Font Size

“He who without the Muse’s madness in his soul comes knocking at the door of poesy and thinks that art will make him anything fit to be called a poet, finds that the poetry which he indites in his sober senses is beaten hollow by the poetry of madmen.”-Plato.

“The function of the artist is to disturb. His duty is to arouse the sleeper, to shake the complacent pillars of the world. He reminds the world of its dark ancestry, and shows the world its present and points the way to its new birth. He is at once the product and preceptor of
his times.”-Norman Bethune.

 

https://web.archive.org/web/20230210215325/https://www.forbes.com/sites/rileyvansteward/2022/02/03/wizthemcs-built-success-brick-by-brick-with-constant-content-and-community/

 

Born in Cape Town, past miles of townships of shacks, WizTheMc, born Sanele Sydow, is a citizen of the world. He immigrated to Germany with his mom when he was two.

As a young man, his mind set on making English music for a global audience, and that purpose brought him to Canada, the land of northern opportunity.

“I try to take my emotions of my music out of [the business],” Wiz told me. He’s in the throes of the heavy release schedule surrounding his second EP, Where Silence Feels Good.

You have your entire life to write your first EP. You only have since your first to write your second. To make matters worse, the pressures of the music industry compound after success, especially early success.

And Wiz is successful. He’s pushing 1.5 million monthly fans on Spotify. His song, For A Minute, has been streamed more than 86 million times.

“At the end of the day I’m a commodity in the industry,” Wiz said slowly and deliberately, careful with his words. “By being signed to a label, without that being positive or negative, you are a part of a system, an ecosystem that benefits me as a person, as an artist. But also has its strength as a company.”

On one of his first walks through Toronto after immigrating to Canada, somewhere between Little Italy and Kensington Market, Wiz passed an eclectic house of notable size and color. And on its steps was a quote, attributed to Aldous Huxley, the science fiction writer.

 

I want god, I want poetry

I want danger, I want freedom

I want goodness, I want sin

A week later when Wiz walked by again, the homeowner, Reg, was sitting outside. And the two started talking.

Reg, more than 40 years the boy’s senior, invited the stranger to sit with him. And on the short side of six minutes, he offered Wiz a room in his house, an arts community where he said Wiz could play shows out of the small theatre downstairs.

Reg showcases old movies and lets the half dozen artists living with him at any given time perform. He isn’t opposed to the greater arts community of Toronto using the space either. But they rarely come.

“I took the advice of every parent everywhere: Don’t move into a 65-year-old guys house after moving to a new country,” Wiz said, laughing. He rejected Reg’s offer.

But “the universe, the good, Karma, God” had other plans.

Later that week, the landlord Wiz was staying with at the time booted him onto streets with no warning. Wiz was homeless in a foreign land with only three people in Toronto he could reach out to.

With nowhere to stay, he dialed his first contact. No answer. He dialed his second. Also no answer.

His third and final hope was Reg’s business card, which Wiz had taken earlier. Wiz wrote something of appropriate and proper length asking if he could still come to live at the arts commune theatre.

And Reg replied with, “one word: sure. Literally sure,” Wiz laughed again telling it.

There were five other artists, a stage designer, a poet, a guitar player, a playwright, and a painter, and five cats and Reg sharing the house.

Every morning at 6 or 7 a.m., Wiz would put posters up in the city promoting his Friday night performance at the theatre. Spring, summer, and fall didn’t test his resolve. Winter in Toronto did. But Wiz kept postering his shows. More often than not, no one would show up.

“Brick for brick. You build a wall brick from brick,” Reg would tell the disappointed Wiz as the theatre was transformed into the next show, a poetry reading or a screening of Nosferatu set to U2’s Joshua Tree.

Reg was known for his experimental showings. In the darker days, Wiz felt like one of those experiments.

“The days where no one came. They were almost more meaningful for me to sit out there,” Wiz said to me.

He would sit for an hour or two, and if someone saw a poster on a nearby block and had a beer in their hand, maybe they’d stumble through to pay the few bucks to hear him perform. And if they did, Sanele would give them a full show. Brick for brick.

On a “tiny a** table that was on the verge of breaking apart” lit by a cheap lamp in his $300 room, Wiz read Mastery by Robert Greene at night.

And when he was finished, inspired, he put even more into learning to make beats each day, passing out posters in the morning and performing to the rare crowds of one, a beer in their hand.

“[Greene’s book] gave me this, woah all these people did it. It’s so possible. It’s so possible. And ever since then I never doubted myself. That planted a huge seed, where the trees or the plans of the garden are slowly manifesting. I never doubted greatness or mastery since then. It’s a continuous journey,” Wiz said. It’s his favorite book.

“Toronto’s where I found God. I was completely lost,” Wiz shared with me. “I loved music, and this was all I was doing. And God kept giving me opportunities and people that supported me and gave me hope.”

Wiz’s entrepreneurial spirit carried him well. After making music for about five years, Wiz had gotten on top of creating a constant churn of content, “before content was a thing.”

Instead of Friday concerts, Wiz was putting together a new song each week for release over Instagram on Sundays.

Jacob Walker direct messaged him around this time and started popping up “all over the place.” When Wiz won a rap contest to perform at a German Festival, guess who was working the fry stand.

The two still disagree over whether it was a coincidence or if Jacob was hustling to show Wiz his commitment. A few “pivotal moments” later and Jacob took on the responsibility of being Wiz’s manager.

Wiz says it was, “how God wanted it. A couple months later, the first Spotify placement came in. And it was on my flight from Germany back to Toronto, and it was overnight. It was literally overnight the song had like 100,000 plays. After three days it had 300,000. I was like what the f***. We were over the moon.” More of Wiz’s music started getting radio and playlist plays. His songs started appearing on Spotify’s popular “New Music Fridays” playlist.

“Four months later, every label had hit me up,” Wiz quipped. “It was God’s timing. [Jacob] was pivotal in all those stages… I’m very sensitive and emotional, and he understands that and knows how to get to me, talk to me.”

Your manager’s the sort of thing that makes or breaks your career. For Wiz, with people like Jacob around, he doesn’t have to worry as much. Arts, even in business, is intimate and if you’re privileged enough to trust the right people, you can safely focus on the music.

Wiz is a business now. For A Minute is pushing 90 million streams, and his label’s ready to invest in his future. He spent six months in six different homes throughout California making this next EP on his label’s dime. And to karmically or practically pay for it, he has five bags of clothes still at a friend’s house and parts of his life left all over the Golden State.

Though America gave many gifts to Wiz too. Outside of rehearsal, Wiz’s had the chance to meet people like Billie Eilish. And he ran into 070 Shake, a musical titan-genius, three times on the streets of LA.

Like any hustler with a dream given repeated exposure to a high-value potential collaborator, Wiz shot his shot. He was hoping to get a verse from Shake onto Where Silence Feels Good. But she wasn’t giving him a straight answer for a minute.

In what Wiz describes as some of the best advice he’s received, especially in the industry, 070 Shake declined.

“Yo man,” 070 Shake said. “Don’t wait on anybody. I’m working on my album right now. I’m really busy. I believe in you.” Wiz doesn’t wait any more.

“I am making sure to do all I can do, on the creative side, on the Tik Tok, internet side. I’ve been very absent and ignorant, y’know the type of feeling too cool last year. But this year, I am not a little bit cool. I’m not going to be cool just this year. I’m just going to be good,” Wiz told me.

As an artist, Wiz has a responsibility from a marketing perspective to create a sense of community amongst his fans. And he’s using the lessons of constant content and hard work he learned in Toronto to propel himself ever forward even as he sees early success. Wiz hosts listening parties, answers questions, dances and makes jokes for his Instagram, Tik Tok, and a dedicated Discord channel for his fans.

Looking forward, Wiz starts an online course on NFTs next week after the EP drops. “It’s going to be everything,” he said. “Concert tickets are going to be an NFT plus royalties plus merch. I don’t know exactly how I’m going to play a part in it, but I’m going to play a part in the same way I play a part in Tik Tok now.”

Where Silence Feels Good streams everywhere music is peddled on February 4, marking the next brick.

Follow me on Twitter or LinkedIn. Check out my website.

 

Riley Van Steward

 

« »