One night back in 2012, my cousin Ryan and I went to a club in downtown Honolulu formerly known as “The Fix,” to see Dumbfoundead (DFD) and some local Hip Hop talent perform. I was only 19 and couldn’t even drink in the club yet. Lol. It was cool though because I got to meet and shake hands with DFD. But while the anticipation for DFD was high and I’m always going to be a DFD fan, what really caught my attention was when the Broke Mokes, a local rap group, performed. When they hopped on stage, everyone started screaming “CHEE-HUU” and “96744!” Broke Mokes gave their all on that stage and I specifically remember seeing emcee Koins going all out - rapping, jumping, and talking to the crowd with so much energy and passion. I remember thinking like “man, that’s the level I need to be on.”
It’s been almost 5 years since that night...Broke Mokes’ members are currently working on other projects and through everyday life that comes with young adulthood. But the group remains headstrong and hopeful, having recently opened for Flatbush Zombies at The Republik. Koins, one of Broke Mokes’ leading emcees, continues to create music and announced that his highly anticipated solo project, Familiar Faces, is completely finished and ready for distribution very soon.
Read more of our interview below and get to know Koins:
OTD Hip Hop: What is your stage/music name? Please share any background on how you came up with it (if applicable).
Koins: I go by Koins. Spelt with a K because my real name is spelt with a K. I used to go by Pheely, that was something some homies called me for fun. When I became more serious I wanted a new name. Life is all about change & that’s how I came up with Koins.
OTD Hip Hop: How did you get started making music? Was it a gradual hobby that developed, or is it something you always wanted to do?
Koins: Music has always been a part of my life. My parents loved playing music on the stereo. From island music like Hawaiian & Reggae to Alternative & Hard Rock to Rap & beyond. So It all started from there. But I didn't start rapping till about 8th grade. Never in my mind would I have been a rapper until I heard a bunch of "underground rap" artists. Thats when I fell in love with the Hip-Hop culture. What started off as a hobby amongst my friends & I eventually unfolded into a fiery passion and ambition of mines. The power of voice.
OTD Hip Hop: Why did you choose Hip Hop/Rap as your musical expression? (As opposed to another musical genre or culture)
Koins: Because I love putting words and stories together plus I can’t hit the high note. Lol. For real though. I grew up on Linkin Park. They taught me how to rap and rock out. If I could sing as well as I rap, I'd be in a live band doing some shit like that.
OTD Hip Hop: Where are you from? How does that influence your music and/or experience doing music?
Koins: I am from the 808. Born in Kane'ohe (Oahu), raised in Puna (Big Island) & grew up back in Kane'ohe. I am Hawaiian, Portuguese, Asian. How does this influence my music? Well, my story is different. I am not from a silver spoon family. We grew up renting house to house and still are till this day. My mom and pops did everything they could to make their sons happy & I thank them for that. But as I grew up, it became clearer to me that my parents did everything to see us smile even if they were really struggling.
OTD Hip Hop: If you could describe your sound in one or two words, how would you describe it? Feel free to elaborate.
Koins: My Sound. That's my sound. It's Hip-Hop, it's Rock, it’s Hawaiian, Whatever you want to classify me as will be my sound. I listen to so much music, I don't want to recreate the same music, I want to innovate it.
OTD Hip Hop: What is the message you are trying to spread through your music?
Koins: Well first off that Hawai'i is more than meets the eye. And that us local boys & girls have our own struggles out here in paradise. Also how life is bound to change regardless of what anyone thinks.
List 2 to 3 goals (short term/long term) that you have for your music.
OTD Hip Hop: Is music something you truly see as a potential career? What are some things you have learned when it comes to music and making it a lucrative business?
Koins: Yes, it's def’ something I would want to do to keep the lights on. I've learned a lot in the 6 years I've been involved in the local hip-hop scene. The biggest things I learned is "Easy Come, Easy Go" "What's here today can be gone tomorrow" & "Everybody aint shit". Lol straight up.
(Album Cover Art by Tay Chan)
OTD Hip Hop: Broke Mokes obviously brought a lot of attention and created a local fan base as the forerunning youth of Hip Hop coming out of Kaneohe. Most people don’t understand the difference between growing up in different parts of Hawaii and let alone Oahu. In your video "Always Rains," you take us back to your high school. Was it easy to promote in high school? What role did Hip Hop play in your high school?
Koins: Back in high school, throughout my 4 years & 2 schools, I went to Castle (3 1/2 years) & Kalaheo (1/2 Year). I was one of the very few rappers. Especially in Castle. Kalaheo was a little different being that majority of the students all came from the military base. But in Castle, which is my Alumni, I would say it was not that hard to promote. Being that there were very few of us. Maybe 3-4 including me that I knew of. People knew me as the kid that skated and rapped. (Photo is courtesy of Broke Mokes' official Facebook page.)
What role did hip-hop play? Well mainstream hip-hop & r&b was infectious through the hallways. Everybody loved Lil Wayne. Everybody was into Soulja Boy & all the dancing trends that occurred at that time in Hip-Hop (about mid to late 2000s). The homies & I, all used to dance in the hallways doing the Jerk, Stanky Leg, Dougie & whatever we could do to get the girls to look at us. Lol. Everybody knew my crew & I as those kids though. The rapping, dancing, outgoing outcasts. Actually though when I think about it, it was my freshman year. Hip-Hop was HUGE in castle. The upper class men used to have dance battles between the Breakers & Krumpers. No rappers though. It was the homies & I who started spitting anywhere and everywhere.
Do I think there are more high school rappers now? YES. It’s easier now. With social media and the internet, you can get your creative talents out there, you can find inspiration anywhere online. It's a good thing though. As the generations transition and the old Hawaii becomes the new. Hip-Hop culture is being embraced by the youth. And if the youth is involved then it has the space to grow.
OTD Hip Hop: Another Broke Moke question - Aside from dope music and ambition and live performances, what do you think is another reason(s) that yall got so much support locally or at least from Kane’ohe?
Koins: Hmmm. Because we are genuine real people. That’s the biggest quality anybody can have. Being a genuine person. If your going to be nice, be actually nice. If youre going to be a dick, be an actual dick and dont change up just because who your around.
We had a lot of doubters. A LOT. But that didn’t matter. We stayed at it, we showed people we can actually rap, sing & do whatever we wanted to. We stayed persistent. & whenever we had an opportunity we capitalized on it.
We also repped out hometowns like no one else. Ask Big Mox, Creed, Justin “Bone” or any Hawaii OG in the hip hop scene. When Broke Mokes were in the building, bet you’ll be hearing KANEOHE being yelled out or our 44 hand sign thrown up in the air. We knew where we came from and wasn't ashamed to rep it to the fullest.
OTD Hip Hop: As an artist who has put a number of solid years into music and has gained a respected reputation in the local scene (and being only in your 20s), what do you think Hawaii Hip Hop or Hawaii's young talent in general need to do to "make it" if they choose to pursue a career in music/entertainment?
Koins: Well that’s a tough question because I haven't even "made it". But all I can tell people is - "The cream will always rise to the top". Meaning it will take time to be on top, but if you got it then you got it & in due time you’ll shine brighter than you can imagine. Also, Steve Jobs talked about pursuing a dream or ambition. I'm not going to quote him but he pretty much said "Those who we deem successful are usually the ones that never gave up.” And that is true. I’ve seen many peers stop doing music. Nothing wrong with that but this journey isn't for those who give up. They say it takes 10 years to become an overnight success. So all because you don’t see any light dont mean there aint any, maybe you just got a longer tunnel to go through. Also, if you LOVE this rap shit like I do. There is no quitting. If you do what you love then you are already "making it". I’ll tell the youth expect to receive what you put in. That’s how the universe works.
OTD Hip Hop: Your album "Familiar Faces" highlights people who have impacted your journey (friends, other artists, producers, etc). What are the pros/cons of creating music in Hawaii and as a local person?
Koins: Well the pros are that their are HUNDREDS of talented undiscovered artists in Hawaii. We have an ocean of artists here. From music to dance to art to whatever you want to label people as. We've got it. And we come from a place that has an untold story. The world has a fixed view on Hawaii. And we have the talent here to let them know what else there is here in the 808.
The cons? Many people get the island fever. They become content or too busy handling real life. It’s expensive here. People need to pay bills and handle real life situations before their dream. Which sucks but it’s reality.
We also have the crab in a bucket mentality here. Many people are down to shake your hand but not many people are down to lift you up. Especially if it means lifting you up higher than themselves.
OTD Hip Hop: Now that you’re older and wiser from where you first started, what are some other long-term things you are working on as an artist/entrepreneur?
Koins: Well, my album Familiar Faces is me taking the next step as a serious artist. I own all the beats, I'm getting on all digital platforms that align me with being eligible for festivals and more. I’ve learned to invest my money into my craft and brand. I plan on making merch once I have a solid fan base to support me like that. First its music and music only. Videos, Shows more albums and hopefully Prime time radio play. Oh and tours. Ive honed in on my craft enough to be confident to take it overseas. While I am still growing and learning. I have the confidence in my new music. Hopefully it will help open the doors I need. You’ll see a lot more "Koins" in the months and years to come. I feel like I’m only getting better & only getting started. My focus and determination are becoming much more keen.
I’m not frontin’ like I followed Koins or Broke Mokes hella thoroughly over the past years. But it is hard to ignore the moves they’ve made as a group and individually. I recently started following Koins again after I saw more and more OGs and other local artist/producers/djs cosign his work. Also, I’ve been watching his video “Always Rains” every time I feel like I need to remember what I’m working for...which is what I feel we all need to do from time to time. Especially living in Hawaii or any gentrified land, I believe that art and music is what keeps us together. (Photo courtesy of Jarett Blake and Koins' official Facebook page)
Personally, I think Koins is a great ambassador for Hawaii’s young people and Hip Hop community. He’s real, and almost attractively confident when the time calls for it, but humble when it comes to the true message and art of his craft. In anticipation of Familiar Faces, I look forward to hearing more of Koins music and the new visuals that he and his team got in the works. He would like to give a special shout out to his mentor and project producer, Jim Hurdle, and Tay Chan for the album’s artwork. For more from Koins, stay tuned to his Soundcloud and Facebook page.
A few weeks ago, a high school kid named $eth Balai hit me up on Twitter, and was interested in some collab work and I told him I could get him on my blog as well. My honest first impression was that he was probably just a youngin’ frontin’ like a serious rapper, but I stand corrected y'all. Check out this week’s “Track Tuesday” segment featuring onb$eth Balai’s latest track - “Birthday” (Prod. By Lowkey).
“Birthday” is a recent single that $eth Balai got inspired to write in the spirit of celebration and of course his own birthday. I personally describe the song’s vibe as Eazy-E’s “My 64” meets Trey Songz..and honestly I mean all of that in a good way. The best is dope, lyrics are chill and easy to follow, and it has steez. $eth Balai is an an up and coming underground Hip Hop Artist/Rapper and Castle High School junior (℅ 2018) from Kaneohe, HI.
With other artistically prolific Kaneohe role models like Koins, I would say that $eth will be an artist to watch in the coming years as he continues to develop his sound. “Pretty much after high school graduation, I plan to move in with some friends in LA and start building my career from there. I want to tour and I want to make it big. This is plan A,” said $eth. Check out $eth Balai’s “Birthday” track, and hear more of his music via Soundcloud.
OTDHipHop is an independent music blog and network, curated by Rapper/Blogger Jehzan Exclusive.