It was hard to get a read on Tzusan.
“Is Pear Grove a real place?” I asked in reference to the name of one of his tracks.
“No.” He responded.
Okay, moving on. “What about that weird walrus looking thing on the album ar-“
“Yes! I love that weird walrus looking thing” he excitedly interjects, before diving into an extended diatribe about early colonisers’ impressions of exotic animals.
Fresh off his latest release WSPSNSYRP, Edinburgh-raised and Brighton-based artist Tzusan is currently touring the project across the UK. Softly-spoken yet deeply impactful, it is as compelling and dynamic as he is. Yet, for all its merits, Tzusan seems far more keen to talk about the colour of penguin eggs than his own music.
“What’s for dinner tonight?”
“I’ll see if I can forage some sweet seagull chicks on the way home”
When asked about the album’s title, Tzusan responded “If you were a wasp, that’d be the way to go, right? Drowning in syrup”. His lyrics are steeped in hedonistic indulgence, a kaleidoscope of nouns and revolving rhyme schemes referencing rare ingredients and tranqued-out equilibrium. If the CMPND boys are peddling illicit deludamol and the 616 Cult are dripping in sweg, then Tzusan must be dosing on some psychedelic Himalayan honey.
That honey appears to be potent too, given the dense creativity that permeates every corner of the WSPSNSYRP universe. From producing its full fourteen tracks to directing and starring in each of its four enigmatic music videos, this is clearly a very personal project. Throughout, it feels as if Tzusan is gesturing at something bigger, an abstract feeling bordering on synaesthesia- something “kumquat textured”, “preserved and kept in treacle”, as elusive as the “wind’s second-name” and shrouded in “blue clouds over Kowloon”.
“So, Tzusan, the name’s a play on Sun Tzu, right?”
“No, Lao Tzu, actually”
Right, my mistake. I gave him my copy of the Art of War anyway.
It came as no surprise that Tzusan was an avid reader, given his penchants for obscure references and cryptic wordplay. He eagerly told me about his latest read Amelia Horgan’s ‘Lost In Work’, a post-Covid exploration of the modern concept of ‘work’, and how it led him to grapple with his own labours in music-making. As the interview collapsed into one outlandish tangent after another, it became increasingly hard to distinguish reality from fiction. When asked about his frequent link-ups with Brighton-rap crew CMPND, Tzusan responded:
“It’s like the Lord of the Rings, when Gandalf whispers into a butterfly and the eagles come to rescue him. It was like that”
Ok, I think I’m following. “Were you Gandalf or Radaghast then?”
“No. I was the butterfly.”
It is fitting then, that WSPSNSYRP also hosts a track titled ‘Strange Fiction’, featuring one of Scotland’s most notorious rappers Shogun. Containing the line “shit’s pure Twilight Zone looking in from beyond the penumbra”, ‘Strange Fiction’ seems to express an outsider’s mentality reminiscent of his views on the Scottish rap scene as a whole. Despite hosting a wealth of talent, Scotland has failed to produce any nationally-recognisable names in the same way that other regions of the UK have. “I’ve seen it gradually creeping up the country” he says, with the Scouse rap scene recently hitting the spotlight in artists such as Hazey and the Blah crew, but saw the Scottish cluster as being held back by Scotsmen’s reluctance to support local artists. In an attempt to refute this, Tzusan launched into a torrent of Scottish artists I should check out- twenty-three to be exact. “Maybe in an independent Scotland people would be more willing to listen to their own music”, he sighs.
Regardless, Tzusan has enjoyed critical acclaim for this latest release, being nominated for Best Hip Hop Act at the Scottish Alternative Music Awards and booking tour dates spanning Exeter to Edinburgh. It’s well-deserved too, with the murky and mysterious project transforming into an energy-filled behemoth in its live iteration, complete with guest appearances from a swarm of rappers and a live rendition of the saxophone melody on ‘Pink Moscato’ (or what Tzusan referred to as “toots and squanks”).
Tzusan’s WSPSNSYRP is a masterclass in entomological etymology. Cop a dose of his signature psychedelic syrup, in all its various forms, here.