At 24 years old, rapper Zay Hardy, aka Isaiah Hardy, has been performing for audiences most of his life. The Denver native credits his father for putting him on the musical path.
"My dad really liked music, and when I was younger, I used to do talent shows in elementary school," Hardy says. "My dad used to always like the Temptations, so we used to always sing and pretend to be them. It's always been a part of me."
Though in his youth he was usually stuck singing background for his older brother, Hardy knew early on that he was meant to take center stage. He carried a composition notebook everywhere he went. At age sixteen, he recorded his first song on his Mac, with the help of a few friends.
Inspired by iconic pop artists like Michael Jackson, as well as contemporary hip-hop greats like Lil Wayne, Hardy continued to write and record music.
When asked to describe his sound, Hardy says, "I would say that it's chill, lyrical, something that if you like to listen to what's actually being said, you'll find more meaning. If I had to compare the vibe of it, a lot of people say it sounds like Wiz Khalifa's sound, but with a Kid Cudi flow."
Hardy enunciates his poetic lyrics, making them the focus of his music, without sacrificing killer beats and catchy hooks. His latest drop, a five-track EP titled SVO 2, was released on September 3, a followup to his EP SVO, released three years ago. Hardy estimates that this is his fifth or sixth EP, but between different streaming platforms and all of the singles he's released, it's hard for him to keep track.
The new album reflects on how far he's come since that first single at sixteen, and includes musings on fame, fortune, ambition and success.
"SVO" stands for September's Very Own, a nod to Hardy's September birthday and Virgo astrological sign (the symbol for which marks the album cover).
"I would say this is one of my best projects so far, just because I really feel like it's everything that I've learned up until this point, all put together in one," he says. "And it wasn't rushed. I took my time with it. I'm happy with the result."
SVO 2 is available for purchase on iTunes and streaming on Soundcloud now. Hardy performs at Quixote's True Blue at 6:30 p.m. on Sunday, September 29. Tickets are $15 for the 18+ event.