Scribe: the dude next door

By Scott Kara

Sitting at a cafe in Ponsonby, having just polished off a plate of creamy mushrooms on toast for brekkie, Scribe is easy to spot. He's smiling and wearing a hoody, of course. The hood is pulled up so it obscures his face slightly and, for someone with such a commanding presence on stage, he is shy. The hip-hop star looks down most of the time he's talking - which he does a lot of today - and only makes eye contact when he brings his answers to abrupt, yet succinct, ends.

Following the release of his debut album The Crusader in 2003, and hit singles Stand Up and Not Many, he became this country's biggest music star. That album sold around 80,000 copies here and more than 100,000 in Australia.

During that time he partied hard, almost burnt himself out and got to the point where he was sick of music.

"It definitely did go to my head a little bit and it's hard for it not to," he admits. "I was just going out and partying heaps. I took things for granted, like my friends and family. I was living in a surreal reality."

But Scribe, it seems, has changed. For starters he's become a father for the second time and he also credits his family and friends with bringing him back down to earth.

"I'm sure I'm not the only one who feels like this, but having a little girl really softens you up in your heart," he grins.

He used to be Scribe the rap star; now, with the release of second album Rhyme Book, he's happy to be Scribe the family man and "the dude next door".

Don't get him wrong. He may have chilled out, but he still thinks he's the best. Rhyme Book could prove him right.

Why did Rhyme Book take so long to come out?

It's been four years. So for the first two years The Crusader was out I campaigned in Australia. It took a long time to break over there and lots of gigging in towns like Bunberry to Geelong to Wollongong - all those little inbetween towns - which in the end was the key to the success of the album over there.

So we had to keep it going. And then I came home and then, ambitiously, P Money and I went to London for three-and-a-half months. We did well considering we're from New Zealand.

The people who did Crazy Frog were really keen on Not Many because they were all about catchy songs. But then I got really homesick and came home. I just didn't want to do music. I was sick of it.

So you were homesick for your partner, your son and your family?

Exactly. And so I came home, had a daughter and that is the second half of those four years since The Crusader. I spent that time just chilling with her.

Why were you sick of music?

I was exhausted. New Zealand took off and it was awesome and I was tired at the end of that. Then Australia was hot on its heels and I never got a break.

I was just worn out, to be honest and the doctor even said to me that I was suffering from exhaustion. That's the kind of stuff you hear from pop stars and divas, but it was true. I had four gigs in one day here and the third one was Edgefest.

When I arrived I had to go straight to the St John's ambulance. I couldn't even get on stage because I was spewing and I felt really bad because I was right next to the stage and they had to announce I wasn't going to go on. I heard all these boos and people were going, 'Oh, what?'. That was the start of the end for me really.

How did you recover?

I went to Christchurch and slept. Because I'd been in the limelight a lot and been around lots of record label people and media it was good to be home and be normal and be around my parents and my partner and my kid and getting back to doing normal things for a while.

Being a family man has really kicked in then?

I was already a dad before I went to make [The Crusader]. Actually, I wasn't really a dad, I was more of a father, because I was still 19 and had a son. The time I spent making Crusader, touring, and breaking Australia was the first three or four years of my son's life so I missed out on all that.

So fatherhood didn't really kick in for me until I got back, spent some time with him and got to know him. I would talk to him on the phone and see him now and then, and we didn't really have a good connection. But when I came back I spent all my time with him.

He'd seen me on TV and he kind of had a little grasp of what I do. But my daughter was when it really kicked in for me. I just fell in love with her and it really switched my world around and made me realise what things are important and that my actions really affect the people around me.

Rhyme Book is very confessional ...

It was a reflection time because I hadn't actually dealt with what had happened after the success. I was so busy and never had time to stop and deal with the fact that, 'wow, I can't believe I just did that'.

So that's why this record, and that song especially, does go back to the journey to get to this point and there were a lot of obstacles that I overcame and I really wanted to put those out there.

You talk about things like your girlfriend's mum calling you a "loser, good-for-nothing, lazy bum". Is it your current partner's mother you're talking about?

Yep. She's not mad because she knew that that's what it was like. I wasn't even allowed round to their house for Christmas but when I came back from my little world tour I was all of a sudden allowed to go over and she wanted me to sign stuff for her friends' daughters.

I was like, 'don't try and say that I'm your son-in-law, now'. After the success of Crusader our relationship has got a lot better. What I say in that song is exactly what her attitude was and for things to switch 180 degrees was kind of weird.

I'm the type of person who doesn't forget, so success was the best revenge. I know she had her daughter's best interests at heart and probably really thought music was a waste of time. But I'm not mad at her because even I couldn't foresee where my music could take me back then.

It would be fair to say The Crusader had some great tracks but overall it was a little flimsy. What do you think?

To be honest, not a lot of thought went into making the album. I just made it. There were a couple of good bangers on there and some downers which were really just fillers. Stand Up went No 1 straightaway and we weren't expecting that and the album wasn't finished. I wasn't totally happy with it but at the time it was as good as it was going to get.

How did you evolve for Rhyme Book?

I really put a lot of thought into it and because I'd come from Scribe the rap star, I really wanted this album to be Scribe the dude next door. The real me rather than the guy on TV. And basically because I was so thankful to my fans for making my dreams come true I really wanted to give them a good insight into exactly what makes me tick and exactly what happened and I think that's the kind of thing they want.

Was it daunting coming up with the songs to match Not Many and Stand Up?

It wasn't hard coming up with the music but the expectation and pressure was hard to deal with because The Crusader was such a massive debut. At first I started trying to meet those expectations and then I scrapped a bunch of those songs that I'd done. I got back to the roots of what I was doing this for and making an album that I'm happy with and not trying to please everyone.

You must've heard some good rumours about yourself. What's the best one?

The best one is one that came up recently that P Money and I have fallen out. Have you heard that?

I think I read about that.

A lot of people are asking, 'hey, there's a rumour going round that you and P Money have broken up'. [Laughs] I suppose it is like a marriage in a way because we've been doing music since we both started out. Unfortunately he's not on the album, and we made some wicked music, but our samples never got cleared. But yeah, now that I'm based in Christchurch we're in a long-distance relationship.

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