There has never been a singular path to success in the music industry. Getting one's music heard by a wide audience has always been a hustle, and one that by no means comes with any guarantees. In the wake of that uncertainty, when BABA NYZA's track "Rack Like Spice" amassed hundreds of thousands of streams on Spotify and Soundcloud, even he was surprised. We recently spoke to the Bangladeshi-Canadian vocalist who is now based in California about his unlikely path in music and how he single-handedly generated substantial buzz for his work.
From his early childhood, BABA NYZA, A.K.A. Arneeb Mahbub, was drawn to music from beyond his local community: "I am the quintessential third world kid. I grew up in Bangladesh, but even though people in my school were mainly listening to Bollywood music and rock, I had a particular love for artists like Ne-Yo, Alicia Keys, and Usher." In 2010 his family immigrated to Canada where he enrolled in the University of Toronto's business program and became enamored with the musical style of the city through artists like Drake. He states, "The sound of Drake's delivery made you want to delve into the lyrics and figure out where he was coming from… it egged me on to see if I could make music that was relatable." It was then that BABA NYZA was truly born. His subsequent single "Rack Like Spice" incorporates Toronto's signature dark vibes in its production, accessible lyrics like Drake's, and soaring vocals akin to fellow Torontonians The Weeknd and Tory Lanez.
While NYZA completed "Rack Like Spice" in 2017, he waited to release the sensual single until he had a cohesive marketing plan in place. "So many artists release material without knowing how to build a buzz, and then it just becomes irrelevant. I didn't want that for something I put so much sweat and blood into." As he began his master's degree at the University of California Irvine, he realized that he had an audience on campus that could help get the single off the ground. He started asking 5-10 people per day to follow him on Spotify or Soundcloud and even offered free chicken in return for online engagement. "I became the chicken guy at UCI. They made a meme about me giving out free Raising Cane's, but I can't complain because awareness for my music grew." By the time NYZA released "Rack Like Spice," he had a ready audience and the track took off. He began hearing people play the song in parking lots and in Uber rides without knowing that the artist was in their midst.
BABA NYZA's path in music has been anything but typical, and it's only just beginning. His falsetto vocal style from growing up mimicking Alicia Keys has led many listeners to be surprised of his ethnicity. Additionally, his business schooling gives him a unique look as an artist. "I definitely don't fit the image of a typical R&B artist. I'm usually in business suits and slacks in the studio and drop my vocals with my shirt tucked in." With his unique brand, BABA NYZA's story shows that with enough belief in one's self, will power, and a heavy dose of ingenuity, success is possible in the wildly unpredictable world of music.