Tapz is a creator that knows exactly what he wants. He isn’t unfamiliar with the industry though—the multi-faceted artist is also a graphic designer, has modelled for MADE in Sydney’s Fashion Week, and has studied marketing. Growing up in Zimbabwe with little understanding of the English language has proven to be no barrier for the now New Zealand-based artist. Music is his primary language. Inspired by Michael Jackson, Kanye, hip-hop and punk rock, Tapz says his music is “all that dynamic in one, just like my personality”.
Your lyrical direction in your latest single ‘Run Don’t Run’ feels raw and authentic. It gives us a taste of what you went through when you were younger. The words “Don’t forget where you came from” really stood out for me. Can you tell me more about where you came from and how this song came about?
I was born in Zimbabwe and moved to New Zealand at the age of nine. I love Zimbabwe, it’s an amazing place. When I went back in 2015, I saw a different side of Zimbabwe that I hadn’t seen before. It made me think about how fearless my parents were to move us from Zimbabwe and leave everything that they built and everything that they knew to give us a better future. In everything that I do, I apply the same fearlessness. That’s what ‘Run Don’t Run’ is about; finding fearlessness in a system where we’re taught to run.
What was it like when you moved from Zimbabwe to New Zealand?
I was the only black kid in my neighbourhood and that was crazy, especially coming from a place where I was surrounded by my culture and my people. I always knew I was unique. Moving to New Zealand amplified my uniqueness and I know that affects people differently, but for me it helped me to be comfortable with being different. You can hear that in my songs – they’re unique. I grew up listening to Michael Jackson and even though I couldn’t understand English, I understood the feeling. When I moved to New Zealand I listened to punk rock, which all my white friends listened to, and then I fell in love with hip-hop. My music is all that dynamic in one, just like my personality.
Did you start creating music early on in your life?
I didn’t, but it was always the language I could understand. When I realised I could make music, it was the first language I felt like I could speak fluently. To me, the language I speak fluently in is art. I went to university for graphic design and I’ve always been good at expressing myself – through visuals, the way I dress and through music.
So you did the single ‘The Buzz’ with Hermitude which led to an ARIA nomination and performance at the ARIA awards. Did you expect that song to be as much of a buzz as it was?
They flew me from New Zealand in 2014 to work on the song ‘Through the Roof’. So I recorded ‘Through the Roof’ and that was cool. When we were done, we had a couple days left of the Hermitude sessions so I said “Show me the album, I’d love to hear it”. They played ‘The Buzz’ to me and I said “That’s the one. I’m not leaving until I’m on that song”.
Are you collaborating with anyone at the moment?
I’ve worked with some of my favourite artists. A lot of people don’t get an opportunity to do that but I have an incredible team. Having moved from Zimbabwe to New Zealand gave me perspective that allows me to speak to a lot of different demographics. Tapz is for the people.
You walked in the MADE show for Sydney’s Fashion Week. Are there any other creative platforms that you would like to explore that you haven’t yet?
I would like to explore all of them. I already do that stuff, it’s just that the light is on music right now, which is opening doors for me. I love those guys at MADE, they give a platform for the youth to express themselves through clothing. There are all these different parts of me that I want to express, through fashion, through music, through different creative fields.
Is there anyone that you aspire to be like creatively in the contemporary landscape?
Kanye’s people are amazing, that’s why I signed to G.O.O.D Management. I love those guys. Che Pope is my manager on that side and he’s incredible. He puts me in the right rooms so I’m around creative minds. My all-time influences are Michael Jackson, Frank Ocean, Kid Cudi and Kanye West. I love what those guys are doing.
So you’ve just signed to 100s + 1000s locally, how has that helped with your vision?
I’m very conscious of how I put things out. I purposely took my time to get other people involved. I released a song called ‘Killa’ with no managers and that did well. When I met my management team, although I’ve had managers approach me before, it felt right because they understood me and my vision; they understood that I love learning and were willing to teach me certain things that I didn’t know. When I met Mushroom and 100s + 1000s they understood the value of keeping your word and the importance of collaboration.
How important is it for you to go with your gut and trusting your instincts?
I talked to a whole bunch of labels but 100s +1000s was the only label that my gut didn’t second guess. I think everything happens for a reason and that following your heart is important.
You can catch Tapz performing for Too Much Sauce at Toff in Town on April 27. Details here.
- Photographer: Josh Wotton