Grand Opening, Grand Closing

Grand Opening, Grand Closing

“I had a whole different plan until COVID happened and I put everything else on pause,” RAIZA BIZA tells Apple Music. The Rwanda-born, New Zealand-based hip-hop artist planned on visiting Africa—for the first time since he was a child—to record a new album while immersing himself in the culture. But travel restrictions meant he had to put his plans on hold. Luckily, he had a plan B. “I never stop making music, even between projects,” he says. Grand Opening, Grand Closing explores, as he describes it, “the anatomy of a relationship that doesn’t have a happy ending.” It was written chronologically, throughout the course of a relationship he’d recently gone through; the title itself refers to that journey from honeymoon phase to eventual demise. But it’s not an exercise in naming and shaming (“It's important to note that this album is not directly literal,” he says); rather, it’s a documentation of his feelings and experiences, which is a new stylistic direction for the rapper. “My music is normally a lot more cerebral. I’m normally trying to paint a picture or create a certain mood. The process here was more like, ‘This is how I feel, so this is what I'm going to write about.’” It comes only eight months after his previous album, Bygones, and though his 2020 project didn’t unfold as planned, its replacement is more than worth it. “I was okay with sounding hurt, but I didn't want to sound bitter,” he says. “It was difficult to work those nuances out, but I wanted to be honest. I like the way it came out.” Below, RAIZA BIZA talks through each track on the album. November “I'm telling my friend about this girl I met. I'm saying, ‘I'm going to make her my girl, I like her.’ And he’s like, ‘Really? Again? Just be careful. Make sure you don't fall head over heels in love and then you have to call me in six months crying about it.’ So, basically I’m seeing the girl, I like her a lot, and I go tell the homies. They do what the homies do and they say, ‘Hey, relax, we here for you.’ That's what the hook is about: It's like, don't get lost in the sauce. Don't drown in the sauce.” Intentions “This is during that ‘having fun, getting to know each other’ phase. I didn't really know what my intentions were. I did know that I felt a lot for her, but I had the fear that if things go further, we’d lose what made it so beautiful in the beginning. In the track I say to her, ‘Don't fall in love with me. This is a vibe, but let's just keep it as a vibe.’ But I’m not really taking my own advice, so there are a lot of contradictions. The picture I was trying to paint is kind of like those videos where it's a collection of footage of good times and little moments that we shared together. I think my generation tends to use our vices to connect, whether it’s drinking together or smoking weed together or whatever the case may be. But it’s like there's a kind of poetry to two minds floating together, intertwining.” Tonight “At this point I'm head over heels in love. We both think we are the best thing that ever happened to each other. You can hear it in a lot of the lines: ‘You remind me of the African skies, clear water is reflecting from this passion of mine.’ I touched on our experiences as African kids who grew up in the Western world and that disconnect we have with home, how we have that in common. It's crazy, I still remember that day—he was in love, he really saw the world in her, he really saw everything in her. It’s just a moment of pure, unbridled love and admiration.” A Piano Song “We both got the best out of each other, but we also brought the worst out of each other. It was the type of relationship where we both liked to have fun, like, ‘Why don't we go to this festival, get some ecstasy, get a tent and lay under the stars.’ We shared that. Similar to ‘Intentions,’ it’s about a vibe, a certain mood—but this time, we belong to each other. Maybe one of the reasons why this relationship was doomed was because it felt like a party, as opposed to it being a partnership where we’re like, ‘What are we trying to achieve? What are we trying to do in life?’ On a deeper level, maybe we both knew it was not gonna be forever. It was just a matter of time before you have to face reality and say, ‘Okay, this is me without all of that, this is us without all of that. Do we still feel how we do?’” All Me “There was never any paranoia; she would never ask to look at my phone, my passwords, or anything like that. I wouldn't either. I really felt like we trusted each other. But then I was doing a lot of shows and spending a lot of time away, and I’d come back and she’d be paranoid, she’d look through my phone, and that really changed the balance of our relationship, because then we both started getting paranoid, like, ‘Why did you reply to that story on Instagram? Why are you replying to that girl?’ And once the first instance of distrust occurred, it just snowballed. It really showed the cracks in the relationship, because the foundation wasn’t there, we had never talked about that type of stuff. We just kept sweeping it under the carpet.” Save Me “I was really struggling to make this track where I just felt defeated and broken. I just couldn't paint that picture [over hip-hop beats]. Then my flatmate—who’s also a musician and executive produced this, since he was the only person I could be in the same room as during COVID—was just like, ‘Man, if you can't figure out a rap beat to do this on, don't use a rap beat. Go find some guitar shit, go find some different genre stuff. You’re not a rapper. Rap is simply one of your instruments. You’re a musician.’ That really stuck with me; it might've even changed who I am as an artist. As soon as he said that, I started flicking through some other sounds, and I heard those chords and wrote the track in 30 minutes. I drank a lot while I was writing it, and then I went to bed, I think it was about 4 pm. And when I woke up later that night, I didn't really want to listen to it, because it still felt really raw. But I did, and it was like, ‘Wow, that's how I feel inside right now.’ It was right there. This track is me drowning in my own thoughts. It was extremely cathartic to write.” Composure “This was the hardest track to make. I had to rewrite it four, five times. My first two or three times writing it, all the parts where I looked like I was complaining, or bitter—I kept changing parts to make them sound cooler, and make myself sound less hurt, but I felt like it defeated the purpose. Eventually it got to a point where I decided to just say exactly how I feel. Then I sent it to a few friends, a few of my female friends, to make sure that a) I wasn't being super toxic or anything like that, and b) that from the outside looking in, that I didn't seem any way that I wasn't happy-seeming. I was dealing with my pride and my ego. Trying to make sense of it. ‘How can I be this person that I think I am and be wrong about this? What else am I wrong about? Is it me?’ I still couldn't figure it out. I didn't really come up with anything but a whole bunch of questions. My manager was like, ‘Do you want to put all of this out into the world?’ But I said, ‘Look, I'm a musician at the end of the day, I'm an artist. It’s not pretty, but it's me. It's how I felt right then. If I don't put that out, then I'm doing myself a disservice and I'm doing my listeners a disservice.’” Missed Calls “This is a more literal song. After the demise of the relationship, I still had feelings for her. I still thought about her all the time, and I knew when I got booked for Melbourne shows, I was like, ‘Damn, that's her city, that's where she lives,’ and I was worried that I'd be weak and that she'd get in touch with me and then I would forget about all the shit I'd been saying and go and see her. But surprisingly, when it did happen and she did get in touch, I was able to stick to my guns. That made me stronger. I was a better person for it. The song is kind of just about me being real with myself, putting aside what I wanted, and saying, ‘We've been through stuff, and no, I'm not cool with what happened. I have pride in myself and how I feel, and if I indulge you, then that goes out of the window.’” Closure “I did that one three weeks after I finished the rest of the album because I felt like ‘Missed Calls’ didn't end it. I had been angry on the record already, I'd been disappointed, but I hadn't really been reflective. The track was really about looking back on the relationship. For me to say what I needed to say, but not from an angry or an emotional perspective. There’s a poem at the end: ‘Irony, I'm going to love you for the rest of my life. Irony, but you won't be around to know it.’ I realized though all this, the negative stuff, the positive stuff, the disappointment, everything, I still loved her. That doesn't mean that it's not over; it doesn't change how I feel. I wish her all the best.”

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