“I’m different, brother I’m different. Let’s take a trip to the west side of Brisbane.” It’s July 2019 and an unknown 20-year-old Goodna rapper has just recorded his first ever song Say Less in one take at the Six Degrees Studio in Brisbane. He does so without any expectations that it would help place him at the forefront of the sleeping giant that is the Australian hip hop scene. Months later, with none of the label funding, PR plugs, or distribution services backing of his counterparts, Lisi uploads the track online and before long, that is exactly where the New Zealand born rapper finds himself.
“I thought it would maybe get 1000 views, 2000 views, 5000 views,” he recalled. The debut single is now verging on three and a half million views on Youtube and he rakes in a casual 150,000 listeners a month on Spotify from all parts of the globe, however Lisi is quick to reject the label of a ‘drill rapper’ that ultimately came with the song’s popularity.
The young emcee knows nothing but letting the music speak for itself; the release of follow-ups Got This, The Come Up and Fists Up all displaying a sonic versatility and formidable pen game. Meanwhile, Lisi prides himself on continuing to use his platform to motivate and inspire youth – warning against the perils of gang violence and the use of weapons often referenced by other emerging rappers from the AU.
When Melbourne schoolboy Solomone Taufeulungaki was tragically stabbed to death last month, he spoke publicly, reiterating his intention to positively influence the culture. As a leader of the booming culture of Polynesian rappers, his voice carried weight and power reaching all corners of the internet, such is the respect for the message he refuses to stray from.
Today Lisi’s message becomes even clearer. His debut project, a 7-track EP entitled Average Man, was made available over the weekend to a raucous response.
The cover art is fitting. It is simple. It is authentic. It is Lisi. No-frills. Just real. He stands in front of Goodna train station or rather the “Concrete Jungle” as it is referred in the EPs opening track. With some help from his fellow Th4 W3st member JR, Lisi picks up where he left off. The pair touch on the hardships that can come with growing up in Ipswich but want the youth to know it does not have to set their path. His ability to pull off a melodic hook is impressive and so too is his commitment to being a role model in his raps, without falling into the trap of being patronising or preachy.
Tell Em and Hard Yakka keep the project’s theme consistent, until track four shows his lighter side on party anthem The Weekend. Taking a break from his usual hard hitting and introspective rhymes, Lisi and boxer/singer Ezra James (who is credited with mixing and mastering the project alongside Sydney producer Brandon Jonak) take us to a West side party, telling everyone triumphantly “drop them fists, let’s get pissed”.
Next up is Sweet One where the Queenslander joins forces with a familiar voice UK talent, DTG, fresh off a feature on global smash hit Rover by his fellow countryman S1mba. Lisi broaches new territory once again, on a song which is clearly right up DTG‘s alley. He never sounds out of place while pushing himself sonically, coming through with a catchy hook and fun lyrics about a girl he’s crushing on. Lisi saves the best for last, returning to his pocked by rounding out the 30-minute EP with Average Man and Give it Back – tracks which will sit formidably in his catalogue amongst the most earnest of fans.
On the title track he addresses his haters who accuse him of “rapping for the fame”. Lisi is quick to clap back defiantly, as he does best, with the pen.
The debut project conclusion Give it Back is a poignant ode to his mother and father. The opening verse is dedicated to his mother, who he credits for urging him to face his fears and rap for other family members. He goes on to thank her for her unconditional love and teaching him how to “turn Ls into life lessons”. The second verse goes out to his old man, outlining how his tough love is what instilled the hard working and always improving mentality, that is ever-present throughout his music. Lisi acknowledges the responsibility that goes with being the oldest sibling and the need to stay humble, no matter the success that comes his way.
On his debut project, Lisi has firmly cemented his place among the ’43 excellence’ he has previously name dropped. Although he may be pushing a different message thematically, it is important to note that his lyrical content is not a swipe at the rise of notable drill rappers across Australia. There’s no beef here. Rather, Lisi is simply staying true to himself and his upbringing. With no need to imitate or emulate others and their success.
Lisi is different. He’s just your Average Man who others can relate to. But this average man is doing, and will continue to do, extraordinary things.
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