I had the pleasure of speaking to Sean Gates, better known as IZ 316. He is a Hip Hop recording artist from Wichita, Kanas who has a lot to offer to the music industry and to the world. Starting with his own community, he has been working to make a difference by using his popularity to send a positive message to young kids. I was able to learn more about IZ 316 in our discussion where he highlighted his desire to become a mentor to the youth by setting a great example to follow.
EB: How have you been under the world’s COVID-19 pandemic?
IZ 316: It’s been better than ever for my career. For whatever reason, since COVID hit, the public has been attracted to my music more than ever. I believe that with these tough times that have been presented, my music has been really positive and I think that’s something people have been looking for.
EB: How did you get into the music industry?
IZ 316: About 5 years ago I saw an article about the Hip Hop label Penalty entertainment which was relaunching and it stated they were looking for new talent. Previously N.O.R.E and Lil Mo were working with the label. I reached out to Penalty records entertainment. They encouraged me to go to events and I met many a lot of people like Havoc’s manager from Mobb Deep and June Balloon and we stayed in touch during the years, he has given me very good advice.
I listened to his advice and I came out to New York City from Kansas and the response was crazy, it was great. They had a much better response to my music is New York than in my own hometown.
I would also promote myself locally here in Kansas, I was involve with the local radio stations, but when I started traveling to New York City, that’s when it really started to take off.
Going to New York and meeting different people in the music industry was advantageous .
EB: Can you list some highlights of your career?
IZ 316: One of my biggest highlights in my career I would say was when the programming director of the biggest local radio station played my music on the station. That was a big moment for me. In the past, I kept taking my records to him for years to play them, so when he did it was a big moment for me. I made the top eight of eight that day which were the most requested songs at the station that day, I was driving around seeing people singing to it It really was a great moment.
Meeting Tech N9ne was great as well. He is from Kansas City with is two hours away from Wichita. He is an amazing guy, he also put me on to a lot of great advice being very humble and also very professional in all I do. I knew I was on the right track. One day I, was listening to the Podcast Drink Champs with N.O.R.E and at the same time I’m texting with his manager, N.O.R.E then say’s shoutout to Penalty entertainment, that was a moment for me. The people that I’m making moves with. Also getting a shout out from Styles P that was a highlight for me as well.
EB: What are some things you’ve learned while being an artist?
IZ 316: Over this last year, I have learned that there is a difference between what we think the game is, and what it actually is, and I see that this is what what I want to do. The industry is actually not as big as you think it is. Everyone knows each other, but that doesn’t mean that everyone is cool with each other. So, what I had to do is do my research. I grew up in San Diego, California so I was a huge 2Pac fan, but I can understand why someone in the east coast might not be. There’s so much going on behind the scenes. I had to learn to navigate that.
EB: Who has been your hardest critic? What did you learn from that person?
IZ 316: Myself. I always been hard on myself. The most important thing that I learned is that perfection is not a prerequisite of success. I didn’t have to make a perfect record, a perfect album, but when I myself loved the music that I made, that made all the difference.
EB: What’s next for you career and how can people find you for business opportunities?
IZ 316: What’s next I want to connect more people. I lived on the west coast before, but I fell in love with east coast music, I love the lyricism. When you think about an artist from Kansas, what do you think about? When your hear that an artist is from Brooklyn NY, you might have an idea how his music might sound like. For me, it’s been a benefit being from Kansas the public doesn’t have a specific type of sound in mind. I want to show that the midwest towns like Wichita, Tulsa, Kansas City, Oklahoma City have a lot of talent that at times the industry is overlooking [or don’t know about].
What I care most about is for my message to be heard and understood. My message is that it’s cool to be righteous, it’s cool to think about your community, to have a heart for your people and to rise above whatever situations you are going to. My latest album Melanin Sons was released this past February, this album is the story of the rites and passage of Black young males. In African culture they have certain ceremonies that celebrate when a boy is transitioning into a man, but in a America we don’t have that.
In my album I’m expressing what I been through. Showing young black males, that I know what they are going through and if I could make it through so can they. I became a father to two children by the time I was a sophomore in high school. I was locked up my junior and senior year of high school. When I go out, I went to college and I graduated with a double major. I have done radio, I been on TV, I released albums, I also ran for office and was elected. I’m a big part of my community, I mentor kids to this day. I’m on the mental health board, I’m on the department of corrections board. I also work with the state reps and local district to make sure people are registered to vote. I’m in close communication with the Mayor, judges and community leaders.