HUMANS OF THE ISLANDS - JJ4K
Tell us a bit about yourself?
My name is JJ4K. I was born and raised in Brisbane, Queensland. Specifically, I spent
my early years in Boondall and Zillmere (4034), and the other half of my adolescence
in Inala (4077). My ethnicity is Samoan and Tongan, but spent all my years around
my Samoan half. Currently, I’m aspiring to be an artist, trying to become one of the
best lyricists in the Australian/New Zealand scene.
Have you always wanted to become an artist? What was your journey into music like?
From very early, I figured out I wanted to be a performer in music. I was never NOT
dancing. My first mentor was my uncle, he always put me onto any music that was
either new or a must-know classic. The sound eventually took over and younger me
started picking up sticks to hit things and I was hooked from then on. At the age of 8,
the first real instrument was the drums, soon after (while scouring YouTube) I picked
up the guitar. The knowledge and confidence came through joining the Church band
when I was 9. It wasn’t much longer until I picked up the bass and then followed by
the piano/keyboard. Meanwhile, throughout my schooling during this time I also got a
hold of a missing iPod 4 and was hit by a range of artists who I wanted to follow
when it came to lyrically crafting songs. What really made me want to get into
writing rhyme schemes and lyrical verses was a Bad Meets Evil album (Eminem and
Royce Da 5’9) as they said things that I knew were making sense to someone, even if
it was too much for my 8-year-old brain. This one tiny little iPod showed me a variety
of songs that I knew I could somehow flip to inspire others. This long journey of basic
music theory from ages 8-15 gave me the necessary tools to create a foundation to
understand how to create my own songs and beats. I’ve been hooked on this journey
to create and innovate ever since.
What is it like as a young Pacific man in the music industry in Australia?
To be a Pacific man in this industry may soon come as challenging, my voice doesn’t
exactly match my appearance and I may be misconstrued as a true-blue Aussie
rapper. On the contrary, I recognize that the range of Islander artists who have come
before me have made it a lot easier for me to enter. To name a few, Lisi and
OneFour, they have made exceptional moves as some of Australia’s top artists.
Before them, Adeaze, Savage, Scribe, etc. – all these people have done something in
the past that makes my aspirations easier, I feel like I have nothing to complain
about… yet. However, I do sometimes feel overlooked. The market is oversaturated,
with clones of these same Islander legends. Nevertheless, I believe as an Aussie-
Pacific artist, because I don’t sound how you’d think I sound, I stand out immensely
amongst the Islander line-up and crowd
Tell us about your new EP 'I'm Talking'
My new EP “I’m Talking” is just a stand out track. It’s all about me showcasing my
penmanship and lyricism as well as my versatility. I have 3 tracks with 3 different beats
where I get to talk my game – “Who’s That”, “Notice”, and “I’m Talking”. The third
track, however, was not too personal but something that holds a little bit of
substance of some issues I’ve been going through following high school. I wanted to
add a little more material to an EP where “I’m talking” about “how” I aspire to be the
best rapper and show people “why” I’m aiming so high for it
What is one piece of advice you've been given that has stayed with you?
There are way too many lessons that I have learnt over the years of me completely
messing up multiple times, but one that’s stuck with me for a long time was given to
me by a hearty rugby player I know. He told me that if I want to be seen as the best, I
have to think like the best. As cocky as it sounds, that’s my mentality when I step in
the booth. It may not be the truth; it certainly isn’t the reality at this stage of my
career but only one person really picks up my slack and that’s me. At the same time,
I have always been taught to keep humility in my mind. There is a big difference
between confidence and cockiness.
How has your upbringing & culture shaped you into the woman you are today?
My upbringing and my culture have influenced me in very different ways. From a
very early age I was a very angry kid, I still believe some of my best writing came
from the young, enraged version of me. I came from a home where communication
wasn’t our strongest traits. My writing was a way for me to either escape or take
that anger out in word form without anyone really knowing how I was feeling. Now I
use this art form to lift up my family from the struggles we have. Even though there
were a lot of hard times, I want to give back for the good times too. When it comes
to my culture, I always loved that I was born from nations that were naturally gifted
with musical abilities. I’d never want for these talents to go to waste. Musically, I
believe everyone that I looked up to in my family had some sort of musical
information that pushes me ahead of other artists.
Who or what inspires you?
Artistically, I was brought up on 80’s and 90’s rappers and R’n’B artists, which is no
different from my peers in this music game. However, as a Pacific Man, I wasn’t just
looking at Pac, Biggie, Nas, 50 Cent and so on, but people outside of my race. I
specifically studied Eminem for his style and rawness. That caliber of writing was so
foreign yet legendary to me. I had to hide the fact that I was listening to him for 12
years until I became an adult because he’s not something I’d play around my family,
but although he’s crazy and outlandish, he can still keep it real. He also embodied
that anger that I held as a child. Family-wise, my Nana inspires me. She raised me
even when she was busy and her work-rate is unmatched. She inspires me everyday
and as long as she is still here, my ultimate goal is to provide for her that same love
and care that she gave me when I was young.
Are there any Polynesian artists you looked up to growing up?
Being around islanders my whole life, I never looked up to any specific artists. The
ones I aspired to be were the American artists - like Eminem, Dr. Dre, Ice Cube, Wu-
Tang. However, I can tell where these Polynesian Artists get their styles from
because it was the same legends that I studied and idolize. That’s why I think of the
Polynesian artists as legends, while there are many today looking at them as
inspirations, I feel like I’m next to the Poly legends looking at the original legends.
The Polynesian legends will always have my respect and now today, I have an
appreciation towards their distinct nostalgic sounds I grew up on that I didn’t really
think about as a kid. I sing or rap their songs like muscle memory now while their
flows and cadences are embedded in my brain with classics that I could never forget.
What advice do you have for other young Pacific youth who want to pursue Music?
In whatever you decide to do in life, if you have your goals, don’t let anyone put you
in a box. Keep striving for something beyond that goal.