26 May 2018

The Mixtape: King Kapisi

From RNZ Music, 5:00 pm on 26 May 2018

Local hip-hop heavyweight King Kapisi was the first hip-hop artist ever to win the Silver Scroll - NZ's most coveted songwriting award - back in 1999. These days he's a father, grandfather, basketball coach, community worker and personal trainer... and he still finds time to make music.

King Kapisi

King Kapisi Photo: Supplied

King Kapisi, aka Bill Urale, knew from an early age that he'd be a musician: “I had made a decision around age four or five that I was going to make music regardless."

Kapisi grew up in South Wellington in a musical family whose band played at traditional Samoan sivas (dances). He watched and learned, and thought, “That’s what I want to do.”

Kapisi – one of five siblings – is from a very creative family: “My eldest sister Natasha is going for a doctorate, my other sister Makerita is the pacific person for Creative NZ, my brother Tati is the line producer for TVNZ's OneNews, my other sister Sima is a film director, she’s also won awards for that as well, and my other sister Maila is an artist as well."

His mum Pusi is an artist: "She just presented here [in Wellington] in one of the galleries. She’s 79 and she’s selling her artworks.”

Read: Pusi Urale - Returning Gauguin's Gaze

“My Mum said ‘if you want to go be creative, go be creative’. She supported us being creative, and that’s the one cool thing with my brother and sisters, we were supported to do whatever we wanted ... She was educated. She arrived from Samoa and she was educated and then she came here and went to teachers college. She was very open-minded."

Pusi was also the person behind her son’s hip-hop alias. Kapisi is Samoan for cabbage, which was a childhood nickname his mother gave him because of his wrinkly head as a baby.

“I thought I could change the name real quick ... but then King Kapisi got well-known.”

The Urale clan were outliers in the capital city’s Samoan diaspora. Kapisi recalls that he was allowed to skip Sunday church services to stay home and watch Star Trek.

Today Kapisi is a father, grandfather, basketball coach, community worker and recently certified personal trainer.

Kapisi, the first ever hip-hop artist to win the APRA Silver Scroll in 1999 for 'Reverse Resistance', firmly believes in giving back to the community and inspiring the next generation.

“I had good role models in my mum and my family.”

Beyond his family, there was All Whites star striker Wynton Rufer, who ignited a spark in a primary school-aged Kapisi during football practice: “He was like 'Yo! If I can do you it. You can do it!'"

“That’s what I think we need more of around Aotearoa, we need more role models going around telling the kids. Everyone needs inspiration. Everyone needs someone to look up to.”

READ: Turning The Tide On Suicide - King Kapisi and Mike King speak with Te Ahi Kaa's Justine Murray

For the past few years, Kapisi has been running Elevate, a series of family-friendly events around Auckland; hosting a weekly open mic night at the Ōtara Music Arts Centre; coaching two basketball teams... and he still has time to make music.

He’s got a new alias, Mister Majesty, for his new dancehall and reggae album Majestic Riddims that will be mastered in Jamaica’s Tuff Gong studios at the end of the year.

One thing Kapisi has learned through community outreach is “that all of our kids, regardless of who they are, need a ‘Hey dude. Hey girl, I believe in you, you da bomb'. They just need the affirmation that someone gives a damn. And I don’t mind being that spark for someone to click and go ‘Oh shivers!'”

“I always say to the kids if I can make it around the world and I grew up in a place like you, then if I can do it, you can do it ... For me to be able to see a smile on the kids, or the community, that is priceless. You cannot put a price on that.”

King Kapisi runs Elevated Family Park Jam, a community event held in Auckland

King Kapisi runs Elevated Family Park Jam, a community event held in Auckland Photo: RNZ/Justine Murray

Music details 

Artist: Yarbrough and People
Song: Don't Stop The Music
Composer: Alisa Peoples, Lonnie Simmons, Jonah Ellis
Album:The Two of Us
Label: Mercury

Artist: The S.O.S Band
Song: The Finest
Composer: Terry Lewis and James Harris III
Album: Sands of Time
Label: Tabu Records

Artist: Eric B and Rakim
Song: I Know You Got Soul
Album: Paid In Full
Label: 4th & B'way Records

Artist: Mary Jane Girls
Song: All Night Long
Composer: Rick James
Album: S/T
Label: Gordy

Artist: Rorystonelove feat. Samory I
Song: Rasta Nu Gangsta
Composer: Samory I, Gillman
Album: Black Gold
Label: Black Dub