Born and raised in New Zealand, Elijah Neblett is a talented MC with charm, depth and soul, I had the opportunity to sit down with him and discuss music, police brutality in America, the human condition and he's craft. Down to earth and wise, this young king will be dropping his EP 'Attention Metropolitan' this Friday.
AOMS: To start the interview I am going to start with the cheesy "tell us a about yourself", like an elevator pitch and for the sake of the Queens reading this are you single?
Elijah: Hi, I am Elijah, I am 19-years old and I am very much taken. I was born in New Zealand and North Shore has been my home for the past 19 years. My father is from Louisville Kentucky, and my mother from Thames. The reason this is my elevator pitch is because I am a simple man who does not feel the need to have everyone know about me. As someone who is in the music industry and who was involved in football when I played for the Under 17's World Cup in Dubai, I feel like sometimes mentioning that success can cloud people's judgement of me. At times when people find out about those successes they begin to treat me differently and I would rather interact with people at a genuine levels. Besides that I don't like talking about myself.
AOMS: Wow that is really interesting because with most artists I have met, they expect you to know who they are.
Elijah: I feel like a lot of hip-hop artists claim to be living that life but they forget what it's about. I want to be known for the music I make not for who people perceive me to be. My focus is not to be known, my focus is to make music that matters. I feel like artists have lost the meaning of what hip-hop is, it isn't about making a club banger or hyping yourself up to be something that you are not. I think we have lost sight of that is about telling a story.
AOMS: How has the hip-hop culture changed for you?
The culture has changed quite a bit in New Zealand hip-hop, back in the day early 2000's you would see a lot of Maori rappers and now a lot of it is African based. I don't see or I don't know of any Maori rappers who are doing what the Africans are doing in Auckland. Maybe I am just blinded but that is just what I am seeing. In terms of the game, it has changed a lot in the last two years. I have seen it evolve from something that was perceived as mediocre to something that is competitive. We have the makeup to be competitive in rap.
AOMS: As an artist with all the shit that is on the radio, how do navigate your artistry? Is music something you want to gain something out of or is it a passion?
Elijah: It is a combination of both, It is a passion but it is definitely more than a hobby. I just don't want to do it in the way that all these other rappers are doing it. People will say oh but you are just a kid from New Zealand, who makes it from New Zealand but I always yes I will and we have a gateway thanks to the success of Lorde. She has uniquely opened up a market for New Zealand with her sound. The only difference with a success like Lorde's in relation to hi-hop is that everyone sounds the same with two things that sell: shit talking and a beat.
One thing I know about hip-hop and music, record labels don't care about how many bars you have, about lyricism or how talented you are; they care about sales and what sells is rappers like Juicy J that will have the best producers and have the best people around them to make hits but then they make shit music. I could go on all night about rappers that aren't giving positive messages and just rapping about total bullshit. As a result I can't listen to the radio.
AOMS: How do you feel about people making the connection between hip-hop and the nonsense played on the radio? When you mention that you are a rapper do people automatically assume that you are singing about booty?
Elijah: If someone can hold a conversation with me and end up with getting me to tell them that I do music, I never describe myself as a rapper because I don't like that word. As artists the moment we say rappers we are automatically put into a category that we are not. When you say rapper to someone that doesn't know hip hop, they think 50 cent, Eminem and not everyone necessarily understands lyricism and storytelling. Suddenly we get put into this category where you are a gangster and living this crazy guns and bottle popping lifestyle. So when I meet someone and we get to talking I say and I do music and if they ask more then I say I am an MC.
AOMS: As an MC how did you get into music, did you have a light bulb moment?
Elijah: It was all because of my dad who is a jazz musician, so watching him in the studio was extremely inspirational. My first track was when I was 7 years old, but I started writing seriously when I was about 11. I started off crap but thought it was really amazing, so I believed in myself so my dad was like let's record a demo. I went downstairs and I thought I had nailed it but then dad just said to me that wasn't good enough. For me that really changed me and it was a push towards the right direction, so I was like no I am never going to feel like this again so I went hard at it. I started studying hip-hop and making my own twist on the genre.
AOMS: With discovering your own twist on the genre and focusing on your upcoming EP, what is the title and what inspired it?
Elijah: The title of the EP is 'Attention Metropolitan' the title is inspired by my need to cleverly call out society. My artist came up with some art work, my hair is the city and the facial expression I have pretty much sums up how I feel about society. I feel like I can't get away from it because I am part of society but all society sees is my hair. I get a lot of "I love your hair, oh my goodness can I touch it". It is almost materialistic and says I wish I had that and for me it illustrates how we are missing the big issues.
AOMS: As an artist what is your philosophy and what governs your sound?
Elijah: My dad has had a lot of influence when it comes to my sound, a lot of my beats are very jazzy and blues-y with a swing tempo, something a band can play live. My philosophy is to spread a positive message or to tell a story that the audience can relate to or feel a part of.
AOMS: What are the stories usually about?
Elijah: Let me tell you a bit about my EP and the stories that are on there
I can't breathe - is about police brutality in America.
Just another Monday - is a cheating story, not a personal cheating story but I took a social issue that I thought was important that people take too lightly sometimes and I turned it into a story.
Another track is about my childhood, I didn't dig too deep into my childhood but I scratched the surface so that everyone could feel a connection to it.
That is sort of what I am about, I just want the audience to feel how I felt when I made the track.
AOMS: This is a really hard question but who are your top 5 rappers?
Elijah: J -Cole is the most talented artist and he will go down in history if he gets the attention he deserved.
Logic - I get compared to him quite a lot because of the sound and I love he's work.
Hopsin - he speaks he's mind in all the music he makes. He comes off aggressive and quite unorthodox but behind that raw image is total honesty.
Biggie - I can't get past Biggie he is just that dude, I can't put it any other way.
Luther Vandross - I would have loved to work with Luther.
Thank you Elijah for your time, you are an absolute breathe of fresh air, we need more young kings like yourself who aren't afraid to use their art to heal the world, to bring attention to the issues that matter and to tell a story.