While HBK Gang‘s Azure may be best recognized as Iamsu!‘s tour DJ, he’s been branching out over the past year providing raps and production as one-third of Oakland trio Down 2 Earth, whose Wildfire mixtape released earlier year with features from Kehlani, Jay Ant, and Tajai of Souls of Mischief. Azure is also kicking off the campaign for his forthcoming debut solo album, Leap Year, with the release of his first video single, “Nine Nine.” The visual, directed by David Camarena, premiered via Okayplayer, who said “Azure’s rhyme work here is strong, but with a definitively laid-back air…expect the track to feature prominently in your favorite DJ’s next big set.”
Neon lights flash through San Francisco backdrops as Azure invades back alleys and stairwells, delivering fluent rhymes with a “99 flow.” “My pen got so much ink / I could probably do like a whole sleeve,” Azure raps above the smooth beat produced by Iamsu!. “Nine Nine” comes as the first release off the Oakland MC’s debut solo album that has been in the works for two years. “The word ‘single’ has a stigma about it…like it’s supposed to be the most marketable or catchiest,” Azure said. “For me, this is just the first piece of the story I’m revealing.”
“Rapping was the artform that touched me first. As a kid I would recite Eminem and Ludacris lyrics in my mom’s room where there was a big mirror. I never thought I would actually start rapping.. I was an art kid, painting and drawing was more my wave growing up. But recording at a home studio for the first time as a teenager really drew me in and I began to find myself in a notebook more often than a sketchbook. I think my soul or spirit was beginning to reveal its true quest to me.” Stay tuned for Azure’s solo project, Leap Year, slated to release this summer.