Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Emcee Lucia interviews, 2003/2004

Emcee Lucia - photo by Deap aka Jamie McCready

Back2Basics magazine - Emcee Lucia interview June/July 2004
Words - Khymer. Photo - Deap aka Jamie McCready


Khmer: Are you Samoan?
Lucia: Half Samoan, half Australian.

Where did you grow up?

Wellington - Strathmore.

When did you leave Wellington?

I left Wellington in 95.

Why was that?

Wellington was too small. I just wanted to do something different.

How old were you when you left Wellington? 

Was it just the realisation that you could do more?

Yeah kind of. Because I'd worked in the hospo industry for so long, getting into music and stuff - really liked hiphop - and I just thought y’know, it’s time to move on, the city was too small. So I went to Samoa for three months, and went straight to Auckland. Actually I went to Samoa to have a break, and then went to Wellington and thought nah I'm going to Auckland.

What were you doing in Wellington?

I was working in this restaurant called Diva. I was chefing at the time so it was pretty hard out. They had [another restaurant] upstairs; it was the same business so there was only one kitchen for both businesses, so it was really hard out. It was a cool place, but then I just thought nah I'm over it now.

What was your first experience with hiphop?

It was probably getting that track ‘The Haunted House of Rock’ on 7 inch, and being at home with my brothers listening to that, then breakdancing, doing the caterpillar upstairs. Listening to the Beastie Boys when I was young - when I was about 13 and my brothers were about 16.

What were you thinking?

I was kind of just listening to anything that was around, and I just remember my brothers listening to hiphop, like Fat Boys and Run DMC, Beastie Boys, and just thinking to myself, that sounds wicked.

How would you describe that time?

That was a good time. All of us kids were young enough to still be at home. It was a family upbringing.

When did you decide you wanted to start making music?

When I started hanging out with K.O.S from Footsoljahs. I hung out with him heaps when he was living on Blair Street. Actually I sort of got into that crew. I didn't rhyme then, just hanging out with being, surrounded by the hiphop scene. Then he moved across the road to the Kitchen and I started going to his house most weekends and drinking with them. You know, [DJ] Raw and DJ Rhys B, and that’s when K.O.S. said I should start rhyming, so I went home that night and started writing rhymes. But I was too shame...

You were surrounded by all these people - was that inspiring?

Really inspiring, like K.O.S. I really admired, because he’d just freestyle all night. He wasn't just talking shit, he was including everyone, he would talk about everyone. He was really funny - he had us in fits of laughter and that was what was so inspiring about it. It was so entertaining and that was the cool thing. That's what hiphop's about y’know, having a laugh and being entertained. Just being unique y’know, fresh.

Does it feel like that to you now?

Yeah it does. Not so much in videos - music videos and stuff - but every now and then there's an album that really blows me away. Like Common, his latest album, he just blew me away. Outkast. Yeah they all just changing, get inspired by different things. They’re all like learning all the time, and suffering, and they change their style and that's what's cool. People change - completely change - and move on to something different to what they did last time.

Just from listening to your album, you've got a soul and smooth groove feel about it - is that the type of music that describes you?
Definitely, because I DJ sometimes, so I collect a lot of old funk and soul. My singing, I didn't really start singing until I started recording the album that was just obviously… I just sort of started singing and that's how it sounded. From when I was a little girl I listened to old music all the time. I liked The Supremes and The Beatles and I used to learn all their lyrics. I’ve always listened to old stuff, and I've always just had that kind of old soul inside me, so when I started singing it immediately had a soulful sound to it.

So who are the people you've worked with making this album or getting this far at least?

I worked with quite a few people - some names I can't remember. 97 I did a tour with True school and that was a DLT and Che Fu, Dam Native, King Kapisi, Asterix, and it was a good 3 weeks of working together and learning about touring, y’know, working with other artists and touring with other artists.

I did some recordings with Angus McNaughton who’s a sound engineer, he mastered my album. Then I worked with - the last two people is my record label Aoatearoa Records - Rob Lundun, Daniel Malone, and Finsta, who's originally from Finsta Bundy. I met him when he came over to do some DJ gigs and I met him on his last gig at Safari Lounge. I remember dancing all night to his set cos he's a wicked party DJ, man.

Then I met him down at Fu Bar and we connected and had dinner on his last night. Then I flew him that over and he bought his MPC player and made 7 of the base beats on my album. While he was making beats, I was writing rhymes. He taught me heaps about recording in the studio and performing live. It was cool cause he's straight from Brooklyn y’know, born and bred. Worked with people like Evil D.

What's it like a female in this male dominated arena?

Being a female it's been a lot harder. Like, going to all the open mics, there have been times when I've been really freaked out and just disheartened by the whole thing. Certain ways that other MCs, their attitudes towards me. I'm not talking about the whole hiphop scene, but there have been certain people that disheartened me and tried to stop me.

After experiencing that, what keeps you still going?

Well it's so disappointing and you're so upset about it but then you just go, fuck that, man, I’m the shit, I'm a fucken good MC and I worked really hard and people love me y’know, people tell me all the time that they love my shit. So that one person's opinion is not going to stop me. That's basically what it's about y’know, if you believe in yourself, then you can do whatever.

Can you clarify - is your album the first solo woman [sic] album in New Zealand?

Yup. First female MC to release an album.

And how does that feel?

It feels really good! I didn't know until I got interviewed after the Hip Hop Summit after my set, by Teremoana from Mai Time. She was like, did you know that you're the first female MC, and I was like no! I wasn’t doing it for that - doing it to be the first. Hell no. I did it because it was inside of me and I had to do it.

What would you say to all the other female MCs that are following in your footsteps and making music?
Just work hard. Know your music. Keep motivated all the time, and if you're a writer, keep writing all the time, when things come into your head. Learn how to structure a song.Yeah, just work hard and listen to a lot of music - across the spectrum, not just hip-hop - all types of music. Just look and listen and keep your eyes open. Don't let anyone tell you that you can't do it.

Emcee Lucia makes NZ hip-hop history with debut album

By Rebecca Barry, NZ Herald, 15 Dec, 2003

Emcee Lucia began with poetry, graduated to hip-hop and is now New Zealand's first female MC to release an album.Emcee Lucia began with poetry, graduated to hip-hop and is now New Zealand's first female MC to release an album.

For someone who has just become the first New Zealand female MC to release an album, Emcee Lucia sure took her time. The 30-year-old dabbled in hip-hop for nine years before she decided she was ready to record On the Cusp, a fresh, melodic trip through sweet vocals, laidback rhymes and soulful, jazzy production.

It took a year to finish as she tried to fit studio time around her day job working at K Rd eatery Verona. Then there were the frustrating few days she spent trying to convince Scribe to join her. "I spent about a week going, 'Do you want to be on this track?' and he's like, 'Yeah, yeah, yeah' and it took ages. In the end I was like, 'Forget it'."

Scribe, who has since become local hip-hop's biggest star, eventually turned up to the studio to do his bit for the fiery, guitar-fuelled track The Deal. But of the nine tunes on the album, bFM listeners will probably recognise the Sisters Underground-style Subscribe 2 Me and All this Time, bittersweet numbers that combine her ability to rap with singing.

A year ago she didn't even know she could sing. "It's kind of scary getting out there, being a female. All the times I've been to open mic nights and seen all the guys there and thought, 'Oh my god!'

"Also, getting myself out there and being open for people to criticise. But you get over that. I had to get over the procrastinating, think, don't be scared and just have faith in myself."

Not that Lucia Ablett is lacking in attitude. It's what fuels her. "I've always got a bit of attitude, even at work or in the studio. I'm just me. If I'm recording I'll have to take myself back to the time when I wrote it. It gives me the attitude to be able to record it. You've got to have the attitude when you rhyme, you've got to feel it."

She grew up in Wellington and learned classical guitar and was too scared to tell her teacher she would rather play the piano.

She says she wasn't the best student but spent a lot of time writing poetry and wondering what she was going to do with her life.

"It's weird, my mum and dad aren't musical at all. I just somehow developed the ability to write rhymes. I had a really good upbringing. We went to Samoa every Christmas. I was really bad at school. I just wasn't really into it - I always thought there was something missing."

That turned out to be hip-hop, and when she left school at 18 she started hanging out with a collective of hip-hop artists, spending her weekends soaking up her friends' creativeness, particularly Wellington MC K.O.S.

"They would freestyle all night long and I'd dig it because I was really into hip-hop. And he'd be like, 'Come on Lucia, freestyle'. I was a bit shy, so I went home that night and started writing rhymes, and then one night I busted out a freestyle and he was blown away. I thought, 'Okay, I've got it if I have his respect'."

She also became interested in soul, funk and collecting vinyl, later taking up DJing but ended up studying chefing and working for a short time in hospitality. The experience left her burned out and she took off to Samoa for three months to unwind.

Then in 1995 she followed a friend to Auckland and started playing the odd gig at some of the inner-city's smaller venues.

Ask her about the past loves she refers to on the album and her gaze drifts and she breaks out in a trademark cheeky smile. "Stuff like unrequited love and the Baddest which is like, 'Check me out, pick me, I'm the one for you'. Every girl goes through that."

Not that Ablett is exactly a girl any more. She agrees she might be something of a musical late bloomer. "I thought I've got to do it now - it's now or never. I'm getting on. A lot of MCs are young.

"I've definitely got the experience after nine years, I've always got something to talk about. You don't want it to be boring or harp on about just anything. I want to catch people's attention."


* Who: Emcee Lucia, New Zealand's first female rapper to release an album

* What: On the Cusp

* When: Out now


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