Timbaland and Marzz's working relationship began with an Instagram DM in late 2019: "Your pengame is strong," the industry titan wrote, recognizing her strength as a songwriter while ushering in an era of collaboration between the two.
Today, the 21-year-old Louisville newcomer delivers her single, "Cleopatra," produced by Timbaland alongside Justin Mosley, Jordan Mosley and NES — a powerhouse team that helped support Marzz's story about a hot and cold relationship with her ex-girlfriend.
Marzz says the inspiration for "Cleopatra" is about everything she's been through in life "when relationships begin to get toxic and I reflect back on my own self, realizing to put myself first."
Her track is sonically split between two parts, beginning with darker, more aggressive production and lyrics about Marzz's demons that won't leave her alone. Mid-song though, "Cleopatra" settles into something lighter with an ease that reflects the evolution of heartbreak.
"When the song changes, that inspiration really came from an episode of Martin,and the relationship him and Gina shared," Marzz says. "It was a reflection of a relationship I wanted with this girl because it made me feel safe and I finally found some type of happiness. I just want her to know I'll chase her if need be."
"Cleopatra" follows 2021's "So Frequently," with a Mahaneela-directed music video that flips between real life and animation, as Marzz similarly sings about the complexities of love. "Why am still trapped? Why am I still blind?" she asks. "I wanna take time to relax my mind, but I can't 'cause I know that you're using me so frequently baby."
Marzz's openness, especially as a queer musician, has taken time to develop. Real name Laria McCormick, she grew up in church where many of her family members were ministers. Despite honing her voice in choirs there (she first joined children's choir at age four), the environment forced Marzz to suppress her sexuality.
Eventually, Marzz came out in high school and began writing R&B freestyles into notebooks. (She apparently has 29 packed with different lyrics and song ideas). These were shared on her Instagram along with covers of artists like Teyana Taylor and Ella Mai, which helped her build an audience and begin rolling out original material this year through Keep Cool/ RCA Records.
Watch the PAPER premiere of Marzz's "Cleopatra" lyric video and stream the single, below.
Photos courtesy of Braylen Dion