Community over everything. New Jersey rapper HANZ, 27, understands this sentiment well. On June 5, the artist released his PRAYLUDE mixtape, with all profit from the album going to Jannah on Grafton, “an initiative to build a stronger, sustainable, and more self-reliant lower Grafton Avenue community through vacant lot activation.”
On Twitter, HANZ explained how this initiative is critical to end the food disparity gap in North Newark. At a time where COVID-19 is disproportionately ravaging Black communities, and uprisings against police brutality have rightfully consumed the nation, HANZ’ efforts are critical and worthy of celebration.
“I was born in Newark, but when I was three, my parents, who are both from Haiti—they moved here in ‘92,” HANZ tells me over the phone. The day before, he was protesting in Hoboken. “They moved here into a two-family home with my aunt and uncle and their kids. We were all packed up in one house. When I was three, they moved me to this little town in Parsippany, NJ.”
To know HANZ is to see an artist with a lion’s heart and passion for all mediums of work. “I was getting into writing poetry, which is how I started getting my writing style,” he details. “I didn’t start writing in rap formats until midway through high school. In college, I met my friend Flaire, who produces most of our collective [BLDY RXSE] work and the majority of my music. We both knew music was something we always ended up going back to—this is the thing our hearts are telling us to do. We started building our collective, BLDY RXSE. It’s a group where everyone comes from different mediums of art.”
Though BLDY RXSE features everyone from rappers and designers to woodworkers, HANZ assures me the collective goal—and his main goal as an artist—is to produce work bigger than himself. “Once you find your purpose to be something beyond yourself and to provide for the other families…” HANZ muses. “That really enhances your presence within what we’re here to do.”
HANZ and I spoke about giving back and community, a fruitful conversation from which you can find key takeaways below.