Story by Elisa Garcia
Photos by Jan Ross Piedad
Not every up-and-coming rapper gets the chance to perform at Houston’s Warehouse Live, let alone open up for American rapper Chris Webby. But that chance became a reality for 17-year-old Charles Chaiemezuo O’Kehie, also known by his stage name Mezuo.
Nearly five years after his debut performance, Mezuo, now 21, finds himself balancing life between being a full-time student at The University of Texas at Austin and a performer. Since his first real exposure at Warehouse Live, he has self-produced six albums and is currently working on his newest album, titled “Meztakes,” with hopes of releasing it later this year.
With each album dropped, Mezuo’s goal and focus as a musician changed. He decided to stop producing music as “some random kid” and to make music his career. Along the way, he has gained recognition both in the Austin music scene and his hometown of Houston.
Originally, Mezuo had plans to become a lawyer, but his older siblings introduced him to the world of hip-hop with American rappers like Ludacris and Lil Wayne. They inspired him to turn his thoughts into words.
Mezuo has branded himself as a rapper who talks about both personal and social issues. “I want to influence thought and put an idea in your head and say that anything in this world is applicable to both you and me,” he says. He adds that the death of his mother this past summer is a primary influence on his writing style. “She encouraged me to use music as a means to tell my story and basically make a better world for myself and the people around me,” he says.
The message of trying to make a better world will be prominent on Mezuo’s upcoming album, which features tracks based on his personal experience and current social issues that he says “affect higher institutions, people and communities.” Social issues like the Trayvon Martin, Mike Brown and Eric Garner trial verdicts have inspired “I Couldn’t Get Away From,” a new single that Mezuo says portrays how certain situation that affect minorities are ignored by America’s “one percent.”
Mezuo says he is rapping from a different place on his upcoming albums and hopes he can connect with the audience. He also aims to bring attention to the local hip-hop scene and show others it is worth showcasing. “I sometimes wish I could have come into an established hip-hop scene,” he says. “But at the same time, it’s cool knowing that if I stay on this track and get to where I want to be, I get a chance to be a part of the establishment of that core hip-hop realm.”
Whether or not Mezuo becomes a founder of the scene, he ultimately wants listeners to realize life doesn’t always play out how we want it to. Lately, the 21-year-old has been focusing not only on producing new content, but on the visual and presentation side to the industry. “You have to have some sort of an image that people can tie on to, and really put yourself out there,” he says.
Mezuo admits he is still improving every day and continues to move forward for the love of artistic expression. “When I’m on that stage performing, it’s a different feeling,” he says. “I’m in a different place — it’s something I can’t get in the classroom, it’s not even something I can get from daily conversations. It just puts me at this point where I’m just like, ‘Hey, all ears and eyes are on you, so say something that’s gonna count.’”
You can catch Mezuo’s influential tracks at his performance on April 9 at Spiderhouse Ballroom. He will also hit the stage at San Antonio’s Josabi’s Live Music Bar on April 11. And if you’re in the mood for some humor, tune in to see Mezuo perform on Longhorn LateNight every Tuesday night. Follow him on Twitter @mezuomusic.