Fresh off a new EP and back from a European tour, Hamilton based hip-hop MC Raiza Biza is on the rise. Ahead of his upcoming show in Wellington this weekend, Nick Pointon chatted at length with Raiza. While the whole interview isn't transcribed here, the highlights of their discussion show the nuances of this artist and his verbal craft.
CP: Starting with the Day & Night EP you have been around for a while now—what it is different about this project for you?
Raiza: This one was kind of like my comeback EP you know, after I released my "Imperfectionist" album two years ago I kind of really had a tough time getting back [to being] creative. I just really, I just really couldn't write stuff that I thought was worth releasing. The first song on this "Day & Night EP" is called "Wassup"—I really talk about how I have spent some time away, but now I am back and I am feeling better than ever and that sort of thing, and that essentially was the first track I recorded before the EP. This is even before I knew this was going to be an EP, so it was really a comeback."
CP: For an artist like yourself, when you go through a hiatus like this what do you do in the meantime when you are kind of struggling creatively?
Raiza: Man, I did all types of stuff you know. Like I spend half the time in the studio feeling frustrated and I was basically working a full time job at that time. I kind of had one foot in one world and one foot in the other—it was really a frustrating time for me, I knew I could do better. I knew there was more out there for me, but you know creativity is one of those things you can't really force. If it's there it's there, if it's not it's not.
CP: The kind of unity we are seeing between different New Zealand rap groups and collectives—how does that tie into projects and community projects like Ryzeup, the two day bootcamp for lyricists and DJs?
Raiza: I have always wanted to do something where I share my experiences and knowledge with younger up-and-coming artists, and this was initiative put together by KFM Trust. They have been running these type of programs for years, but the difference with this one was that they wanted actual artists who were currently active to be involved. So it was myself, Melodownz from ThirdEye and Munashe from Ammo Nation, and I guess it is just my way of giving back, and trying to create this trickle down effect of experience and knowledge. And I do it for my own self because it makes me feel good.
CP: Do you get many kids asking you for advice?
Raiza: Yeah I do, but the best advice I ever got about my tracks was don't ask people for advice. If you do not like it that means that it is not ready. When you like it, that's when you know it's ready. But I remember when I was new on the scene and I got a lot of good advice from my heroes, people like P-Money, like um PNC, like David Dallas, these guys actually gave me the time of day. So when it comes to my turn it is a no-brainer, I feel like I have to keep that tradition going.
CP: I heard on an old Radio New Zealand broadcast that part of your come up was sneaking into Lyricist Lounge open mic nights in Hamilton, do you see much of these type of events anymore?
Raiza: No…..na the open mic is like the university for rappers you know? That's where you learn to get your mic control, your breath control, all that sort of thing. I think these days the game is different. I think people learn at home. Recording equipment is so much cheaper, you can really learn that at home. You know? Google, YouTube. All of these lessons are out there so on the one hand people learn everything inside their bedrooms, but on the other hand I feel like I have a real advantage because I was kind of the last one in that wave of open mic nights.
Speaking to Raiza, I was moved by his calm and gracious nature as he spoke magnanimously about his travels, experiences and goals. His care and interest in passing knowledge on to the next generation spoke to his nature, indicative of a larger cultural unity taking place in New Zealand hip-hop.
Where once there was a time where groups were divided along ideological and geographical lines, now more artists then ever are collaborating in music, performance and community based projects. It is no surprise that the music Raiza produces is simply an extension of himself. His wisdom and poise becomes manifested verbally every time he approaches the mic.
The hiatus between the release of the new EP and previous album was clearly a testing time for Raiza. It was evident that this period of creative dormancy as well as the weight of having to work a full time job creates a sphere of pressure and stress, that is suffocating for many. All of this sees Day & Night embody retribution. Tt is the story of the struggle, the hustle and the comeback.
Details on the Day And Night Tour- Raiza Biza, Blaze the Emperor + Illbaz show at Meow on Saturday night can be found on Under The Radar here.