Childhood influences can set the course for your entire life. Watching his brother and cousin rap around him, a then 8-year-old Lil Zay Osama tried it out for himself and began to love it. As the Chicago native got older, he unfortunately got tied up in the streets, serving three years in jail for gun charges, robbery charges and possession of a stolen car. He came home in 2017 with a music-focused outlook. The following year, he dropped "Changed Up," an honest ode to not feeling supported when you need it. The Auto-Tuned track's vulnerable street tales resounded with a lot of people. The video is at 22 million views and counting, with follow-ups like "Survive" and "Treacherous" making plenty of noise.

Get to know Lil Zay Osama in this week's edition of XXL's The Break.

Age: 21

Hometown: Chicago

I grew up listening to: "Lil Wayne stuck out the most to me, especially how unique his voice was. I'm from the streets, so 50 [Cent] stuck out to me a lot, too. Now, I'd say Young Thug and Lil Durk."

My style’s been compared to: "I get compared to Lil Durk a lot. We got that same style. That same Auto-Tune flow. Man, I fuck with Durk, so it be like a compliment to me."

My standout records to date have been: "'Changed Up.' That's the first biggest record. My second biggest record is 'Survive.' Those two are doing so well because the way I made the song, the melody. 'Survive,' it ain't no sad song beat. It got a lot of bass in it. You can dance off it. You can reminisce off it. It's loud singing. And it's touching."

My most slept-on song: "'Together.' That's supposed to been at 1,000,000 [views], because I'm talking about bringing things together. I'm talking about things in my area, but I'm also talking about the whole Chicago. Bring it together. I feel like that's a slept-on song right there; maybe just because it ain't that turned up, hype type song that makes people dance and things of that nature. I really feel like it's a touching song."

My standout moments to date have been: "I have biggest moments every day in Chicago because I come from being this regular dude. I'm going places I used to run up on bitches I couldn't even get. Now when I go places, people running up to me hugging me. I got people crying. That's how I know my music be really touching people."

Most people don’t know: "A lot of people think I'm this person that just be on bullshit all the time. Just sewn to the streets and can't get out and always doing bad things, dissing this person and that person. Now I'm grown, it's a whole different Lil Zay. I'm more mature. I don't be on no hot stuff no more how I used to be, like, robbing, stealing, gang banging, all that shit. I got a bag. I got kids. I'm comfortable. I'm focused on music, my career."

I’m going to blow up because: "People wanna know like what's going on with my life story, with my lifestyle, how I live. Everything that I talk about in my music, it be stories. So people be wanting to know, how this happen? Plus, I got the talent. I can do pop, hip-hop, R&B, jazz. Whatever genre you want me to be in, I can go there."

I’m going to be the next: "I'm gon' be the next big star. I'm gon' be big bro, like in every lane. I'm gon' be real big. I'ma stay consistent. And I'ma stay working."

Follow Lil Zay Osama on Instagram and SoundCloud.


"Changed Up"



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