LOS ANGELES, CA – Spending a day with NBA hall of famer Shaquille O’Neal can do all sorts of good for boosting a person’s self-confidence.
Derek Davis knows all about it. After spending years making music as a hobby, Davis was discovered by a talent scout for Shaq’s local indie record label, Deja 34 Records. He was asked to come to Chicago to perform for Shaq, and ended up spitting a couple of his songs for one of the premier personalities in the recording industry. And then, as if that weren’t enough, Shaq invited him to spend the day with him and join him at an NFL game.
The experience left an indelible mark on Davis, and he hasn’t looked back since. He adopted the stage name Ze Forte’ – a shortened version of his middle name, Alize’, and a word that symbolizes his own unique style and flow. And earlier this year Ze Forte’ released his debut album entitled “Upon My Arrival.” He describes it as a “much-needed return to what hip-hop is all about.”
“Ze Forte’ is the one to watch out for,” said Parrish Johnson, industry veteran and CEO of Indie1st. “He has the talent and drive to be the next Jay Z or Eminem.”
He’s come quite a long way from the days when he would visit his older cousin’s studio every day after school. Back then it was just a fascination with hip-hop that attracted his attention. And if it hadn’t been for his cousin’s encouragement to pursue music as a career, he may not be where he is today.
“When I got signed to Shaq’s label, that’s when I knew I actually had something,” he said of his big break. “Before that I had seen that I had something, but I wasn’t working as hard at it. When I saw somebody see me who told me I could do it, I knew it was serious now and that I had to buckle down. I’m playing with the big dogs now … literally.”
“Upon My Arrival” is an album that Ze Forte’ said describes where he came from as an artist while also announcing to the world his plans for what’s still to come. He created the artwork for the cover of the album himself – a picture of him standing in front of a collage of well-known rappers from the past – as a way to signify that he knows what it took for all of them to get to where they were successful, and now it’s his time to shine.
That hard work starts every morning, as soon as he wakes up. He has a daily regimen that begins with turning the music up loud and throwing on some beats as soon as he gets up. He gets started right away, so that when he eventually gets to the studio he already has the first verse locked in his head.
“I try to make music that reflects my struggles and dreams,” he said. “It’s edgy, because I’m a bit edgy. But if you love hip-hop – the clever lyrics and hard-hitting beats – then you will definitely enjoy the album. The music is powerful, smooth, memorable and irresistible. It’s a perfect reflection of me.”
Ze Forte’ said he’s riding the momentum and success of his first album into the creation of a new mixtape that he’s calling “Flu Gang 2.” It’s set to come out before the end of August, and he’s excited to share it with the world as he continues going on radio tours from state to state to promote his first album.
To listen to Ze Forte’s music, or to follow him on social media, please visit the following links: