Arcee is the product of Manchester, New Zealand and a love of rap and piano pop.

The Kiwi rapper releases her new record, Piano Rap RP, amid a tour with good friend, singer-songwriter Greta Bull.

She talked to Zaryd Wilson after her gig at Lucky in Whanganui.

Six years since debut single 'Go Hard' and three since The Arcee LP, Wellington-based rapper Arcee is ready to show us her piano rap.

She released the video for new single 'On and On' in January "just to get it out there" and this week she's put out the Piano Rap EP.

It's as stripped back as it sounds. Six tracks of rap and melody over nothing but piano.

"It's how I write songs, on the piano. I play some music and rap over it and when I perform it people at the chiller venues enjoy it."


The video for 'On and On' has Arcee (Rona Wignall) meandering through Dunedin and Otago countryside by Nissan and by foot.

"They were sick locations," Wignall says.

"It's about being alone. Sometimes you feel alone in the music industry because it's quite cliquey so the video wanted to be like no one else there. No cars, no people, no houses.

"Of all the places to do it, New Zealand's the place to find some lonely-ass places."

Wignall moved to New Zealand from Manchester when she was 12.

"Back in England I used to write poetry and I entered all these competitions. I actually won one in Manchester when I was 10 about WWII. It's embarrassing now when I read it."

That childhood love of poetry turned into a rap obsession when her sister introduced her to Eminem and bought her a D12 CD.

"I was like, 'this is sick'. It all got to me to be honest.

"I thought it was a bit in your face and I was kind of a show off kid so I liked writing in your face lyrics. You can kind of brag a bit and be a bit silly and joke and it just appealed to my personality.

"Then as I grew up and started listening to more conscious rap a realised, actually, hip hop can be quite a serious story telling tool."

She learned to rap by making up her own lyrics to Kayne West's 'Gold Digger'.

"I got some idea of how flow should work and how rap should work. You've got to copy and watch it first and then you can develop your own style."

At 15 she taught herself to play piano from Youtube paving the way for Arcee's current brand of stripped back rap with melodic hooks.

"Learning music was kind of vital to be able to write good melody and you don't always need a teacher.

"You do later, I feel like you get to a point where you just plateau if you teach yourself something. That's when you need some guidance from pros."

Her love of piano comes through even on the more traditional rap of early Arcee tracks.

Ray Charles' 'Hit the Road Jack' is heavily sampled on 'Hands Off' and is interestingly the same artist sampled on the Kanye West track Wingall learned to rap to.

"I just whipped out my old Ray Charles CD and he's fire eh? Elton John and Ray Charles are like my piano idols, they're just sick."

Now Wignall is trying to incorporate more live piano performance into her sets.

"For the bigger venues where people just want to dance and get a bit crazy then the backing tracks a perfect for that. It's good to have a mix I reckon."

It's an experiment she's taking on her current north island tour with Greta Bull (who is also releasing new music this year), the singer songwriter and friend who she studied music with at Otago University.

"We wanted to hit places we've never played and meet different local artists because that's always the best part of it I reckon," Wignall says.

Dunedin is where she honed her music both in the classroom and a brief flirtation with rap battles.

"When I started, as well as like listening to Kayne, I watched like King of the Dot and Don't Flop and all these rap battles competitions," she says.

"I wanted to do that and it was pretty good for confidence and stuff but it's just real negative and I didn't go away from it being like, that was mean, it was just a bit flat.

"There are better uses of my time, better uses of my rap skills than to just call someone fat."

Instead she talks a lot about being a female in rap; her early videos tagged #female rapper.

"To be honest that a bit cheeky because I feel like it's a bit of click bait, but I am a female. I do put it there so if people do want to find a female rapper with like female vocal and maybe female topics, they can.

"I used to rap about it heaps more but I've kind of chilled about it a bit because I feel it shouldn't be the centre of my raps. At first I was like, yes I need to get this out there, but now I'm kind of like there's bigger issues in the world just me talking about my gender.

"Sometimes people have a problem with that eh? Like evolving as an artist. Even as a person."

That's not to say those themes have disappeared.

In 'On and On' Arcee raps "You know men started this world and women overtook it" and "I'm tryna teach young girls to be somebodies not to be somebody's, not pre-cut copies".

She means that too.

As well as touring and releasing music Wignall back in Wellington studying a masters of teaching and learning.

"I'm gonna be a music teacher, teach kids how to rap."

*Piano Rap EP is available on Spotify and iTunes.