Alejandro Salazar (A.CHAL), often prefaced as a rising Peruvian-born artist, has perhaps outgrown his own introduction. Fresh off performing at the coronation of Rolling Loud Festival in Miami and releasing his mixtape ON GAZ, A.CHAL takes some time during his NYC visit to let us in on what’s steadily becoming one of the hottest acts in the game.
Having recruited the likes of French Montana, A$AP Nast and a 2 Chainz-assisted remix for his tape, A.CHAL seemingly teeters on the verge of cross-cultural stardom. Yet, here we were at Highline Ballroom for the Latin Alternative Music Conference (LAMC), a culturally-focused celebration of Spanish music.
Backstage at the LAMC felt less like a conference and more like a family reunion. A.CHAL had his dad, brothers, and team around, with other Latin artists also present. As A.CHAL was getting ready to perform in the dressing room, we discussed spiritual trips to the Amazon, representing family and culture, and getting initiated into the enlightened world of GAZI.
Introduce us to GAZI. GAZI World. Where does it come from and how did you create this sort of lifestyle, mindset, even an aesthetic of sorts. What is GAZI?
GAZI, creatively, was started by me, my brother Gazu Steve, and GAZI Ghost. It started in my first apartment in LA, we were just making music, making art, shooting videos, and I had just gotten back from the Amazon and after taking a trip to Peru. The music I was doing there with them created this whole world. From there, it grew into a business, and then I brought in Sam and Saint who helped me with the management of the business side of it. What GAZI represents is freedom and unity for people thinking and doing outside of what society has taught them. In our way.
So the word GAZI, where does that come from?
The word GAZI came from my song “GAZI.” Originally, it was called “Fugazi.” So we took the “Fu” out of it, which is the fake. And then you’re left with GAZI, the real shit.
What time period was this when you came back from that trip to Peru and the Amazon? And then at what point were you feeling like “I’m on Gaz”?
Staying GAZI is not easy. It’s a conscious effort, cause a lot of times society drags you away from being free, from being you. I would say I’m on Gaz when I’m being true to my word, when I’m being consistent with my actions, when I’m out here really getting this work, getting this money, getting these placements, making that vision come to life. That’s when I’m on Gaz. Not when I’m being lazy, not when I’m sulking, on depression. Not when I’m thinking anything but moving forward and being positive. So being on Gaz, that’s the goal all the time. It’s not easy, but that’s the goal.
The concept of GAZI is really dope to me. It’s very enlightened.
When you’re enlightened you’re free cause you are aware that you’re free. Because you realize everything that you’ve been thinking about for the most part is bullshit.
How did you come into that mindset? Were there specific moments?
I saw how that enlightenment had effect on the people that I love around me and I was just like, this is the only thing I’m here for in life, is to spread this. I mean I feel like the purpose in life is to help, period. However you want to help, if your thing is design, help by design. If your thing is talking, help by talking. If your thing is labor work, help by doing labor. If your thing is engineering, help by engineering. However it is. So I found the way I was gonna help and I thought, okay this is how I can do it.
That’s a message a lot of people can find inspiration from. That’s a good message. For your latest project, I saw all the visuals. What gravitates you towards the color green and what was the message there?
I’ve been realizing green runs our lives. For one we can’t live without two things it seems like—us humans, and that’s oxygen and money. Oxygen comes from the plants being green and the color of money is green. The reason why I make it neon green is because the neon aspect is on another dimension outside of the one we’re in. On a more open dimension, the next dimension, which doesn’t deal with the surface of it.
It goes a little deeper.
It goes deeper and that’s why it’s neon. Some people may look at it psychedelic.
The aesthetic definitely feels that way. And when I listen to your music, I feel themes of finding light in the darkness, and balancing them to find truth. What do you strive to balance in your life?
I mean everything, but my main thing in life is trying to be true to your word. Everything you gonna say, even if it’s like, “yo Imma call you in 15 minutes.” You know you’re probably not gonna call in 15 minutes, but even being true to that. Because the more true you are to everything, the more life works out for you, the more you’re able to create your life. So I try to balance whatever I can to stay true to my word. And stay true to the ones that I love, too.
Speaking of that, who is part of that group? Your friends, your family, the people who ride for you.
Everyone around me I’ve known ten plus years or are blood. And if they not blood, they damn near blood. They all know my parents, they’ve all slept at my parents’ crib. I fought with all of them. I don’t know if I’ve cried with all of them, I don’t cry like that, but I mean we’ve shared moments.
And is this the group you went on your trip with, GAZI Gang?
Nah, I just went to the Amazon. I didn’t go with them, but when I came back the music I was making was very inspired by that. They felt it, so it’s almost like they went there with me.
That’s friends and family right there. What do you call your collective?
GAZI World. GAZI is the state that you’re in when you listen to GAZI. GAZI is the mind state. GAZI World is the company slash collective.
Got it. So I’m in a GAZI mental state right now.
Yeah, you are right now. A thousand percent.
But the company, the group GAZI World…
We’re a record label. We do our own branding. We have our own managers and publicist, so you know we’re a team.
I want to go to one of your lines in your song, “blowing all this cash on the things that never last / I don’t want it, you can have it.” Fuck the money, right, so what is it that you actually want, and what is it that you are striving for?
The thing I’m striving the most for is to just create. Bring into physical what’s in my mental. Bring my ideas to fruition. And my ideas are, I would like to think, things that are pushing culture, inspiring kids in a different way, creating a story for people who feel like me but have no one to relate to, so they know they’re not alone and they can push forward.
Yeah, so I know you have a Peruvian background. Do you feel you have a responsibility to inspire or represent Peruvians and Latin Americans?
I wouldn’t say I feel responsible to do it. I’ll say I want to do it. The way I want to do it is in a different way than being like, “Wassup, yo my name is Alejandro. I’m from Peru, I’m a Spanish artist. These are my favorite Latinos.” That’s not how I am and that’s not my personality. Maybe I’ll wear a soccer jersey tucked in with a belt, throw on some Cortez’s, and then I get on stage and swag out. That might be how I rep. Or maybe I make a song called “Love N Hennessy” where I’m talking Spanglish in it. Maybe I might use sound bites from things within my Latin culture in my music represented like that. Maybe I’ll get Inca art around my aesthetic and people will be like, “what is that?” and then I have a reason to tell them. So I want to do those things. I wouldn’t say I feel responsible, I just want to do those things.
So growing up, how much did you learn about your culture, the art and language from your parents and life everyday?
My dad, he played a big role in my life. He’s probably the most inspiring person in my life. He’s someone who went through a lot of trials and tribulations in Peru. He escaped his life over there for life in the United States with much more opportunities than he had.
I can definitely connect with that. Same with my family and a lot of first generation immigrants.
Yeah, definitely. And not only that, he’s someone who fought for civil rights in Peru. And at the time that he was living there when he had me, there was a big civil war going on in Peru. He was an activist there in his own right. He was also going to college. He was also an ice cream man wheeling a cart around. And [through] all this he had the ambitions and dreams to come into the United States to make something out of himself, quote unquote, and give his kids opportunities. You know, he did that. He put me in that position. So I can’t be here and act ignorant. I just can’t, I don’t have that option. I know there’s like other public figures who could do that, but I can’t do that. I wasn’t raised like that. So I look to him as a strong person. And he reminds me all the time to stay that way no matter what cool motherfucker is being what ignorant way. You know staying true to that, I’m sure you can relate.
Honestly. And what is your relationship with your dad to this day?
He’s here right now.
Do you have any siblings?
I got two brothers. One of them is Steve, who is my A&R.
A whole family affair.
Yeah that’s how we were raised. You got to split the bread first with the people you grew up with.
Definitely. I gotta ask you about the affiliation with another family. What is the connection with A$AP Mob?
Well I been heard about A$AP coming up in New York, cause before they had all the fame and attention they were doing their thing in New York. Especially I remember seeing Illz with Chris. When I was hanging around Chris I would see Illz around, I would see Bari, too. And then throughout time I moved out to LA right before they popped off. So Ghost [Chris] he stayed out here in New York and he was still building with them. So I didn’t really grow a relationship with them until I met them later on in LA. I moved around a lot so there was a part of my life where I was in Harlem. But Ghost grew up in Harlem so he went to school with some of them. He’s the one who’s known them since high school, middle school. But I moved out to LA. I met Nast in LA, I met Rocky in LA, I met pretty much everyone in LA. But they knew me cause of Ghost, it was a family thing. I fuck with them heavy, I love what they’re doing. Being from Harlem and not doing what every other Harlem person has done, that’s fire. I can relate to that, that’s what GAZI is too. We’re of other origins, but we’re not doing the same shit every Latinos do.
That’s awesome. Now that you’re doing it in your own way, the GAZI way. What’s next and what do you have planned coming up?
I’m still independent, so we’re growing the label and the company, gradually. A lot of my time is focused on growing that, which means like doing more shows, creating more content, touching more people, finding new ways of touching the demographic that we speak of, because like I said I feel like this is an untapped demographic from someone like me. Just focusing on growing that culture, that movement, that’s what I want. And then whatever happens next, happens next.
This story is part of Empire Taste 001: The Friends & Family Issue.