Thursday, August 27, 2020

Ladi6 interview, 2008

Ladi6 interview, by Martyn Pepperell, images by Sole, Back2Basics Oct - Dec 2008, Vol 03 Issue 16

Since announcing her arrival on the local music scene with the now classic Sheelaroc ‘If I gave you the mic’, Ladi6 has slowly but surely developed her unique Pacific soul sound to the point where she is now considered one of New Zealand’s premier female vocalists. As with Scribe, Dallas Tamaira(Fat Freddys Drop) and Shapeshifter, her days as part of Christchurch based music and performing arts act Pacific Underground in the 90s set her up for success - from there to Sheelahroc to now Ladi has consistently built a devoted fan following across New Zealand, Australia - even as far afield as Europe.

Despite success despite success as part of all female hiphop crew Sheelaroc, it wasn't until Ladi’s live DJ, producer and partner Parks invited her to join hiphop soul band Verse Two that she really got her head around music. “ My family is hella musical like most Samoan and Maori families in New Zealand, but [I] only really got seriously interested in music when I joined Vese Two, which was after Sheelaroc.

“Sheelaroc was my ‘I found hiphop’ [moment]. It was like a kid finding Christianity, it was like that. I was a preacher, telling everyone they need to represent and girl power and all this crazy stuff. I hadn't even really realised I was doing music, it was just hiphop [to me].

“When Parks asked me to join Verse Two, I actually said ‘no’ in my head, but I couldn't actually say no to him cos I'm that kind of person. So I said ‘Yeah, I’ll join the band Verse Two, whatever it is’, and slowly fell in love with the music, and realised that it’s its own thing. That was my first real intro to bands. I had no idea about bands, amps - all this stuff was new. I was just this girl in the corner with a book trying to write raps. I didn't even realise I could sing until I joined Verse Two.”

Ladi’s highly-anticipated, long awaited and slightly overdue debut album Time Is Not Much is out this October. Lead single ‘Walk right up’ boasts a booming hip hop reggae groove and touchingly jaded - yet optimistic - lyrics. “‘Walk right up’ was made on the road,” Ladi tells.

“We used to do it over a beat called ‘Rockers Galore’. I made the melody to that song and the guys just kind of took the styling from it. All the beats were made by Parks , who had the inclination to have more of a hiphop base [in it], not a bassline - a base. So he played all the drums live and we put them back through the MPC, and that's kind of how it started. I kind of think that, without trying to be cliche, ‘Walk right up’ was about hope, and we're gonna make it one day, and that's just something I wanted to put across at festivals to all these thousands of people who are getting down!”

Ostensibly, the critical factors in Ladi’s success have been regular live touring and frequent collaborations with a diverse talent pool of commercial and underground artists including local acts 50Hrtz, Scribe, Fat Freddy's Drop, Shapeshifter, Solaa, Opensouls, 4 Corners, Pacific Heights, as well as internationals like Freddie Cruger, DJ Vadim, the Remarkables, amd Sepalot. Ladi next featured on the classic Aotearoan anthem ‘Seek no more’, produced by Wellington’s 50Hrtz in 2002. 2003 rolled around and Ladi appeared alongside her cousin - iconic New Zealand MC Scribe - on the track ‘So nice’ from his debut album The Crusader.

“Malo [Scribe] blowing up was massive, massive for my family. He’s my New Zealand idol, from day squat,” enthuses Ladi. “He’s like, a year older than me, [and] we’re really close. [We were] brought up together, and to see him blow [so] big [was amazing].”

After enjoying the Scribe rollercoaster ride for a minute, come 2004 Ladi made an abrupt genre shift, guesting on crucial cuts ‘When I return’ and ‘Move with me’ from local drum n bass phenomena Shapeshifter’s sophomore album Riddim wise. Collaborating on the tracks with a major turning point for Ladi as an artist.

“The biggest thing ever for my musical development was doing a song with Shapeshifter, because I’d never heard drum n bass before. When I did ‘Move with me’, they gave me this cassette tape and were  like ‘can you make a song to that?’ I was like what the?! How the hell am I going to make anything out of this? It was the rhythm, everything. I was a hiphop girl, how could I work with that? It was good though, cos I had to work with that and I wanted to do it cos I’d known the boys for all my musical life and it made me open up and figure out how I was going to get around it.”

Ladi6 - Back2basics magazine Oct-Dec 2008, image by Sole

After collaborating and touring with Shapeshifter in 2005, Ladi ticked another dream collaboration of her list - working with Fat Freddy's Drop and Shapeshifter’s MC P-Diggs on the song ‘Roady. ‘Dream or not, this collaboration had been on the cards for a while, ever since she first performed live with Freddy’s in the early 2000s at the now defunct New Years Eve festival Alpine Unity. “Meeting Freddy’s was a huge turning point [for me],” Ladi recalls. “Dallas’ sister was in Sheelahroc with me.

“I saw them at Alpine Unity and they did ‘Midnight marauders’ and it changed the crowd from sitting playing with children, to up and dancing, just mesmerised - me included. I was right up the front [saying] ‘Dallas, please give me the mic’, and he was like ‘my sister’s little friend, okay’ - and that was massive.

“Meeting Freddy’s totally changed my life in terms of music. I started out in life as just a hiphop girl really, and it completely changed my life doing all these different songs with these fullas. Going on tour with Scribe, going on tour [to Europe] with Freddy's, seeing all the different people that they meet, and the audiences that come to the gigs; they introduced me to music, all those guys!

 “It’s been really good for me before I release my album to see all these different groups and how they do their thing. I've just been sitting there absorbing how they do it and thinking about what I want to do, and what I don't want to do.”

The album Ladi refers to is of course is the aforementioned Time Is Not Much, which may prove our first real opportunity to observe Ladi6 doing Ladi6 under her own direction and terms. Having said that, as Ladi explains, “I’m lucky that I did these songs early, because people know who I am without ever having released an album. In fact it’s funny, lots of people say to me, ‘haven’t you got an album out?’ because they’ve heard me so much. It’s given me the opportunity to perform heaps, because the connection I had with all these guys who blew [up] in their own way. I recommend every vocalist does it that way, just feature, feature, feature,and then once everyone knows you, release your album.”

Ladi describes the sound of Time Is Not Much as: “RnB - kind of soul - kind of, hiphop - kind of. It’s a real big, weird blend of all that. I don’t really know [what to call it]! Mu (Freddy’s) and Parks [and Julien Dyne of Opensouls] have handled the majority of the [production of] the instrumentals.” Inside the vocal booth, the only guest artist to feature on her album was Scribe. “The old cuzzy, he owes me favours, man,” laughs Ladi. “He was into it, cause I’m his cousin and also I think he was quite keen to do something a little bit different from what he’s doing [musically].”

Having worked within the full gamut of musical styles - from soul to drum n bass to downbeat - it’s important to remember Ladi never left hiphop behind. She has always been and probably always will be, a huge fan of the scene's local sound and culture.

“I got mates that only listen to hiphop and are hiphop purists to the death, and that's cool man. I'm proud of them. I'm proud that they started out in the late 70s when they were kids, and they saw the resurgence and they are still there, and they’ll still be there when it comes back around. I think, good on you, go hard. Me personally, I like to have more of an open scope on music, and art really, but I respect people that stick to one thing. I think that there is something to be said for someone who loves one thing and does that only, instead of being a jack of all trades, master of none - you know what I mean?”

Ladi sums up with some love for the local scene and her peers: “[I love the way our scene is so close knit.] If you get in there, you'll get to know everybody like I did. It was kind of instant. Once you represent - and it's a cliche to say represent - but once you actually get on the microphone, get on that floor, jump on those decks, you have the opportunity to meet every big shot Kiwi hiphop person that you've ever admired in your life, and I love that they're not out of your reach.

"It would probably be out of your reach if you were raised in America and wanted to meet Kanye, but there is a very good chance you will meet DLT or you will meet Che Fu. We’re still really down to earth, and people like Che Fu, if you meet him on a street corner and he's in the mood, you have a jam with you - that's how cool Kiwis are.”

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