How did you get star­ted in music? Talk us through your jour­ney 

Before we start, I want to thank Rishma from I am Hip Hop Magazine for invit­ing me. I’m grate­ful to be giv­en the oppor­tun­ity to share my story. I was first intro­duced to music by my old­est broth­er. I remem­ber whatever music he used to listen to, I also developed along the way. 

My broth­er Jason used to play influ­ences such as Mobb Deep, 2Pac, Big­gie Smalls, Bone Thugs Har­mony and Nas on the way to school. At one point his taste in music shif­ted to Trance for many years which ended up being the only genre I would listen to as well. Being only 8 years old I was pump­ing Tiesto, Cos­mic Gate, Dar­ren Styles, Styles and Breeze, the list goes on. I come from a music­al back­ground where both par­ents loved singing and my old­est broth­er who was DJing at events. 

I guess mak­ing music happened after my par­ents divorced where I would have rel­at­ives from over­seas (New Zea­l­and) vis­it our fam­ily to keep us com­pany dur­ing the sum­mer hol­i­day breaks. My neph­ew, Har­ris­on who’s only a year young­er than me, got me listen­ing to HipHop again as he was writ­ing raps and free styl­ing over beats. He would send me 16’s which I was always excited to hear what he had cre­ated and since I’m com­pet­it­ive, I wanted to see if I could top his work. I began chal­len­ging him, send­ing my 16’s rap­ping over instru­ment­als too. 

Dur­ing one par­tic­u­lar hol­i­day he was over in Aus­tralia, we spent that sum­mer search­ing for beats on sound­click and star­ted writ­ing raps togeth­er. My first raps were mainly disses but I remem­ber com­ing across a wide range of beats where the instru­ment­al res­on­ated with my unspoken pain. I wrote a song when I was 14 which speaks to the exper­i­ences of watch­ing my par­ents’ mar­riage col­lapse. A song ded­ic­ated to my moth­er, “Why did momma had to go now? She was the only one to hold me when I was feel­ing down” and “Raised 4 kids on her own whom we crowned, my ex dad was always out f***ing around”. My mum would go miss­ing in the middle of the night because she was try­ing to find a way to com­mit sui­cide so we could­n’t see. I remem­ber my broth­ers and I would go search­ing for her in the streets and beg­ging her to come back home when we found her. 

Writ­ing songs became my voice in a silenced, trau­mat­ic home.

When I was at school, I was con­stantly fear­ful that if oth­er stu­dents or teach­ers knew what was hap­pen­ing behind the scenes at home, the gov­ern­ment would sep­ar­ate me and my broth­ers from our moth­er. So no one nev­er knew, I kept it a secret which allowed the pain to grow and fester beneath the sur­face. I needed an out­let and that’s when I star­ted to release these emo­tions lyr­ic­ally. When I was 16, my moth­er noticed that I was tak­ing Rap ser­i­ously as I had asked my old­est broth­er if he could gift me a micro­phone for my birth­day. 

My whole fam­ily was against my choice in music since they believed there was no future in that career. After gradu­at­ing from high school I wanted to pur­sue a degree in Audio Engin­eer­ing how­ever I had pres­sure from my fam­ily, so I enrolled myself into Account­ing. I was so miser­able dur­ing my time at Uni­ver­sity and the only relief I felt was when I was writ­ing raps. Instead of study­ing in the lib­rary or pre­par­ing for exams I devoted my time to work­ing on my music. Even­tu­ally I got fed up, dropped out of uni­ver­sity and found myself a job in order to afford stu­dio time. This caused a lot of hav­oc in my fam­ily, so I per­suaded them I would get into busi­ness with the hopes of open­ing my own café one day. With many years of exper­i­ence I developed in the industry, I burnt out which led to my spin­al injury when I was 21. For two years I was unable to walk and unable to work. My life was placed on hold. I felt lost and oper­ated life with no pur­pose. How­ever, time in recov­ery allowed me to real­ise that I had neg­lected my pur­pose, which is music. 

Although your music does not focus on one genre, was there one par­tic­u­lar genre that you star­ted mak­ing music from? or got you into mak­ing music? 

One of my earli­er dreams was to become a DJ because I saw my broth­er Djing so I thought it was a cool thing to do. Although Rap for me, was like “Spoken Thoughts”, I used to listen to a lot of RnB music before ven­tur­ing into the HipHop/ Rap genre. 

How would you define your style? 

I would define my sound as ver­sat­ile as I don’t want to be trapped in one par­tic­u­lar genre. The music I make is based on what inspires me to write and also what sounds I’m exposed to. I love dis­cov­er­ing new / old music to listen to espe­cially if it’s some­thing I can relate to or oth­ers shar­ing their stor­ies I’m all ears. 

What have been your biggest chal­lenges in the music industry? 

Like any artist in this Industry you’re bound to encounter people who “Sell Dreams” to you and use it to take advant­age of you. I used to be eager to get signed to a label but along the jour­ney I’ve dis­covered there’s a lot to take into con­sid­er­a­tion like oppor­tun­it­ies vs risks / fraud. Chances are if it sounds too good to be true, most likely that’s the case!

Where does your inspir­a­tion come from when you are mak­ing music? Is there a par­tic­u­lar event, goal or per­son? 

My inspir­a­tion starts with my per­son­al exper­i­ences of struggle and pain, some­thing I grew up with in my child­hood days. I’m able to con­nect with J Cole, Nas, Prodigy of Mobb Deep as they guided me in how I wanted to deliv­er my music into the world.

In 2018 you were the top 2 final­ists for the “All Access” com­pet­i­tion hos­ted by Stu­di­os 301. Did this open doors for your music? 

I believe that com­pet­i­tion did serve me well since the oppor­tun­ity shed light onto my music. I had the mind­set of win­ning that com­pet­i­tion so I’m not com­pletely sat­is­fied with the out­come although I’m grate­ful for it since it has only strengthened my pur­pose, my drive towards music. To know I had the main­stream artists many who I con­sider Idols on my page is pretty mov­ing so it’s def­in­itely an eye open­er. 

Who is your dream fea­ture artist? 

I would love to work with J Cole, Nas, Trav­is Scott and The Weeknd. 

Tell us about your latest single “Simple”? Where did the inspir­a­tion come from? 

I wanted to ven­ture out of the trap scene and explore oth­er genres. “Simple” was writ­ten in a way where I wanted people to feel good about their body, to feel sexy while listen­ing. To be hon­est, “Simple” recalls when I used to go to strip clubs. My first exper­i­ence was in Auck­land, NZ where my cous­ins had taken me to.

I’ve always viewed “Dan­cing” as an art where the music dir­ects how the body should move inspired by emo­tions.

Any­ways I think the dan­cer knew it was my first- time because of how “Shy” I was and how I didn’t dare make com­plete eye con­tact. What ended up hap­pen­ing was she decided to take me on stage even though I kind of refused since I was shy how­ever I went up and she began dan­cing for me. I remem­ber lay­ing flat on the floor look­ing up while she climbed up to the top of the pole reach­ing the ceil­ing and then sud­denly drop­ping to floor level with so much con­trol, it seemed so effort­less to me. That night was a remark­able night for me since I remembered feel­ing good about myself and priv­ileged because she had acknow­ledged me des­pite my shy­ness. 

What oth­er music have you got planned for the rest of the 2020? 

There’s more of the unex­pec­ted, I guess you’ll have to wait and see but I have been work­ing closely with my engin­eer Simon. 

Finally, with the lock­down situ­ation, how has it been for you and what advice can you give oth­er cre­at­ives? 

The lock down works out in my favour since I have the time to work on my music but most import­antly con­nect with fam­ily, friends and also the listen­ers. One advice I would like to share with oth­er cre­at­ives, is to stay true to your craft. Remind your­self of your pur­pose and under­stand this situ­ation that’s occur­ring glob­al is only a test of your resi­li­ence in life. Use the time to recon­nect with your­self, keep your­self occu­pied through a routine sched­ule so you’re not just winging it and you actu­ally have some­thing to look for­ward to. “Set­backs are only pre­par­a­tions for what’s yet to come” and I know men­tal ill­ness is a real thing so if you’re cur­rently in hell, do not stop there! Keep mov­ing, keep­ing work­ing and fight­ing to get your­self out of there. You haven’t failed in life yet, you only fail if you’ve stopped try­ing. Life and Time is your advant­age and your pas­sion in music is your greatest asset.

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Rishma Dhaliwal

Rishma Dhaliwal

Edit­or / PR Con­sult­ant at No Bounds
Rishma Dhali­w­al has extens­ive exper­i­ence study­ing and work­ing in the music and media industry. Hav­ing writ­ten a thes­is on how Hip Hop acts as a social move­ment, she has spent years research­ing and con­nect­ing with artists who use the art form as a tool for bring­ing a voice to the voice­less. Cur­rently work­ing in TV, Rishma brings her PR and media know­ledge to I am Hip Hop and oth­er pro­jects by No Bounds.

About Rishma Dhaliwal

Rishma Dhaliwal
Rishma Dhaliwal has extensive experience studying and working in the music and media industry. Having written a thesis on how Hip Hop acts as a social movement, she has spent years researching and connecting with artists who use the art form as a tool for bringing a voice to the voiceless. Currently working in TV, Rishma brings her PR and media knowledge to I am Hip Hop and other projects by No Bounds.