zae france by breyona holt general  min compressed

Photographer: Breyona Holt

Zae France: The Season for Rhythm & Backwoods

The Def Jam signee is solidifying his brand of R&B more and more with every new release.


Oct. 9 2023, Published 2:00 p.m. ET

zae france by breyona holt general  compressed

Photographer: Breyona Holt

Zae France is establishing himself as a promising newcomer in the R&B scene. In the past few years, Zae has released a couple of EPs: Rhythm N Backwoods (2019) and Pretty Girls NVR Listen (2021) and gone on an international tour with R&B icon Ne-Yo, as well as headlined his own tour earlier this year, ‘This Vibe Ain’t For Everybody Tour’; selling out shows in major markets such as New York, Los Angeles, and Atlanta. This summer, Zae has continued to increase his stock with performances at R&B Nights (VA, Orlando) and the Sol Blume Festival in Sacramento while releasing new singles and visualizers to promote his upcoming project.

His single Give It Up was released earlier this summer with an accompanying visualizer. The visual’s tropical setting is the perfect backdrop for the song that features Zae serenading over the beat with seductive lyrics. Give It Up highlights Zae’s ability to open up about life and love without a filter to make good R&B music. Give It Up was the second single following “What It Do” feat. fellow labelmate and friend Fridayy. Both tracks support Zae France’s latest EP, Rhythm N Backwoods Szn II, which will be available everywhere when you read this.

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The Rhythm N Backwoods series is what Zae describes as his way of branding R&B music the way he sees fit. Today, there is much excitement around R&B music. Scrolling through social media and event sites, you will find many R&B-themed shows, club nights, brunch/day parties, etc. But just a short time ago, that wasn’t the case. As an avid music and culture fan, I can recall during the mid-to-late 2010s, people were debating whether R&B music was dead. Zae France also felt this way, and this realization was part of the inspiration for what would become Rhythm N Backwoods. As Zae was beginning to develop his sound, he felt that there was a void in the R&B landscape. Drawing on his personal experiences and “recreational” activities, he found a way to inject his swag and personality into the music he loves, forming his brand.

zae france by breyona holt compressed

Photographer: Breyona Holt

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As one of the leading rising voices in R&B, it comes as a surprise that growing up Zae was unfamiliar with the genre. Born in a small town in North Carolina, Zae split time growing up in both Mount Airy, NC, and Connecticut. Though he bounced back and forth between both states, music was one consistent thing in his life. His mom was a gospel singer and a member of a quartet. Zae, who grew up in the church, wasn’t exposed to much hip-hop and modern R&B early on. At home, his mom often played gospel, oldies, and classic rhythm & blues artists such as Marvin Gaye and Al Green, the latter she used to tell Zae jokingly was his dad. When Zae became a little older, he would eventually form a gospel quartet with friends, performing at churches and later talent shows.

Zae always knew he had the talent to make a career out of singing and performing; he also knew he did not want to continue going the gospel route. It won't be ‘til he stumbled across Mario’s, You Should Let Me Love You, which made Zae realize precisely the type of music he wanted to make. Diving deeper into R&B and hip-hop, Zae began crafting his sound and building his following. He started by making covers of songs from artists he admired and knew. One of such covers was to a piece by singer Summerella, whose reposting of the track to her millions of followers helped Zae grow his following significantly overnight. Realizing he had discovered a hack, Zae set out to do it again. This time, he would create a jingle that would name-drop the Shade Room, which he hoped would prompt the notable online platform to repost. It worked, and Zae saw another sizable boost in his audience.

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Zae France would continue working on his music, but he also understood the importance of having a great team, which would take an artist's career to the next level. So, he began building his support group, which he calls the Franchise. Zae’s talent and work ethic, along with the help of his Franchise, has made Zae France a name to keep tabs on in the music industry. When you talk to Zae, he comes across as an artist who is sure of their ability. While on tour with Ne-Yo, he stated that Ne-Yo told him to be sure of himself and that he earned his place where he is. That advice appears to have been internalized by Zae. His motto “This Vibe Ain’t for Everybody”, also embodies his confidence.

“This is not a job for me, I love making music. Any song you hear me put out, I’m in Love with it and I stand on it. Everything you get from me is from my perspective and what I want R&B to sound like. If you rock with it I love it and if not “This Vibe aint for everybody”. – ZAE France

Zae France is in tune with his sound and the music he wants to make. More importantly, he knows who the music is for and who it isn’t for. At the end of the day:

“This Vibe Ain’t for Everybody”

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