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Feelstyle: Feeling Tha Style

Author: Gareth Shute (photography by Stephen Tilley)

From his first rap competition win in 1987 to recording his latest single with Savage and Shayne Carter (Dimmer), Kas 'Tha Feelstyle' Futialo's rise through the local hip hop scene has been anything but ordinary.

His first experience of rapping in front of a crowd came when his friend DJ Rockit V began running a mobile disco. Futialo went along one night and Rockit convinced him to drop a few rhymes. This encouraged him to enter a rap competition in Taita. Upper Hutt Posse were also there, but Futialo won. He took the name R.I.Q. (a shortening of his name, Patriq) and eventually joined NoiseíníEffect with Rockit V and K.O.S. (Footsouljahs), hoping to bring fresh material to the group who were still doing cover versions, including Bring the Noise by Public Enemy.

Around this time Futialo met Bill Urale, who most of us know better as King Kapisi.

"Bill was more of a DJ, because he hung around with DJ Raw a lot. But there was one DMC (competition) that was held in Wellington and we were practising in the place that eventually became Gifted and Brownís home base. I said to K.O.S. - Iím gonna give up one of my verses so Bill can get up and do his thing. When the night came, he was so shy with the crowd that he rapped with his back turned!" remembers Futialo.

"At that time everyone based their names on their favourite food or their favourite clothing. So I asked him - whatís your favourite food? Thatís how he started out being 'Bran Muffiní. The funny thing is that Lyall Bay is also where Flowz (Fiso) from Footsouljahs came from and he used to be 'Sconesí. And there was a DJ called 'Cheesecakeí so there were all these guys named from the bakery!"

The highly regarded Rough Opinion was Futialoís next group and when that came to an end, he began rapping with Urale and Raw as The Overstayers and made connections in Auckland.

"When Dei Hamo or Ermehn would come down to Wellington, they would stay with me in Strathmore. When I came up to Auckland, I would go straight out to South Auckland and stay with them. Then I came up with Bill (Urale) one year and he decided to stay here and do his own thing. When he started making his album, he said I should come and work on some tracks. Thatís when I decided to have a crack at making it up here."

When King Kapisi went onto his next project, Futialo found he had to start from scratch building his own career. A number of his friends were contributing parts to Soaneís album and Futialo was asked to lay down some rhymes. The resulting track, All I Need, was finally released this year and has received wide airplay as a music video and radio single.

In 2001, Futialo began gathering tracks for a solo album, working with experienced hip hop producer, Andy Morton (the Submariner), who was keen to take on the project.

"Back in the day, I heard a lot of MCs talking about Kas from Wellington and the first time Ermehn brought him up, he did a quick recording in my studio," says Morton. "I instantly knew he was the most interesting thing Iíd heard. He might put four or five stories into one song and for me, thatís just something really different."

Morton did the majority of the production work on a G4 using Pro-Tools LE.

"The album is really an exploration into all the different ways of doing production because I didnít really have any set method. Every track uses a different way of putting a beat together," Morton continues.

Live instruments as well as samples were used to create tracks and guest vocalists were brought in to replace the guide vocals which Futialo had put down. At the time, Morton was also working on the latest Dimmer album and he arranged for Shayne Carter to record vocals for the track Savagefeel. Savage (Deceptikonz) also features and the original backing on this track was produced by Juse from Woodcut. Camillia Temple contributed vocals to another track, Feels Like Forever before going on to become one of the NZ Idol finalists.

A striking aspect of the album is that five of the tracks are rapped in Samoan. Futialo moved to Newtown, Wellington from Samoa when he was 10 years old and retains a love for his first language.

"When I first arrived, all I had in Samoan was a tape I brought with me. It connected the life I had here with the one I had in Samoa. There were no books with the Samoan language around, except the bible. I could feel my language slipping away from me. At home we were just taught to speak English because thatís the language at school. I began rhyming in English so when I switched to rapping in Samoan I found it comfortable. I just used the same principles of using rhythm and metaphors, which I learnt in English," says Futialo.

He decided to take the name "Tha Feelstyle" to reflect the fact that the "feel" of a track can be communicated regardless of the language used.

"Itís an attitude. Even if you donít understand it, it has an element that is able to move you or give you a certain feeling. The single we just released - Suíamalie/Ainít Mad At You - is made so that even if you donít understand Samoan, youíre gonna nod your head to it and youíll actually feel the lyrics hitting you," he explains.

Tha Feelstyleís album 'Break It To Piecesí, was released in October by FMR, both on CD and double vinyl.