The Dutch artist, rapper, singer and songwriter releases his latest EP along with his collaborative artistic project.
Since his latest offering “Dave Budha” came crashing onto last weeks Wonderlist, we have been impatiently waiting for the release of Cero Ismael’s promised EP. Thankfully, our anticipation can be put at ease, because “As Much As You Did Before” has officially reached its premiere: and it packs the same alluring introspection employed by its leading singles. While unpacking his own psyche within his soundscape, Cero leans into themes of love, self-acceptance and mental health — weaving heartfelt-melodies into soulful production.
While the EP is home to some of Cero’s most notable works including “Plans For Us”, “Publik” and “If It Ends”, the multifaceted talent turned to the Amsterdan-based visual artist Olya Oleinic to challenge and innovate his creative process further. Transforming his melodies into visual concepts, Cero embraced every crevice of his artistic abilities to flesh his EP out to its fullest. On the project, Cero says, “Collaborating with Olya has been a beautiful process. She challenged me to come out of my comfort zone and give my art a new depth. We collaborated with four different artists from all over the world. My little brother Nathan, Olya and I did the artwork for ‘PUBLIK’. ‘IF IT ENDS’ with Daddy Hands, ‘PLANS FOR US’ with Vinna Begin and ‘DAVE BUDHA’ with Hilda Kortei. We wanted to collaborate with artists that tell a personal story through their art. Olya her work and mine are also both personal, so we wanted it all to match.”
With a debut EP now under his belt, Cero looks towards his debut EU Tour commencing in spring, which will cover the likes of Amsterdam, Antwerp, London and Berlin. To celebrate the his recent successes, we spoke with the artist about his new projects, and his therapeutic outlook on his craft.
To stream the EP, view tour dates and to read the interview, head below…
Do you remember at what age you were first interested in music?
My interest in music started at quite a young age. I grew up in a very musical household. My father used to make music and my grandmother was a gospel singer.
Was singing and writing lyrics naturally easy for you growing up or did you teach yourself these skills?
I started off with writing raps at the age of 11. My dad helped me with my first verse and after that I practiced a lot by myself. Singing came quite late. It was something that I was doing for fun at first, but around 2017 I started recording songs where I was singing. My talented friend and fellow artist, Russo helped me with that.
What is the story behind your initial experience of creating music as your outlet of self-expression?
While growing up I was never taught how to express feelings. Especially when it came to internal problems, no one taught me how to deal or cope with those kinds of things. So when I started with writing, it felt like a healing and understanding process for myself. The more I focused on writing songs from the heart, the more and more I understood myself.
Did your experience of growing up within the Dutch, Indonesian and Surinamese cultures influence the music that you create? Is there any one of these cultures in particular that inspired your unique sound?
I would say that all three cultures have music that comes from the heart. It is beautiful and honest. I try to create out of my most purest state of mind.
Would you say that over the years your style of music has changed in comparison to when you first entered the music industry?
For sure. I challenge myself every time I go to the studio. My taste in music and art constantly changes, so the music changes with me. I do not see any point of creating something that I have created before.
Onto your new amazing project “AS MUCH AS YOU DID BEFORE”. What was involved in the creation process of this project?
I was going through a dark period while creating this project, but writing gave me a lot of strength. I started working on it two years ago and the process has been beautiful. The whole project is produced by Jopie & RIjnbaart who also produced Blue Man.
In your singles, you explore the intricacies of the human mind and soul specifically in relation to feeling mentally trapped, what piece of advice would you give to your fans who are going through a moment of self-deprecation?
There always is light at the end of the tunnel. Every person’s situation is different, but that is one thing I can say for sure. Speaking about the difficulties you are dealing with always helps. You are not alone.
Your music is so captivating and personal, is there any particular message you are trying to give to your fans?
I hope it encourages people to be honest with their feelings and to their surroundings. Talk about your mental health. Talk about being suicidal, all of those things are ok and human. Especially as a black man, I would like to tell people that they should talk about these topics.
You executed a magnificent collaboration with Raven Artson on your single ‘IF IT ENDS’, how was this experience?
Collaborating with Raven was amazing. I have been a big fan of his work for some time. We had worked on a bunch of music for a couple weeks. We had one hour left in the studio and I was actually pretty done for the day but Raven was telling me we should try to make one more song, that is when IF IT ENDS was created. Raven inspires me and it is a blessing to be able to work with him.
Is there any artist, in particular, you look forward to collaborating with in the future?
I would like to collaborate with LUCKI.
What are you most excited and potentially nervous about for your debut EU tour this April in Amsterdam, Antwerp, London and Berlin?
I am excited to see and meet all of these new faces. I can not wait to perform all of the music.
In the list of cities you will be touring, this April, is there one city you are excited to perform in, in particular?
I am super excited for all cities.
Where are your favourite venues to perform? And is there any specific venue you aspire to perform in one day?
I love Paradiso and Melkweg here in Amsterdam. I do not have one specific venue, but I would love to see the world.
What should we be expecting from you next?
I am working on two projects at the moment. One for the end of the summer and the other somewhere at the end of the year. Super excited to share both.