&B quartet 4 B-LO, the rising artist started branching out as a solo act. Collaborating with local talent, and performing throughout the city, he developed a reputation as a performer, but now Genecist is ready for more.
Breaking his 3- year hiatus from project releases, the singer/rapper has dropped 3 EPs this year (Foreword, Proverbz and Video Gamez, and 20:20) and set to drop another one next month. Firmly making a gradual move from live show performer to respected recording artist, Genecist is gaining new ground.
“I was performing songs that people couldn’t go and listen to, but they would hear it on stage and they would be like ‘Man, that joint is hard,’” mentioned Genecist.
The significance of Genecist recent series of EPs is that they have songs that are local favorites on them. Well known singles like “Oh,” or “25 For Life” are performance highlights that have not found a placement on a project until this year. With that said, the rising artist is intentionally forming a progression of his music to communicate to his listeners. A true testament of his endurance, Genecist’s growth as an artist is something to watch, and moreover to learn from.
“I had grandiose dreams of being like this child prodigy star that come out and makes this incredible album where I was rapping and singing and I’m the first one to do it,” mentioned Genecist.
Also known as Zahir Kijani, Genecist’s earliest aspirations and unwavering confidence in music could be credited to his parents, who were local artists themselves. His father, a rapper and mother, a singer- the rising artist’s childhood was filled with a wide range of music from Wu-Tang Clan to Brian Mcknight to Metallica. Particularly, Genecist’s mother’s eccentric taste and detailed approach to music listening, nurtured his appreciation for multiple genres. Recognizing his unique ability to blend music, it’s no surprise he started taking it seriously at an early age.
Involved in a short-lived rap group called T.R.U.E dialect in high school, by the time Genecist started college, the rising artist set his eyes on forming an R&B group similar to Boyz 2 Men. Assembling his uncle, Iyam and school friends Jalen Reese and Leo Anthony, Genecist created 4 B-LO.
“We went around the city. We was singing. We were writing songs because me and ‘Yam write…we started making money doing shows and we started going crazy for a minute,” said Genecist.
From Buffalo Bills games to restaurant gigs, 4 B-LO were performing throughout the city and gaining attention. Primarily performing acapella R&B covers, the singing 4-piece was most impressive when they shared original music. With that said, Genecist skills as a lyricist helped the group contextualize their sound considering he was the only rapper.
“I would write like rap verses in some of our R&B songs because to me it was like Jalen and ‘Yam got the best voices, so I’d bring the Hip-Hop to it,” explained Genecist
Despite his modesty and high admiration for his members, Genecist played a significant part in 4 B-LO. An integral writer for their music, he also reached out for guidance from his former chorus teacher, Karen Saxon to help develop the group’s harmonies, a move only Genecist would make . A quick click to the quartet’s Youtube page displays not only performances from 4 B-LO, but Genecist active engagement online; many of the videos is of the rising artist flexing his singing chops.
Some of the videos also included Genecist best friend and rapper, C-Saint who, out of fun would collaborate with Genecist. Impressively bouncing each other’s flows off of one another, Genecist and C-Saint’s music together revealed a new level of potential for the singer/rapper as a solo act. The rising artist’s sonic fluidity in his songs revealed his star power as an artist. With that said, at some point Genecist eager, yet playful approach to music outpaced 4 B-LO.
“We started to lose our flame. We got met with crazy tragedies. Our story got really deep at one point and it just became too much for everybody, ” mentioned Genecist.
Despite 4 B-LO dropping an EP, titled Time and continuing performing around the city, the group slowed down. Shortly dropping The Genecist Project a month after 4 B-LO’s EP, Genecist continued making his rounds in the live show circuit as a soloist.
“I would do a rap show and people would be like, ‘I ain’t know you rap.’ Or I would do a singing show, and people would be like ‘I ain’t know you sing,’” explained Genecist.
Understanding the importance of marketing, Genecist began showcasing himself seriously as both a singer and a rapper. Besides balancing out his sound, the rising artist also started building his brand. Well known for sporting colorful dashikis and a bamboo hat, Genecist growth as an artist could be dated by his visual transformation. His early days as a youthful, fun-loving entertainer had matured into an introspective, pan-African artist – a message strongly communicated in Foreword.
The first project release since his 2017 effort, Foreword finds Genecist fully embracing the multifaceted artist he is. Integrating his style as a rapper, singer and spiritual purveyor, Foreword is a double entendre, representing the rising artist’s growth, but also his past. Developing deeper in not only his discipline as an artist, but “universal truth” teller, Genecist songs on Foreword is another handful of pre-recorded works from his vault he was finally ready to share.
“A lot of it (Foreword) is pretty prophetic, because I was writing stuff that I didn’t understand what it meant until the events happened to me,” mentioned Genecist.
Creating much of the songs for his recent EPs sometimes years before they were actually released, Genecist intention with his recent projects is to curate his music as stepping stones of his life. Releasing a joint album with local producer Cee Gee titled Proverbz and Video Gamez last month, Genecist also revealed it was initially created 3 years ago. Despite its age, Proverbz and Video Gamez is also very relevant. Considering 2020 has ushered in major conversations around our current and ever present pandemic, race relations and heightened sense of awareness, songs on Proverbz and Video Gamez like “Matthew 24” or “This World” feel like cautionary, sobering tracks made for quarantine- and there’s a reason why.
“If you notice on the cover of Proverbz and Video Gamez, I’m holding a Bible and CeeGee is holding game gear, but it’s not something I just use for shock value…there’s certain qualities and things that I’ve learned and pieces of wisdom…most of that comes from that book…I’m not afraid to talk about it,” explained Genecist.
Strongly inspired by the Bible and his experiences as a Jehovah’s Witness, Genecist often integrates ideas and thoughts from those religions into his music (his stage name is Genesis and Lyricist combined), but he also allows for it to be open to interpretation. His most recent joint project with local DJ Roobxcube ironically titled 20:20, Genecist continues his social commentary on an vibrant level. The thundering production on “Myself,” to the Boom Bap, Kota Sovia assisted “See Me Now,” Genecist raps are robust and relentless, a sign that he’s nowhere near stopping.
Currently working on 2 albums, collaborating with other local talent and occasionally performing with 4 B-LO, Genecist accessibility as an artist is at an all time high; a promising step in the right direction.
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