With an infectious delivery that effortlessly glides from one song to the next, Auckland artist Raka is beginning to carve out an identity as one of New Zealand’s premier talents. We caught up with him to discuss his recent EP, his relationship with longtime producer and friend LMC as well as his journey from Soundcloud rapper to a certified artist.
Released earlier this year, ‘Reverse Reality’ is the latest EP from Auckland based artist Raka. The six track EP sees the artist at his best showcasing sublime wordplay, a smooth flow and beautiful melancholic delivery. ‘Reverse Reality’ is the culmination of years of hard work and growth for Raka, who sees the project as an embodiment of his journey as an artist.
“I’ve been making music for a while now and I got to a point where I developed myself as an artist, to where I thought I found my sound. I’ve made a lot of music, and experimented with a lot of different styles, and I felt like I’ve come to the point where I figured out who I am before making the project.”
Not wanting to leave anything unfinished, the artist put out a project that reflected this development, with ‘Reverse Reality’ transforming from a small collection of songs into a full-length EP. Raka explains that telling his story was an integral part of finishing the EP, “I said to myself, ok I’m going to make an actual project. Originally, I was going to make just a four track EP. Over time this developed into a six tracks when I added another song in the last week before I submitted it to be released. I basically went into it just wanting to make a representation of my evolution as an artist, because I feel like a lot changes relatively fast when you’re making so much music, and when you find your sound as an artist it’s a big thing. I felt like I found my sound and wanted to make a project out of it, and that’s what ‘Reverse Reality’ is.”
Raka elaborates on the meaning of the title ‘Reverse Reality’. “What I wanted to do with the project is metaphorically reverse my reality. Where you start from the mud, then go to the stars and switch it up. I feel like that displays it a lot, and it displays my journey. You hear a lot of stories in there and it’s almost like a motion picture of a project to me. That’s what I feel like it is, and I’ve heard the same from other people that have listened to it. So, I’m glad people have felt what I was going for.”
‘Reverse Reality’ is largely produced by New Zealand heavyweight LMC. The two have a long-standing personal relationship, with Raka explaining that this friendship helped him develop his career as an artist.
“We met maybe like 4-5 years ago at MAINZ in Auckland. We were doing a music production and electronic engineering course together. He was pretty dope, even back then. He was popping on Soundcloud and had a few thousand followers. I was just starting to make music myself. At MAINZ we connected. He was doing his thing and popping off at that time, getting mad love and respect in the NZ music scene. He knew that I was doing my thing and we would sort of sit on the opposite side of class, then eventually we started talking, and were like yo, we fuck with each other big time.”
“We just linked up and started hanging out together as homies for like a year or so, before we even started making music together. We only began to get serious after a couple years. We were just fucking around and making songs. I didn’t have that much attention on me. I think he saw something in me and just wanted to make some music together. I knew that from the get-go LMC would be a star, just by seeing his work ethic and how talented this dude is”
This relationship began to blossom, with both artists learning from each other and starting to carve out a name for themselves in New Zealand, and globally.
“I always thought it would be a blessing to make music with LMC, then we started making music and years gone by, we’ve literally done so much. I credit a lot of my career to the dude, we’ve been hand in hand. He’s taught me a lot, and then I’ve taught him a lot. We’re just like ying and yang now it’s crazy.”
As both artists continued to develop, both in music and life, a more serious approach to music was taken. With the move to Spotify being the first big step. Looking back on the journey Raka notes the move was a natural evolution in his career.
“It all started with Soundcloud man. I was making songs on Soundcloud and started to make a bit of a name for myself. I dropped ‘Tokyo Glo’ when I was in Japan in 2017 and it did pretty well. I was talking to LMC after I got back and he saw the traction it got, and he was like bro, Spotify is where it’s at. I’ve been dropping shit on Spotify, you need to hop on it.”
“So, he put me on game with Spotify. Up until that point I had just been grinding Soundcloud and was just putting out releases starting to came up in the local underground scene, then built up a bit of a name globally. My fan base wasn’t just in New Zealand and Australia, people in America and other parts of the world were listening to me. Then that basically was a stage of realization, where people fucked with me and truly believed that I could be doing this. Once you get that sort of verification and know that people actually get something out of your music, you feel like you have to step it up.”
This feeling of accomplishment and the drive for self-improvement helped to inspire ‘Tokyo Glo’, which allowed Raka to be broadcasted to a wider overseas audience. The achievement solidified the talented artist as one to watch and carved the path for future projects. After the initial buzz of the release died down, came the ‘Tokyo Glo’ remix with Canadian rapper BBNO$, which went on to achieve over 500,000 streams.
Raka explains the remix came very close to not ever existing. “How that came about is me, BBNO$ and LMC have been homies for a while, like a few years before ‘Tokyo Glo’ dropped. He heard ‘Tokyo Glo’ straight after it was released and wanted to do a remix. I talked to LMC and we were like nah, we have to let it run its course, the song was going crazy and we had a music video coming up. Then the music video dropped, and we were still like nah we can’t do it just yet, we gotta let it run its course. Then eventually we kind of forgot about the remix, we didn’t know if anyone could do a fire remix of ‘Tokyo Glo’. Then BBNO$ hit me up again and was still keen after like a year. So, we thought let’s get it going. We talked with LMC, he got the stems and they worked on the production. You’ll hear the production is a bit different, that’s largely BBNO$’s input. It took a few versions and a lot of my input. I mixed our vocals, then LMC and BBNO$ worked on the beat. BBNO$ mastered it and released it then shit really took off. He has a really loyal fan base, and he’s a big artist now. So anything he puts out they’re on it straight away. It was really cool to see the reception of it, a lot of his fans fucked with me which was a cool feeling.”
Although the talented artist has gone on to achieve a wide amount of international acclaim, his connection to New Zealand remains strong. With a supportive network of artists starting to hone their craft together, the local scene is beginning to solidify itself as one to watch.
“There’s a lot coming up now, there’s been a lot coming up too. A lot coming up with me, obviously before, where do I even start. I grew up with the normal homegrown music like, Homebrew and David Dallas they’re big legends. Most of the people that I look up to now are my homies. There’s countless producers and rappers that I look up to and call friends. I really like the scene here and I think we’re heading in a good direction. I think it’s gotten to the point where the world is looking at New Zealand and thinking who the fuck are these people at the bottom of the world, that are creating this sound that is as dope or if not doper than what we’re creating and we’re supposed to be at the forefront of it. I think that’s what Americans are thinking when they listen to our shit. I think it’s in a really good place and there’s a lot of people doing different things. Nowadays man you can find anything, not just in rap and hip hop, you can find anything, the talent is limitless out here.”
“Being in the same community, you all basically know each other; we’re all friends and we make music together.”
While grateful for his local influences, the artist expresses that growing up with the internet helped to shape his diverse sound. With access to the world at your very fingertips, the ability to find inspiration from anywhere becomes possible.
“I think it all depends on your mind state, especially nowadays. If you come from that sort of generation and era where you’re constantly on the internet and looking into global music you’re bound to be influenced by it. I found myself being influenced internationally more than locally. Obviously, I had my local influences, but the internet provides unlimited potential. You can be heard by anyone, anywhere now, so it doesn’t really make a difference. I’ve heard stories of people playing our music in boardrooms of major labels in America it’s crazy. That’s just being found because of the internet. I don’t think there’s any excuse being a local artist in NZ nowadays, you can go global, which to me is the goal anyway.”
With more music planned for 2019, the year is only just beginning for the versatile artist. In the meantime, check out his recent EP ‘Reverse Reality’ below.