It's been a thrilling journey for Steven Zhu, globally known by his last name. The enigmatic producer popped up on the Internet approximately two years ago and, with the help of management team TH3RD BRAIN and record label Mind Of A Genius, has become a worldwide sensation. With a Grammy nomination and nearly a quarter of a billion streams under his belt, TSIS has decided to map out the remarkable beginning of ZHU's career up until now.
Feb. 10, 2014: Who The F*** Made This Dope Outkast Remix?
Who doesn't love Outkast? TSIS received an email from an artist who kept their identity anonymous. It was a mashup/cover/remix of the group's hits "The Way You Move," "So Fresh, So Clean" and "Ms. Jackson". We wondered if it was produced by a completely new artist or someone who was already established. Maybe even Disclosure? It was groovy, silky smooth and got better with each play.
Feb. 16, 2014: Anonymous Act Releases Original Song "Superfriends"
Is it one person? Is it a group? No one knows. All we know is that the voice between this record and the Outkast mashup matches up. The song sports an infectious melody. We deem it to be flames and eagerly await his/her/their next move.
Feb. 18, 2014: Mysterious Artist Is Revealed As "ZHU"
Honestly, shout out to the loyal TSIS fans. One of our readers posted a comment on the "Superfriends" article, stating they were sure "this artist's name is ZHU." We reached out and saw a freshly posted French article about the artist in 20 Minutes (The French New York Times). We reached out to the staff writer responsible for the piece who sent us an exchange of emails he had with the artist. Stage name: ZHU. Real name: Steven Zhu. He was a producer and singer from Los Angeles. ZHU declined an interview but issued the following statement about keeping his identity anonymous:
"Many are wondering why I chose to release my music anonymously. I am my own ghostwriter. As a society, we become more attached to the creator than to the creation. Music is faceless. My music is for a new generation—one in which people appreciate art for its intrinsic value—Generation WHY."
After searching around for a bit, we found ZHU's website. It was a black slate. A few minutes later, it showcased the same "Z" symbol found on his cover art. While we've solved one piece of the puzzle, we are left with countless questions.
Talk about a one-two punch in the originals department! ZHU's follow-up to "Superfriends" is "Faded" and there is something so incredibly refreshing about it. The track inhales a multitude of styles from house to disco to indie and beautifully caters to ZHU's soft vocals. This release was the beginning of something much bigger than anyone anticipated, and was premiered here on TSIS. In other news, we noticed ZHU has a Facebook fan page.
Apr. 10, 2014: ZHU Announces His Debut EP, "THE NIGHTDAY"
Boom. A sick Outkast remix, two great original records and now an EP being dropped on 4/20. The EP will feature six songs and come out on his newly announced record label called Mind Of A Genius. To give fans a taste of the EP, he drops "Paradise Awaits" where a sexy topline skates over a playful house beat. We dig it.
Apr. 20, 2014: ZHU Releases "THE NIGHTDAY" EP
Within a matter of hours of going live, the EP claimed the No. 1 single ("Faded") and album overall in Australia. Success would be an understatement.
June 15, 2014: Odesza Remixes ZHU's Hit Single "Faded"
2014 was the year of "Faded" remixes. While this may be a bit of an exaggeration, there were literally hundreds of remixes of this song flooding everyone's Soundcloud feed. Some of them were good, some of them bad, but the one that stood out the most was Odesza's stunning official remix of the radio-friendly single. The Seattle duo coated the original with euphoric future bass melodies, keeping ZHU's sexy vocals intact. (Side note: It's hauled in over ten million streams on Spotify to date).
Sept. 27, 2014: ZHU Performs Live For The First Time Ever
Centennial Park, Sydney. ZHU historians can mark this location down as the first place ZHU performed. It all went down at Australia's Listen Out Festival. The live setup included a Z-shaped LED DJ booth behind a wide scrim that hosted various projections. It was lit.
Sept. 30, 2014: HARD Reveals ZHU's North American Live Debut
Well, it's official. ZHU's first U.S. performance will take place at HARD Day Of The Dead on Saturday, Nov. 1. The reveal was done through a series of cryptic photos that teased the ZHU logo following a social media blackout on the HARD Presents Facebook page.
Oct. 7, 2014: ZHU Shows Up On The Streets Of New York
Where's ZHU? Oh, just about everywhere. The mysterious producer is swinging from continent to continent and Spotify playlist to Spotify playlist as if he's Tarzan. Now, he's showing up on the streets of New York, particularly on the corner of Thames & Vandervoot and Wythe & 6th in poster form. His signature "Z" symbol is the centerpiece of each advertisement. The dates Nov. 21 and 22 appear below the symbol. Is ZHU headed to the Big Apple?
Oct. 14, 2014: ZHU Confirms His First Series Of Headlining Shows
Yup. ZHU is headed to New York to unveil THE NIGHTDAY EXPERIENCE on Nov. 21 and 22. The location of both performances remains a secret for now. Tickets are being sold the old-fashioned way, in person. Fans can purchase up to two tickets each at Opening Ceremony, a high-end clothing store in SoHo. Ticket buyers will also receive a limited edition NIGHTDAY EP vinly.
Dec. 5, 2014: ZHU's "Faded" Receives Grammy Nod
We are less than a year into the ZHU project and the elusive act has just earned Grammy nomination for best dance recording with "Faded". Others in the running include Disclosure's "F For You" and Jess Glynn's "Rather Be" (which ended up taking home the award).
Mar. 12, 2015: Fans Get Sneak Peak Of ZHU In "The One" Video
Do we finally get to see what he looks like in the light of day with fully-exposed facial features and such? No, but we'll take what we can get. ZHU's music video for "The One" is shot in a film noir style and teases fans with a glimpse of the man himself at the very end of the piece.
Power move. ZHU launches an interactive, online word search that highlights several notable artists. Among the acts featured in this matrix-styled puzzle include Skrillex, AlunaGeorge, A-Trak, Bone Thugs N Harmony and Gallant.
BBC Radio 1 host Zane Lowe premieres the highly-anticipated collaboration with Skrillex and THEY off the Genesis Series EP. The track follows a tall order of high-profile releases, but makes the biggest splash of them all. "Working For It" showcases an edgier side to ZHU's productions, flaunting a dainty piano progression that's contrasted by an assertive brass melody. The song is currently nearing 100 million streams on Spotify.
Feb. 24, 2016: ZHU Announces 'Neon City' North American Tour
ZHU introduces a brand new live show with 19 dates and two new band members who contribute on saxophone and guitar. The amplified performance comes fit with a fresh stage setup, custom visuals and interactive lights. Nonetheless, the focus remains on ZHU who now sings, plays the keys and even speaks with audience sans-scrim. This noteworthy move spotlights ZHU in a more intimate, vulnerable and human light. And what better way to debut it all than at Coachella during his Saturday evening primetime slot in the Sahara Tent? You couldn't ask for a better story. The crowd roared in excitement and praise.
July 29, 2016: ZHU Releases Debut Album, GenerationWHY
Mind Of A Genius and Columbia Records release ZHU's debut LP, GenerationWHY, a 14-track effort that covers an wide array of genres, moods and collaborators. This is his third significant body of work to date, following THE NIGHTDAY EP and Genesis Series.
It's been a busy two years and a half for Steven Zhu, his record label and his team, but something tells us that he's just getting started. Stay up-to-date with ZHU's releases and news updates here.