Tell us about your early life experiences that have shaped who you are today?
I was born and raised in France in the suburbs of Paris. Being a teenager in that environment can be a struggle. I started to go in the wrong direction. But lucky me, I got role models to show me different paths, instead of going into criminality. I met people who were working with youth, who gave me access to creating music, and I really dug into it. My family is originally from Martinique in the Caribbean, and music has always been in our tradition, it has always been part of my life. I would hear different beats and I was always thinking about good lyrics, things that would uplift people. From that, I got an openness to things that made me understand that there is more than just the suburb. I was taught to have manners and discipline, and above all help the weakest, help the smallest, and help and respect one another.
I started doing and producing music professionally, getting more and more famous, traveling, and doing concerts in places like Belgium, Switzerland, Canada, and the Caribbean. And I saw that in all those countries people relate to my music. I mixed together the French hip hop from the suburbs, with Caribbean Reggae. I called it Hip Hope - positive music that lifts people up. There are a lot of things that are unfair, but let's find alternatives instead of just blaming each other.
Music has had such an impact on me, and I felt that I should naturally give back. I feel blessed, because more than 50% of my people went to jail, or they got shot, stabbed, or sick. And I didn't get anything, instead, music created a job for me.
How did you come up with the idea of Artozik?
I fell in love with a Swedish girl, and I moved to Malmö. I was living in Rosengård - one of the toughest areas in Malmö, maybe even in Sweden. I was working as a youth educator there and I saw people who have a lot of prejudice and stereotypes related to the kids from that area. I could relate to them because I come from the same environment. I saw that those youth had a huge need to express themselves. In France, I had already worked with kids - doing music together, organizing activities, and giving them values, discipline, respect and manners. So I decided to do the same in Sweden.
What does Artozik offer to children and youth?
I use music as a tool. Sometimes music helps us understand how we feel, heal our pain. It can change our mindset and show that everybody is needed, that everyone has a voice.
For example in an orchestra, you can be a little triangle. Without this triangle the symphony is not done, so everybody has a part to play.
The kids from the suburbs don’t go out of their area, don't go out to see the culture out in town. And so if they don't go to the culture, the culture has to go to them. So, we made a mobile studio, and bring it where the kids are - in schools, even hospitals. A pen on a table can be a drum. I have a device that can take up the sound from plants - it makes the plant sing and helps the kids realize that we can have good communication with nature and respect it. We record these sounds, then the kids write the lyrics.
We also do podcasts with kids - we ask if they were president, what would they change to make the world better or the area better. The goal of all our activities is to help kids express themselves, to get them to believe in themselves and be proud of who they are.
And what’s your business model?
Last year I got access to a studio of 350 square meters in the middle of a place called “Cultural Sound Zone” where we created 13 different recording studios. We rent them for a small amount to make it possible for young musicians to have access to professional equipment and each other. We want to start organizing cultural events. We also do workshops and team buildings for adults and companies - we help them understand through music that there are different ways we can deal with conflicts, and lift up people up.
Looking back at your entrepreneurial journey - what's the hardest thing and what keeps you going?
The hardest thing is the fact that I’m an immigrant, having to do things alone, struggling with administration without being fully fluent in Swedish - because here everything is in Swedish. But the smile of the kids and their parents, my colleagues - it makes it all worth it. There’s a saying that’s very true - if you count your problems, your problems are added. If you count your blessings, then your blessings are multiplied. At the end of every day, when I close my eyes, I give thanks for life, and that I’ve had the opportunity to try.
What would you say to new entrepreneurs just starting out?
Build a team. Don’t do everything alone and learn from mistakes.
And what would you say to kids from the suburbs who feel life isn't fair?
That sometimes it's not about them, it's us who don't give them the right way to be.
Be patient with the adults, tell them what you need. Express who you are.
And, you know, they express that in different ways, and sometimes it's by breaking things open. I don't blame them, they don't always have role models. I will tell them: “Believe in yourself because you have everything to succeed. And if you don't know how, you should ask.”