Zakhar was born with a thirst to succeed. As a kid, he was infatuated with sport, travelling across London take part in sessions at Brentford Football Academy. Music turned his head as a teen, and he’s never looked back – blessed with a melodic, engaging flow and incredible personality, he could be the breakout UK rapper of the coming 12 months.
Debut EP ‘Scars On My Mind’ is out now, a broad selection that seems to tap into the influence of Skepta, say, but also Usher. A true all-rounder, he’s naturally pleased with the results; chatting to Clash after our photo shoot, he beams: “It’s an introduction to what I’ve got to offer”.
Brought up in a musical family, he developed an omnivorous creative appetite – following with reggae and 90s hip-hop at family parties, Zakhar and his mates would stream grime and drill mixtapes on their way to school. “I’m a music guy, so I like all sounds,” he says. “I like to have a few options!”
It all comes out in his songwriting. Taking the hunger he developed from sport into the booth, Zakhar linked with older, more experienced producers, his natural talents causing them to look once more at this teen rapper. “The more I started to do music, the more I realised how much I actually enjoyed it,” he says. “Football and music – they both have that competitive vibe!”
He’s worked with a variety of top producers, and was recently tapped up by J Hus studio comrade JAE5 – “that’s my guy!” Zakhar beams. “I want someone who isn’t going to tell me the same old answer. I’m at a young age, so I need to step back a bit, to gain some perspective.”
“If I’m in a happy mood, then I’ll try to keep that when I’m in the studio,” he adds. “I want to work with people who have the same energy, so we can carry that over.”
There’s a lot more to come. Blessed with natural charisma and boundless confidence, Zakhar is carving out his own lane, switching it up between sounds and genres in the process. Asked for a peer, he aims straight for the top. “Justin Bieber!” he exclaims. “I appreciate his versatility. I’ll sign off when I get that far!”
With a slew of releases planned for the coming year, it would be churlish to write off this cheeky North Londoner. “I believe in myself,” he says. “And I believe I’m always improving… and that, given time, I’m going to get there. I fully believe that I’m striving for greatness.”
WHAT: Melodic UK rap
WHERE: Highbury, North London
3 SONGS: ‘No Time’, ‘Tough Love’, ‘DND’
FACT: His favourite footballer as a kid was Brazilian great Ronaldinho.
Words: Robin Murray
Photography: Sophie Mayanne
Styling: Sabrina Soormally