The Chiefs had just won the Super14 the day Third3ye rappers Melowdownz and Angelo King travelled to Hamilton to shoot their first video ‘Third3ye’ with producer and independent video-director, Tony Douglas. Standing in front of a dairy busking Angelo remembers, ‘The bro [Melodownz] was going up with his hat asking for cash bro, and they were chucking coins at him’. To which Melodownz adds, ‘Bro, we got like nugs in the hat and some ciggys’. In the interview with whendidyoufallinlovewithhiphop we leave the sound check of their Natural Mystics gig in Wellington and head to the wharf, it’s guy fawkes night and the notoriously dodgy Wellington weather is perfectly sunny. The city’s bubbling with energy. Third3ye, Raiza Biza, Jordan Cherrington (JC Films), DJ Pleez and I sit on the wharf in a circle. We talk about growing up with a higher consciousness and how people living on this level, now as adults, connect with each other from foreign places because they understand the ‘vibrations’ and it’s comfortable. GVRDEN Gang beat-producer, Ben Jamin’ says, ‘I think we’re just like certain human beings who are aware of the world more-so and don’t have to conform to a 9-5 and we are creative people who are about living life first and foremost.’
Angelo: One of Melodownz’s lines that he spits on this track we did called Medicine is like ‘music is sound — and sound is a vibe, vibration is life, salvation is why we... and it’s like vibration is life and if you break it down to the physics level, to what Albert Einstein was looking at and things like that, it’s things that move, anything that has movement and has a vibrational pattern is alive. We’re talking about the energy that’s creating that vibration and how it permeates through everything. You know in our abstract way and it’s like you can listen to the music and take whatever you want out of it, it’s a skeleton for what ever you want to believe in”.
Bronson is crazy-clever and charming, but his rhymes are even better. Angelo wears John Lennon-style sun glasses and spits a truth that originates in his good heart. DJ Toru explains that when he needs to meditate he just needs to be in nature, “I’ll go sit on a hill — that’s one thing I’ve figured out about me is if I’m on a hill and by a tree, that’s the best meditative state I could be in. Straight up, you need to try that shit”. Angelo and Melodownz say Third3ye was born from a kinda like Redman, Method Man situation where it was like: ‘Yo, you blaze? A genuine type thing where it just happened’.
So then I asked what a GVRDEN GANG run country be like:
Angelo: A Utopian Civilization.
MeloDownz: Yoooo! A Euphoria.
DJ Toru: Okay, make it interesting, what five laws would you implement in your country… And you have to rank them.
Angelo: Though shall not kill. Rule number one.
DJ Toru: [ Looks off into the sky] That’s rule number one.
Raiza Biza: Nah, nah, but you got to implement laws that are not already laws.
Melodownz: Aw, give the indigenous, like if you look at the scale, our indigenous people, even in America and everywhere, the indigenous ones that are from the land are like incarcerated or…
Me: Nah, but you know what you do bro? You take away the value of money, and cast and indigenous, what you look like and where you’re from don’t matter no more.
Melodownz: Exactly, like, yeah.
Me: You take away all our monetary resources, you force people to farm, fish and build and grow vegetables and what not and then you make people trade again.
Melodownz: Do you know what? You’re GVRDEN yo.
“It’s that organic, indigenous, Hip Hop infused music that is dear to all of our hearts , you know because it’s a part of us in some way” — Angelo
Meeting Young Gifted and Broke crew Third3ye was an ethereal/buzzy experience in itself — music aside. The boys are all connected on a higher level of consciousness that considers utopian societies, a track which tells a good story about LSD, giving indigenous cultures back their mana and many other things like this; all recorded onto Ben Jamin’s’ beats which hit a J Dilla-esque on beat off beat pattern. After less than a year together as Third3ye, the gang are snowballing a following of listeners and believers to their GVRDEN. As their logo turns the Illuminati symbol upside down, Melowdownz explains, it’s so the human race prevails on top of the evil that often dictates individual’s circumstances in this world.
Get the full audio here:
It’s another Saturday night at San Francisco Bath House. Many gigs have been at Bodega of late, and it’s nice to be back at San Fran on Cuba Street. Local DJs Jay Knight and Dam G have warmed up the crowd nicely. Raiza Biza’s on next — he’s bringing the heat for the main man tonight, Washington DC—Mello Music Group artist, Oddisee.
Delivering a set that was laid back, smooth, jazzy. Raiza, despite all these slow-type adjectives orchestrated a slow, controlled crescendo that peaked with his song ‘Sleepless City’ — a chill track with the ability to amp you up at the same time — it’s an infectious juxtaposition. When Jay Knight drops Raiza’s ‘Girl With No Name’, we’re left sailing the night on an ocean of lyrical jazz whispers where the stars litter the sky and the black horizon has no end. Raiza became my new favourite conductor that night. “I can’t stop staring at him” I tell my friend Hari.
Not nearly as entranced as I was, she replies, “He’s real good girl — definitely a good rapper.” Then something clicks in her thinking and it’s like she just discovered an inner truth about me that I’ve always been secretly aware of. Pointing and laughing with delight she’s just snapped me out; she’s inside my inside space, grinning with her Scarlett Johansson mouth. She turns and looks back at Raiza. I’ve been caught. Luckily, someone with love for me done it. As the whole audience stand nestled in the palm of Raiza’s hand I wonder, when did he get this good? He was only down here for Kev Brown a few months ago, but he’s way more relaxed this show around, and he has this kind of grace as he paces the stage with his six-foot-something stature. Stalking it like a lion in a cage we paid to see, I marvel at the animal. Hariata’s smiling at me again. I can’t help it. Wait didn’t he call an album Caged Lion a few years back? I’ll check when I get home — as anti-social as it is to be staring at my phone in the club, I have to write this all down now. The writer in me refuses to forget a single moment. If I don’t write it now, the moment will pass. I’ll be sober. It wont be the same.
“Does he have CD’s?” asked my friend we call the Nanna Gangsta. “Yeah man all his music is online.”
Dam G comes on and plays an old school track that can’t match the heights Raiza set, it’s dull in comparison and so is the next one….. Until it isn’t, G Unit’s Hate It Or Love It creeps in, Mary J backing in first, suddenly you’re jamming. Then, Let’s Stay Together by Al Green. The DJ’s got you where he wants you. Dam G is the kind of conductor that lets the music speak for him where he wont. He is that DJ you’re not entirely sure where to place, until he’s deep into a set, dropping evocative 90’s bangers, reminding you of a much freer time in life.
As Oddisee walks on stage without any fuss. He’s tall, graceful, non-assuming. A muslim man, whose father is from Sudan; his stature embodies the elements of what I know Arabic to be — an elegant language written in the Quaran. What I know of Islam is that it’s a philosophical way of existing — all these elements comes out in his verses. When he opens his mouth he is clearly American but where he isn’t stereotypically American, exudes from is body language. He is graceful, majestic, his aura is warm. There’s something about Oddisee that is royal.
He’d been given the highest-level welcome our home crowd had to give. We the audience were warmed up and ready. Special effects smoke surrounds him. ‘RESPECT,’ he says. As the bass dropped, it vibrated through bones with a staunch feeling akin to a soul-clap.
Oddisee: ‘Wellington, what’s good?’
Audience: “Rawwrrr, yeaahhhh [whistles]”. We’re good to go.
Oddisee: “Oohh, ohhoohoo, oh, oh, ohhhhh…. Is y’all ready to rock?”. This guy is a rockstar. His shine illuminates San Fran.
Deep into his set, featuring songs from his new joint Tangible Dream and last year’s epic release People Hear What They See, he’s got the whole club at church, and as he sails through his tracks, no one wants him to leave. He drops a personal favourite, ‘You Know Who You Are’ off People Hear What They See. Now we’re in the belly of the beast… Rocking and rolling with the rockstar.
“In any event just make sure that you know who you are”.
Then he spits an acapella, which in one blow, assassinates any other I’ve heard done live to date. It involves the crowd, bounces us — commands us up, then smooths us back down. It goes for bars. We begin to realise he’s letting us down gently. He’s going to leave soon, he indicates as nicely as he can.
There’s an encore. “Oddisee! Oddisee! Oddisee!”
He comes back — but just like everything, there will be an end. And just as we’re absolutely marveled, he thanks us and leaves just as quietly as he came. The whole show hosted by Hadyn Middleton of Madcap Touring was one of the biggest waves I have seen all year; it came crashing down from such a height, rolled on the stage, broke and then dissolved back into the night.
Blaze The Emperor, who’s birthday falls on new year’s eve, is a 23-year-old African rapper from Hamilton. A part of the AmmoNation collective up and coming from the 07, Blaze explains that after meeting Raiza Biza post leaving his Auckland crew, Beneath The Hype, he was recruited to AmmoNation and has been recording music under their umbrella since. Still on its way to the masses, AmmoNation are releasing a mixtape this summer. With Raiza Biza putting down foundations for his team, it’s an effort not lost on Blaze who says he is still emerging in terms of his artist voice. One of the few tracks he does have out, titled Green Land Livin, is reminiscent of a Lupe Fiasco or Kendrick flow. Having been in New Zealand since 1998, the hook goes, “I just wanna smoke with my peeps man, and live my life on this green land, I think we could all just agree man”. Recently performing with David Dallas on the Hamilton leg of his Falling Into Place tour, Blaze explains on Green Land Livin, though choosing music for a career is a slow grind, alongside his team — that have voices consisting of talents Jane Deezy, Munashe and Raiza with producers Haan-808 & Crime Heat Beats, the future’s looking good for Blaze and his music.
Blaze will be dropping an EP this summer, there’s also a track called ‘Vibrant’ with a video out next week, performing at the Hype Da Mic event at Studio in Auckland Friday Nov 1st with Derty Sesh, The Doqument, Raiza Biza, Cruize Klokstad aka Ice Man, MASO Gang Music, 805 Music, EMG and more. Also look out for the AmmonNation mixtape coming out this summer.
HH: Where are you from?
B: I was born in Rwanda, Central Africa, spent about five years there travelling around Africa and stuff with my mums…Not sure if you heard about the Rwandan genocide that happened there, so yeah that’s the reason why we left then we journeyed to New Zealand, came to Wellington, did my thing in Auckland for awhile, then moved to Hamilton; I’ve been here ever since.
HH: And you’re with AmmoNation right?
B: Yeah, definitely, AmmoNation is the team and the collective that I fall under along with Raiza Biza, Munashe — a pretty talented young dude man, Jane Deezy, Haan-808, and of course Crime Heat Beats. [When Blaze joined AmmoNation] I was with my rap group called Beneath The Hype and Raiza Biza was just around. He really liked the music, our group went different ways, I started rapping solo then he was like, ‘Yo, word, I’m making a collective with a bunch of guys and so, yeah, I basically jumped in there and I’ve been writing ever since’.
HH: Is the commonality of AmmoNation that you’re all from other countries?
B: As in foreign? [Laughs] Yeah actually our producer, Crime Heat Beats is a Kiwi…But yeah, we are quite diverse in culture and stuff. But we still consider ourselves Kiwis. I definitely reflect on the motherland and what not. Definitely on that track Green Land Livin I’m specifically talking about coming from the motherland to New Zealand and just doing my thing over here, wanting to chill with my people on this green land and stuff so I do touch on being a Kiwi coming from Africa.
“I’m my biggest critic so I’m always criticizing my own music.”
HH: Do you consider yourself a rapper or an artist?
B: First and foremost I consider myself an artist, I don’t really like to call myself a rapper per say — cause I just like to create vibes and feelings — moments, instead of focussing on making a rap record or anything like that.
HH: So being an artist from Rwanda living in New Zealand, does that give you a different standpoint to other artists here?
B: I mean I haven’t quite embraced it in the full extent but I am definitely going to start approaching that later on when I start doing an EP where I have to construct stories and make a body of work. For now I’m just making feel good moments and stuff like that, you know, but I’ll definitely touch on that later.
HH: Where would you say you’re at in your artist career right now?
B: I can’t even say that I’m popping off or anything like that. I’m just starting off really. I have only got a couple tracks that are available for download and I’ve kept it that way. I have got about 20 songs that I’ve got written and recorded just sitting on Crime Heat’s computer but it’s about just finding the right songs to release. I’m really picky with stuff like that. I definitely have a direction that I want to take my music and career path but it basically comes down to that fact that I’m such a perfectionist when it comes to… like I really think about how other people will embrace the music and that kind of has held me back for a bit, but I’m starting to get over that — I’m my biggest critic so I’m always criticizing my own music.
HH: What track do you have out that you are most proud of at the moment?
B: I would have to say Ambience, the most recent track that I’ve dropped featuring Raiza Biza is actually my favourite song. I was going to do a second verse but then the bro came in and he heard it and was like, ‘Yo man, let me hop on the second verse, that shit’s gonna be epic’, so yeah, I mean that’ll be my favourite track thus far. The track that a lot of people really like is my first song I ever made independently which is Beats, Rhymes x Papers and I always perform that at big shows, start off with that and a lot of people like that — it’s kind of like mixed signals because they’re two type of different tracks.
“I love listening to ignorant music, the most ignorant shit — but I also love to make like boom-bappy tracks so I’m just trying to fuse that.”
HH: Is that just you representing the moment you’re in, the mixed signals, or is that you finding your way as an artist?
B: It’s a bit of both ae. I’m still finding what I like to listen to and then like to make, record and listen back to — it’s two different things. So I’m still trying to find out what direction to go, I don’t want to be the guy that makes the music that everyone’s off, you know what I mean. I’m trying to stay ahead of the game and stay true to myself at the same time. I haven’t really found that balance yet so I’m trying to find a real mellow balance between ignorant music — I love listening to ignorant music, the most ignorant shit — but I also love to make like boom-bappy tracks so I’m just trying to fuse that at the moment and take that somewhere.
HH: When did you fall in love with hip hop?
B: When I first heard Biggie is when I fell in love with hip hop — Juicy.
B: Wiz, I’d get Curren$y over there — definitely have a smoker’s section, I’d get French Montana, Nelson Mandela because he’s a revolutionary guy you know and I’d get the president of Rwanda, Paul Kagame [laughs] — interesting dinner party.
HH: What’s your death row meal?
B: Oh man, steak. Just steak by itself, I love meat. Medium rare.
HH: If you had to take one song to a deserted island what would it be?
B: Max B — Goon Music. You gotta know Max B he’s a pioneer of the wave.
HH: What would you explore first the ocean or space?
B: Space. ASAP.
HH: What’s the best advice your mum’s ever given you?
B: Don’t count your chickens before they hatch, I always remember that one.
HH: What’s your most common reoccurring dream?
B: Running and going nowhere. Yeah I’m like running from something but I never seem to be going anywhere, it’s weird…it’s weird.
HH: Evolution or religion?
HH: Halle Berry or Hallelujah?
B: Halle Berry all day, I’m sorry.
HH: Favourite gangsta movie?
B: Training Day.
HH: Okay. Bong, pipe, bucky, spots or vaporiser?
B: You missed out papers, I definitely go for raw papers.
HH: And what’s your hood like?
B: My hood. It’s pretty chill. We gotta lot of pretty cool people out here, it can get real rough if you take the wrong left but otherwise it’s pretty chill.