Randa is one of those people who just looks like they must be an artist of some sort. Bright, short blond hair, sharp, colourful dress sense, stylish glasses - they all add up to the striking image of someone creative. What might be unexpected from a simple photo, is that Randa is one of New Zealand's most promising rappers.
Having left earlybird punters open-mouthed when he opened Big Day Out festival on the Lakeside stage back in January, created a wide fan base with singles like Frankenstein, Orange Juice, and Kelly Bundy, and recently taken out the Critic's Choice Award in October, Randa will surely soon be winning NZ Music Awards, too.
Born Miranda Larkin, the 21-year-old, who now identifies as male, and goes by Mainard (a clever anagram), nods his head at the memory of performing in front of thousands at the Big Day Out at Western Springs.
"It was such a crazy experience. You dream about stuff like that. It felt big, and I didn't really expect such a positive reaction from it. It seemed like everyone had a good time, which was pretty motivating."
Randa has been dreaming about stuff like that since his early teens. Like his older brother and sister, he played guitar, tried out the drums, and even made a fleeting band with some school mates. But it was watching YouTube videos of other rappers, and movies like iconic 1980s flick Beat Street, which really got musical fires burning and got Randa rapping to classmates at school.
"It was pretty chill, but as soon as someone found out you could do something, they'd kind of heckle you and try and get you to do it all the time.
"So people would shout at me to do it, until I caved in. I felt quite encouraged by that, I guess."
Having become pretty bored with a post-school job in data entry, Randa enrolled in a one-year MAINZ (Music and Audio) diploma and decided to make a go of music. He found himself with a strong online following after the release of his first EP, Lunch Box. Initially making beats at home, or collaborating with other beat makers like Totems (aka Reuben Winter), on his latest EP Rangers, all five tracks were created with producer Josh Fountain (Kidz In Space).
"It was the first proper collaboration with someone that I'd done from the ground up, where we hung out, and made stuff together. I heard one of Josh's beats before we started working together, and thought it was awesome, so I was excited, and I knew we had at least one potential song. But the rest turned out so awesome."
Indeed, it's another brilliant collection of five eclectic beats and rhymes, each with their own storylines. Fortress is a sly, gleeful track about eating lucky charms with your crush, looking up at the night sky from a fortress - "It's not too cryptic really. If you like someone, why wouldn't you want to do that?"
Apollo Creed references the Rocky movie character of the same name, and his role as a real showman, who can be killing it no matter how ridiculously over the top he may seem.
Lifeguard is about a young guy at a summer club who falls in love with a sad young girl, thinking he can be like her lifeguard and save her from her lonely life, and Texas Lottery is about small-town America, and trying to find a little hope in what feels like a hopeless place.
"I'm really intrigued by dead malls - all these malls in America that are empty, and I find it fascinating how they just sit there because the towns aren't progressive enough to do anything with them."
Randa's style seems to have struck a chord with local music fans - there's less emphasis on being confrontational or boastful, instead it's all about nostalgia and culture and there's a thread of humour throughout, along with a sense of breaking rules and norms.
"Maybe I'm not super conscious of it when I'm writing, but I think it was Childish Gambino who said that rappers are cousins of stand-up comics, and I guess that's what I've always liked about rap music, you can be ridiculous and hilarious. I'm also kind of obsessed with female stand-up comedians like Sarah Silverman."
Indeed, Randa holds an interesting position in two creative pursuits which have often been dominated by men, and left women struggling to be heard.
"I'm a guy, but I'm kind of stoked because I feel like I can still represent women because of the way I was born.
"Mostly I'm just doing what I think is cool.
"But when other people question what is and isn't acceptable for a woman to do, or seem to think that women can't rap, or women can't tell funny jokes, that makes me think about it. Being involved in the Kiwi music scene, and being in the public eye has mostly been a very positive experience for Randa, though.
"I've made a lot of friends in music. Just in terms of how this world has changed my life, that's the main thing.
"And the way people treat me hasn't really changed [since I transitioned], which I'm stoked on because, I think, this is art, why should it matter."
What: Winner of this year's Critic's Choice Prize
Where and when: Randa performs at Golden Dawn tomorrow night, and at Meow in Wellington on December 5.
Listen to: Lunch Box EP, Summer Camp EP, Rangers EP