The illustrious Raiza Biza is a rapper spearheading a promising renaissance of hip hop music in our country. Following a prolific string of releases since 2012 and the success of his last album ‘The Imperfectionist’, Raiza has slowly risen from the underground and become a well-respected figure in the New Zealand music scene. The Rwandan turned Kiwi is well known for his silky flows, intellectual lyricism and soulful, jazz influenced beats. Sam Fraser-Baxter caught up with Raiza after his headline performance at Melocasa Promotion’s ‘Octopus Alley’ last Friday at Refuel.
So Raiza, tell us a little bit about your personal background. Where do you come from?
I am originally from Rwanda, but I spent my childhood in South Africa. Then myself and my family moved to NZ when I was about 13 or so.
How did you find it adjusting to life in New Zealand as a Rwandan immigrant and how does it influence your music?
It was a tough adjustment. There was a culture shock, but it wasn’t the first time I had moved to a new country, it was in fact the fourth time. So I think the biggest impact it had on my music was giving me the perspective of an observer. Someone always on the outside looking in. Someone who had not stayed anywhere long enough for any place to be home, which made me a better storyteller as I almost have a bird’s eye view and some objectivity when I write.
How did you get into writing music?
I started when I was about 10 or 11. Myself and my friends would write little battle raps and say them to each other. As I grew older, I started writing my own verses about things that were on my mind and naturally that crossed over onto beats.
What kind of artists first influenced and inspired you to make music?
Tupac Shakur, Nas, Talib Kweli, Mos Def and artists of that nature played a big role in my inspiration as a teenager.
On your last album The Imperfectionist, that was really dope by the way, you write on the song ‘Bizas Way’:
Funny how them same ones who criticized, Get surprised when I look at them with different eyes
Can you shed a bit of light on these lines?
Earlier in my career, I had people in my life who advised me to be realistic about my chances of getting my music out and there were many times when things weren’t going well, when I thought they were right. But I was persistent, and eventually my work started to pay off. A lot of those people from my past, which I had cut out from my circle, would then pop up when things were going well and tell me they always knew I would make something happen. I always resented that, and the line was a reference to that short-term memory loss that seemed to be circulating among my former naysayers.
You’re well known for introspective and intellectual rhymes. I’d even go as far to calling you New Zealand’s Talib Kweli. Can you give us a couple of bars rhyming with the un-rhymeable word ‘orange’?
*Laughs* When it comes to rhyming, sometimes you have to mould your pronunciation to make it work so let me see...
‘He did 5 years confined in a jumpsuit that was orange/
Forced to forage/ thru the foliage in his mind like a forest/
The cell walls resembled the grey shade of porridge/
He was haunted every hour by his futures broken promise/
Kind of rhymes *laughs*
What’s on the horizons for Raiza Biza?
I am working on a new album and also have some shows lined up in Australia and Europe so will be new territory for myself, but my main focus is completing a high quality project in the next couple of months.