Interview: Thirty Minutes With Ta-ku

Music

Perth based producer/beat maker Ta-ku doesn’t drink, smoke, take drugs or even make beats for a living, he does it after dinner, before bed as a side project. He has an out look on life that seems as progressive as his music considering recent heavy weights to hip hop, like Kendrick Lamar or Oddisee renouncing drugs and the party life because, religion, health, keeping a straight head while focusing on work and music.

It seems Ta-ku was onto something the rest of us have ignored all along. But more and more people are retracting from peer pressure to conform in favour of personal progress and simply enjoying the creative work itself.  Despite leading what he calls a ‘regimented’ life he still manages to work on tracks like ‘Cake’ for @Peace, remixes for Flume or feature artists like JMSN; lets not forget his own 50 days for Dilla two-part release or the project he did with Home Brew’s Haz where they went back to back in June 2011 posting a beat a day. I got to sit down with Ta-ku at The Bird in Perth and talk beats, music, life and hip hop. Perth has such a nurtured beat scene with regular events like the Beat Lounge or Boiler Room TV  – Ta-ku is an exciting example of the good music that grows there. In 2013 he began his own label, Sunday Records,  with the intention to support fellow beat makers by providing them access to a bigger audience. He says there’s so much talent out there but people are still hiding in their bedrooms, which he wants to change.

Baby Mamas Club raises a fist for colored women in NZ

Culture

“Don’t you know, we’re talking about a revolution sound, like a whisper” — Tracy Chapman

Producer Mia Marama and Director Hanelle Harris are the duo behind a recent TV series called The Baby Mama’s Club. Unique in the way that it captures the lives of four young brown women from New Zealand, humorously linking them together on a quest to hunt down they’re children’s father Johnny who is missing, the series proved critics wrong when they said it was unoriginal, boring and no one would watch it. This criticism came among other concerns it wouldn’t sell and was therefore unworthy of a funding investment from NZONAIR.

Determined to execute their vision the pair self funded the pilot episode before receiving a $100,000 grant in the 2017 NZONAIR funding pool. “Our audience came in droves” offers Harris. Attention toward its potential came after the pilot episode racked up over half a million views.

“Let’s be real, we were probably one of the strongest applicants for that funding round – we had views on one pilot that amounted one projects total views in a season,” says Harris.

The pair are proud of their progress but plan to keep pushing representation of minority communities in mainstream NZ media. For Baby Mama’s Club the pair said TV executives didn’t interfere too much with their creative vision.”We were really privileged that the broadcaster was hands off but we’ve got really great executive producers at South Pacific Pictures. They’ll give their advice which comes from a raft of experience from making so many TV shows and they’re considering the budget and the feasibility of what we wanna pull off.. in the end I don’t think we cut anything really that I wanted to keep.”

“We’re so grateful for the support and people really need to understand we can’t do it without them, we don’t have the power. When people are asking us for season two or more episodes they need to really hear us when we’re saying the power’s not in our hands, its really in their hands. They need to be active and fight for it and hear us when we’re saying we have had to fight harder but it is a battle, we cant do it on our own,” says Harris.

Mia says “In order for us to be enabled to make anything as brown people it has to become a media sensation, so like Hanelle said, comment share post about it talk about it and support the kaupapa”.

“We have been able to prove to the primary broadcaster in the country that there is an audience for Maori and Pacific Island voices and they’ve come in droves, our audience has come in droves and TVNZ have been wonderful not only have they platformed us they’ve put us front and center.

Villette and Baby Mama’s Club cast at series premier, TVNZ December 2017

“Representation matters because it validates us as a people that should have an equal voice in society and when you don’t see yourself in media you are therefore an other and being an other means your voice doesn’t get heard and when it is heard….it doesn’t have as much weight…

It really is on that psychological level, you really are grooming the perceptions of people when you’re saying these are the faces that represent New Zealand that is what you are saying, when you are constantly seeing white faces on New Zealand screen you are telling the next generation, this generation, the one before it, that this is what New Zealand looks like and we know it’s not true,” says Harris.

Producer Mia Marama points out “As Polynesian peoples, story telling is a very natural and integral part of our culture, something that’s been happening for generations and generations so whether we’re channeling that in the media, music, film, television it probably hasn’t been done more because of opportunity, but I don’t think that limits us — as people we’ve already shown we’re resilient now we just need to continue to fight for those opportunities so that we can share those stories to a global audience because it’s clear now that people want to see it.

“Once Were Warriors, Whale Rider, Boy, Hunt For The Wilderpeople, these are films that have made millions and millions of dollars so the fact that we’re still trying to prove our ‘diverse’ stories can make money is tiresome.”

Hanelle says “I don’t want to be comparative to mainstream media, my goal is to be better than mainstream media in New Zealand and to be getting the money, not based on the fact that we have this cool, hip, niche audience but based on the fact that we’re fucken good and everyone likes it, and that’s the point which is that white people do love our show, they fuckin love it and I think there are actually white New Zealanders out there that agree that the New Zealand we see on TV is not the NZ they know and if you live in Auckland that’s definitely not the NZ that you’re seeing every day”.

In this interview for Ryz FM and The Plug they discuss NZ MUCIC, RACISM IN NEW ZEALAND, FEMINISM, TALL POPPY SYNDROME, HATERS, YOUNG FATHERS, and THE NEED FOR MORE genuine BROWN MEDIA & more.

LISTEN TO THE INTERVIEW:

https://audioboom.com/posts/6559807-the-baby-mama-s-club-interview-by-aleyna-martinez

Watch Pilot episode HERE.

NEW: Villette releases Drip Crimson mixtape

Music

2017 has taught singer, songwriter, producer Villette that those working with you have to put as much effort into your product as you do, otherwise, they have to go.  To-the-point. Timely. Strong. This year the 22-year-old Samoan Chinese talent from South Auckland has been working super hard at her music — which can be an unforgiving environment — so she has to sometimes make tough calls to protect her brand.  She’s learned the hard way she can’t tolerate those that can’t give 100 percent and more.

Key moments include a feature on the smash web-series Baby Mama’s Club, releasing her mixtape and touring Drip Crimson alongside a new lingerie series — of which the first set is called ‘If You Go’ — “That song is about feeling powerful, you’ve just broken up with someone or you think someone’s going to leave or you don’t know what’s happening in the relationship.”

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“I feel empowered in that song when I’m saying fuck whose in your phone, fuck that other girl, I feel empowered when I say that so I called it If You Go because that’s one of the most powerful songs on the mixtape. She says the plan is to release lingerie with every project she does.

“This mixtape is pretty heavy and the new EP that’s coming out in January is going to be more about how I feel right now. It’s going to be more upbeat, more definitive more melody lead RnB”

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Villette says, “This mixtape’s been going on for about 11-months but I’ve been working on new music during that time.” Drip Crimson is available on SPOTIFY and  most platforms.

How have you found working at the industry level cause I remember when you played at the Greenroom and were booked via Facebook messenger..

[Laughs] The good old days when things were simple man, I miss that, nah I still get booked for some shit via Facebook, low key I still do it, I’m not ashamed of it.

And there’s a lot of love in those shows.. 

That’s where my people are like that’s just where I can really see how people feel and it’s different when you get asked to play a show through a booking agent cause you don’t know if it’s completely genuine or not or if it’s for marketing purposes and stuff like that so there’s a question of,  if you want to do it or not, if it’s genuine, and then you have to think about your integrity as an artist; whether you should be playing that kind of gig or if its solely for the money and that’s where I’m at at the moment but I’m lucky to have booking agents who are my friends as well, so they know my values as an artists and they know where I stand.

… I think there’s a misconception because I still don’t consider myself in the ‘industry level’ yet, I still see myself as, in the beginning phases, for me I feel very early in my career and I feel like I’ve gone through a lot of shit with industry stuff but I’m learning on a personal level as an artists how to handle that because that’s going to define my success, how I handle these little challenges now, is how I’m going to come out the other end.

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..Lots of people tell you what you should do and how you should handle stuff, but nothing prepares for you when someone offers you something amazing and it’s too good to be true and you take it and it was too good to be true and your like [lols] ‘Ahh fuck I should have listened’.

Whenever an artist gets involved with this it’s because you are that kind of person, you wanna take risks obviously for pursuing being an artist in such an over saturated market right now so..It’s just one of those things that comes with the territory.. but I enjoy it now and I’ve learned to handle it, and I’m still working on how I react to it on a personal level, emotionally react to it.

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So you have to have a thick skin?

Have to. Like I’ve got followers, I’m not afraid to admit that I have fans and stuff like that but I also have my fair amount of haters and …there’s just ..always going to be shit that just comes with the territory, for one person that loves you there might be two who don’t like you, and I get hate messages on Instagram, I have people comment shit that I have to delete it’s really intense and that also comes with being a woman in the industry like people just always critique you on everything and then at the industry level  you’ve got 50-year-old white men telling you what’s relevant and it’s like you don’t know what the fucks relevant, you really don’t.

..When you’re working in the studio you really have to have a thick skin because you have to trust your gut instinct, and that you know what sounds hot and that you know what sounds like you, when you’re trying to put your flavour into something, you have to be really strong and stand your ground and that can make you lose friends, I’ve learned that even recently I’ve lost friends over it.

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Women, I think you’re right I think we do have to yank our personalities out in order to stand there and really deliver a solid performance..

I think that also comes from knowing your self-worth, on a personal level, at the end of the day I’m human, I’ll always doubt myself and always not know if I’m going to be insecure and that sort of stuff but when it comes to business I really separate it and just think ‘no this is my full-time job’ and treat it like that… I really expect great things from the people around me and lately in the last month I’ve just narrowed down my team and thought about like, one strike and you’re out, that’s it that’s all I can deal with. ..And that comes down to knowing your self-worth and knowing that how you handle your business is how other people should handle it [laughs] it’s simple,  but it’s taken me so long to realise that.

How do you take a loss? 

Oh man it’s hard, maybe at the beginning of this year I would have cried and been real fucking upset; lashed out at everyone around me, lashed out at my mum, even though she has nothing to do with it.. but it’s because it’s just like.. I struggle to talk about my emotions unless it’s in song so I just am that way …I’m going to fuck around and piss people off ..I still am that way… am still going to fuck around and piss people off but now I handle it better and I see it as: I fucking love losing now, failing is great to me. I’m kind of like, ‘Come the fuck on!’ because I’m in my twenties now I’m 22 and this is the time to try shit and fail at shit and know what you’re good at.

 

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And Hamilton, you grew up there, was any of your creativity made there? 

[There were] a lot of experiences. I did most of my growing up in Hamilton the pivotal moments in me teens were all there, my first boyfriend was there, my first everything was there lets just say that…a lot of my lasts were there as well cause when I moved here I was like I can’t do this shit anymore, I met a rapper over there as well and that was the first time I went in the studio, properly recorded, and that’s the first time I realised it wasn’t as easy as it looked, but I thank him for that experience because it made me realise that I wanted to work hard.

Catch more of this interview on Ryz FM. 

 

 

A GAME OF SKATE with Too’OnPoint

Culture, Interview

One brief decider using paper, scissors, rock, then twin brother Shingi Murare kicks off a ‘Game of Skate’ match versus his brother Muche, the pair known as Too’OnPoint  meet me at their local park in Flatbush, Barry Curtis Park. 

ALEYNA: So you guys grew up around here? I’m filming you.

SHINGI: Oh shit, yeah we did, we grew up like…. we’d skate 20 minutes down the road before they built this, everyday after school. Weekends I’d be here  first thing in the morning. It’s still probably one of the best skate parks in Auckland, but we didn’t have that much back then…Til we begged the council.

ALEYNA: Who’s we?

SHINGI: Like a lot of us, like the local skate shop as well

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ALEYNA: Which is?

SHINGI: Boardertown, my brother works there. So even though I got into music and shit, skating’s still …before I wanted to be a musician I wanted to be a proskateboarder. I was really passionate about it, now it’s just fun like what you do for exercise and to have fun, before, I took it too seriously.

MUCHE: And then it’s not fun.

ALEYNA: When did you come across the show Epicl’y Latered and what did you like about it?

SHINGI: It would’ve been almost 10 years ago now we would’ve still been in intermediate school just learning how to skate then the show Epicl’y Latered was something new and refreshing. You got a peek into their personal lives as well as an in depth interview on skate culture. It put a personal attachment to my favourite skateboarders which intern motivates you to scare you even harder it’s almost like a musician watching their favourite musicians biography you know.

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ALEYNA: So where are you guys from?

MUCHE: Harare, Zimbabwe

ALEYNA: And how old were you when you came here?

MUCHE: Bout 2002, I was seven.

ALEYNA: So you went to school out here?

MUCHE: Yeah, Elm Park Primary.

 

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ALEYNA: Wait where are we?

SHINGI: We’re in Flatbush but we grew up round the east like Pakuranga

ALEYNA: So first memories of skating, how did it start?

MUCHE: Just seeing my mates back in intermediate and my friends would skate and I’d just watch clips of them doing like kick flips and shit skating and be like bro how do you do that.

SHINGI: I got me a little $10 skateboard from the Warehouse and shit, it could barely ride.

ALEYNA: So you loved it that much that  just put up with that? What was the first board you bought?

SHINGI: Yeah for a little bit and then I got like a proper skate board, I think my first one was a Flip, Geoff Rowley.

MUCHE: I think the first board I bought was a Zero cause I loved Chris Cole.

SHINGI: I was real poor and shit so I couldn’t afford to buy a board and shit for over $100, so I’d always cop second hand skateboards…once in a blue moon I’d buy a board.

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ALEYNA: So is this your stomping ground?

MUCHE: Yeah

 

SHINGI: Oi legit, we were probably the reason why they built this park…

ALEYNA: What’s that story?

MUCHE: Um so if you go back maybe a kilometre that way we used to be fucking little shits always just going there  skating up, the shop owners would complain and shit , we’d skate all the local schools, they’d always complain there was like 20 of us and we’d always just go and skate together so they got pretty pissed off about that after a while.

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SHINGI: We even did a petition and they put like 700k into it or something.

MUCHE:  There was like, One News or something came out here when it was still getting built and they got us all to come through and ask, ‘Oh what do you guys think about this park?’ But bro we needed this to be honest like where else were we gonna skate? You’re [the council] not providing facilities for the youth to go kick it at type thing.

SHINGI: And the public transport system is so trash.

MUCHE: It’s hard to get to other parks.

SHINGI: To get to skatepark would take you half a day.

MUCHE: But now it’s like legit, this place is probably a home for a lot of people who have grown up around here, it’s needed.

ALEYNA: So skating, as brothers that’s something that you’ve always done together?

MUCHE: Yeah and my other brother, he’s better than us, he’s fuckin good (laughs).

SHINGI: Yeah he’s fucking good aye, so good.

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ALEYNA: What is it you love about skating, is it like something you can do as a family, as brothers like isn’t some of this shit scary?

SHINGI: It is but it’s fun like ..the risk.

MUCHE: The way I see it it’s like confidence building , if I was gonna go do that 10 right, like that I’ve never done in my life but if I was going to go do it I would probably run up like five times and then come to a point where you’re like I’m actually going to do it this time and that’s when the adrenaline kicks in before you do it and then once you do it, it’s like ‘Oh my god it wasn’t that hard’ and then you go try it again you know but like getting over that mental barrier of  it’s ‘just a 10 stair’ or  ‘it’s just an olly’ type thing gets me, I dunno. Sometime you could be out there trying a trick for a whole fucking day and you’re not going to get it, but you’re still, every time you fall down and fuck yourself up you’re going to get back up and try again you know.

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SHINGI: Cause you want it that bad…

MUCHE: And then you get it one time and then that one time made up for the whole day’s worth of work  you know so yeah it’s a good feeling,

ALEYNA: So do you guys reckon  that define loving something or just your drive and character?

SHINGI: Definitely defines loving something.

MUCHE: Loving something because fuck, you got to put up with the bad times you know what I mean just for those small moments of hope but it’s worth it in the end.

SHINGI: It’s the feeling of achievement that’s so satisfying even if you do something one day you’ll be like fuck ok, if I can do that then the possibilities are just endless

MUCHE: It just makes you like, I’m going to take it to the next level.

ALEYNA: Do you help each other train or learn?

MUCHE: Game of Skate, we should play a gam of skate now…

SHINGI: It’s like what’s that game on the basketball court…Donkey.

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Interview: Introducing KVKA — “All Black Range, Malcolm X Knew Better”

Culture

Speaking about his song ‘La Musica’ produced by Tony Douglas, Hamilton resident Mukuka Simwinga aka KVKA says, “I feel very strongly about the new age slavery, it’s like where Africans and minorities have got to a place where white people and other people don’t have to put us down because it’s like self hate. So when I say [in the song], ‘where gold chains make slaves look better, all black Range Malcolm X knew better, gold chains swing just to lynch me better’, I’m saying we’re doing this to ourselves; it’s to a point where all we care about is, ‘oh yeah I got ice on my neck and I got the new whip’, and you’re not thinking about the fact that back in the day your ancestors would never wear that chain around their neck, they’d never do that because they know exactly what it means. It’s like they work so hard to get free and then we put chains back on ourselves. It’s something I have to work on as well. I say ‘nigga’ sometimes. I say all the ignorant stuff. But I think it’s something, where we need to get to the point, where we can battle it and not just sit down and say, ‘Oh yeah our ancestors helped us to get free — because we’re not free. Corporations are still above us and everyone’s not at a place where everyone’s equal yet.’

With KVKA hailing from a family of musicians and poets, he draws inspiration from his brother listening to Otis Redding, the church, and “my mum, when she’s was younger, used to write poetry as well. So it’s kind of like everyone in my family is creative. I sit down and try to absorb all the creativity around me. My sister was a big influence. She went for this poetry slam and won. She was on Drew and Shannon Live and she had an episode on Both Worlds — I realized through all that stuff that I could actually do something with it instead of it just being a closet-type hobby”.

Never having had a build up into the scene that was public, he instead worked behind the scenes until he sprang into the spotlight with his video for ‘The Zone’ which was filmed by YouTube based channel Visual Base TV. This produced a snowball effect which landed him on the doorstep of Tony Douglas’ house in Hamilton. Literally. Drenched from walking in the rain after church one Sunday, they’d arranged their first session. For now, all we can say is that he plans to continue rising up the music leader board. KVKA, who is of Zambian descent but New Zealand citizenship, has immersed himself in the influence of his family, friends, Hip Hop and most notably his own self awareness — it makes him an independent thinker and somewhat explains his impeccable lyricism, wordplay and sound. He says, ‘I don’t want to just be a rapper, I want to change the whole culture of New Zealand rap. And it’s really awesome because I’ve been sitting here and listening to all these underground rappers from New Zealand I never knew of, there’s Mikey, Third3ye, Diaz Grimm, everyone’s starting to change the [music] culture from New Zealand — and no offence to anyone, like I love Scribe, but from Scribe to be[ing] more universal with the world — but still keep our authenticity — I’m proud to be in New Zealand and be apart of what’s going to happen. Personally, I want to be right at the front, leading this new generation of underground to the world.’

WDYFILWHH had the chance to Skype KVKA and get a closer sense of who he is and what he’s about. It’s no doubt that this is 27 minutes worth listening to. While you’re at it, you can get a bit more acquainted with KVKA’s music on his SoundCloud as we patiently wait for the release of his début EP L.O.E.S, out on the 1st of November.

Jahra ‘Rager’ Wasasala — “Sometimes, your tongue is cut out of your mouth at birth”

Interview

“My name in some countries translates as vessel so that’s literally my job is to be able to transport messages” ~ Jahra Wasasala

Jahra ‘Rager’ Wasasala is an Aotearoa-born mixed-race 23-year-old contemporary dancer, choreographer and spoken word artist who created the 2015 award winning contemporary dance theatre work titled “MOTHER/JAW” in collaboration with choreographic artist and dancer, Grace Woollett.
Winning ‘Best Dance Performance’ amongst others at the 2015 Fringe Festival, the contemporary dance/spoken word theatre work explored themes behind the rituals of passage into young womanhood, the stripped indigenous mother-country in a historical and modern context, and how we must connect young mixed blood to old stolen blood.

Jahra says she used to be disheartened that she couldn’t properly trace her roots back to their origins, and some of that struggle with culture and identity was certainly included in MOTHER/JAW. 
She says,
”I don’t think I’ll ever be able to completely trace my lineage. I think I’m in a position like a lot of people my age who can’t trace/can’t go back/can’t name their people, I used to be sad about it. But I don’t think it’s a sad thing anymore – I think it’s okay. I’m obviously a hybrid and an accumulation of everyone and everything that I come into contact with… Regardless of who I can name and can’t name, and regardless of who I can or can’t trace, they are with me all the time — they influence my work and how I am every day. So I obviously have a very diverse ethnic background, and it does shape me but it doesn’t define me as well”.

Interview: Stussybeats on Godwave

Music

A revisit is my take on a remix says Stussybeats. It’s an opportunity for him to recreate a track the way he feels it should’ve sounded in the first place.

“I don’t release revisits without making sure the artists are comfortable with it.”

For the past 20 minutes, I have been listening to the original release of Psalms 82:6 by KVKA; comparing the track to its revisit, back and forth, then I missed my cue to repeat; Stussy’s next track played on SoundCloud and got me all types of pleasantly distracted.

‘The First Gate’ instrumental opens with an an eerie death-angel, church-choir sample situation, the kind of emotion that makes the hair stand on end when you know something scary is about to happen in a movie.

“The First Gates sampling idea originally came about when I was thinking about soundtracks and the cinematic effect they have, I like to think of my music as a cinematic approach to the true feeling of a beat…A sort of drug or euphoria that gives you a certain feeling, so the idea of a gothic, god-like sound seemed unique to me, I’ve never heard it done like I planned it before, so I tested my idea out and created The First Gate, as well as the original Psalms outro.”

Threads: Yeezy Season 1 — “Awesome is possible”

Threads

“Were not always in the position that we want to be at, we’re constantly growing, constantly making mistakes, constantly trying to express ourselves and trying to realize our dreams” ∼ Kanye West

11 years after releasing College Dropout, Kanye West is still a revolutionary. He’s still an activist. He’s a living icon… probably why people hate him so much. If he died tomorrow his face would be slapped onto t-shirts and pumped out to the masses stupidly and blindly campaigning against capitalism, just like they did with Che and Dilla. Yeezy Season 1 comes to us via Adidas, but the brand works well, as Pat Ngoho, the 2014 International Skateboarder’s Union bowl champion said:

“There’s really no doubt that Adidas is probably the coolest shoe out there. They’ve just been accepted culturally around the world, in so many different circles and every single time they just do it in a very cool manor, so I’m stoked to be rocking em.”

Nicki Minaj — You thought the Google thing was bad?

Culture, Music, Newness

‘I Get Crazy’ by Nicki Minaj featuring Wayne was my introduction to Onika Maraj. I subscribed immediately. Although she was a new name to me in 2009, she had been going hard in the US for years. And then her Sucka Free mixtape came out and the reference to Lil Kim was there, from the start. “We did that pose to make a statement,” Nicki explained to Jabari Johnson in 2008. 

I subscribed to her flow and her balls, which allowed her to say what ever she felt like in her verses. Her flow was fierce and her bars held your attention; not just with words but flava too — there was no air of ‘token female rapper’ on her. As plain as that sounds in 2014 with the likes of Azealia Banks, Dej Loaf, Chelsea Reject and others today, back then, it was the beginning of a new trajectory in the realms of rap and women. There had been hardcore female rappers before her, but there was something about Nicki that pushed the envelope further and offered a fresh sound; eagerly, I anticipated the release of Pink Friday… The 2008 interview with Jabari Johnson did it for me: 

JJ: Do you think it’s harder as a female rapper to achieve?

NM: Yessssss, why you think there’s only been a handful of females in the game the last 15 years. It’s hard because you get judged by the industry and you get judged by consumers, hard, bodied. Like females, we have this crab in the bucket thing, like we never wanna see another female get somewhere, so it’s very hard, because you get critiqued by the girls, boxed in by the dudes…

…Its’ very hard I write my own shit, that’s another thing, people, a lot of the times I work with people and they’re like, ‘Oh you need a ghost writer’? Like, boo, I do this, please don’t get it twisted, don’t get it confused. When I’m in the studio with Wayne, when I’m in the studio with whoever, I fuck with the best of them, come on, Jadakiss, come on, I write my own shit…People say, why you feel the need to say that all the time, I say it because there’s not a day that go by, where people don’t ask me, ‘You write your own raps?‘ and I got to say. ‘Yes fuckface, I do.’

 As she got bigger, hate began to extend her way. In 2012 she was accused of purposely exposing her breasts on ABC for a publicity stunt; she had a feud with Lil Kim last year and was accused of stealing Kim’s style — Beyonce had the last say in me eyes, when she brought Nicki out during Flawless at the On The Run Tour in Paris. When she judged American Idol, I really lost touch with what the woman was up to; for one, I didn’t and don’t own a TV, and two, the levels of success she’d reached in such a short period of time were a lot to take in, because it had come for, and to her, faster than any other self-made artist I could recall. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ahiYl8sdJVY When the Stupid Hoe video came out, I thought it was the type of thing only Nicki could pull off — and the irony was even more entertaining when she, at the same time as taking jabs at Lil Kim and Lady Gaga (amongst others) — cemented herself in rap history by having Hype Williams direct the video. When she claimed to be the ‘female Weezy’ at the end of the track, I was proud of the fact only she could do that, like that. But I was still dozing, or dizzy. Mixtape Nicki, who I fell in love with, was now everywhere. On my Pepsi can, all over my make up packaging in a characterized, pink silhouette, I turned around and she was at the perfume counter too. The Sweet Dreams Remix  is still blasting in my head phones, so I was confused. As well, other things were happening in the hip hop world; at levels which posted new flags for rap music and black culture in general. Jay Z and Beyonce became friends with Barack and Michelle Obama. The President used Jay’s power as a cultural and pop music icon during his election campaign. In Nov 2013, Jay was on the cover of Vanity Fair. Furthering the conversation, in 2014, Dodai Stewart wrote an article titled ‘Black People finally appear on cover of Vanity Fair’s Hollywood issue’Beyonce featured on the cover of TIME magazine, on a list for the top 100 most Influential People for 2014, people focused on her knickers, it was expected, but to me it felt like a massive cultural achievement and she could have been wearing anything, or nothing. The hip hop culture itself has also changed. Crews like Odd Future, Pro Era, Top Dawg Entertainment, The A$AP Mob and the internet in general have innovated the playing field. These days, money is strong in touring, branding stems off what the indie kids like, so artists have to be likeable. The new aesthetics include skinny jeans, dreads, auto-tune, Drake, buckets hats and discussions over who has the best adlibs. But the g’s are still there, Freddie Gibbs, Nipsey Hussle, Schoolboy Q, the list goes on. In 2015 you simply have to know where to look for what you want. As a young coloured female who studied journalism in a predominantly European culture, foreign to my own, East Asian one; opening up my ‘work’ window in the office, using Internet Explorer — and then my ‘personal’ browser on Chrome —  I noticed the two now contain the same content. Again, it was a lot to get used to, because I am old enough to remember when R&B and Hip Hop and colored music, period, were underground genres.   article-2614857-1D511C5200000578-453_634x843 Duck Down Music Chief Executive, Buckshot, was someone I interviewed in 2014. I asked him how he felt about Nicki’s career and the different phases she’s been through as an emcee.

AM: I’m wondering if you feel Nicki Minaj has been a positive or negative thing for female rap — in your opinion.

B: I think she’s a positive influence only because she’s a dope female. That’s what I’m trying to tell you, if you decide to go commercial, it’s not like I think anything’s wrong with it. That’s her and that’s the style she chose, that’s what she want to do and she’s a dope emcee I think she’s impeccable, and god damn, she’s  gorgeous. I think if you hear some of her new stuff, she’s just dope… Once you start going quote on quote, ‘I want to be a superstar,’ not just a star, people start judging you automatically. The ones who care stop and say,  ‘Oh you fell off, you sold out blah, blah, blah.’ The ones who don’t care start saying ‘Hey, you’re a great entertainer’.

I have a record label, I’m kind of compromised. Instead of me being a superstar, I’m actually a CEO — which to me is better than being a superstar, because you have longevity and scalability. Once I sign Pharaohe, I get his fans. Once I work with Talib Kweli, I get his fans, you know what I’m saying? So a person like Nicki Minaj has to do whatever she has to do to remain a superstar and that’s an impressive thing because [those] people have to do shit that I would never do. But I don’t think Nicki has compromised herself as much as it looks that way; the only thing is probably the fake tittes and would she have done that if she had got a little money and was an underground artist, that only costs a couple of g’s, and did she really did want to get some fake boob-tits anyway, you never know.

In 2015 they’re saying mixtape Nicki is back. It’s hard to hear because in 2010, the sound quality of the tracks themselves (never mind the artist)  were rawer, likely an inferior bitrate? Nicki in a studio is clean and polished — even when she’s threatening to fuck her man up. There is superior auto-tune and the best producers money can buy, obviously. The advantage has allowed her to perfect the sound she’s been famous for since Superbass — but was also trying to achieve in her mixtapes — that’s why when people are calling for mixtape Nicki, you have to look at her old songs and realize Nicki hasn’t changed, she IS the girl you fell in love with in 2007, she’s just in your face more. When people say, ‘Oh she had to go commercial to get the masses’, I think, she’s simply been doing her the whole time. It’s an achievement that she’s managed to do it her way.  She told Angie Martinez, “I’m so confident about the Pink Print, I’ve never been more confident about anything I’ve ever done artistically”, and if you listen carefully, you can see why; the production is solid, and songs like Favourite featuring Jeremih and Want Some More take her out of the gimmicks box and reveal The Pink Print as serious rap music. So, is she inappropriate? There are many arguments for no and yes when considering the exposure of body parts and the influence on our young girls. But just like rap moguls like Eminem or 50 Cent (and countless other musicians) have argued in the past — what we show our kids is our own problem — I’ll add, what we teach them is our own responsibility too. For maturer females (over 12) let’s face it, Nicki along with Beyonce and Rihanna, have re-defined modern feminine discourse, worldwide. Of course there was Erykah, TLC, Aaliyah, Missy Elliot, Ciara and many many others, including those Onika looked up to like Lauryn Hill, but they are women who had to target specialised audiences as they expressed themselves to a public sphere not yet ready for ‘urban’ women at such mainstream degrees. At last, there is a solid movement toward a healthier, more empowered race of colored woman, worldwide. In 2015, there’s still a point to prove and new ground to be broken in this area, maybe a little less flesh to show. For now, Complex magazine ended 2014 by placing her on their end of year list for Best Rapper Alive. If that isn’t an indication that she’s genuinely real in the places she’s ‘posed to be then I don’t know what you’re paying attention to. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QluZ-lhAMe0 I have to apologise to my homegirl Celeste De Menzies, she’s had Nicki’s back since day one. Even when I started sleeping, she knew what was up.

Interview: Marek Peszynski — Collecting Moments

Feature, Interview, Music

“You can’t look at Riff Raff or Lil B and say that they’re involved in the Hip Hop movement you know because they’re not.”

What they do is just straight organic, ignorant, albeit fun, party-rap music which has no relevance to Hip Hop culture at all. Apart from the fact that they’re rapping, which I don’t think is enough to constitute them being involved in the Hip Hop movement.”

Marek Peszynski otherwise know as Mazdef Productions is a DJ, promoter and lover of Hip Hop and rap music. His story stakes a claim in Wellington’s clubbing/party-scene history, then extends to Los Angeles and London. Unknown to many, his timeline is a music lovers’ dream; as he humbly goes about his business as a father, partner, DJ.

He is also a collector — of many things and says big purchases must be run past his partner Rose first. But, it is also discovered Marek is a collector of moments in Hip Hop, like the time he spoke to J.Dilla’s mum on the phone after he had just passed away; or the time Chuck D turned down a free Wax Poetics from him; instead the Public Enemy legend hung out for a few hours then eventually paid for the magazine. There was the time he went to LA and gave out copies of the Feelstyle album on vinyl to new friends, as a piece of his culture to them.

This story is a collection of Marek’s epic moments; some are great and some shocking, some are hard and others are really funny. Marek, who lives in Wellington but hails from Auckland remembers being the only guy in attendance at some Hip Hop shows in the beginning of the culture’s existence in mainstream New Zealand music to now, where he says: 

“I love it [new school rap]. At the moment being open minded’s cool. You don’t have to like Lil B or LP but as long as you know the definition between rap music and Hip Hop music then it’s all good. Take Waka or Gucci Mane — that’s rap music, or technically that’s trap music, but you wouldn’t put that on calling it a Hip Hop show, because it’s not. It’s a rap show. Whereas people with craft — your Joey Badass, your Talib Kweli, your Kev Brown — people that encapsulate the culture a little bit more, that’s Hip Hop.” For him, it just so happens that his passion has become his work. He says, there are of course risks in promoting shows, “But there’s a satisfaction that goes with putting on events like this.”

Reflecting on his promoting career thus far he names Action Bronson as one of the highlights. “That was a huge risk, that was like the eighth of January, it was such a terrible time for any sort of show, everyone’s broke after new years or away and I just bit the bullet and put on the show and it sold out. He ended up loving New Zealand and coming to my house, hanging out with my children — he’s like one of the biggest rap stars in the world at the moment, it’s crazy.”

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The Beginning

HH: Where are you from?

M: I was born and raised in West Auckland.

HH: So when did you come to Wellington?

M: In 2000, I’d just turned 21.

HH: What are your earliest memories of music and hip hop?

M: I guess my father’s always been quite musical, although he wasn’t a musician, he’s got a massive vinyl collection of rock n’roll through to classical, old soul music — Barry White, Marvin Gaye and all stuff like that. I guess it was probably, firstly the record player itself I was fascinated by and just learning how to use that then listening to the music. It just went from there really — that was the start of my love for music. I guess the first time I saw Radio With Pictures, [which is a] music show during the late 80’s, you know I always used to sneak out of bed and watch TV, do that kind of thing.. seeing videos from like Run DMC I guess that was always the initial cross over for me.

HH: When you got to Wellington, what was your impression of it, from an outsiders POV?

M: Well I’d visited Wellington quite a bit before, I’d been to early King Kapisi shows and stuff like that at that club that used to be above Area 51, La Luna. I knew from then it’d always been a strong kind of community and then I guess when I was living in Auckland and starting to DJ around 1997/98 people like DJ Raw would come play at the DMC champs and stuff in Auckland, he was kind of my favourite turntabilist at the time. The whole turntabilism thing was so new to me and he was one of the first people I’d really seen do it really well — he was from Wellington obviously, so that association was pretty strong from the start.

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DJing — The First Love

“DJing for me, I think, it doesn’t matter what I do, it will always be my first love. Playing music I love to a massive awesome, receptive-partying crowd. The buzz from that is still — nothing can beat that.”

HH: When you began, were you a competitive DJ?

M: Nah. I’ve never been but you know I’ve always played a mixed bag of different music. It was Hip Hop that I really wanted to play in clubs and that kind of a thing; obviously learning the basic scratching and stuff but it was never at the stage where I was extremely technical with what I do DJ wise.. still to this day I guess because I can’t scratch that amazingly, I’ve always been about making the song the focus.

HH: How’d your route go, starting out in Auckland?

M: Normally just playing parties. Playing for my friends. I ended up being a DJ for a group called Bahama 62 it was my first ever…Me and a bunch of my friends, there was Tourettes from Breakin Wreckwordz and now YGB — Dominic Hoey; we were living together at the time so we decided to start a rap group. That was kind of like more of a fun kind of party project — we didn’t have any serious gigs, we were quite involved in the punk and hard-core scene at the time so quite often [I’d play] at the punk parties cause everyone was into rap music.

HH: At what point were you like, I wanna do clubs?

M: I guess it was when the bands that were playing all the parties started playing at clubs and I was asked to play music. I think my first club show was at The Kings Arms, with my friend’s indie band; it was pretty terrifying for me. It was kind of cool in a way because it was all my friends there, but at the same time there was also a lot of the public there and I was still a beginner you know like I couldn’t really sort of blend properly, I couldn’t really scratch..I remember just getting so drunk — to the point where I passed out and I wedged myself between my record box and the wall.. the song ran out and there were people looking at the booth [laughs].. all they could see were these flapping legs.

HH: Mid-set?

M: Yeah. (Smiles).

HH: Passed out?

M: Well I didn’t pass out. I fell over and got wedged between the wall, fully conscious and aware of what was going on. [Cracks up]

HH: Okay so once you got to Wellington, what was your mission, were you still in a space where you were finding your own way as a DJ?

M: I guess so. Yeah. Like I said I started off with Hip Hop, but I’ve always been really eclectic with the sort of music I play. So I think by the time I got to Wellington, although I was still buying a lot of Hip Hop vinyl and stuff like that, I knew for me, there was probably more work in dance music; I would play Garage and US House even though the house music I was playing was like Kenny Dope & DJ Spinna who are still sort of — they’ve got their roots in Hip Hop as well.

Record Store Life — Before The Internet

HH: Did you have a day job?

M: About three months into moving here, I ended up living with Tourettes for a while; his partner at the time was working at the CD store on Cuba Street. I managed to get a job at the CD Store, the one that was on the corner of Cuba and Dixon Street.

HH: Did you plan to perpetually work in music, it seems that’s just sort of what’s happened for you…

M: Ummm, yeah, it was one of those things where I’d always wanted to work in a record store. Not a CD store, but a record, record store. I ended up working for the CD Store for a long time. They ended up buying the Tandy’s Music space in Manners Mall, which had Chelsea Records attached to it. Over the years between 2001 and 2004 I was moved around all the different CD Stores; when I became assistant manager down Lambton Quay there was an opening to come work at Planet Jacks in Manners Mall where the crêpe shop is now. I ended up managing Chelsea Records which was my first step into proper record store life.

HH: Which you’d always wanted to do..

M: Yeah and I ultimately got there. It took a little while hustling top 40 CD’s but I eventually made it to Chelsea Records.

HH: So working in the record store would have advanced your dig-game?

M: Absolutely. I had to step up my game just to keep on top of current music. People would come in asking for specific vinyl, they were smarter than yourself, so you have to keep on top of that. I was in charge of all the ordering, it was all imports — there weren’t many people who were bringing in records locally. It was just dealing with shops in New York, San Francisco, London — going through release sheets; faxing stuff backwards and forwards — this is before the internet. We were such an integral part..I sort of built a bit of a brand around Chelsea Records because I had the freedom to do that, I guess, the owners of the company didn’t really know about that kind of thing. I had a bunch of people — Jaz 72, Zen Yates, Duncan Croft who’d worked in record stores previously.

“Chelsea Records has been around since the 70’s — the brand, but we moulded it in to what it ultimately became in Wellington.”

HH: What did Chelsea Records ultimately become?

M: Basically one of the best record stores in the city. It opened up a global view for me; especially dealing with people from overseas on a weekly basis inn terms of seeing what releases were coming through.

HH: Were You DJ’ing at this time?

M: A little bit. But it really wasn’t until Bryce from Sandwiches hit up myself and Duncan. We used to do the Flava show every Friday night on Active and I had played stints at Studio 9, Goodluck, Matterhorn, & Watkins Bar too.. So Bryce used to listen to our show; we’d never met him, he just came into the store one day and said, ‘I’m opening up a club called Sandwiches, I want you guys to be the residents in the lounge’.

Sandwiches — A part of Wellington’s Clubbing History

“Clubs would be an extension of people’s lounge. Where as now, it’s just different.”

HH: How old were you then, were you ready?

M: 22, 23. Nah. I definitely wasn’t ready. Radio DJing is very different to club DJing. But it was because of our selections and the sort of stuff that we did, that’s why he wanted us.

HH: What were you feeling at the time. Do you remember?

M: A lot of Hip Hop, a lot of UK broken beat house, sort of new jazz — that kind of vibe, that was big at the time — right through to UK garage, US house..I think it was our eclectic nature which made us appealing. We weren’t specifically any genre.

HH: Looking back now, because you would have watched the music trends change over the past 10 years, in terms of party people, have you kind of drawn some conclusions over how trends change?

M: Mmhmm. Wellington specific, or maybe even nationally, club culture’s in a bit of a lull right now. Compared to back then, there just seemed to be more happening. More parties happening. I don’t know if it’s because we were younger. But there just seemed to be more happening. Sad to say, but there were more drugs [laughs]. And booze was cheaper in clubs and life was cheaper. You could smoke in clubs.. clubs would be an extension of people’s lounge. Where as now, it’s just different.

HH: As someone who was immersed in it, is it a good thing or a bad thing from your POV?
M: Um, evolution is evolution. But at the same time I’m not going to deny that things were definitely better back in the day. [Cracks up]. Music especially.. not about the specific kind of music, or the quality of the music, but the fact that it was so hard to source any of the specific stuff; when you did get a record or an import CD, you’d listen to it over and over; because it was so hard to get and it took six months to arrive — you really treasured it. Now, it’s so disposable and I can’t even remember the last time I sat down and listened through a whole song. Unless I’m sitting on the bus with headphones or whatever..If I’m sorting out music for a set, I’ll listen to 15 seconds of a track.

HH: As well, I’ve heard you’re a collector of things and as we’ve said everything’s so disposable these days, do you think collecting and cherishing music might be revived again?

M: I think if we’re looking at vinyl, it’s definitely on a massive incline. Which is really good to see. You have people like myself who are just really into collecting vinyl. Record labels recognise that — look at Stones Throw, every single release they do is either a picture disc, or it comes with a bit of art work or a beautiful folder. They’ve recognized the collector and people just don’t need a black slab of vinyl anymore. For a lot of people that’s like a massive inconvenience, but if you make it a collector piece that’s what’s brought back the resurgence….Even with vinyl releases of stuff — I bought A$AP Rocky’s album which is like a triple orange gate-fold record. Even though I [already] had it for months, I just liked the album and I thought it’s a beautiful piece of vinyl. I’ve got a turntable set up at home and I can chuck it on if I feel like it, but you know, I very rarely do that because it’s all loaded into my Serato.. But as a collector I like having the piece, it’s just a nice piece to have.

Marek The Collector

“Not only are you getting this beautiful item, you’re hearing the music and discovering new tracks and that’s how it was back when we were at the record store.. I’d order off a list of names and there’s no way of even hearing what you were even getting.”

Marekkaws

HH: So from a collectors point of view does the overly saturated digital market affect the thrill?

M: Definitely. I mean if I’d never heard that album or hadn’t been listening to that album for six months and it turned up on my doorstep, and I was looking forward to it; then obviously the buzz of getting that record, putting it on for the first time, listening to it, that just takes the collecting experience to a whole other thing. Not only are you getting this beautiful item, you’re hearing the music and discovering new tracks and that’s how it was back when we were at the record store.. I’d order off a list of names and there’s no way of even hearing what you were even getting. So it would turn up and we’d sit down and have a massive box.. it’d be like, so and so remixed by so and so or so and so’s new record. Sometimes you’d know a song by Giles Peterson or someone like that and rate it but most of the ordering was done blind or deaf; you’re just ordering off a name and it’s just luck of the draw what turns up.

HH: How many pairs of sneakers do you own?

M: I don’t know. Maybe… 90 pairs.

HH: And why do you like Be@rbricks?

M: It’s just a collecting thing. Be@rbricks are like a mixture of PLAYMOBIL and Lego, but each one is individual and specific to a certain artist — I’m a big fan of art and pop art, artists like Kaws and Stash I guess it was a love of graph art and then I explored other avenues of pop art and now I’m a fan of a lot of modern art.

Marek says: “I guess like you said, I’m a collector and part of collecting is the hunt. So earlier on, like I was saying, it was the hunt; the hunt to find these small pockets or these little bits of rap music; whether that be at the end of Arsenio Hall or listening to a three-hour reggae radio show in the hope that there’d be a rap song that I could record — that to me, I was collecting at the time. “

After successfully throwing ‘Space Jam’ last Friday, a 90’s Hip Hop party with special guest P-Money, and clocking one of the biggest nights ever for the venue — Betty’s Function House, Marek dusts off 2013 with a bang. The Mazdef x WDYFILWHH story is to be continued in the new year. Stay tuned…

Raiza Biza-Sitting On The Cusp Of Something Big

Interview, Music

Raiza Biza know’s he’s on the cusp of something big with his music. It can be felt off the back of his last album Dream Something, which collected new followers and new cities to tour- including the South Island of New Zealand which Raiza sees as new ground to break.

“You know, there’s a lot of people who might have heard the name or might have seen the name floating around here or there but they haven’t yet seen it first hand, those are the people that I want to try and reach. But it’s a step by step process and right now it feels like we did the hard yards and it’s almost downhill from now.”

TV: Claws – Multi-ethnic steel magnolia trash

Culture

Janine Sherman Barrois, one of the series writers for Claws – a great new TV series says creator Eliot Laurence, “told me he used to read the Florida Man [Twitter account], he’s seen all these cases of women who bit off their spouse or partner’s d— in Florida. And it inspired him to write about that area in that sort of Florida-noir, Elmore Leonard kind of quirky, dark humorous way.. that’s sort of where it all sort of evolved from.”

Claws is fucking hilarious, speaking about finally having a seat at the table in the interview below, the cast talk about being able to truly be themselves at work and the difference it made to producing quality for their audience. Desna, the protagonist is played by Niecy Nash, she explains they’re real women on set, not size 2, they DO eat on camera and have complicated relationships – despite many embarrassing truths and blood drawing challenges – the show is about women coming together and blends a diverse cast of women without it feeling forced.

 

One of the features of the show is the brilliant writing and the perfectly timed bursts of  humour amidst robbery, drugs, the Russian mafia and more – the other is the wardrobe by costume designer Dana Covarrubias. In an interview with toofab.com she said:

“I honestly don’t think there’s any other show on television that’s like this show and/or is representing the kind of women that are in this show… I would say in the first few fittings we were still trying to perfectly figure it out because we really didn’t want these characters to look and feel like cartoon characters or like we were poking fun at these people. There is obviously heavy tongue-and-cheek cheese factor to the show but as far as the costumes went, we wanted to have fun with them. We wanted them to be fun and crazy but we also wanted them to be real. That was the only challenge in the beginning; trying to figure out where that line is exactly.”

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The Claws team struck the balance so well. The woman are perfect in the way they balance their portrayal of real life woes and hood-rich glamour. One of the reasons I love a series is because it lets me tap out from real life and enjoy a fantasy story that has me guessing what will come next like Heroes, Empire, Scandal, Banshee or How to Get Away With Murder, this show had me wanting more too. In the YouTube interview above they advise up and coming actors to “learn your craft  and study because we are in a microwave generation and everything is shorter, quicker, faster”. 

Karrueche thanks her fellow cast for their support in her role as an actor just beginning her career. Her character Virginia is written into the show as an outcast who grew up with no family, she’s drawn to the love and support she sees the group giving each other and she works hard to get into the clique. The writing-in of her character shows an open minded and warm understanding of the real life dynamics between women. It’s like producers knew viewers wouldn’t want to give her a chance, so they wrote her in accordingly. She spends the first half of season one trying hard to make the others love her but ends up being the brat you expect.  Eventually you love her. But you hate her first.

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It is currently up to season two, episode four on TVNZ On Demand and I haven’t laughed so hard and unexpectedly at any media, like from the gut, in a long time. Mainstream needs more content like this, more Outrageous Fortune, Baby Mama’s Club type-humor and reality.

The other feature of the series that caught me was Harold Perrineau who plays Desna’s autistic brother. Watching him juxtaposed among all the bright pastels when you’re used to seeing him play darker more serious characters like Mercutio in Baz Luhrmaan’s Romeo and Juliet or an action hero in The Matrix was perfect. Writer Eliot Laurence says he loves stories of female empowerment, sister hood and kick-ass women and that he was super influenced by they Florida noir literary writers like Carl Hiaasen.

Photo essay: Unwillingly mislead

Culture

Professionally cleaning a ‘contaminated house’ where meth is suspected to have been smoked costs about $17,000, then additional costs for refurbishing and loss of rent add up to over $40,000 says one landlord and owner affected by an ongoing government scheme that evicted predominantly lower income tenants and left them homeless. Some were banned from applying for public housing ever again.

Audio Interview: Nah Zone knows representation matters

Culture

“A theme that’s coming through a lot in our generation now is that the youth aren’t settling for a 9 – 5 job, going through school or going to uni.” Instead, just as Jonique Purcell has done – start her own music and culture website – youth are using the internet to commandeer their own futures and represent themselves. The bedroom producer/ dancer-choreographer and blog director begun Nah Zone as a personal passion in October 2017. It’s grown so fast that today she has a team with her and works a separate day job so she can keep building the community that’s formed around her website. She also does this with interviews of local artists, weekly top 5 playlists with local music makers and a section called ‘Keep It Real’ where people write in about personal experiences from losing a baby or dating someone who is suicidal.

Speaking of a theater show she danced in at the end of 2017 called Ave, Jonique says:

“Auckland is my home but even here you don’t have a real belonging so you’re kind of in-between and that’s what was really cool from that whole experience I got to bond with other people who also felt the same.” Directed by Tia Sagapolutele, the piece looked at six young women finding their identity as Kiwi-born Samoan living in Auckland city.

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Purcell says: I was very honored to be a part of that but it was also very emotional for me personally just discovering more things about my history because I don’t know that much about my Samoan history.

..You don’t really have a sense of belonging when you go back to Samoa because the people that live there, they’re still there and they’ll see you as a stranger, they’ll call you like Palagi.

Listen to the audio interview HERE.

Nah Zone are also going to host their first event at Neck of The Woods on May 25th check it out HERE.

Below is a video from the first event they did, You’re Welcome:

Legends: Xoe Hall paints Hinepūkohurangi with Tame Iti at Taneatua Gallery

Culture, Threads

Over cups of tea at Tame Iti’s place during Easter 2018, Artist Xoe Hall learned of the ancient Tūhoe legend Hinepūkohurangi who is said to have lured Te Maunga (the mountain) to earth from the heavens – thereby sparking the genesis of the Tūhoe people.

On New Zealand’s east coast, Tāneatua Gallery sits at the mouth of the entrance to the Uruwera’s where the Tūhoe people are from. Hall had exhibited at the gallery a few years ago with the Toi Wāhine collective, but on a different trip visiting her grandma in Ohope, she asked if she could paint a wall at the gallery and got an extra surprise when Tame ended up painting with her. Going against trends and mainstream expectation in their work is something Tame Iti and Xoe Hall have had in common for a long time. Recognised for her ode-to-iconocism style pieces or ‘Hero Art’, painting a Tūhoe legend and hero with a Tūhoe legend and hero is another out of this world achievement she can add to her ‘did’ list.

DS: How did this trip to Taneatua come about/what was the motivation behind the collab mural?
XOE: I visit my nana in Ohope a couple of times a year and always pop in to catch up with the crew at the gallery for a hang. One of those times I asked if I could paint a wall, and they said yes, so this time I took my painting gears and was over the moon when I realised Tame was going to be painting with me!

Even little nana came to hang out at @taneatuagallery55 😍 📷@trinalovespicasso

A post shared by Xoë Hall (@hallofxoe) on

DS: When was the first time you went to Taneatua Gallery?
XOE: Our all female Māori art collective from Porirua (then known as Toi Wāhine, now we are Hine Pae Kura), were asked to exhibit at the start of 2017. So we all jumped in a van with our work and camped out at the gallery for a few days. We had the best time ever.
DS: What did you know about Tame Iti before you met him?
XOE: Just the tip of the iceberg really, what most people would know, that Tame is an extremely interesting character. He is an iconic activist and artist who dresses super stylish when the occasion calls for it. I knew about the gallery and that my grandad was super stoked to have shaken Tame’s hand at a store one day.

DS: What did you love about collaborating with him?
XOE: I loved that he invited me into his home, and over a few cups of tea he told me the story of Hinepūkohurangi and the Children of the Mist. Local Tūhoe legend. I still didn’t realise at this point that he would be painting with me. When we got to the gallery, we both picked up a brush, and painted the story. I loved that while we were actually painting, not many words needed to be exchanged about how we were approaching it, and every now and then we would both step back and say damn that’s looking good.

DS: How long have you been painting and how did you get into it?
XOE: I have been painting since I was about three haha! I realised when I was 18 that I might actually be an artist, that little realisation was actually rather huge, once that clicked, I started really honing my self-taught skills.

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DS: Describe your artistic style and what and how you do your craft in your words?
XOE: Gosh that’s hard, as I have my fingers in many creative pies…. I would say I am multi-media cowboy pop surrealism artist??? It’s something I’ve never really wanted to pinpoint as I am forever evolving. Obviously I’m a little all over the show. I paint with acrylics, I use glitter for real life sparkle, I draw alot! I write stories and poems. I dabble in lead lighting. I love leather, so I paint on that too. I do embroidery, and apply many rhinestones to fabulous garments for fabulous people. Everything is self taught, but I am always learning through experiences and people I meet along the way.

DS: How have fashion and fashion icons been an influence on you?
XOE: Well, I am pretty obsessed with all things over the top and fabulous. I thought I was going to be a David Bowie when I grew up, so if I am going out, I go all out! Also, I hate anything on trend….even if I love it, I won’t wear what everyone else is, naturally that’s where my love of opshopping and making my own crazy clothes comes from. However when I am at home, it’s another story. Uggboots and hand knitted jerseys with no makeup and something horrendously comfortable on the lower half.

DS: You’re currently selling pieces at Hunters and Collectors in Wellington, what motivated you to do that and what pieces will you miss the most?
XOE: That’s all thanks to Chrissy and Charlotte. It was all their idea! Actually, I have been exhibiting works in that shop for quite some years now, so I can’t remember everything! But I am having a solo exhibition there in June, DUST BITER…so stay tuned for more.

DS: You’ve also been making custom designed jackets, how did you get into that and who has been your favourite person to design for so far?
XOE: I have been decorating special garments for many amazing people for about 10 years?? I guess I am currently buzzing out of my socks about the dress I got to decorate for Tami Neilson. Her new album SASSAFRASS, photos were taken by my bestie Ash AKA Dinosaurtoast and the shoot if featured on our fabulous website FEVER HOTEL.

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DS: What has been your favourite piece you’ve made to date?
XOE: Oh, I don’t have one! That’s like choosing a favourite colour, my mind changes too often. Anything that I don’t mind looking at still? Haha.

DS: So every artist has to work right? In the day you work at a TeacherTalk, what is that and how did you get into it?
XOE: Yes, 4 and a half years ago we started TeacherTalk, it’s just a small gang of us ladies in the office. We make up to date and awesome learning resources for kids. I work about 3-4 days a week, depending on how much work I have on with other commissions and exhibitions. I am the illustrator and creative writer. That work lead onto TeacherTalk publishing 3 of my childrens books. They are re-tellings of Māori legends.

DS: What do you love about working there?
XOE: That kids all over NZ are being taught with and growing up with my artwork. That’s very very cool. And that I do have the flexibility and time to be able to work on my own stuff in the studio when I need too.

DS: What do you love about working with and illustrating in te reo as well as Maori myths and legends?
XOE: When I was growing up, my dad would always tell us a very embellished princess story of our Ngāi Tahu ancestor Motoitoi, he was a great story teller. And knowing about this part of my history filled me with a magical feeling. I would feel the same when I would open one of Peter Gossages beautiful books. In fact my favourite all time illustrated book is still How Maui Defied the Goddess of Death. So it is really a dream come true to be able to tell stories myself, what’s not to love?!

DS:What do you love about being an artist and what advice would you give to others wanting to do it full time?
XOE: Nothing I say is going to sound better than how Patti Smith puts it…

“Build a good name. Keep your name clean. Don’t make compromises, don’t worry about making a bunch of money or being successful — be concerned with doing good work and make the right choices and protect your work. And if you build a good name, eventually, that name will be its own currency.” – Patti Smith …..I would just add on…throw away your TV!

FENTY/PUMA 2018 – Unapologetic @badgalriri is a living legend

Culture, Threads

Having been the brand ambassador for Puma since 2014, Rihanna now brings us her 2018 Fenty x Puma collection contrasting motocross and stilettos on a palette of eye popping, wallet hurting pastels. In 2017, an extension of that brand FENTY BEAUTY was named one of the 25 best inventions of the year by Time Magazine. Why? Because it’s inclusive to all women, in more shades than usual. She also had a street named after her in Barbados, featured in a science fiction film Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets and starred in Oceans 13 – with an all female cast it will premier in cinemas June 2018. Harvard also gave her the 2017 Humanitarian of The Year award for her charity work.

This woman and her work ethic has been cemented as a pillar in my ‘tools for inspiration’ because she is so un-apologetically herself, no matter what she’s doing she’s paving the way for young woman of colour to unpack prior notions of not being able to participate in mainstream pop-culture; since reports of her domestic violence incident with Chris Brown in 2009, she’s unapologetically swept the fashion music and beauty scene with a joint in her mouth, pulling both middle fingers in the air, subsequently becoming the mainstream. This month her 2018 Fenty/Puma collection came out and once again she’s being hailed as the pioneer fashion-rebel she is.

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Pharaoh Swami on the Māori prophet Rua Kenana

Music

Last week NZ celebrated Waitangi Day and the Prime Minister attended — a woman who even attended at all  made it a humbling event in terms of indigenous relations in NZ.  It is exciting, breaking new barriers, she also became the first female Prime Minister to speak at the whare rānanga on the porch of the upper marae. Still, one day to recognize indigenous people in their land is a strange concept when you are an indigenous person, it’s isolating and confusing and more so…hurtful. As part of his ‘Swami Sunday’s’ Single release campaign Pharaoh Swami, a New Zealand based artist of Ethiopian descent, added a new twist to the contemporary rap music scene in New Zealand by sampling a song called ‘Rua Kenana’ which was introduced to him by his close friends, a pair who are cousins from a Māori tribe called Tuhoe. It was the similarities he could draw between his own cultural identity and theirs that encouraged him to make this song.

 

Rua Tapunui Kenana (1869–1937) was a Māori prophet, faith healer and land rights activist. He called himself Te Mihaia Hou, the New Messiah, and claimed to be Te Kooti Arikirangi’s sucessor Hepetipa who would reclaim Tūhoe land that had been lost to pakeha / European ownership.

Pharaoh Swami says:  “I’m a soldier fighting in the war of love and hate and I won’t fight it the white man’s way. Never do I mean skin tone. The white man as in the western world. The capitalist consumerism-orientated, suit wearing ‘me’ mentality that tells us what to think rather than how to think.” 

 New Zealand is a country where the Native Schools Act in 1867 striped indigenous Māori of their language and affected a generation still living today. Friends and family of Māori descent invite you into their homes and it’s a sobering reality to learn this is not a generation from Jesus times they’re trying to show you in a book, this is your mate’s mum cooking you dinner, explaining that when she was little, if she spoke her natural language, she’d be beaten by authoritative members of society, like teachers. It’s a strange conversation because she’s not tryna scare you, she’s simply opening her home and heart to this random human her child brought home. She’s just  speaking their truth, gently with a smile making you tea — it’s a reality that is frightening, humbling and empowering all at once.

What Pharoah Swami has done with his song is highlight an affinity foreigners living in New Zealand have with Māori people and their land.  People from places like Africa and Asia (all over the world really) find an undeniably strong connection with the whenua…or land, and  it is one that’s hard to comprehend …but even harder to ignore:

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The prophet Rua Kenana

DS: What were you up to at the time you decided to make your song Rua Kenana?

PS: It’s my first beat I’ve ever made by myself. Recorded myself and mixed it myself with final mixing touches done by Mak Swami and mastering by Munashe from AmmoNation.


DS: What were you up to at the time you made Rua Kenana?

PS: I’ve been going through a lot emotionally and spiritually over the past years in search of my identity as a person and as an artist so I was sitting there sleep deprived and felt so emotional so I spent a whole night and morning till the sunrise making it. My childhood friends David and Patrick Pene who are cousins are Tuhoe. And I was always educated on their history and culture which I diligently digested. They would always sing Rua Kenana and the melodies, harmonies and meaning always moved my soul in a way that I can’t really word. “Rua Kenana was a prophet from the Uruwera. He told his people not to go to war and let the white man fight the white man’s war.” He told them not to sign the treaty as he prophesied it would be the demolition of their culture and heritage.

 

Therefore the Tuhoe lands are uncolonised and hold such an eerie ambiance in the air hence the name “Children of the Mist”. I wasn’t really thinking anything about Waitangi as I’ve never acknowledged, celebrated nor respected the holiday because it’s misguided and misinformed. The Māori were deceived with the language barrier and through gentrification and systematic oppression it turned a people of mana who treated matariki (children) as tapu (sacred) and their wahine (women) as the nurturing goddesses they were. Yes there may have been savagery and war between them but name a race or era that didn’t… I’ll wait.


So in a day and age where our Māori and Pacific Island brothers and sisters are disregarded and labelled as delinquent and troublesome I couldn’t help but relate as my history as an African pharaoh paints an identical picture. So I decided to do what I always do and project my emotions and energy artistically to transcend my vibrations in to a resonant frequency that others could enjoy or heal from.  I created a song that feels like trials and tribulations. Heartbreak and injustice. Yet by also simultaneously encompassing the feeling of pride and self-love and the feeling of solving the predominant issue of identity crisis and depression. That feeling of light at the end of it all when you’ve climbed and fallen and gotten back up a million times and walked and triumphed to the apex of a mental, spiritual and emotional mountain. That moment the sun is rising and the light surfaces in the horizon and you feel the sun on your chest and face and breathe the cold air with eyes closed and thoughts absent…No intellect or analysis of the valley below. Just feels. Immense feels that can’t be quantified or explained.

At the death of my ego and expense of my insignificant sense of accomplishment, I can’t take credit for the song or any song I have ever made or will make cos it wasn’t me. It never is. It’s God working through me. Not the God depicted by humans who want control and power. My God, the God that my father and mother believed in and taught me of presents itself as a gender-less colorless ball of infinite unconditional love and forgiveness and light that starts with ego death and non-individualistic concerns. That’s the only difference in my music now I give it all to him all the glory and all the praise. Cos am I the artist who is responsible for the art or am I the paintbrush which is used as an instrument to heal or teach or stimulate people? I close my mind and open my heart when I create and just feel bruh and love blesses me with what love feels is right at the time. That’s what Rua Kenana represents for me. Broken natives paying the price for the greed of others yet not having the self-belief and empowering effect of identity and purpose which starts with knowing your unbiased history and language.

DS: How do you hope people will receive it?

PS: In all honesty I’m bipolar with this topic cos one side of me isn’t concerned about reception and thought as I don’t care what people think of me or my art I’m more concerned with how I make people feel. People will say “Oh you can’t understand the language or it’s so heavily layered with melodies and harmonies including me singing Bon Ivers “Woods” in the background during the Pōkarekare Ana, section of the song so some might say it’s overstimulating and can’t hear the words etc etc but that’s my point. Forget what you think and try gauge what you feel. Play it on speakers. Drown in it eyes closed and allow yourself to submit to what music really feels like.

I’m a soldier fighting in the war of love and hate and I won’t fight it the white man’s way. Never do I mean skin tone. The white man as in the western world. The capitalist consumerism-orientated, suit wearing ‘me’ mentality that tells us what to think rather than how to think. Well allow us artists to help you learn how to feel and never what to feel. Cos feelings matter bro.