Interview with Najim Zafir: The man behind the “Mistry”

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Najim Zafir known as ‘MistryKidd’ by fans is an electrifying, multi-disciplined artist on a quest to solve the issues of this world through his numerous expressions. Through his songs, writings, graphic designs and other art forms, he embodies his success through his commitment to his work.

“My last album, ‘Blood of a writer’, is representation of my pain, but also the pains of the world, and the pains of artists/creatives”

A Nigerian-Canadian, Najim was born and raised in Nigeria but has spent most of his adult life in Canada. This largely explains the roots of his lyrics and art as his means of communicating to the world.

“The concept of money and God runs through the whole album. I made different references to it, the relationship with God, the relationship of money with God or the value that people place on money both knowingly and unknowingly. If you are a religious person the devil is everything that you don’t want to be, so in a society where money is treated as supreme, poverty is the devil. Blood is the third major theme of the album, which represents pain, sacrifice and in sense rejection. They are themes i bounce around my mind alot and love to discuss because there are so many ways to take it.”

The undiluted artist talks about his career and shares a glimpse of the man behind the mystery!

What interest me the most is your alter ego, “MistryKiDD”
What’s the story of you deciding on the name?

Najim: Funny enough, the name was given to me back in high school. My seniors and my school father were in a rap group but none of them were really rappers. It was just a fun thing that they used to do. So they had this “beef” with another rap group where they used to play pranks on each other. So I wrote a rap and I showed him and he showed the rest of this guys who all loved it. They gave me honorary membership but because I was a Junior, they called me “Mystery Kid”.  Initially it didn’t sound like a good rap name, so I cut it and I made it “Mist” and that was what people called me. But as the internet developed, I figured out from a branding perspective, it would be difficult to find me using “Mist”, so I went back to “Mystery Kid” and spelt it my own unique way “MistryKiDD”.

Being a multi-dimensional artist with many talents from writing to music and visual art, which one do you enjoy doing more and why?

Najim: To me honestly, they are all the same, because, the first thing I ever did in terms of self-expression was drawing and that was at a very young age. At two or three years old, I started drawing, coloring and sculpting with clay and play doh. When I and my friends used to play, I came up with the theme songs for whatever we were playing. So for me, there is no separation, it’s all just expression.

As a songwriter, how do you get your motivation to write your songs?

Najim: Life. Lack of balance in the world. Because expressing those issues is what drives me to write.

On your recent album ‘Blood of a Writer’ is the song “Prey 4 Weak”…how did you get the inspiration to write that song?

Najim: That is personally one of my favourite songs, because there were a bunch of topics that I wanted to talk about.  You are never sure what ideas will make it between conception to completion, so you are never really sure how it is going to turn out.  I am happy I got to touch on all I wanted to.  With regards to the perception and pretty much the experience of what it is like to be a woman, tht was honestly something that I just felt I had to say.  

How do you get into your zone of writing?

Najim: If there is anything I can specifically say, is that I can’t write while I am listening to the beat. It has to be absolutely quiet when I am writing.  I have worked with people who can write while the beat is playing but it just interrupts my thoughts.  That is the only thing I can say specifically. Outside of that, lyrics come to me randomly and I write or remember them and apply them where they fit, pretty much.

Why be a mystery rather than letting your fans see your face or know who you are?

Najim: Well, there are a couple of answers for that. The first or the easiest answer will be that as a personality trait, I don’t like to be out there.  I like the background.  But as someone who creates and puts myself into my art, I obviously want attention for my work. So that is why there is a distinction between me and my art. So I have an alter ego because I am literally creating a separation.

“Accidental people champ” is another song on your recent album and it celebrates a lot of African literary heroes like Chinua Achebe. How did the whole song come about?

Najim: I am glad you asked that question. Because to be quite honest the idea for the song started from a simple question.

I listened to rap and hip hop like most people and alot of times it glorifies drug dealers and criminals.  I thought, as a representative of Nigeria, why don’t I make a song that glorifies some of our literary heroes.

So if you listen the first lines, I literally took that idea from Rick Ross’ song (B.M.F) that cited icon gangsters which inspired me to do the opposite.  I thought I’d glorify some of our national heroes.  If you pay attention to the lyrics, the song is filled with references to the works of all the names I mention. (Soyinka, Achebe, Saro-Wiwa, El-Rufia to name a few) 

There is a line in your song, “Accidental people Champ”, that resonates with the double standards we try to play as humans. To quote you exactly, it says “ Sieve out Deceivers Separate the Fakes”. How does that line speak to you as an individual?

Najim: It is pretty bare bones what I was saying. Let us get rid of all the people that are fake and the people that lie. So honestly, it was a line that just came to me. Sometimes I will think of a line and then I will fit it in a verse or somewhere or sometimes a song can start from a line. There is no real order to it. So that line just came to me. I was in a new situation, I didn’t know who was really my friend and who wasn’t and who was trying to support me or who was going to backstab me, so I am guessing that feeling that I was having at the time, is where that line came from. But in general it applies all the time, because you never know. I think it is a fair thing to say or wish for, to sieve out deceivers and separate the fake.

Do you have any secret that you want to share with your fans or readers?

Najim: I don’t really see myself as an extrovert. So as I say, I always watch people. That is what I do best. So all I can go with is my gut feeling. But then I also believe in judging people based of how they interact with me. So if people say someone is this way but they haven’t been that way with me, then I can’t judge them by that if that is not my experience with them.

Someone reading this feature might be a young aspiring artist wishing to be like you, what will be your message to them?

Najim: First off, you have to do it because you love it. Another thing will be to just do it, whatever it is, even if you are going to do it in a small scale. Like if you think you are trying to be the best singer in the world, then at least go out and sing at a bar or record yourself singing one song. You want to be a musician, just pick up an instrument. Just start from somewhere. But you also have to do it because you love it, not because of all the other reasons that people have been distracted by unfortunately.

Describe “MistryKidd” in three words

Najim: Mysterious. Alternative. Thinking.

How do you relax?

Najim: Usually by doing nothing.

Apart from making music and writing, what else do you enjoy doing?

Najim: Drawing. Just being creative in any kind of way. Any kind of creative expression is enjoyable to me.

What are you working on now?

Najim: A Comic book.  We hope to launch it in the first quarter.

What are you last inspiring words to our readers?

Najim: Don’t go in it for the money or the fame or attention. You have to do it because you love it, you can’t go in it for those other things.  That is the only way you are going to keep your sanity. 

Connect with MistryKidd on Facebook, Twitter, InstagramSoundcloud, Bandcamp, YouTube or Genius

Grace Kargobai is the Founder of Illuminating Ladies, a global network of Illuminessence ambassadors, facilitated on WhatsApp. She is a graduate of Njala University with a major in Environmental Management and Quality Control. Her hobbies are writing, talking, singing and dancing.

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