Congrats on winning. Take us back, if you can, on the emotions you were going through 1. when it was turn to announce the winner 2. when the nominees were called and up until the point when they called you're name?
Thanks for the love Kalani! When it was time for the Hip-Hop category to be announced I was still super hyped from the live performance I had just done with Sing The Body and I wasn't really nervous or anything. I was getting my drink on and having fun. I was pretty convinced that Slapp & NSK were gonna take the award. I have full confidence in my music and would stack it up with anybody but i really feel like Slapp's compilation, with all the diverse artists and with all of the hard marketing and promotional work those guys do and all the fans they have, was the heavyweight in the category. So I wasn't really nervous but my family and friends who were with me were all super nervous and pep talking me and asking if i had a speech and if i was ok and all that. I kept telling em don't worry I'm good but i didn't have a speech or anything ready, I wish i did now cause I forgot to shout out a lot of people who were responsible for creating my album. When I heard Kutmaster Spaz at the podium say "and the Hip-Hop nominees are", I was just hoping the announcer was gonna pronounce my name right, which I was stoked he did! When they got through the nominees and Spaz opened the letter I just remember him saying, "Illnomadic", and me sitting there dumbfounded for a second as my family started screaming. It kinda took me a little while before I realized damn I gotta go up to the podium and say something. I was pretty shocked! By the time I hugged my mom, sister, and girlfriend and started to walk toward the stage I saw Spaz gesturing for me to hurry up cus i was seriously lagging. Once i got up there I was super nervous but I just told myself to breathe easy and represent myself, my family and hip hop with confidence and humility. I really wish I had prepared something but oh well I think i pulled it off ok.
Talk about the performance and your goal of the performance?
Yo the performance for me was the best part of the night! I had no idea I was gonna get an opportunity to perform till about two weeks before the show when Sing the Body's manager Bran Apeles approached me and told me he was trying to get STB a performance slot and wanted to have me jump up with them since we share the same label, 'Aumakua, and record at the same studio, soulsoundhawaii.com. He said he wanted them to play one of their songs "Sour" which i have jumped on before at their live shows and freestyled over. I said that would be dope but I was skeptical about them letting us, me specifically, perform at the show on live T.V. Anyway he said it won't hurt to ask so he did and for whatever reason they said yes as long as we don't swear or do anything offensive. They actually didn't confirm our spot and put us on their website till like 4 or 5 days before the show. Since my time was limited as far as writing and memorizing something new, I decided to use an old verse of mine from a project i did like four years ago called Evasive Species, reverberation.com/evasivespecies. I thought it would be perfect because it pays mad respect to Hawaii and has a positive spiritual message, also it shouts out my pops who died 7 years ago and has a lot of personal significance for me. It was perfect, in my opinion, and fit the song structure nicely. I just had to tweak the last two bars a bit and give it a strong ending because the instruments were gonna drop out and i felt like i had to say something memorable. I ended on "pay our respects to the builders of community" to shout out not only the elders in the Hawaiian music industry but also the next generation of Hawaii artists, specifically hip hop artists whom i felt like I was representing, who are actively working on building their communities. Man it was such a rush to rep real hip hop on that stage. I'll live with that memory forever and build on that experience going forward.
Talk about the weekend that surrounded the Na Hokus?
Yup it was nuts! I had a show Friday the 25th at Station with my live band. Audible Lab Rats, Illis It, and my good friends Revolutionary Habitat from Maui & Big Island also performed. It was a super sick night of music and everyone killed it! We ended the night with a mad open mic cypher with the live band. A bunch of talented friends came through and help it down hard. There was such a good vibe in that packed little place even though the musicians don’t really have a lot of space to work. It’s something i wanna try to do once a month so look out for that and make sure to come through for the cypher if you’re into that sort of thing! The next day Westbrook, Mr. Kapu from Maui, and I were invited to speak on the first ever Hip Hop panel for the Hoku Workshops. It was an opportunity for us to show HARA that hip hop is here to stay and that we have something to offer the community through our words and music. The workshop turnout wasn’t that great but we all had fun talking about music. We made a statement that day and opened a lot of eyes. Most people have very narrow views when it comes to Hip Hop so it was nice to shatter some of their misconceptions. Wes and Kapu are super intense and intelligent dudes and it was an honor for me to sit on the same panel as them. That was energizing and I hope I get to do something like that again! Saturday night was your Beats, Rhymes, and Aloha event that brought the hip hop community together to rep the Hoku’s as one. That was mad fun and educational for me cause i got to meet and build with some artists that i haven’t had the pleasure of meeting before and the performances were all so good and full of energy. Big ups to Tripple Los. I look forward to working with him and the others I met. My boys Revolutionary Habitat also got to perform and show the Oahu scene what they got, i think they made some new fans and friends that night. Also my sister was in town for the weekend from Big island and its always a great time when we hang out. I had a blast and look forward to the next. Sunday night was the award show but during the day iIgot away from everyone and took my dogs to the beach and kicked it mellow for a while. I needed some time alone with the wind and water to give praise and thanks to the spirit of these islands and her people. I’m so grateful to be alive and living in such an amazing place with such loving friends and family. Anyway after the show, I just went home with my family. No after party for us. We are all exhausted!
What did you take from the whole Na Hoku experience most of all what did you learn about yourself?
It was great experience and I’m grateful to everyone that made it possible. The experience was great in the sense that it showed me that with hard work and humility you can change things for the better and its given me tremendous confidence and motivation to continue to improve and create revolutionary music. I have a tremendous sense of responsibility to represent myself and real hip hop to the fullest and drop some really good music. In truth though awards are not nearly as important as building a solid fan base and gaining the respect of the real heads in the community. I’m working towards that and hope that this award is just another way for me to ultimately achieve that.
What’s next for you?
I spent four years working on Illnomadic, I plan on releasing my next record in a few months and want to be way more active than I’ve ever been before. I have a project in the works called Supa Groupas with my boy Scott Ohtoro. Check out http://esomusicart.blogspot.com/ to hear some samples and also some remixes Scott has done for me recently. I plan on making music with as many people as possible both locally, on the mainland, and worldwide. Illis It is one of the dopiest emcees I know and we are currently working on a bunch of stuff. I got tons of projects in the works with a lot of people and in the last week since I won the award I’ve had some great opportunities presented to me. I can’t list them all but be on the lookout! Big things are in the works! I’m so thankful Kalani!
I have to specifically thank Shawn Livingston Mosley for recording, producing, engineering, mixing, mastering, and playing piano on Illnomadic. He believed in my talent and gave me the tools and freedom to create my record exactly the way i wanted in a professional and super supportive environment. He is the type of dude that if he believes in something he puts all his effort and resources into making it come to fruition. I’m forever grateful to him mainly for always being straight up and solid in everything he does and says! I know how hard that is to find in this business and will always have his back and support his label. He supports me on his label but allows me to be a free agent so i can work with anybody i want without his involvement. The only thing he ever asks me is how he can help! That’s the Wu-Tang formula and i’m grateful to have him in my life. BIG UPS!!!