Wassup #OTDHipHop fam!
My life is a juggling act, in all honesty. Lol. Forgive me for the sporadic content but regardless, you can trust that I’m creating content for yall every day whether it’s music or blogs or videos, etc. But I digress…
This week I had the pleasure to chop it up with Rappa Nui, an up and coming music artist & entertainer from the Big Island. Most recently, he’s earned one of the top spots on “Hawaii’s Next Radio Star” via Power 104.3.
I figured this would be a good time to hit em up for a blog feature and I’ve always been interested in his work; we talked about the radio competition, his background, and latest single “Let My Guard Down."
Kenui Hamada, “Rappa Nui” is a 27-year old from the Big Island of Hawaii. Initially starting with freestyles in high school, he has been present in Hawaii’s local music scene since his early 20s. He mentioned that he used to look up to bigger local artists and entertainers like Osna and Krystilez. “Growing in the Big Island, everything I do makes a statement. So I’m hella proud looking back ‘cause today I work with my role models.” Osna actually directed, shot, and edited Rappa Nui’s latest single/video “Let My Guard Down” (feat. Ryan Hiraoka). Big props to everyone on the project!
“Basically I like making music that everyone can listen to and vibe to. I rap about a lot of different things but this track was more so a ‘feel good’ track, and we got to shoot it back in my hometown,” said Rappa Nui.
Today, Rappa Nui is focused on what he calls “power moves.” He is also a proud father of his daughter Miliana, and expressed how having her in his life makes him want to take his career to the next level even more.
He stated, “I don’t want to waste my time anymore. Being a dad just makes me want to strategize everything better so I can reach my goals faster.”
Growing up on Oahu in the 90s and early 2000s was honestly a lot of fun, and only a very small portion of the world’s population can say that they were born and raised in a unique space like the islands of Hawaii. From family time spent at the beach, to eating all kinds of foods, to the mix of local, mainland, and international culture, Hawaii is a dope ass place to have a childhood. As a Filipino-American, music was a big part of my family’s culture. Plainly speaking, Filipinos love to get drunk and sing karaoke. But while the older folks sang 70s and 80s love songs, my other uncles and cousins break danced and dj’d, and those images are some of my favorite “hip hop memories” from childhood. This week - I had the pleasure of interviewing a fellow island artist, Meta, whose poetry and rap skills have allowed him to tell his story as a young man from Guam, in various part of the world.
Meta is a poet and rapper from the island nation of Guam, of Filipino descent. Meta’s artistic journey really began with spoken word poetry. “On Guam, I eventually became a well-established poet. At all the slams I went to, the DJs would play a lot of underground hip-hop. Until that point, I never really paid attention to the underground, especially because most of the rap that came out of the underground that I did manage to listen to were full of misogynistic, bragadocious type of lyricism. But the DJs at the slams were playing a lot of hip-hop that had a very different type of lyricism. I got introduced to Jurassic 5, Hiero, Cunning Lynguists, Native Guns, and Blue Scholars. Then I started listening to these hip-hop acts and realized that it was in fact possible to be a rapper without having to perform stereotypical lyrics; that putting deeper meaning into lyrics was something that could be done” stated Meta.
Since day one Meta has been grinding and there’s no doubt about that. Meta’s Youtube channel has music and poetic content dating back to over 6 years and he continues to share content to this day. He has traveled to numerous places around the world as a renowned spoken word poet, and by the looks of his catalog, has found and harnessed the power in his mind and voice. Thus, the artist was previously known as “Metaforce,” after someone in the audience at one of his shows told him that he had the “most vivid metaforce.” Till this day, Meta doesn’t really know what that means, and he has dropped the ‘force’ from his name, and now officially goes by Meta. “But the force is still strong in me, Lol” said Meta. (I speculate though, that what the fan wanted to say was Meta had a way with metaphors...which is supreme! Haha)
As a rapper, Meta has been doing his thing for a long time, having competed in a number of cypher events both online and in person. Most notably, Meta is a 3-time semifinalist Team Backpack online auditioner, and has competed at the Mission Underground Live Cypher Draft for 3 years, including its New York City and Los Angeles locations. Year by year, Meta continued to prove himself as a serious emcee with thought provoking bars and storytelling skills. I met Meta briefly at Team Backpack’s 2015 Mission Underground event in LA. That year, Meta represented Guam along with Guam Rapper/Producer/DJ Fullcastflip. Although the two artists didn’t make it to the Top 12, they have both grown in their network through Team Backpack and as individual entrepreneurs. However, Meta still expressed some frustration when it came to “making it” as an artist on Guam. “I'm sure it's the same anywhere for any independent artist trying to make a living off their passion, but Guam has no real market for rappers. It was always difficult to find paid gigs and people were always hesitant to throw any form of monetary support toward shows, workshops, and products,” said Meta. The artist eventually left Guam in July 2016. He stated, “I knew that I was too far from broader artistic opportunities. I love Guam, but there's a glass ceiling for independent artists and I hit it a while back.”
Even further than rhyme and flow, Meta has a deep sense of responsibility to his community in Guam and social issues happening there. While he often includes these topics in his raps, Meta’s ability to capture and hold people’s attention is most showcased in his spoken word poetry. Most recently, Meta was the "Spoken Word 4 the World" 2015 winner, hosted by Global Call for Climate Action. He traveled alongside many other talented poets to Paris, to perform poetry themed around climate change, at different events during the 21st Conference of the Parties (COP21). His poems “Island Haze” and “Enduring Storms” speaks of his experience of the effects on climate change on his home in Guam. The two poems in particular are raw depictions of how our sustainable/non-sustainable actions affect our natural environments even close to home.
Meta also has a sense of pride and mindfulness regarding his Filipino heritage. “I'm from the island of Guam, where Chamoru people are the indigenous population. I was born and raised there, but ethnically, I'm actually Filipino. Guam is an unincorporated territory of the US. My parents emigrated to Guam from the Philippines in the late 80s, early 90s. Guam is a melting pot of cultures, ethnicity, and is in a push-and-pull state with American political philosophies. All the cultural complexities of being a Filipino born on an unincorporated territory definitely influenced my perception of the world, which essentially shaped how I viewed my writing. I write a lot about cultural identity, generational borders, and personal struggle,” said Meta.
For Meta, it seems like work is never done. But he continues to make strides in all aspects of his life and I commend him as a fellow islander, Filipino brother, and for his social advocacy in his art. Furthermore, he often jumps from rap to poetry gigs almost effortlessly. This ability to adjust his performances for such variant audiences is a skill I personally admire. “Being involved with Guam's youth poetry slam organization, Sinangan-ta Youth Movement, really refined my ability to perform. I had a few great mentors who helped develop my early stage presence. Shoutouts to Melvin, Kie, and Fanai. Part of practicing for me involves rehearsing my pieces at least 10 times a day at full force. I also rehearse in front of a mirror and create what poets call ‘blocking’ to my words. Blocking is assigning specific body gestures to certain portions of a piece to help elaborate the emotion or message. Same thing with rap performances, except with rap, I can actually throw in some dance moves! Hahaha. Figuring out my performance style was a long, long process, but essentially it took practice, constructive criticism from others, and watching other artists perform too,” said Meta.
Meta currently resides in Denver, CO in hopes to continue to build his artistic career through his own entrepreneurial efforts. He has successfully raised funding in various campaigns for his endeavors, but seeks to develop a more long-term sustainable strategy. Often times, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPI) are overlooked in modern political conversations as well as art and talent. Meta stated, “The AAPI history is such an integral piece to the development of America as a country. China Towns, K Towns, large congregations of Filipinos, and Pacific Islanders exists all over the United States. That shit wasn't magic. They exist because they were there for generations, contributing to the literal building of America, its streets, its architecture, its businesses, its economy, its sociology, and even its politics! How is it that mainstream media can readily create caricatures, parodies, or shallow portrayals of pieces of immigrant lives, but not allow products of immigrants, who've become artists, the upward mobility within its structures? It's whack, but ey, we're doin it and we'll keep doing it regardless.
For more on Meta, please subscribe to his Youtube channel.
Often, when people think of New York City, they think of popular streets and monuments. But there is a deeper culture within NYC's streets, especially as an iconic place in hip hop culture and what it means to hip hop history and rap music. New York is home to unfiltered expression, whether it’s the city’s fast-paced lifestyle or attitude, New Yorkers dare to be bold and different; of which hip hop culture and music has contributed to. With that said, this week’s #FridayFeature artist on #OTDHipHop is New York-based - RaSTATiiic. While he is still at the early stages of his music journey, this young man is serious about accomplishing his goals, and offers an alternative message in his music. In his name alone, there are multiple elements of his identity that make up RaSTATiiic - the hip hop artist, rapper, and creative mind.
A few weeks ago, I was approached on Twitter by RaSTATiiic himself, regarding promotions on this blog. I checked out some of his material and digged his “Hype” remix, and figured I feature him on my platform. My first question was “what kind of name is that, and what does it mean?” Known as “STAT,” for short, RaSTATiiic is only 19 years old and has been recording and performing on his own for about 2 years. Although he was born in Atlanta, GA, he always had close ties to family and friends in Brooklyn, NY. He currently resides in Newburgh, about an hour from NYC’s main metropolitan area. The rapper stated, “I named myself RaSTATiiic because ‘Ra’ is short for (Ra)madan (RAMADAN is my birth name). The STATiiiC part relates to electricity.” STAT went on to mention how he experienced multiple seizure-like attacks about year or so ago, with seemingly no explanation. He stated that the seizures felt like he was getting tazed or electrocuted; but after, he felt more enlightened like he started to have deeper senses and intuition, what he calls “woke.” For that reason, he added 3 “i’s” to his name, and thus RaSTATiiic was born.
#STATiiiCMADNESS Vol. 1 (hosted by @CaptainChardo) is the rapper’s most recently released project. The project’s most popular single is the “Hype” remix, with over 5000 plays on Soundcloud, and even more via other music outlets (Bandcamp, Spotify, Apple Music, Google Play, etc). If there was a way I could describe his sound, it would be a mix between Kid Cudi’s enlightened flows about the universe and Schoolboy Q’s raw edge and catchy vocals. I think this unique mix is best showcased on my personal favorite off the project -
“Call Us The Plug” (Prod. by Tig). STAT’s major goal is to make a living off of his music but also seeks to delve into fashion, with hopes of developing a global brand. However, this artist understands that he still has a lot to learn. While the equipment and skills continue to develop, STAT remains self-sufficient in taking time with the different elements of a project, including directing and editing his own videos.
STAT currently has a solid local fan base from his town of Newburgh, but does a lot of work in Brooklyn and around the city. His Twitter account has over 2000 followers, and he hopes to increase it even more as he continues making music, videos, and other projects. Being near a major city like NYC, it might seem that opportunities are more easier to come by, because of all the creative energy around the area. But he mentioned some frustration on trying to “come up” in his local scene. “Often times, when there’s slots for local openers for major artists, it’s the same artists week after week,” said STAT. However, anything can happen in time, with the right work ethic and sense of direction, which is what the rapper believes as well. If anything, I think STAT’s biggest asset is his belief in himself. “I'm a leader and one of my goals is to turn a lot of the modern day followers into themselves and become their own person, and make them feel comfortable being themselves so we can make more leaders. But at the same time, it's ok to be a follower as long as you are following the right people,” said STAT.
At the end of the day, STAT believes he has what it takes to make it, and that’s all a true artist’s ultimately needs. He definitely has the creative ability and pays attention to other aspects of his projects, like photography and videography. His rhymes can take the listener on a trip to space with all his different theories and analysis; in time, it’ll be interesting to see how he further develops his artistic and entrepreneurial skills. Straight outta NYC...For more info on RaSTATiiic, visit his official website, follow him on Facebook, or Soundcloud.
Music & lifestyle blog curated by JehzanExclusive.
Featuring artists & music from around the world, by way of Honolulu, HI.
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