Chris Schulz is the deputy head of entertainment for the New Zealand Herald.

Meet Name UL, the Kiwi rapper trying to shake his Drake comparisons

Emanuel Psathas, aka Name UL, says he gets compared to Drake 'all the time'.
Emanuel Psathas, aka Name UL, says he gets compared to Drake 'all the time'.

Emanuel Psathas knows he looks a little like a well known Canadian rapper.

"I used to be chubby, and no one used to compare me to Drake then. Now there are Drake comparisons ... all the time," laughs Psathas, who goes by the stage moniker Name UL.

"I love Drake, I've listened to Drake for a long time. People could be saying much worse things, so it's all good."

The 20-year-old Wellington MC releases his debut album Choice(s) today, and he hopes it's good enough to put those comparisons to bed.

The result of 18 months of hard work, Psathas set himself strict deadlines to finish the album, often waking early to record in a hidden Newtown studio before rolling into his day job at as a bank debt collector.

"In the thick of it, it got hectic," he says. "I set myself deadlines that were not going to move. I would get up at 3am (and) go straight to the studio. Mum would say, 'You're crazy, why are you doing it?'

"I had to do it, I had to get it done. And it's how it got done."

Psathas has been rapping since he was 15, building up a solid following in his hometown thanks to a series of high profile opening slots for international acts like Schoolboy Q, Vince Staples and Earl Sweatshirt.

With songs like I Wonder and Nice Guys Finish First drawing on lazy summery vibes filled with trumpets and flutes, Choice(s) singles Psathas out from many local rappers who prefer modern, bass heavy trap beats to get their point across.

He says he doesn't listen to new music and prefers '70s soul and funk, so that crossover happened naturally.

"I've really been unsure about how the album fits into 2016 in the context of modern music. There are aspects that are very current and make sense, then there are other bits that are really old school.

"Nothing was calculated, it was literally track by track, and these were the 12."

He says he's not trying to "make a million dollars and sell a hundred thousand records" with the album, and he's not about to quit his day job.

Psathas would rather his songs help "some dude who's feeling what I was feeling when I wrote that song".

"I would like to someone hear from me and their first impression be that I have something to say. I don't reckon I would want you to hear me two years ago. I liked all my work back then, but I was very much trying to be a rapper.

"Then I grew up to an extent. It's a good time for you to hear me, right now."

* Choice(s) is out now.

Who: Emanuel John Psathas, aka Wellington rapper Name UL
What: Debut album Choice(s) released today

- NZ Herald

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