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Ladi - Who's That Ladi-

Author: Kelly Davis
Monday, March 9, 2009

With her debut album (produced by Fat Freddys Drop’s DJ Mu) Time Is Not Much just about to hit Australian shores, Ladi 6 (AKA Karoline Tamati) talks about her beginnings and the luxury of creative freedom with 3D’s Kelly Davis.

New Zealand born hip hop soulstress Ladi 6 has been treading the boards over here, there, and around Europe for a few years now. Having worked with Fat Freddys Drop (FFD), Shapeshifter, Scribe, Sepalot and 50 Hz amongst others, she has carved out a niche for herself as a big fish in a small pond, and we’re not just talking about New Zealand or even Australia for that matter…

Having started with NZ bands Sheelahroc and Verse Two, Ladi 6 won the first competitive $15,000 CokeTunes Music Fund grant, taking the whole thing (instead of the slice any one artist was supposed to have). Finally, she’s releasing her debut album Time Is Not Much (Question Music/Inertia) in Australia, an endeavour that thankfully took longer to finish than the grant cash did to materialise.

“Yeah, that was so good! We got the whole grant, it was supposed to be split between different projects – we filled out the form and, literally, two weeks later we had been given the whole $15k… it was amazing, to have been doing this for so long and then it suddenly all falls into place to do your own thing…”

So what does Ladi 6’s debut offering sound like exactly- “Overall, it’s a mix really. Almost everyone in NZ has a reggae thing going on, I don’t know if it’s that we’re a small island and Jamaica’s a small island or what… but there’s a heavy reggae influence. Also, obviously, Mu produced it and he’s pretty into that! The album has soul too, and really it’s a mix of styles.”

It was only really fair, then, that the album was released in NZ before anywhere else, in October 2008. “Yeah, the album was released in NZ and we’ve had a sell out tour circuit and the album went Gold here just before Christmas, which was wicked! We’ve been really well received and been playing out lots… you know, we’ve been doing this for like 10 years, and we like to play out, especially around home.”

The mastering for the new album was done in Europe at Calyx Mastering. “It was cool because we got to see all the analogue and digital mastering side of the whole thing… all the tech-to-tech, reel-to-reel machines – we were proper geeks! It was amazing, we learnt a lot out there. It was relaxed, we got to hang out in the studio and see it all happen. These guys did the mastering for FFD’s album and a lot of other NZ bands. We were lucky to have good-quality friends.
“We kinda tagged a tour on of Germany, UK and Scotland. We went to Germany first, and were so well received, it was great. Then to go to the UK off the back of those shows, and have another great response. I was thinking ‘okay, they’re going to think we’re some poor imitation of something they already have here – they must have loads of similar artists,’ but it’s funny because I realised there wasn’t really. I’ve heard of a few people, but really it’s a pretty small amount of girls going what I do; I guess it takes balls to do this. It gave me a huge ego boost, the crowds were great, and I came home more way more confident – like ‘I’m the bitch, you just don’t know it yet.”

Judging by the family collaborations on this debut (including cousins Scribe and Tyra Hammond), Ladi 6 obviously grew up in a musical family. “Well, I’m the second youngest of six – sisters and two brothers, and we’re a large family, that always sang and danced together, and the kids played around. From a young age we were always involved, and having the big family, you have a constant ready- made audience! We always got together with music, and there were lots of different styles going around at any one time.
“I grew up with my parents listening to, like, The Average White Band, and lots of Motown – we always watched the anniversary shows, you know, the Jackson Five and all that, and also a lot of funk. The added benefit of having so many brothers and sisters is that I grew up listening to all the music my brothers and sisters listened to as they grew up, so when my sister got into hip hop I kinda jumped into that with her.”

Ladi 6 knocked up a lot of the inspiration for the debut album on the road. “Yeah, we toured Europe with Fat Freddys Drop – it was awesome, and I did a lot of writing on tour. We [Ladi and producer Parks] didn’t have a home studio before. There was a lot of writing on the road, we tend to take an instrumental that we like whilst we’re out and jam over it, freestyle I guess, and play with lyrics and beats, then when we get home to the studio we put it down, take out the instrumental and do our own thing.

Making music (and money) in this game nowadays requires a more involved attitude to putting your music out there, as Ladi 6 appreciates. “I feel really free creatively, that was the idea with having our own label, and by working with a distributor we can cut out the middle man. Question Music was set up for the album really, and so I feel totally free to write and create in whatever way I feel I can, there are no restraints. And because we had a long time with the album, we put it together over four years in total, we got to make sure it really is the best thing we have put out, for the moment at least, and I’m really proud of it. So yeah, it’s all going pretty well and I’m very lucky that I feel totally free to go where I need to.”

WHO: Ladi 6
WHAT: Time Is Not Much through Inertia
WHEN: Monday 16 March