Bathed in the glow of Stockholm’s midnight sun, Zikai weaves her own unique brand of sonic tapestry. As a Swedish Grammy winner for Soul/R&B in 2021, she continues to traverse musical landscapes, delivering her latest single “Rush Hour,” a mellow, up-tempo track interlaced with the infectious energy of an eternal party. It’s not just about the euphoria, though. Beneath the shimmering surface lies a depth and introspection, the desire to escape the reality that resonates in the quiet moments between dusk and dawn.
Zikai is a master of the personal, her lyrics revealing introspective moments that mirror her life experiences. In “Rush Hour,” she recreates the unique experience of an afterparty that lingers on into the morning rush hour, a testament to her ability to transform seemingly ordinary moments into immersive sonic stories. The track, written in collaboration with renowned Swedish songwriters Erik and Simon Hassle, who has penned for artists like Rihanna and Ellie Goulding, dances on the edge of multiple genres, effortlessly fusing R&B and pop with an overlay of soul and captured in the enchanting timbre of her voice.
Building on the success of the lusciously melodic “Super 8” released last month, Zikai continues to carve out her own niche in the music industry. The distinct blend of her music, the rhythm and blues roots with a pop twist, is a testament to her unique artistry. As the anticipation grows for her forthcoming EP, one can’t help but speculate what new explorations she’ll invite us on.
Ahead, we got to chat with Zikai about “Rush Hour” and her style, among other topics. From discussing her Swedish roots to her ever-evolving sound, it’s a deep dive into her creative journey, behind-the-scenes of her latest releases, and a sneak peek into her forthcoming EP.
I know you were raised in Sweden with influences from across the world, but how did you get into music in the first place?
I got my older brother’s keyboard when I was a pre-teen, and from then on, I started writing my own songs. I guess I always knew I wanted to sing and write, so I applied to a music high school. A classmate introduced me to the producer Mack Beats, and I started to spend more and more time in the studio. It became like a safe space and it still is to this day.
You released “Rush Hour” recently. How’s the reception been? How do you feel now it’s out?
I’ve gotten a lot of love and I’m so grateful for it. These last two releases are like the start of a new chapter, so I’ve been pretty nervous. But it feels so good. “Rush Hour” is one of my favorite songs I’ve done, so I’m very proud it’s out. I made it with Erik Hassle and Simon Hassle last summer at Simon’s summer house. We had a lot of fun making it and that’s something I hope you can hear through the music.
And how did the visuals come about?
I collaborated with my dear talented friends Robin Smedman and Elle Johnson. We filmed it during a freezing cold night in Joshua Tree. “Rush Hour” is about living too fast and too destructive at times, partying til the night becomes day, and postponing fixing problems til later — that’s the feel we wanted to capture.
This record, along with “Super 8,” serve as a bit of a teaser for your forthcoming EP. Both creatively and sonically, how do these two songs fit into the fold?
I would say that both songs have a soulful feel. “Super 8” is very dreamy and light, “Rush Hour” is darker but more uptempo. I feel like they’re more like cousins rather than siblings if that makes any sense.
Going back to Sweden, is there a large fashion and design scene out there?
Yes, definitely, Sweden has some really dope fashion. I’m super into Swedish designer Jade Cropper. I think her pieces are so timeless and beautiful. I’m also into STHLM MISC, a Swedish brand for the miscellaneous, as they describe themselves. Right now, I’m collaborating with designer and stylist Wasima Ayad, who has her own vintage showroom and store called Dar Warda. I’m really inspired by her and her vision.
Do you have any particular eras or people who you would say have massively influenced your style?
I’ve always been a mega Cher fan. Lately, I’ve been channeling my female energy, so Cher is basically covering my Pinterest page. I’m super into exploring atm and challenging myself since that’s what I’m doing with my music right now. Collaborating with Wasima has also helped me trust my own intuition and style in fashion.
How did your relationship with fashion differ prior to becoming an artist versus now?
Prior to dropping music, I was basically in the studio or at my house all the time so it’s a big difference now that I perform and get to explore fashion for shows. My fashion sense has become bigger and especially since being around so many other creatives. I love dressing up for shows and being a performing artist has definitely made me intertwine fashion in my art.
What would you say would be your go-to outfit for both a relaxed, chilled day at home or the studio, and a high fashion event?
High black boots with low or no heels, shorts, tube top, and Maria Nilsdotter jewelry. And some cute nails. And I would wear my hair up. Never forget the hair.
Are there any bold fashion trends that you would love to experiment with that you haven’t done so yet?
I wouldn’t call it a fashion trend, but as a black girl I used to do a lot of protective hairstyles such as box braids, etcetera. I’ve been super into locs lately. Maybe this year y’all catch me looking like Halle Bailey in the mermaid movie.
Finally, what can we expect next from Zikai — musically, visually, what’s on the horizon?
I’m releasing my third single from the EP in August. It’s a melancholic song about the past, or more specifically it’s about a particular year that I think a lot of people in my generation reminisce about. In the fall, I’ll release my EP, and I’ve been collaborating with Elle and Robin on some of the EP songs as well. I would say the sound is generally leaning toward the soulful “Super 8” vibe. I’m so excited for y’all to hear it!