Scoop Interview: Feelstyle “Break It To Pieces”
By Yasmine Ryan
Amongst New Zealand’s growing pool of talented MCs, the Samoan community is represented in disproportionately large numbers. And in Feelstyle, a bilingual rapper, another strong Samoan talent is coming to the fore. Scoop speaks to Feelstyle about his new album “Break It To Pieces”.
Feelstyle talks to Scoop’s Yasmine Ryan about his new album “Break It Into Pieces”.
Feelstyle is no newcomer to the Aotearoa hip-hop scene. In fact, he has been around since its embryonic years – in 1987, he won the nation’s first ever MC battle ‘Taita,’ at a time when he went by the name of RIQ.
The album, released on 11 October, has been in the making for 3 years. It was produced by Andy Morton (Submariner). Feelstyle and Morton joined forces with Malcolm Black to form the record label “Can’t Stop the Music”. Based on their knowledge of the music industry, they deliberately chose not to go through one of the mainstream labels so that they could have more control over the whole process, “we didn’t want to be dictated or to have boundaries to our music”. The name “Can’t Stop the Music” is based on the idea that “With or without a record company we’re still going to make music”. Festival Mushroom Records has stepped up to do the manufacturing, marketing and distribution.
“Break It To Pieces” has strong hip hop influences, but sheds the cultural baggage straight from the US and is a much more local interpretation: “It’s not that funk we hear in hip-hop, the G-funk. Only LA’s got that funk about it. But it’s our interpretation of that. That our people, what type of funk that we listen to in the islands…It’s just that understanding, I think. Of being Polynesian, really, and how we see things. It’s not really American, or it is…but it’s our interpretation. How do we make banana cakes different from the lady in England, you know.”
The Album: “Break It Into Pieces”.
There is also a strong Caribbean flavour to the music. Feelstyle describes reggae – Bob Marley in particular – as his strongest inspiration: “I always wanted to have that summer feel about it, to actually feel it. Even thought the subjects are really complicated, [Bob Marley] broke it down so even a baby could understand. You could sing along and dance to something that’s really deep,” and the result is a relaxed yet funky album that is just in time for summer.
Apart from the distinctive mixture of styles and influences that make “Break It To Pieces” so unique, Feelstyle is the only MC, probably in the world, to make music in both Samoan and English: “For me it’s an extra skill, for a DJ. For example, most of them can trip with one hand, on a turntable, but if you can do it with both hands, that’s something else that separates you from the next MC. Like myself, and the hip hop scene in NZ, there’s so many Samoan MCs that are dominating, like Scribe, Mareko, King Kapisi, there’s so many. But the thing about it is that we can all rhyme in English but when it comes down to our language, I think only I can do that, so it’s an extra skill.”
For those who can’t understand the Samoan parts of the songs, they are nevertheless very catchy, and work perfectly with the rhythms. For those who can, the words are apparently full of Samoan humour. Already, says Feelstyle, he is getting positive feedback from the Samoan community. Older Samoans normally don’t like hip-hop or rap because “it’s too fast for them to pick up, because of course, English is their second language. So when they hear it, they’re trying to break it down to understand the terms.” But in his Samoan lyrics, he believes, they have found a conversation piece with the younger generation: “there’s a song where they understand all the lyrics. They find the comedy in it, the twists, and now they’re explaining to their kids about hip-hop when their kids are saying, oh dad, this is what we’re into.”
For more information on Feelstyle, visit: http://www.fmrecords.co.nz/viewartist.cfm?ArtistId=567