She's been described as the kuia of hip-hop in Aotearoa and 2018 has been an epic year for the artist, dominating the Pacific Music Awards and embarking on a national tour. Ladi6 talks candidly with Sarah Daniell, about life, family and her hopes for 2019 ... and what better place to start than using her own song and album titles as cues?
You have been given the contract to provide the Christmas playlist at all shopping malls. Thank you for saving us. What tracks would you choose - music to go Christmas shopping to?
Mariah Carey - All I Want for Christmas. Then I'd play Lauryn Hill's Miseducation of Lauryn Hill - first five songs of the album singing, dancing and rapping round the mall. Lost Ones, Ex-Factor, To Zion, Doo Wop (that thing) and Superstar.
The revolution will probably not start in a shopping mall, but what does revolution mean to you in 2018 - a quiet, personal turning-point-revolution; a shift in an issue for the public good?
I think I'm in a phase in my life - I'm 38 - when you start to really not give a shit about all the funny little things that you cared about before. Every year around this time I'd go on this really tragic diet, because summer shows were coming and I'd be overly concerned about photos and how I was going to be perceived by the public. Now I just don't give a shit. And I think this year has become clear to me it's about my confidence. I'm not striving for it or reading about it. In my 20s I was trying to find it and now I just have it - who cares. Really, who cares? What does it really f***in' matter. When you get that true feeling inside, it just exudes and people go, "I dunno what it is about her. She's been around forever, but now ... all of a sudden I really dig her." It's actually like us in our photo shoot - I used to be so concerned. Is my dress right? Is my hair right? Now I'm just I'm slotting you in between a sound check, and let's do it! It feels like a revolution for me. For women it's feels like a rebellious act to not give a shit anymore.
Isn't that weird. In this world of social media - that it's a rebellious act to say I don't f***in' care what I look like. This is who I am. And actually every other woman will know this.
Do you have a happy relationship with social media?
I have a happy one now but I had a hard one for a long time - I was self-conscious. But other women need to see other women not caring so much. Other women need to see all different body types. Saying, hey check this out, I'm a bit chunky but it's all f***in' good. I'm not scared of the camera. I'm not scared to say my opinion. I think it's vital - more today than ever before.
Hold Tight ... what will you hold tight to this year and what will you let go of in 2019?
I'm going to hold tight to my purpose - I have really found that. This is not a mistake. I've always had that fraud thing, imposter syndrome because I'm not Aaradhna and I can't sing like that ... I can't sing like Mariah or Whitney so how have I even managed to get here? Now I really know there is a certain thing about me ... that isn't straight Ariana Grande ... it doesn't matter. I know what I am. Everyone needs that. It's my life purpose to strike a little idea of that in everyone I meet. Bailey Wiley said, "Girl, I hope one day I can write love songs like you. All your songs are love songs, eh?" I was like, "No. What are you talkin' about - they're political, ha ha!" But actually they are all songs about love and hope - all the messages I must've wanted to hear, and if I need to hear it,someone else probably needs to hear it too. I feel like it's always been there and I've finally acknowledged that is my life's purpose - I'll take that with me into 2019 and into forever and that will be my anchor.
And things I'm going to let go of ... just old silly young ideas of who I thought i needed to be and - whoosh - let that go - it's so simple. Isn't that funny.
The Liberation Of ... what person, idea or people or thing do you want to see liberated from its shackles next year?
Oh my God, my mum. I wish I could liberate my mum so bad. She and my dad divorced years ago. But she ... she feels this guilt us, her kids. She hasn't let go of this. She divorced my dad so long ago and can't divorce him in her heart. As a child you wish ... as a go-getter and ambitious person, I'm like, "Come on Mum, f*** him, who cares?" I love my dad. I don't want to talk shit about him. He's the greatest. But I'm just like, "Come on, move on." She's like, "You are the child - don't tell me. I know you're Miss Ladi6 and you do your songs of love and hope, but I was married for 35 yeas and you don't just break up and forget about that." She's actually brilliant. She taught me everything I know about business, ambition, a hard work ethic. I just wish she had better luck in love and just that she was liberated from her old-school thinking about marriage. It hasn't served her.
Do you feel a heightened sense of familial responsibility - at this time of year it's magnified - but do you always?
Always. I'm Samoan too so it's part of the culture. But also I come from a full on background of alcohol and drugs; an abusive long line of extended whānau. So I feel if you are out there being successful you have to help your family.
You don't drink anymore?
I don't anymore, nah. That's how I go to my career, being that drunk girl. Woo hoo - bring out the microphone I'm in the building! It really kick-started my career - by being that girl. And then it went over the level when I moved to Wellington and it was like "Oh God, I saw you last week and you were like ... ooh."
What's it like getting on stage, not having that?
It took me a good couple of years. I had some really good help through it. Kody and Ruban [Nielson] - their dad Chris is a recovering alcoholic who was really good at giving me tips because you know what, I actually can't do this without some help and advice. If your job is to party, how do you end the party without affecting everyone - and the creative process? It feels like that's all part of it. And if you take that away, aren't you just a square that doesn't know shit? You know what I mean?
It's a big part of our culture - we are awash in it - particularly right now
Yeah, but I've realised that I am a party girl - I can party without it. At Fat Freddy's, I dance the whole time on stage anyway.
Has it changed the way you see your performances? Yourself as a performer?
I can remember gigs. Ha! That helps.
Time Is Not Much - but what would you pay to have more of it?
I'm happy with my time. I wouldn't buy more time. I'm looking forward to thinking about retiring. I'm done. I like how much time I've had so far and I'm looking forward to my old age - and not doing this anymore and doing other things.
Diamonds - or pearls?
My favourite song! Diamonds, of course. Always Diamonds.
Like Water .. what is your favourite element ?
Water. I'm a Pacific Island girl. I'm always drawn to being in the water, by the water. Water is a calming thing for me. I don't live far from Pt Chev so it's just a walk to the water.
If you were a musical instrument what would you be? Who would play you?
Man, I have never thought about that ever in my life. I think I'd be a rock guitar. Jimmy Hendrix. I love that sound. Even though weirdly we never have guitar. For I dunno how long. But I love that sound.
Do you have a venue that you feel like you've come home to ?
It's not the venue - it's the kind of gig is when you don't have a pre-set show. It's all just "make it up in your mind and let it out". I have an affinity with that - I want to do that all the time. When the songs are really arranged or structured and it becomes more performance - it's not natural and it can feel like, "What is the next thing I have to say? No no, f*** that 's right." And it starts to get confusing. But when I'm freestyling and feeling the vibe - that is when I feel like I'm at home, that is the sweet spot. Every musician is trying to chase their teenage love of how they came into music and that was mine: just freestyling, ad-libbing. It was gorgeous. I was a fiend for getting up there on a whim and entertaining whoever was there. That's my home.
You have said that you and Parks, your partner, are opposites. For most people that would create the point of conflict but you've been together about 17 years - so it works?
Oh, we argue like cats and dogs about every f***in' thing. We have been together since I was 21 - constantly arguing over everything - the way we raise our son, the way we speak at home, and we haven't learnt. It's a lie, haha! Everyone says that - "Oh youse guys are soooo beautiful the way you are just meant for each other" - [David] Dallas even said it when we were on tour. Even me saying that, Parks would hate that - he would say, "We love each other and will be together forever, what are you talking about" - that is what he would like me to say, but I'm like, "Dude, we argue about everything." But the things we do agree on, the core value stuff, around our creativity - keeps us together. We have such a strong, strong, strong idea about where our creativity comes from. It's the forefront of our relationship, about being progressive and it's always about that. It's never about staying in the one spot and getting the pay cheque.
Sometimes your song titles are obscure - do you both work on those?
I'm like "Name it after the chorus" but he'll go, "Nah - let's not make it easy to understand."
When I Return ...in 2019, what would you like to achieve for you and your family?
I'd like to achieve a sense of empowerment in my teenage son, up-skill him with real life skills, like how to deal with his emotions and communicate his thoughts and feelings clearly to others, while being capable of cooking and cleaning in his home.
Goodday - starts how and ends how?
Starts with a full night's rest and ends with a cuddle.
Outta Time ... but what's Christmas looking like for you and your family?
This year I have it all organised. I have scheduled up a whole lot of stuff for us to do. We are going all the way up to the north, then Rotorua and Taupo, then I'm back for Wondergarden. Then it's all go-go-go to April.
Wondergarden, New Year's Eve, Silo Park, Auckland