SXSW Introduces Us to Keelay & Zaire

SF hip hop goes center stage at SXSW

Meet bi-coastal hip-hop production duo Keelay & Zaire, also affectionately known as “Kee & Zee.”   Fresh off SXSW and having just released their first LP entitled, “Ridin High” in March, the San Francisco and Newport News, VA noisemakers took a moment to break down some basics.

First of all, both are retired DJ’s (just like Kid Cudi “retired” from rapping); in so many words, turntablism and record collecting paved both of their ways into beat making.  Zaire also got a little inspiration by talking shit and being dramatic in your favorite hip-hop forum.  He said it – I didn’t. 

Keelay & Zaire - "The Times"

But then Zaire got bored of being an internet thug and decided to dabble in some interweb stalking, where he took a liking to the dashing Keelay [translation: they met on a message board called on the nerd tip, both networking and posting beats up for feedback.]  And then Keelay was like, “alrrriiiight, dude” and went to visit Zaire on the east coast.  Rad.

About two years ago, they birthed their first child: “Ridin High.”  Precious.  Both describe their approach as making music they themselves would want to hear, as honest.  “It really ain’t that deep,” says Zaire, as he explains that he really just wants people to know that they have fun at what they’re doing, hoping the music is able to extend the same energy to others.  “I just want people to hear what we do and enjoy it; when you see us, we are always having a good time and that’s what I want folks who listen to our music to do as well,” added Keelay.

Sometimes Keelay sits in the corner and hates himself, though, mentioning he ends up nitpicking the music to the point he doesn’t like it anymore.  Way to go, emo-perfectionist-artist-party-pooper (while I, of lowly consciousness, rock the eff out to “Ridin High.”)

The duo pegs "Alright With Me" ft. Dminor and Phonte and "Cali 2 NY" ft. Hassaan Mackey, Cali Agents, and Slo Mo as their most defining tracks on the album.  Both tracks also happen to be their first two commercial releases.  The diversity of their influences is displayed with the more up-tempo, feel good R&B-esque "Alright With Me" on one end, and the rawer "Cali 2 NY" holding a more dark and gritty boom-bap on the other end.  “I think those tracks say that we’ll go from 0 to 60 at anytime without even blinking, from sampled based soul-clap music to crazy synths over boom-bap or break drums. We love it all,” rounds up Zaire.

Kee & Zee both see the compilation album (different artists over their production) as a great learning experience and first step, and see their next challenge as honing their creative talents by working with a single artist on their following project. 

The answer to defining their sound may be right in Keelay’s car shares Zee: Celine Dion posters reveal young Kee’s hidden obsession.  When questioned about the matter, Kee kept his game face while slurping his favorite breakfast (oatmeal with gummy bears, real talk), informing me he doesn’t care what other people think and that he’s got a 13-2 thumb wrestling score with Zee anyway.  He then stormed off in a huff.  *Shrugs*

Contact Us