ATL Untrapped: The road to ‘RESET’

After a long drive, Zaia returns with a brilliant visual EP

Music Untrapped1 1 12
Photo credit: Jarel Walker
ONE STEP CLOSER: Zaia joins the legendary Arista Records.

Zaia doesn’t remember which day he inked a deal with Arista Records. Arguably the most significant milestone of his career so far, he fumbles the exact date but is certain that it happened sometime in April. The genre-fluid local relishes his recent accomplishments, but the music has always been his primary focus.

Born Isaiah Eastman, Zaia burst onto the scene at the top of 2018 with the support of Atlanta-based creative agency Not Fit For Society, Inc. That April, he unleashed his debut EP Drive, a jazzy record which garnered significant blog coverage and a nod from The Source for its shrewd lyricism and soulful ambiance. However, the rising talent appeared somewhat detached amid his newfound success. Aside from his high-profile opener for Injury Reserve that March, he has rarely performed live since.

“When people come to see me, I want to make sure it’s not just someone on the stage spitting out the songs they’ve been listening to,” Zaia says. “I’ve been focusing on the music and the live aspect of it as well by rehearsing, so when I do have a show it’s not just some regular shit.”

For him, it’s not a matter of disinterest or opposition to attention. He simply opts for quality over quantity, committed to releasing only top-notch material and performing at the highest caliber possible.

His meticulous nature even trumps his unquenchable eagerness to share new music — a mark of discipline, albeit a reluctant decision. Now signed to Arista Records and Not Fit For Society through a joint venture under Sony Music, Zaia’s self-restraint has finally come to fruition with the arrival of Reset, a five-track EP and his first release in 14 months.

The pithy record features the previously heard singles “Waste My Time” and “Blue,” the latter of which has surpassed the million-stream threshold on Spotify in a matter of months. Written with tact and laced with rich production from Eric Ramey and Z. Will, the EP’s other cuts include the shrink-dismissing “Counseling,” the heartbreakingly pleading “On The Run,” and the closing track “Grace.”

Reset is also accompanied by a short film directed by Patrick Tohill. The 15-minute companion piece follows Zaia’s character throughout his journey to start over, even as he struggles to let go of his past. Divided into five distinct acts, the video skillfully conveys the sentiment of each song, making for an immersive and passionate translation of the record.

Unfortunately, the fervent tale of rediscovery is rooted in tragedy and inspired by destabilizing life events. Having lost his brother to suicide and experienced the dissolution of a long-term relationship, Zaia hints at the record’s deeper meaning.

“Dealing with death or a breakup, you go through a storm, trying to get to the other side of it,” Zaia says. “Though you long to be ‘normal’ again, there’s a reset or change of mindset you go through, and you’re someone else entirely.”

Roughly a decade after his brother’s passing, Zaia’s road to Reset has reached its end. The Atlanta prodigy is now a major-label recording artist and one step closer to his dreams with his latest release. He is reticent to reveal too much about the inner workings of this symbolic effort, urging listeners to engage with the music and discover Reset’smeaning on their own.

As with any personal journey, you have to figure it out for yourself.

During a wondrous month for hip-hop, veteran acts from the ’80s hit the city alongside 2019 upstarts.

Fri., July 5
— Eric B. & Rakim, Tabernacle. These OGs are responsible for gold-standard rap albums such as Paid in Full and Let the Rhythm Hit ’Em. Fun fact: Harlem rapper A$AP Rocky, born Rakim Meyers, and his late sister Erica B. were named after the influential duo.

Sun., July 7
— Dear Silas, Music Room. Last year, the trap-infused R&B crooner known to don a ninja headband found viral success with a meme of his single “Skrr Skrr” and subsequently signed a deal with RCA Records. Dear Silas released the Naruto-inspired album The Last Cherry Blossom in April, and he’s bringing it to Edgewood Avenue this month.

Tues., July 9
— Wiz Khalifa, French Montana, Playboi Carti, Cellairis Amphitheatre at Lakewood.

Thurs., July 11
— New Kids on the Block, Salt-N-Pepa, Naughty by Nature, State Farm Arena.

Mon., July 15
— Chris Webby, Jarren Benton, BrownPaperBag, Masquerade. Local low-fi collective BrownPaperBag secures an opening slot for Decatur breakout and Roc Nation artist Jarren Benton.

Tues., July 16
— Mary J. Blige, Nas, Cadence Bank Amphitheatre at Chastain Park. Less than a month after receiving BET’s Lifetime Achievement Award, Mary J. Blige embarks on a 23-date co-headlining tour with Nas.

Thurs., July 18
— RoseBowlATL 3, Willie Hyn & Confettii Rose, J Alston, Aisle 5.

Fri., July 19
— Ria706, C-Blaq, Beallwood Blackk, C. Ali, Smith’s Olde Bar. Led by neo-soul vocalist Ria706, this show features hip-hop and R&B artists exclusively from Columbus, Georgia.

Wed., July 24
— Blueface, NLE Choppa, Asian Doll, Sada Baby, Tabernacle.
— Nelly, TLC, Flo Rida, Cellairis Amphitheatre at Lakewood.

Sat., July 27
— blink-182, Lil Wayne, Cellairis Amphitheatre at Lakewood.

Sun., July 27
— Mozzy, Loft.

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