CHAII is New Zealand’s newest it girl, and with every week she shepherds a brand-spanking-new achievement into her corner. Just recently her music was picked to appear beside the likes of Skepta and A Tribe Called Quest on Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1+2. Then earlier on in the year, she took the crown of being Spotify’s first ever New Zealand artist to be featured on Radar.
This is no surprise considering the unique inspiration CHAII bases her music, placing importance on the duality of her New Zealand and Persian roots. It’s an influence that appears on Lightswitch, a hard-hitting, debut six-track EP, a double set of trilogies exploring the spaces of LA, and Iran. Acclaim sat down with the up-and-coming prodigal producer, engineer, rapper (and more) to talk creating music and her new release.
Congratulations on the new EP and respective music videos! Could you tell us a bit about it? The lyrics seem to reflect your journey as an upcoming artist, amongst other things.
Thank you!! There were a few different inspirations and driving forces for me for this EP. It’s a 2 part EP, first trilogy set in the Middle East which was my journey to finding my sound and myself as an artist. The second part is set in California where there’s a large Persian population, especially creatives. It was important to me to not have this EP be perfect, I wanted it raw and a documentation of a bunch of stuff I’d been up to.
It’s always satisfying to see an artist successfully weave their own heritage into their music. With you it’s your Iranian background, with your western one. How important is it for you to weave your roots with your western ones when it comes to your music and videos?
It’s very important to me but it also just comes naturally. I feel way more connected to my music when I weave in my heritage. I’m finally an adult and feel I’ve started to know myself better and embraced my heritage completely. I’m very proud of being multicultural.
What’s the rap scene like in Iran? How does it differ to somewhere like NZ?
From what I know there are a lot of restrictions with music and in particular with rapping. There’s a massive underground scene but it comes with its risks. You have to get your music approved etc. whereas in NZ there’s freedom of speech and expression in the creative industry. So I never take it for granted.
You’re a one-stop-shop when it comes to your music; writer, producer and film director. Can you talk us through the process of coming up with concepts, both for your music and the music videos? I read that you once got inspiration from a cricket that was trapped in your bedroom wall.
Haha, yes the cricket. I sampled it onto my track ‘South’ after being annoyed by it for many sleepless nights. My process is always a little different but in general, beat comes first, then I’d feel it out and add some gibberish and freestyle to it for melodies/flow, then I write lyrics and record/demo mix and finally send off for a mix and master. Even though I’m heavily involved in the creative side and in the making of things, I also have my team with me who support my ideas and help bring them to life. I absolutely love collaborating with like-minded creatives. You will hear songs produced by other producers like the amazing Frank Keys. The number one rule is that I should be able to look back on a project and think ‘That was crazy I can’t believe we did that’ or ‘That was so fun, I miss it’. The memories attached to making these projects makes it that much more special.
What’s it been like working with a producer, especially Frank Keys, has it changed your original process? and how has it benefited your sound?
Frank is an insane musician and producer. I’m a very percussive/drum driven producer, whereas he has so much depth to his work. He captures the Persian-Western sound perfectly. When I get a beat from Frank I can have the song finished within an hour sometimes because of how much I vibe with it. His production has given the projects a fresh perspective.
Congrats on being selected for the Global Emerging Artist Program with Spotify RADAR. What was it like being chosen? And what can we expect for you from the program?
It has been so cool! I’m real stoked about the opportunity and ready to do heaps of cool projects with Spotify. Expect more crazy shiz from us.
What are you working on at the moment and what’s to come in the future? Any juicy collabs?
I’ve already started the next project and let’s just say it’s already different to anything I’ve done so far. Definitely a juicy collab soon too.
Follow CHAII here for more and check out her latest video for ‘Lightswitch’ below.