One of the first hip hop albums Lui Tuiasau owned was Enter the Wu Tang (36 Chambers), the debut recording from New York City’s Wu Tang Clan. It went platinum, set the bar for a new style of hardcore rap, and spawned rich solo careers for several of its rappers, including Ghostface Killah.
Ghostface is touring New Zealand this June and Tuiasau – 22 years old, born in Wellington, and at the brink of his own burgeoning hip hop career – will be sharing the stage with one of the biggest names in the business.
“It’s a good nervous,” he says, sounding undaunted as his own career rolls forward.
Tuiasau fronts New Zealand hip hop collective @Peace, with Tom Scott from Homebrew fame. The two swap lyrics and vocals, backed by beats from Christoph “El Truento” James Hayden “Dick Dastardly” Dick, and Brandon B Haru. The crew released their first album in 2011, nine tracks of full of smooth, ambient beats and honest New Zealand rhymes, riffing on John Key and poverty, paua and nikau, and many other themes only known to Kiwis. It instantly gained positive reviews, called “thought-provoking, full of lyrical prowess” by NZ Musician and “one of the better albums to come out of this country, ever,” by Russell Brown at PublicAddress.net.
Tuiasau grew up in Karori, the youngest of six siblings in a half-Samoan, half-New Zealand family. School wasn’t the best scene for him and he moved to Queenstown to train in hospitality, but soon had a wake-up call.
“My older brother was like you need to make sure you’re doing what you want to be doing. For me, that’s music, so I started studying audio engineering at SAE Institute.”
He began writing lyrics and formed Nothing to Nobody with his friend, Barnaby Marshall. They got a bit of attention, and then Tuiasau met Scott.
“Tom stepped it up another level. I wasn’t really writing rhymes seriously and then I started hearing some of the Homebrew shit and I thought this is the man. He got me back into writing.”
Tuiasau tastes range wider than rap, lately delving into the classics.
“My old man, the music he used to listen to is exactly the shit I’m into now. Funk, soul, Motown, Marvin Gaye, Stanley Clarke, Stevie Wonder, George Clinton, Bob Marley. The good stuff from the good old days. A lot of jazz, a lot of jazz singers, Aretha Franklin, Roberta Flack, Sarah Vaughan.”
However, it’s his friends who push his lyrics the most.
“Lucky Lance from Team Dynamite and Tom Scott, they’re my favorite rappers. I’ll be writing a song and Lucky Lance will rap my lyrics and I’ll think oh, I gotta rewrite my shit. Nobody inspires us more than our own people,” he says, citing the scene at younggiftedandbroke.com as a source for Auckland’s underground creativity.
@Peace recorded their first album at Dick’s bach in Taranaki and Tuiasau is hoping for a similar setting for their next. “It’s hard to stay focused when you live in the city. It was good to get away. That’s the way to do it.”
Tuiasau writes daily and they’ve worked up enough material for three EPs and an album by the end of the year.
“We’ll be putting some new stuff in the show,” he promises.
Ghostface Killah and @Peace will be playing San Francisco Bath House. Though Ghostface will surely draw a crowd,
@Peace’s 2011 show at the same venue sold out in less than 48 hours. In spite of the fertile ground and fan base of Auckland, Tuiasau says nobody gives it up for them like his hometown.
“Wellington shows us the most love out of any place. That place goes crazy. I’d like to say it’s cause it’s my hometown, but I doubt it.”