A trilogy comes to a close, but WHO SHOT SCOTT knows the journey never really ends; he knows this better than most, actually.
The rising rapper just released MERCY III, the third EP in his MERCY trilogy series, with each one using either red, green, or blue colour pallets to send a visual message.
“I feel like MERCY III being the end of the trilogy is the most self-reflective one, it’s the one where I’m looking past the past two years and beyond,” he says.
In conversation with Rolling Stone AU/NZ, he looked even further into his past, because the themes explored on his new EP – resilience, determination, self-growth – were really forged deep inside of him as a child.
When WHO SHOT SCOTT – otherwise known as Zaidoon Nasir – was just a toddler, his mum, a well-respected doctor, fled war-torn Iraq, taking him with her to start a fresh life together, leaving their community, friends, and family behind.
“She came here and we were poor, we had nothing, she built that all the way up from scratch again,” he recalls. “Now she’s working again as a doctor and has been working in New Zealand for 20 plus years.”
The move to New Zealand taught him the importance of taking a chance to create a better future, and implanted a resilience he would later draw on to get through tough times.
WHO SHOT SCOTT soon got the hang of life here but the contrast between his days at school and time spent at home, where he was brought up with his traditional roots, created moments of confusion.
“I just never knew exactly where I fit, on both sides actually,” he insists. “When I’d go to school and be around my Kiwi mates, I would put on a front. I was living this dual life, so I think trying to fit within New Zealand as an immigrant, I put on a lot of masks.”
Trying to dress a certain way and focusing on the materialistic side built a foundation that appearance could be traded for acceptance. “The superficial needs I used to have were very much related to trying to fit into a society that I felt I wasn’t fitting into. I was getting bullied a lot.”
Music became an outlet for him to try and make sense of the world, and he quickly developed a deep appreciation for punk, hip hop and ’90s rock, particularly the Red Hot Chilli Peppers and Rage Against the Machine.
And it seemed like musical success was possible after launching the group Times x Two with his best friend Cader after high school. They even featured on lineups at some of the country’s most popular events and summer festivals, and together they released a series of catchy tunes which garnered a steady following.
But in 2019, the pair fell out, dismantling WHO SHOT SCOTT’s standing as someone who finally felt like they fit. “I lost my best friend but I lost my whole way of identifying in the world through that experience.”
The collapse of that friendship triggered an uncertain time in the rapper’s life and he wasn’t sure if he would ever start making music again. “I was really quite depressed and went through a really tough year and a half,” he reveals.
It was then that the experiences of his mum imbued him with the strength to keep on going. “I remember thinking, if my mum can go from war-torn Iraq, being a doctor, having everything, and then coming to New Zealand and starting from scratch and building up to where she has now, I thought, I can easily do this music, the stakes are so much lower,” he explains.
Having the strength to start over again soon paid off, leading all the way to MERCY III. “I’m so much happier now being a solo artist, being just able to fully express myself, and not having to compromise my vision basically.”
WHO SHOT SCOTT is a different artistic animal solo: he experiments with fusing genres together; he’s unafraid to celebrate the music that he appreciated while growing up; he combines thoughtful lyricism with aggressive rhythmic energy.
His latest single, “Demons”, captures his rebirth exquisitely. In the accompanying video, WHO SHOT SCOTT is seen matching the intense energy of the song, which centres around trying to kill the ego he left behind when he finally came into himself.
Because for WHO SHOT SCOTT, the project goes much deeper than just making music. It’s about using the processes of songwriting and expression to redefine who he is as a person after losing his sense of self while feeling like an outsider growing up; the enlightening “Demons” powerfully communicates his disdain toward a version of himself he wasn’t happy with.
“It had to be aggressive,” says of “Demons”. “It had to be distorted and loud and shouty, because that’s how I feel about it. I feel like my ego in the past has held me back and it’s one of the flaws in my core personality that I’ve felt holds me back from moving forward in my relationships and my career.”
Now about to head out on his first ever international tour, WHO SHOT SCOTT is fully focused on the career path ahead. “I’ve realised the only thing that will make me fit into the world is being absolutely honest and authentic to my core, that just comes with a bit of maturity I suppose,” he says.
WHO SHOT SCOTT’s MERCY III is out now.
WHO SHOT SCOTT 2023 Album Tour
Union Lawn, Dunedin, NZ
Black Bear Lounge, Brisbane, QLD
House of Music and Booze, Sydney, NSW
ON3 Studio, Melbourne, VIC
Big Fan, Auckland, NZ