He's performed at Glastonbury, the largest Northern Hemisphere outdoor festival, and the largest indie music industry event in the United States, SXSW, but this week it's all about Rotorua for King Kapisi.

Known off-stage as Bill Urale, he was the first hip-hop artist in New Zealand to receive the prestigious Silver Scroll Award at the APRA Awards for Songwriter of the Year, for his single Reverse Resistance in 1999.



Urale's success continued into the new millennium when he released his Kiwi anthem Screems from da Old Plantation.

He arrived in Rotorua today for a New Zealand Music Month performance at the Rotorua Night Markets.

Advertisement
New Zealand hip-hop musician King Kapisi mentoring in 2010. Photo / File
New Zealand hip-hop musician King Kapisi mentoring in 2010. Photo / File

He will spend the next two days mentoring and collaborating with local artists and students alongside fellow Kiwi music legends such as Rotorua's Rio Hemopo-Hunuki, the bass player and singer/songwriter for Trinity Roots.

Hemopo-Hunuki started mentoring 10 years ago in Wellington, helping Pasifika students.

"I was a last-minute ring in one time and it went from there. They were super talented kids, often their musical background was church educated. So when I moved up here I just slotted in."

Rio Hemopo-Hunuki. Photo / File
Rio Hemopo-Hunuki. Photo / File

Urale says one of the most important parts will be helping artists understand how to branch out internationally.

"There are a lot of snakes, lions, and tigers out there in the jungle."

Looking forward to this on Thursday Rotorua Famz!!🧡 #kk

Posted by King Kapisi on Monday, 20 May 2019

Despite Urale's long list of achievements and friends in high places, he has always "just tried to be a nice guy, and be inclusive".

"There are problems with being famous ... You feel the pressure of being in the public eye 24/7. There are pros and cons with walking down the road when everyone knows your name."

Since his musical prime, he's branched out to making award-winning music videos, starting his own clothing label, coaching multiple basketball teams at once.

NZ on Air Best Pacific Music Video winner King Kapisi poses with his mum Pusu Urale at the Vodafone Pacific Music Awards in 2014. Photo / File
NZ on Air Best Pacific Music Video winner King Kapisi poses with his mum Pusu Urale at the Vodafone Pacific Music Awards in 2014. Photo / File

"Music and basketball have been a pathway for me to not go and do silly stuff."

He has also been organising community music events with a focus on suicide prevention, for almost 30,000 people since 2016.

King Kapisi live at the Rotorua Night Market

Posted by Rotorua Daily Post on Wednesday, 22 May 2019

"I've had two red flags where I've felt very very down... So my thinking was to give something for our community... To be empathetic and awhi everyone."

He strongly believes there's not enough of that in New Zealand, hence his willingness to perform at the Rotorua markets.

"I'm tangata whenua hard, but also community hard."

Bill Urale in 2005. Photo / File
Bill Urale in 2005. Photo / File

Urale says that "village mentality" comes from his Samoan motherland.

He is still making and performing music regularly and is grateful for the "free reign" he was given by managers when he started out.

His sister shot his first video, and he then learned from her.

In Urale's view, New Zealand Music Month should be a full-time affair.

"We have to celebrate our people and our mentors and our greats while they're still here. Instead of waiting until they pass."

Bill Urale in 2005. Photo / File
Bill Urale in 2005. Photo / File

He'd like to see New Zealand music quotas on our radio stations much higher than they have been in the past.

Urale says one of the biggest changes in the music industry in the last 20 years has been access to equipment.

"Back in the day we had to go to a studio with two-inch tape, and record and it cost a lot. Whereas these days you can have your own home studio in your laptop and it's portable now... You can become your own record company."

In fact, Urale and Hemopo-Hunuki hope to lay the foundations of a musical collaboration this weekend.

Rio Hemopo-Hunuki, bassist of Trinity Roots, playing at the Big Day Out in 2005. Photo / File
Rio Hemopo-Hunuki, bassist of Trinity Roots, playing at the Big Day Out in 2005. Photo / File

They have always been big fans of one another, but this is the first time they have spent a few days in the same place.

Hemopo-Hunuki says they were keen to "sow the seeds of some concepts".

Urale has also got a new reggae and dancehall project coming up called Mr Majesty.

"For me, I'm only halfway through my career."