If you haven’t seen Tapz (formerly Young Tapz) dominating stages at festivals in New Zealand or Australia, you might have seen him flashing his cheeky grin in some fashion editorial, or heard his optimistic trap-rap in a Russian extreme sports video. A rapper, producer, graphic designer, and model, over the last four years Tapz has built a substantial following across New Zealand and Australia, put numbers on the board with Hermitude, brought his sound to Russia, and started making headway in the United States. Now represented by Winterman & Goldstein, Control Music, and Che Pope’s G.O.O.D Management, Tapz’s spirit shares a variety of mannerisms with the infamous Nike Air Max. Embodying a rebellious and creative ethos, pushing the envelope his way across a variety of disciplines. We chopped it up with Tapz in Wellington to celebrate Air Max’s 30th Anniversary, and on the verge of what we’ve heard is a new music drop.
When did you first start thinking about the bigger reasons behind why people fall in love with music?
When my family moved to New Zealand from Zimbabwe, I was the only black kid in the neighbourhood. I felt misunderstood, in quest for a language I could use to communicate and help people understand who I was. Music became a big part of that. When I discovered I could make music, people then started to understand me; this translated into how I dress and beyond.
If you had to do things differently from scratch, what would you do?
As a young musician, I wasn’t open to listening to other people’s opinions. I think that came from being so focused on my goals. I hadn’t seen anyone else accomplish what I was trying to, so I had to do it my way. In an ideal world I would change that if I could go back, but since there’s nothing ideal about this world, no, I wouldn’t change anything. The lessons I learned have brought me here, they’ve allowed me to grow, I love who I’ve become.
Tapz wears Nike Air Max 1 ‘Master’
How did you go from sharing your music online to connecting with audiences?
With the goal to bring the youth together, at age 16 I started hosting small shows at a youth venue called Secret Level. I had always kind of performed at school as a kid so I already had a rough idea of how to move a crowd; the shows helped me further grow that understanding, and man I’ll forever appreciate that.
Talk about your first proper studio experience?
In 2013 I was approached by Red Bull to record in their new studio. I was 17. It was the experience that made it real, flying there, staying in my first hotel; it was the first taste of what I knew I wanted to do.
You’re in a creative collective called Gallantino; tell us a bit about that?
My first show away show was in Auckland, NZ. It was the release show for a project I did when I was 17. The show was packed, which was so cool. That’s where I met Mzwétwo. We then went on to build a creative collective called Gallantino. Gallantino means bravery in the name of. We believe in putting everything we are into everything we do. We collaborate on bringing each of our visions to light.
Could you talk about how you approach marketing?
Who you are on the Internet, and who you are in real life should align. I guess that’s easy when you know yourself as well as I know myself. And thank God I’m no catfish! Marketing has always fascinated me; I studied it along with graphic design when I briefly went to university. I’m super involved with that stuff. My team and I are always thinking of innovative ways communicate my vision.
How do you view the relationship between music and fashion?
Just like I do with music, I use fashion to communicate with people, and to express who I am. When you see me don’t ask, “How are you”, **** look at my outfit, that’s how I am.
When did you realise that you could leverage your musical reputation into modeling?
I’m blessed with my mother’s looks. Ha! I’ve always wanted to do things with fashion. Music was the first door that opened for me to communicate myself to people. As that grew, it opened more doors for me in fashion. I went on to sign with a modeling agency called IMG.
Tapz wears Nike Air Max 1 ‘Master’
For sure, but you take it the level where sometimes it feels like you drop a photo shoot the way someone else might drop a single?
When I release a photo shoot, I treat that like releasing a song. I give it my all. It’s the same when I release a song. At the end of the day, whether I’m releasing a song, photo shoot or video, I’m an artist, those platforms allow me to create, communicate, and express, I don’t take that shit lightly. Those things deserve equal quality and equal value to me. I try to be consistent. It’s all important to me, from the photography style, the art direction, the styling, to the Air’s on my feet.
Can you tell us about the progress you’ve made in Australia?
The first time I went to Australia was to record with Hermitude. They found me through a song I put out called ‘Found Her.’ They loved it and wanted to work. They flew me to Australia to work on a song called ‘Through The Roof.’ After that, we listened to their album. When they played ‘The Buzz,’ I told them I wasn’t leaving the studio until I was on that song. One number one platinum single and an ARIA nomination later, the rest is history.
You had an interesting experience in Russia a couple of years back as well right?
Some of the songs I recorded at Red Bull Studios were picked up by a car magazine. They featured one in a video that received millions of views. The song became popular within car culture and extreme sports. As a result, an extreme car crew from Russia contacted me. Later that led to them flying me to Russia to perform. Going to Russia is not an easy thing you know. The show was crazy though. They speak Russian out there so they couldn’t understand the words but completely understood me sonically, that’s why music is so powerful; it builds a bridge and brings us together. The youth really appreciated me. I assume that’s because they grew up on the Internet, they understood black culture more than the adults.
More recently you’ve been spending more time in the US. What’s going on there?
When I first started making music, I knew that was where I wanted to be. That’s why my former artist name was Young Tapz, because of the American hip hop music I was listening to. Going there was crazy. I met some of my idols and received praise from artists I never thought I would get praise from. I made some of my best music when I was there.
What does Tapz have to offer that listeners can’t get anywhere else?
I moved to New Zealand from Zimbabwe at age nine. The effect that had on me gives me a unique perspective that no one else has. The way I like to say it is, I see both sides like Chanel. Ha! Frank Ocean gets it!
Where do you think this can take you moving forward?
I have such a diverse background; this allows me to speak to different demographics. I am a global artist. I make music for everyone with the goal to be timeless. Tapz is for the people.