Home Grown Hip Hop

Tim Higham speaks to Mulberry Grove old boy Louis Sammons who will headline opening night at next week’s Finding Our Voice storytelling festival.

How would you describe your artistic vision?

I use music as a tool of self-expression to share my life experiences, thoughts, and feelings. Authenticity is very important to me, and lyrics are always at the forefront of what I do. I’m just here to share my authentic self and connect with people. I love making music and exploring different genres and sounds and working with other artists. It’s really cool to make something from nothing. A lot of the music I have released so far has had a social awareness focus to it, I really wanted to release some music with a message, and now I am having a bit more fun with it and making some more good vibes and groovy tunes which has been refreshing.

What type of gigs and venues are you playing?

I don’t play out a lot – I’m very much in the mode of creating and releasing music, which is my favourite part. Summer is when I get out and do a few gigs here and there, I’m definitely more into festivals as opposed to bars etc; I like being outside and enjoy the energy that festivals have to offer. I’m playing at Wingman this summer which I am really looking forward to – last time I was on that stage I was age 11 performing a rap I wrote about the barrier! So that will be a bit of a full circle moment for me.

How has the Barrier and Mulberry Grove School shaped your outlook on life and craft?

It’s had a massive impact on how I see the world. I’m very grateful to have grown up on the motu and to call it home. I feel like I walk in both worlds – the city and the bush life, and having an upbringing on the Barrier has grounded me and given me a helpful lens to look at life through. Growing up on the Barrier is such a distinctive experience so I feel that’s given me things to write about, especially the connection with nature and the ability to look at the modern day ‘system’ from the outside – I feel both of these things are a lot harder to do if you grow up in the city.

How do you describe the genre of music you perform?

Probably alternative hip-hop. I feel hip-hop is a bit of a funny genre because a lot of people who don’t listen to it can hold stereotypes of what they think hip-hop music is. A friend once described my music as thoughtful and thought-provoking hip-hop which I like, and I often perform spoken word too which really goes hand in hand with more storytelling hip-hop.

Can you tell me about how you approach songwriting and the inspiration for your favourite songs?

One of the main reasons I was drawn to hip-hop is for the storytelling ability within the genre. Hip-hop songs normally have around three times the amount of lyrics as other genres, so it gives you a lot of room to tell detailed stories. My first project Gorse Into Flowers (available on Spotify) tells a story of darkness to light over five tracks. Some of the first songs I made were very much storytelling type songs to process certain events in my life, like lost love or difficult experiences I have been through. My usual process is to jump on the computer and flick through my playlist of beats, then normally a line will come to mind and I’ll hit record and go!

Are there some island-inspired lyrics you could share?

From my song ‘Motu’ I wrote in January on the island:
“I was raised on the motu wearing barefeet,
carefree, near trees, with the freshest air see,
check check check it can you hear me?
good vibrations coming straight through your ear piece,
sittin’ in the ngahere, the craft heavy
I’m steady and got the bars ready
talking to tui and piwakawaka
way to start my day while I’m sippin on a cuppah!”

Louis will perform after seven story-tellers – Rodney Ngawaka, Annette Lees, Kennedy Warne, Jenni Ogden, Tim Higham, Lizzie Harwood and Peter Malcouronne – have told a stand-up, seven-minute, true, island-inspired story at the Currach Irish Pub from 7pm, Friday October 6.

Conversations with writers, a live link-up with Galiano Island in Canada, coffee, donuts, and a pop-up bookstore will continue over the weekend at the Claris Conference Centre.

Tickets selling fast at www.smallislandbigideas.co.nz.

Written by Tim Higham

Man with hat standing up