Hip Hop is young and grindin’ in the streets of Hawaii! Many people still think we live “behind the trends,” but don’t let the island scenery fool you. Passed all the hotels, resort beaches, and sunny weather, there are neighborhoods like Waianae on the island of ‘Oahu. Despite being one of the state’s poorest areas, the talent and drive is unreal. Waianae is home to many successful entertainers including MCs like I.A. and Krystilez, and world-known comedian Andy Bumatai. Common Difference Hawaii is shakin’ up Hawaii’s music scene with Rap, Pop, and R&B elements! Their hit summer single “Westside Naka” is a growing anthem for many youth and young adults from ‘Oahu’s west side and stands as a prideful Hip Hop banger for Hawaii’s music scene.
Common Difference Hawaii is a Hip Hop trio with all its members having deep roots in Waianae. Ham, Krista Lei, and Dusa were solo artists in the early 2000s and formed their group roughly around 2009. They started with a few collaboration tracks, and as meetings grew more frequent, decided it was only right to form a group. “Originally, it was challenging finding our sound especially being so young and fresh to the music scene, but as we got more serious, we agreed upon our Common Difference. That is our name, brand, and story that we share. Especially being from Hawaii, we know that we are all different. But our differences can bring us together to bring peace and unity to the world,” said the group.
With a trendy line-up of songs like “HI City (on DiverseCITY) and “The 50” (on Love vs. Fame) and their latest “Westside Naka” single from their recently released Naka247 EP, Common Difference has always put on for Hawaii. The term “Naka” is slang for the Hawaiian word “Kanaka.” The group has adapted “Naka” to mean “homie” or “comrade.” Inspiration for the Naka247 EP came naturally for the group. “We wanted to represent Waianae, our hometown, and Hawaii’s diverse group of local people. We collaborated with a bunch of other local artists on the track and music video including R&B singer Charence. It feels good to give our people something to be proud of as we shine light on our daily hustle and struggles we face in and out music,” said the group.
So far, their Naka247 EP continue to be a success and testament to the group’s hard work and the community they continue to build around them. The group has publishing deals with Rick Ross Music Group and is sponsored by Freelance Brand. Many of their fans, supporters, and fellow local musicians showed tremendous support at their recent show/listening party.“It was a great opportunity to put a show on for the Westside and to also have a good support system going on down here. We have a lot to work for in the future and altogether the party was a great learning experience for each of us. Shout out to everyone who helped out with the event and continue to show support. We love yall. Much mahalo to all our NAKAS!” said Common Difference Hawaii.
HAM: I always have and will love music. From Kanikapila with uncles and aunties to the rap tracks I now bump to. Throughout my English classes I low key liked to write poems. Technically the few people I used to hear that rapped back when we were in school had inspired me. B-Mac was a homie that I first heard that did it. It sparked a high interest for me in that direction. Then I heard Duce and Dru sing the song "I'm Tired" and my motivation was on too strong to ignore so I tried it out. Duce and I would be in the studio hours on in writing raps.
Krista Lei: My passion for music started at a very young age. I grew up around family members who would do jam sessions at any moment. I can honestly say I learned the basics of music from my uncle Pulu. He had a local band with his friends. Me and my sisters would sit around the table every weekend with our stereo and have jam singing sessions. Each of us would take turns singing a verse. It was so much fun finding how to harmonize with each other. After learning the ukulele, I started writing my own songs and composing melodies off the ukulele. Hip-hop, Jawaiian, R&B, and 80's pop music were popular too. When I met Dusa and Ham, it was easy for me to adapt to any sound they wanted to target on a beat. I started rapping 5 years ago. I used to mess around with it when i was alone, but one day Dusa told me i should try to Rap because I sing fast anyway, and I used to always complain that I wasn't ever able to say everything I wanted to on a singing verse. Haha.
Dusa: My introduction to making music came at a later time in my life, around high school. My homie Dru used to always ride passed my house on his bike. Back then I didn't know him, but one day I asked him if he wanted to play ball with us. From there he introduced me to music. He showed me how to record beats, I picked that up really fast and eventually started making my own beats. Thats how i actually got the name Dusa, its slang for Producer. I use to record other 'Oahu westside rappers like Jacob Who, Merc Majah, Trigga, and Dontez. They used to tell me I couldn't rap with em. But I knew I could do it and proved it by a diss track i made. Dru and I did music together for a lil bit, made 7 tracks together before Ham found out and joined the team.
See more of Common Difference Hawaii on social media and their official website:
*All photos and videos used on this blog are courtesy of the respective artists and sponsors/photographers they work with.
Las Vegas is often referred to as Hawaii’s “9th Island” because of the large amount of Hawaii locals that visit and even migrate to the city that never sleeps. Kalihi’s own Bombz and Big Island’s Killa B-Rex are part of this phenomena along with Ashley Bank$ who has close ties to Hawaii and Las Vegas. Joining the city’s Hip Hop line-up is Audio Engineer, Producer, and MC- Alec Dawsøn. The frequency symbol “ø” was added to his last name to make it more unique and to show his skills in audio engineering and producing.
Alec Dawsøn was born in California, raised in Arizona, and moved to the Big Island of Hawaii before his sophomore year of high school. At about 16, he started rapping and recording with his friends Killa B-Rex and Frederico Vento. “It started off as just a fun hobby. But then I found myself always wanting to edit the vocals to the best of my ability on whatever software or microphone we were using,” said Dawsøn. Regarding his Hawaii Hip Hop experience, Dawsøn stated- “I'm really glad I started making music in Hawaii because it added a lot of positivity and helped me create my own paradise mindset. I could’ve easily taken a darker route, but Hawaii showed me paradise, especially on the Big Island.”
After graduating high school, Dawsøn made his big move to Las Vegas, got a small studio apartment, enrolled in Recording Connections Trade School, and subsequently got an intern position at Camel Hump Studio. Within months, he was promoted to Junior Engineer and got his first paycheck for music, which was a big accomplishment for the young artist and entrepreneur. Currently certified as an Audio Engineer, Dawsøn does freelance work under Camel Hump Studios and Loft Life Recording.
“We Da ONEs” is Alec Dawsøn’s first fully self-produced track. Under the name SoundByDawson, he produced the whole track- vocals, beat, mixing/mastering and cover art! He can be found on almost all social media handles, with all of his music available on Soundcloud. He is truly an all-around artist and is definitely a competition for many other veteran and young artists. Hawaii, Arizona, and California Hip Hop scenes should be very proud to hold Alec Dawson on their young and talented rosters. He is working on my upcoming project entitled "The Illerstate" (details TBA), along with some collaborative work with his sponsor, Freelance Brand. ”I've finally found myself in a creative space where I can start making great quality music again. It’s just a matter doing it right the first time,” Alec Dawsøn.
Check out Jet Jones’ song, “Vibe With,” for this week’s Track Tuesday. Like many of his songs, you can definitely vibe with the smooth instrumental, bass, and chill lyrics. Sporting many talents, Jet does all of his recording, mixing, and producing. A little bit of Wiz Khalifa, Big Sean, and Dizzy Wright, Jet comes with a unique sound out of his island home in Hawaii. "’Vibe With’“ is a song I wanted to talk about the types of girls I like to vibe with, chill with, etc. The songwriting process came out smooth because I always try to have a concept in mind from the start of production,” said Jet.
Jet Jones has been in the Hawaii Hip Hop scene for a minute now. He’s spent a lot of time at local events and continues to hone his skills. As someone who has followed Jet for some years (along with a few older collaborations), I can say that his skill and passion has only gotten bigger and better. This Hawaii Rapper is currently working on a self-titled EP that can be expected to drop in 2 weeks. Take a listen to “Vibe With” on your drive home after work and let it unwind you for the night. It might also have you thinking of a special someone. We can all use some good vibes!
"Up like a flight,yea, she like the heights, yea, the freaky type, yea, whispered in my right ear..."
- Jet Jones
OTDHipHop is an independent music blog and network, curated by Rapper/Blogger Jehzan Exclusive.