BLKCTY is essentially a supergroup, formed from a selection of some of New Zealand’s best solo acts in the hip hop and R&B space: Jess B, Raiza Biza, Mo Muse, Blaze The Emperor and Abdul Kay say the energy between them was too undeniable not to form a clique.
After featuring on the remix to one of Raiza’s tracks ‘Funds Pt.II’, the group of young artists decided to join forces again, this time with their follow up single ‘Flyin’, a high energy track celebrating Black joy which proved to be a fan favourite, with all five artists bringing some of their best performances. Although ‘Flying’ and ‘Funds Pt. II’ became two of NZ’s top rap hits of 2020, the group assure us the album will be a hell of a lot more than just hype music. “We all have such a unique story so we’re gonna have thought-provoking tracks, tracks that remind us of home… you can expect a lot more than just club bangers,” says Blaze The Emperor.
With upcoming festival dates at New Zealand festivals Northern Bass and Splore for 2021, the group say they are hyped for their Summer festival season and that making more connections in the Australian music scene is on their minds.
Today, BLKCTY bring us their next single and music video ‘Salsa’, shot and edited by Tom Grut, the video serves as a stunning depiction of the Black creative scene in Auckland today.
How did your first two singles ‘Funds PT.II’ and ‘Flyin’ come about and when can fans expect an album?
Mo Muse: We performed Funds live on Jess’s set at Northern Bass and after that we really just looked at each other and thought, we can really make something. We had so much fun in the studio creating Funds Pt.II and one thing we really noted was the chemistry between each other. It was never anything really planned.
Is there an album on the way?
Blaze: We’ve been working on an album track by track, it’s a solid body of work.
Mo Muse: We’ve been well supported to get a project going and done so just expect it.
If we didn’t have COVID, would the album have come out this year?
Jess B: Probably not [laughs].
Abdul Kay: I think definitely if we didn’t have COVID, we would have had more time to come out with more world-class shit. I think we’re all happy to be patient and make sure we get the best music and the best collabs possible out of this project. We’re all artists at the end of the day and we’re all solo artists, this is probably one of the most fun parts of our careers anyway, so we just want to make sure it’s as great as possible.
Who is producing the album?
Blaze: It’s a range of talented producers, we’re not going to just limit it to one person but you can expect a lot more than party tracks.
What are you guys hoping to achieve with the album?
Abdul Kay: Hopefully from the project, personally, I’d like to achieve a mean group tour, if the music is good enough and big enough and we could put ourselves in huge venues together, it would be mean. And then it’s about impacting kids who have the same backgrounds as us and seeing us do really well and wanna do well in whatever fields they want to in the future. We just want to inspire people the same way we were inspired.
This year over 10,000 New Zealanders turned out to march in support of Black Lives Matter in Auckland. Did you guys ever think you’d see the day that many people march down Queen Street?
Raiza: As far as the Black Lives Matter march, I definitely didn’t think that we would be able to see that many people come out, but even on a wider scale after that, there was the Palestinian protest and other protests that happened and I just feel like it ignited people and made them wanna come out. Nah I didn’t expect that.
Jess B: For us in the context of NZ, it definitely brought our community together and made us want to click up more in supportive roles for each other as friends, not just this music stuff, but other things that have come off the back of it in terms of social justice and movements.
Raiza: For me, the main thing to remember is that in the New Zealand context, this is really about the Maori people, they’re the Black people of New Zealand and for myself the conversations that I’ve had, I feel more can be done. In New Zealand we have our own issues going on and being able to relate it back to indigenous contexts here is our biggest issue. I think it was definitely a moment in history.
Mo Muse: Parallels between BLM and indigenous struggles is just that, a lot of indigenous people around the world really felt the BLM movement, because they saw themselves in it, that’s why the support was so incredible, here and in other settler-colonial nations, because they all knew, UK, everywhere, because there are parallels to it. What people need to understand is that the BLM movement is an incredibly global movement and it’s centered around Black life and more importantly the plight of African-Americans, but where we are very close to it in terms of being Black people, I think a lot of Indigenous people and POC also find parallels in that struggle too.
What connections are you keen to make in Australia in 2021?
JessB: I think the iron is hot now, in terms of being able to collaborate and get over there and do shows with other artists who have similar audiences. I know Raiza’s been over there before but especially for me, particularly last year, there’s the opportunity for that gap to close.
For a long time, the two scenes have been quite separate and the only other memory I have of any Australian/NZ hip hop link-up was when Scribe and P Money were big there. We were still in primary school. I guess now more than ever, there’s a Black presence in the music scene over there and there are artists we relate to and like the music of, and I think it’s a mutual feeling. I’m really keen to get back over as soon as I can. I would love to see Aussies coming here too, every time I’m over there I’m saying, “you guys need to come to NZ, there’s actually opportunities for you guys here”. With us being a small country, I think there’s a lot of potential at the moment over there, so hopefully, we can pick up where we left off.
Who are some of the other people in New Zealand that are doing dope work to help build the Black community?
Jess B: We’re talking about community so a lot of initiatives are for us by us. Loopd is a club night that was started by our friend Yordanos. It’s a space by Black people with Black people as the target audience in mind and we actually haven’t had a club or club night that’s specifically targeted the African or Black community before. The reception of it has been a testament to how needed it is. It’s been crazy numbers going through every time. Other community role models would be Israel Adesanya, in the fighting community, he is probably the biggest Black NZ figure that we have right now. I don’t know if he’s actively building community, but being visible in the NZ context does boost the wave of Black kids in NZ. Seeing a Black New Zealander succeeding, that is really important for facilitating the belief and faith in the community that’s already here.
As 2020 comes to an end would you say it was a year of protest?
Mo: In NZ it’s the defining year when it comes to building a Black community here. The reception of BLM was the first time a lot of people had spotlighted the fact that Black NZ existed. For something people had felt so far removed from, they saw that actually, their peers in NZ were deeply affected by that. Black culture in NZ is at its embryonic stages, it’s very naive to think that other people are going to open those doors for you, so what we’ve done is empowered ourselves to make our own lane and that’s what 2020 has been specifically to the Black community.
How’s 2021 looking?
Blaze: It’s Black excellence, Black joy, we’re creating a platform for fellow first-generation immigrants.
Abdul: 2021 is greatness just like 2020 was. We wanna show what we can do.
Follow BLKCITY here for more and check out the video for ‘Salsa’ above.