SOA, By Ryan Williams / by Ryan Williams

I’m not sure if anyone else gets this, but when I’m trying to go to sleep at night my mind will sometimes play a slideshow of my most embarrassing moments. One after the other, each worse than the one before. Ugh. So many times I have wished for a chance to start all over again. A new name, a clean slate, delete my browser history, clear my cookies.

Newcastle hip-hop artist Soa (formerly known as Relevent) may or may not have gone through this before his name change. Dropping his new EP under his real name, though, actually seems more like a step out from incognito mode. Scary stuff. I caught up with Soa to talk about what he’s been up to.

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What brought you to hip-hop?

We predominantly listened to reggae as kids; UB40 in particular, because that's what our old man was into. Then my older brothers Anth and Willie started listening to rap music when I was at Tighes Hill primary and I just loved the feeling it gave me when they'd turn the CD player up. Then when I was about 18, my younger brother Benny formed a rap crew (ESC) with a few of our cousins and asked me to write some of their verses.

How do you feel about the hip-hop scene in Newcastle?

I feel it's about to explode with new talent. I know of OG hip-hop crews from Newy that have done huge things in the past, and when I first started out I wanted to impress those people and represent our city well. It was only once I let go of that idea that I felt creative freedom. I feel if we encourage new artists and nurture the diverse styles they bring, then soon the whole country might look our way.

Why did you change from a stage name to your real name? What went into that decision?

I felt like I was ready to make that change after I made my first release as Relevent – Words For The People (Mixtape) in 2014. I felt like I had to hold onto that alias so people who had seen me do big shows would recognise my new music. Then my brothers and I made an EP together with the oversight of Hau Latukefu of the Triple J Hip-Hop show. Hau heard the EP and asked me if I'd consider changing my artist name to my real name, Soa. I thought it would be cool if my listeners called me by the same name my family does.

What sort of themes are you dealing with on this EP?

Being an Australian rapper of Tongan and European descent, I get to share my unique perspective on life; from the laidback narrative of 'Real Love' to powerfully convictive verses like those on 'Coconut Head' and 'Everything We Could Be' (title track). The EP is a collection of barefaced stories that will take the listeners on a journey through joy, hardships and love.

This new EP was produced and engineered by your brothers?

Anthony, Willie and Benny produced four of five tracks on Everything We Could Be. We've been chasing dreams together for as long as I can remember – from rugby league to music, and I'm sure we'll take something else on together after music. Jaytee Hazard produced the other track ('Oh Well').

What’s next?

We're working on producing a single for another local talent, Belle Badi. She was in our studio recording for a song off our EP titled 'Moments'. She asked if she could play us a song she'd written and it blew us away. We decided to collaborate on it together and the song will feature one of my favourite verses to date, so I can't wait for people to hear it.

You can hear Soa’s debut EP Everything We Could Be anywhere you get music.