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October 1, 2012 | by  | in Arts Music | [ssba]

Sippin’ On Charlies With Emanuel Psathas

I am woefully unprepared for the interview with Wellington rapper Emanuel Psathas, stage name: Name UL. Get it? It’s Sunday morning and I’m yet to make it home. I intend to do this old school with a pad of refill and pen but have neither. The dairy on Cuba stocks pens but I’m forced to subvert the back of a Fidel’s coffee menu on the paper front. When Emanuel rocks up, proudly sporting his Wellington College supporters hoody, I’m reminded that he is still only 6th form and doing amazingly well. He walks the line as the sort of student that principals either adore or ignore. We find Fidel’s café to be awkwardly packed and decide to walk and talk, eventually making it as far south as St. Johns bar on the waterfront. O.J on the rocks for the up and comer.

Emanuel tells me just last night he was spitting his lines at bodega and that last week he opened for Auckland-based hip hop crew @peace. He is set to perform at Ladeda this year and has attracted interest from gig organizers across the Tasman, who say they will fly him over. I’ve already said it once but the guy’s sixteen. That’s not normal. Though Emanuel may be taking off as a rapper, he is wonderfully grounded and emanates humility. He’s achieved his success on the back of hard grind, not typical of a pesky teenager and says that even though his Greek father is a big time composer, he organizes his own gigs and susses his own cheese. That’s pretty admirable. Family features heavily in his discussion of where he’s at with his music. Dads’ hip-hop collection was his first taste of the genre and inspired mixed reactions. You could say he remembers his first beer. Mum was in the crowd at a recent gig in Christchurch and received a loving acknowledgement or as they say; a shout out. His younger sister who is “weirdly mature” offers the tough love critiques when they’re due. Emanuel also mentions primary school buddy Quillam Janse, saying that he has been there since the start of it all. I get the feeling that Quillam represents something close to family.

As we eat kumara fries and sip pulpy juice like kings, I mention a rapper I know who’s my age and likes to rap about non-existent money and bitches, he knows the type and laughs knowingly, sixteen years old yet so above the nonsense that comes with a genre as commercially viable as hip hop. That sort of boastful rhetoric is not his style. In fact, listening to his songs you will hear about his assessment of school, lunchtime with the lads, dicks who shred his dreams and an aunty that loved him dearly. His lyrics are founded on a loyalty to his own self, never departing from the reality of life as a teenager. There’s no need to fabricate a ghetto up-brining or a lifestyle of Persian excess when life is a hectic whirlwind of classes and teaching crowds all over the country. The only break he’s had from school of late was a one day suspension for drinking on a school rowing trip but forget the shenanigans, he tops his year group in both media and English and it was a hater that ratted him out. Trust that.

Girls don’t seem to come up much in Emanuel’s verses but none the less we wrap up our chat with talk of how girls are confusing. The generic small talk signals the conclusion of what has been an eye opening catch-up. I’ve been all ears for the last hour or so and now feel compelled to go home and jam some Name UL. As should the rest of you. I hope that in ten years I can interview Emanuel again and perhaps the dranks/bitches will be on him. Watch that space.


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