When Abdul Kay released his first music video last month, he told his younger siblings not to watch it.

"I said, 'Don't watch it on the TV because when you open YouTube on the TV your history comes up,'" says the 20-year-old rapper.

"They were like, 'We already know.'"

His siblings are well versed in keeping Kay's fledgling rap career secret from their parents - because, right now, they don't know about it.

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Mt Roskill rapper Abdul Kay hopes to have his first EP out before the end of the year. Photo/Sal Mohammed
Mt Roskill rapper Abdul Kay hopes to have his first EP out before the end of the year. Photo/Sal Mohammed

They haven't seen him sneak out of the house for recording sessions, haven't heard him doing interviews with local media, and they haven't heard Right Now, Kay's laid-back ode to living in the moment that wouldn't sound out of place sandwiched between Joey Bada$$ and A Tribe Called Quest.

And Kay would like to keep it that way.

It has nothing to do with his relationship with his parents - Kay says they get on just fine and calls his mum "my best friend".

Rather, they have different dreams for their son.

"These aren't the things you'd expect a refugee-background kid to focus on when he gets the chance of a lifetime to be living in a country like this where there are all these opportunities," says Kay, the son of Ethiopian migrants who still lives in his parents' Mt Roskill home.

"They would prefer a more guaranteed route, because music is not that guaranteed."

Abdul Kay. Photo/Sal Mohammed
Abdul Kay. Photo/Sal Mohammed

But rapping is something Kay feels like he has to do. It's been that way since he messaged David Dallas on Twitter one day, and ended up as part of his 64 Bars freestyle project .

"I just think I'm good at it, and I enjoy it," he says.

That means he has to tell the occasional fib, like telling his parents he's heading to a friend's house when he's heading to the studio.

Or ducking outside to do the occasional interview, and keeping the film crew out of his mum's sight.

He hates having to do it. "I don't ever have to lie to her ... except when it comes to that. It felt horrible."

His mum knows about his passion for rap but, Kay says, "It's still kind of weird for her ... it's something I'd rather not have her constantly thinking about it."

Abdul Kay hides his musical passion from his best friend - his mum.
Abdul Kay hides his musical passion from his best friend - his mum.

Which is a shame, because if she did she'd see Right Now chalking up tens of thousands of streams on Spotify since its release.

She'd see acclaim from industry figures like Dallas, and demand growing for an EP, which Kay has in the bag and plans to release before the end of the year or early next year.

And she'd see her son booking shows, including a support slot for Openside at the end of October, and alongside Stormzy and Post Malone at New Year's Northern Bass festival.

Kay is so focused on his music career, he hasn't considered his parents' university dream. He doesn't have a plan B, and isn't about to formulate one.

"Why set up for that? I know I should have one (but) you can't let any of that fog you up," he says.

"As soon as you think like that, it will derail the train."