Raiza Biza: ‘I had to earn every fan one by one…the biggest challenge is not quitting’

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Raiza Biza: ‘I had to earn every fan one by one…the biggest challenge is not quitting’

Raiza Biza
Words by Coco Veldkamp

Rwandan-Kiwi rapper Raiza Biza is bringing his thought-provoking lyrics and smooth beats to Melbourne for a show at Ferdydurke this Sunday.

Biza is a vital part of New Zealand’s underground hip-hop scene and has cultivated a dedicated international fanbase with his astute observations of shared experiences and the nuances of life.

When talking about artists building their audience from the ground up, Biza is the paragon. Having grown up between the Congo, Zambia and South Africa, Biza explains there wasn’t much of a hip-hop scene when he started out. Rather, he had to find his own way into the industry.

Check out the latest gigs coming up at Ferdydurke here.

“I started rapping when I was 10 or 11. I mean it was more like poetry at that point – we didn’t even use beats. My friends and I would meet up after school and do our little rap battles or whatever,” he said.

“We didn’t really have a scene where I was growing up – we kind of just made our own. I think I only really got introduced to the scene officially during the SoundCloud era when we were able to just upload our music immediately and get people to listen to it.”

When Biza dropped his first LP Dream Something in 2012, he didn’t think anyone was going to hear it. As it turned out, Biza’s introspective poetic roots and magnetic lyricism struck a chord, soon catching the attention of a few bloggers and underground radio stations.

Biza’s music is informed by both his personal experiences and the experiences of people around him.

“I make so many different types of music with different ideas and different concepts. It’s really expression for me, therapy I guess,” he said.

“I consider myself an observer, a person who kind of makes the soundtrack to other people’s lives. A lot of other people’s experiences and stories come up in my music, so it’s like my music just comes from somewhere and then it goes out and it belongs to the world.”

A sentiment of quiet responsibility reverberates throughout Biza’s tracks. His insightful and intricately relatable observations are in part what has earned him such a dedicated following, a loyal audience that has ultimately been a decade in the making. Biza says his biggest challenge as an artist was to not quit.

“My career has been a slow burn. There was no moment where I blew up or thought I was there. I had to earn every fan one by one. I had to play small shows and then bigger shows and then bigger shows. I just built it from the ground up,” he said.

“I make a living from my music now but it’s tough when you see your friends in corporate jobs… buying houses or getting forward in life while what you do has no promise. So, I guess the biggest challenge is not quitting.”

For the moment, Biza’s quiet resolve is paying off. His slowly cultivated fan base has closely followed the release of his five albums, seeing him tour Australia, Europe and China. Giving back is also a part of Biza’s work. Having mentored several up-and-coming artists in his community, he encourages artists to find their own voice and finely balances support with honesty.

“Don’t ask for opinions. In this industry, you are just risking it all and I’ve never had a plan B. A lot of people send me stuff to ask if it’s good. If you don’t think it’s good – it’s not good. You just have to master your own art. Don’t become the best rapper or whatever, become the best you,” he said.

Despite his success as an artist, having performed independently around the world and with a growing canon of insightful discography, Biza still identifies as an introvert, unaccustomed to large crowds.

“Some people think they were born to be an entertainer and they’ve got like videos of them dancing and moonwalking when they were like three, but that was never me. I’m an introvert and I don’t really like large crowds. All that stuff scares me but it’s something that you have got to do to get your music across to the people,” he said.

Biza’s determination is impressive. Over a decade into his career and now onto his sixth album, (among countless other projects and pursuits) he continues to consistently release music. And if it’s not up to his standards, you won’t be hearing it.


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“I am always writing in my book and working on something new, like my next album right now, but I am stuck on it. I need to get some new perspectives, and maybe travel. I am hoping to drop that album before the end of the year. I am always working, I am trying to build this legacy and change the landscape of the music industry. That’s what I am about,” he said.

Raiza will be playing at Ferdydurke in Melbourne’s CBD which is known for its collation of independent and underground performers. Among his classics, he will be trialling some new music from the album Pangea to be released later in the year.

“I am going to be doing a lot of new music,” he said. “I am taking the show as an opportunity to test some stuff out and see what the people think. It’s going to be very intimate, very personal, very raw and honest. We are going to have some fun.”

Come and see Raiza Biza at Ferdydurke on Sunday, August 7. Entry is free.

This article was made in partnership with Ferdydurke.