Kenzie From Welly says about rapping: “I don’t really know if there was one significant day or time where I was like, ‘yeah I’m going to do it’. Like most of us, we all grew up listening to hip hop with older cousins and siblings and that kind of just goes with you. I always loved it from back then, hip hop I mean.”
As of late Kenzie’s accumulating solid recognition from her first project, Dirty Demo Links; with the soulful ‘Show Ya-Self’ feat Jane Deezy accumulating well deserved attention on Australia’s Triple J, she explains the song was about women being strong enough to be themselves. “In our lives there are always pockets of clones, groups of people who are not just the same as each other, but also the same as the image they emulate. The inspiration behind ‘Show Ya-Self’ was not just to free yourself from physically conforming but also to evoke your own ideas and perceptions of who you want to be. I also feel preserving your culture and lineage brings an important sense of belonging. Also, fuck celebrities.”
Her latest music video, Wake Up, has been shot by Young, Gifted and Broke’s Jay Knight and is featured below.
HH: What did you and your siblings listen to back in the day?
K: We were listening to like Coolio, I remember learning all the words to Gangster’s Paradise, that was my thing – Ice T was like the first CD that we had in the house.
HH: Which part of Wellington did you grow up in?
K: I grew up in Lower Hutt, my parents still live in Petone.
HH: What took you to Australia?
K: I came over to Brisbane to work. My mum’s like, ‘what are you going to do now, you’re hard out into music stuff and you’re going to go over there and just forget and get lost in working 9-5 stuff. I was like, ‘nah Mum I’m going to do it don’t worry’… But I was worried.
HH: So what do you do for yourself to stay motivated because 9-5’s can be quite soul-destroying.
K: Yeah hard, I feel you on that…what do I do…I have been doing heaps of collabs with people back home. They’ll send over ideas or beats and that will help me to keep motivated. When you’re working with someone you’re keen and eager to see what their buzz is as well. At the moment it’s just what’s on the front of my mind – I don’t have kids and I don’t have much family in Brisbane at the moment so it’s just work and music, that’s pretty much it.
HH: Is your family quite socially conscious or political? Because there’s a strong consciousness that comes through in your lyrics.
K: Well to be honest my mum’s is real head strong and she’s a real, ‘in the community’ type person. She’s just finished studying social work and I think she’s doing post-grad at the moment. She was talking to me about colonisation and stuff because I’m half Māori and half Samoan; I was getting to learn about, you know, the first colonials coming to New Zealand and even before that with Māori culture, so for me that gave me heaps of – I don’t know, not inspiration but more hunger to learn that stuff and it just sparked a fire in me. To be honest that just kind of got me on my journey of writing about that kind of stuff.
HH: How have you found Aussie’s receive your music especially with throwing up your Triple J Unearthed Page?
K: I’ve been really grateful. I didn’t think that Aussie would receive my music the way they have; because I spend most of my time going to work and what little time I do have for making music; the results that are coming back are just blowing me away. The Triple J thing, that was dope, like they put my stuff up and I went to ABC studio and did a little interview with them – one of the funny things they asked me was, they wanted to know what kind of Australian music I listened to and I was like…[silence]… But what I did say, and was real talk was I think the secret to morning happiness is waking up in the morning and listening to the Bee Gees, so that’s cool. There’s been some blogs that have done some write ups too.
HH: With Dirty Demo Links, had you produced the content over a long period of time, or just when you’d been in Australia?
K: With Dirty Demo Links it’s really weird because I’ve probably been recording music for maybe about five years, give or take. Over that time it’s changed a lot – the stuff that I’ve made. The first song I ever made, I’m not going to say it or reveal it, but it was really gangster. I think because I was still pretty young back then, and that’s what I was doing – I wasn’t in a gang, but I just had that mind-set and mentality. I think for me, my music has just grown up as I have as a person. Ever since I started making it people are like, ‘just put it out straight away’…But I’d always listen back to my tracks and I hated them. You know, I’d just listen to them and was like nah, this is dumb. I held off for ages because I thought once I had something I was happy enough with then I would. Dirty Demo Links is a collection of songs that I’ve been working on for a couple of years and they’re just the ones that I didn’t hate.
HH: That’s interesting because style wise Dirty Demo Links sounds quite cohesive and intentional.
K: Oh well that’s good. [Laughs] I mean I’ve got quite a big back-log of music to be honest and most of it no one’s ever going to hear because it’s shit and I think that the tracks I’ve put on there are the ones that were more cohesive against each other.
HH: So now you’ve got your first one out the way, what’s next for you musically?
K: My cousin HeapRize is a beat maker based in Brisbane so me and him are actually doing a project at the moment called Awakening Prologue and that should be coming out soonish.
HH: Are you pleased to be able to work one-on-one with your producer now?
K: Yeah, we spend a lot of time mucking around to be honest [laughs]. It’s easier because you can talk about stuff and not just waiting for someone to send something back so that’s been cool. I think it will be so much more cohesive because we have a vision for it and talk about the stuff before making the songs, that’s made a difference.
HH: How have you found being a female in the industry so far?
K: I don’t know, I think it’s given me a heads up to be honest. Everyone’s like, more dudes rap, and this and that; but that could be a positive because there aren’t as many female rappers. I think we bring a different sound as well, and a different energy, so it’s a good thing.
“I’d say my style would be an old feel with new ideas and there’s more questions than answers.”
K: There’s this guy called Radamiz, I listen to his stuff a lot – I think he’s an up and coming artist as well; then just all old people like I listen to Queen Latifah’s stuff a lot, TDE and stuff. I think for me reading stuff has more influence on what I say and how I rap than other music sometimes. Right now I’m reading this book called Ka Whaiwhai Tonu Matou it means struggle without end; it’s about colonization in New Zealand and Maori’s and stuff; I’ve read it a few times, I’m reading it again because sometimes you get stuff that you missed the first time.
HH: Who do you rate in New Zealand…Top five?
K: Oh that’s hard too, that’s going to get me in trouble. But definitely @Peace, RES is one of my top favorite I love that stuff, and @Peace – that’s Lui and Tom so that’s like two answers in one. Bella Shanti too, Spycc and INF, I think they’re the meanest and it’s really hard… I would say Raiza Biza and Jane Deezy but they’re two different people so can I just say that?
HH: Okay how bout you just have eight.
K: Thanks. And also D.dot and PNC.
HH: What’s the definition of a hip hop head to you, in one of your tracks you were talking about making music for the heads…
K: I don’t know bro, if you listen to hip hop there’s so many sub genres inside hip hop itself. And you know, it’s that same thing – if you ask 10 different people, you’re going to get 10 different answers; for me it’s rugged and raw and it’s hard, but it’s also beautiful. It’s whatever you are listening to and how you perceive it you know.
HH: You said your music is growing publicly with you. Where are you on your artist timeline, do you know?
K: Yeah I’ll be like in the walkie bro. I’m starting to crawl, but now I can sit in that walking thing and walk around kind of. Hopefully in five years I wont be making dumb music, I can’t predict where I’m going to be. I want to see the world and hopefully music can either take me there or help me get there and see some new experiences and stuff. Like, I don’t want to be just working at a call centre for the rest of my life. That’s my biggest fear, fuck that.
“My mum was always like if you’re not a producer you’re a consumer. I don’t think she necessarily meant that as in music because then she started making me pay board so…”
HH: Are you a tech head cause you would have had to learn Pro Tools and stuff hey?
K: Yeah I do sit in my room in the dark… A lot. With a bottle of wine and Pro Tools for hours and days and don’t come out. I was always interested in it. You’ll find now that most people who do music are kind of like nerds because you can do so much at home by yourself so that helps open creativity. You don’t have someone looking over you like ‘what are you doing’? But then you get those shitty guys that come out with shitty songs and they think they’re awesome too – so it’s give and take.
HH: What’s your favourite thing about what you do?
K: I think it’s the thing that got me started on it to be honest. When I first recorded a song maybe five or something years ago I just got that buzz like, ‘oh I’ve made something’. I don’t know it’s probably like the same buzz of when I was like a bum and making songs – it kind of gave me that feeling of, ‘oh nah, it’s all good’ because you’re still making something.
When did you fall in love with hip hop?
K: I fell in love with hip hop listening to rap tapes in the kitchen with my cousins and brothers while doing the dishes.