Name UL
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Name UL

Wellington, Wellington, New Zealand | Established. Jan 01, 2011 | SELF

Wellington, Wellington, New Zealand | SELF
Established on Jan, 2011
Solo Hip Hop




"Name UL - Newshub TV Piece"

In a hip-hop world that glorifies drugs and violence, being good can be, well, bad.

But for Kiwi rapper Name UL, being inauthentic is even worse.

"There's other ways to live your life than going in the circle of getting wasted and doing the same thing every weekend," the 20-year-old Wellington rapper says.

Despite the swagger, he admits to some hesitation in criticising what he sees as the negative aspects of youth culture.

"It's hard for me to say that, because I know the majority is going to look at it like I'm a square or I don't get it or like I need to loosen up, but it's like nah, I've been there."

On Thursday his first album, Choices, drops. It's taken two years to write and draws on some unconventional themes - for a hip-hop album, at least.

"If I cop all the hate, it's fine, I don't really care," he says.

"We've got a small amount of time to do this, and this is the time to get those ideas across and have a bit of a positive impact, that's what I'm all about."

Name UL, real name Emanuel, was surrounded by music growing up. However his suburban upbringing made it hard for him to relate to many of his favourite hip-hop artists.

After initially trying to emulate his Harlem idols, he decided to write about what he knows best.

"I was like look - I'm just going to make music about what's happening to me, what's around me, and I'm going to be fully honest and open and really try and embrace what's happening around me - and that's when it started really flowing out."

Name UL is a name getting attention - he's already spent time in LA, where he filmed the music video to his song 'Nice Guys Finished Thirst'.

And he's also scored a gig as a songwriter for a US record label, meaning he'll be back state-side next year.


WATCH IT HERE: - Ben Irwin

"Name UL - Music Talks with What's Good Blog"

“If I can give advice to young rappers, it’s this. Stop going on Facebook, and social media. It’s just fucking distracting, and it’s just shit. If you’re gonna read someone’s status, go read an article, or a book. Stop smoking so much weed. Stop listening to rap music. Get Inspired. Fucking sleep. And drink heaps of water.”

I met the unlikely trio at Base FM’s studio. Emanuel sat at his MacBook, aux cord plugged into the room’s speakers, Ben perched behind him on a used-and-abused office chair, providing feedback on each sound. Pritesh hovered - methodically collecting and discarding empty beer cans from around the room, neatly pooling the never-ending paraphernalia discoveries.

The three represent KWOE, or, to the uninitiated, Kids With Open Ears. Each goes by a moniker - Emanuel is, obviously, Name UL. Ben is Heist Beats. Pritesh is dubbed lovingly by Emanuel as the “old lonely man.”

In the time we take to pack up the studio, cross the road, order coffee, and sit upstairs in the old Williamson building, top floor all to ourselves, they show no signs of slowing down on the satire and self deprecation lobbied, like a game, back and forth. Only the night before, I’d watched Emanuel blow up a performance at ex-strip bar Las Vegas with a startling professionalism, energy, and stage presence, Ben all the while holding down the decks. First impressions? These guys knew each other like brothers, but worked harder and more cohesively than any business start-up you could think of.

Emanuel, Name UL, is 20 years old. Music became his first love by way of modern tech romance, when his parents bought him an iPod at around 8 or 9 years old. The flirtation never ended, spawning instead a need to make babies (roll with me on the crude analogy), providing Emanuel his first place of individual, wholesale belonging, amidst a life experience of high school cliques and competitiveness.

He’d known Ben Murdoch since the pair were little kids - their dads both music industry guys - but hadn’t talked for years, when a 14-year-old Ben dropped a ‘beat tape,’ and a 14-year-old Emanuel discovered it, asking to use them as backing tracks for his upcoming ‘mixtape.’ Adding fuel to the fire, only a few years later, Emanuel’s DJ packed up and shipped out to Australia, and with an upcoming show, asked Ben to take the spot. The two have been working together since.

Pritesh, who also holds down a job lecturing at SAE, slots into the story in a slightly less conventional manner. The tale is almost too good to be true: a young Emanuel was walking home from his girlfriend-at-the-time’s house, decided to go off course for some Burger King, sitting and eating it at the stage door to a Thrift-Shop-era Macklemore’s show. Pritesh, at the time managing Supervillians (who opened for ye olde Macklemore), walked past and recognised him immediately, proceeding to get the kid backstage. Here lay the foundations of an eventual management relationship.

“You never know, we might look back, and this might be the best time,” Emanuel is reflecting on where they currently sit, post SXSW travel, pre relocation to LA. At the starting line of adulthood, he’s beginning to prioritise, “We made one song and a music video in two years. Then in six months of hustle, we did so much.” He’s sitting on a polished and produced album, currently unnamed, the refined tracklisting whittled from 50+ songs, “I think it was just realising me, myself, what I could do if I went 100%.”

It’s a relentless energy channeled into creating music, a ‘momentum’ all three keep speaking of that keeps the pendulum swinging. Emanuel attributes a lot of that to his daily routine, “Before I do anything, I wake up, have a big-ass glass of water, then make myself a coffee, and spend half an hour getting inspired.” Fitness and mental health are a priority, and he can’t stop scratching the itch, “This is the thing. We have so much music. I’ve got to the point where I can’t not make it. I have like a two hour limit of not making it - then I have to go back and make it. There is nothing I would rather do. I’d rather not take breaks. I’ll go home, and I’ll start watching a movie, and then I’ll be like, ‘Ugh, this is so fucking boring,’ I just want to start making music again, you know?’

Ben and Pritesh know. The crew have created a private Facebook group called ‘Morning Inspiration,’ where, “We just post shit to motivate us. Just to remind yourself how much it fucking means to you. I’m not saying, like, you have to be so into it that you’ve got to grind all the time - it should feel natural, just reminding yourself that you’ve got shit to do. That’s where you build your confidence, man.”

They’re not all yes-men, as Ben puts it. Emanuel points to his crew, “These two are my biggest motivators. Brutally honest. They always make me feel like they ain’t shit. That’s why I’m surprised when people like my music.” They allude to the fact they can’t go two days without speaking to each other, despite operating cross-city in Auckland and Wellington. The plan is to keep the team churning when Emanuel’s overseas, too.

The goal is to find harbour into a scene propelling itself forward by the inherent nature of its limited resources and oversupply of talent, “In LA, you’re not going against the grain if you’re a creative. Here, you are.” It’s to thrive in a new environment, and according to Pritesh, find infinitely more avenues of honing commercial viability. It’s to visualise the dream, “I just find LA extremely motivating. You see it [your dreams], everyday.”

But don’t get it twisted. Despite the lofty visions, these guys are as firmly rooted in humility as humanly possible - noting a loss of respect for any who turn to social media to denounce others without cause, or, as Ben puts it, “The artists who turn to Facebook for that validation, who fish for the ‘Oh, you’re so dope bro’.” Whilst Emanuel can’t wait for the platform, “I just wanna be the most intelligent motherfucker who can just like, dissect everything, and like, put it back out there in the form of music. I never want to get up on a radio station and wild-out, and be, like, saying all this crazy shit. But I want to be able to say whatever I want in my songs, then be able to back it up.”

The drive for recognition is not for money, but for further opportunity, both to work with his favourite artists, and to shift the culture - an aim all of them echo the album will address. It’s to shine light on the dark: “People don’t want to address it. But can we just acknowledge this kind of shit? Like, I’ve lost friends to the culture. It’s real, but no one will talk about it… You wanna get fucked up bro? Go do it. But don’t get behind the wheel of a car.”

Harmony, and noble intentions. Name UL is a concept built of its own special breed of humour (Emanuel had tried to convince me he worked as a taxidermist - and just wait 'til you see the Nice Guys Finish Thirst video), raw talent, and an unparalleled drive to be better, do better.

As for the Drake comparisons? “Who the fuck else would you rather be compared to?” - CHLÖE SWARBRICK

"Name UL - NZ Herald"

Emanuel Psathas knows he looks a little like a well known Canadian rapper.

"I used to be chubby, and no one used to compare me to Drake then. Now there are Drake comparisons ... all the time," laughs Psathas, who goes by the stage moniker Name UL.

"I love Drake, I've listened to Drake for a long time. People could be saying much worse things, so it's all good."

The 20-year-old Wellington MC releases his debut album Choice(s) today, and he hopes it's good enough to put those comparisons to bed.

The result of 18 months of hard work, Psathas set himself strict deadlines to finish the album, often waking early to record in a hidden Newtown studio before rolling into his day job at as a bank debt collector.

"In the thick of it, it got hectic," he says. "I set myself deadlines that were not going to move. I would get up at 3am (and) go straight to the studio. Mum would say, 'You're crazy, why are you doing it?'

"I had to do it, I had to get it done. And it's how it got done."

Psathas has been rapping since he was 15, building up a solid following in his hometown thanks to a series of high profile opening slots for international acts like Schoolboy Q, Vince Staples and Earl Sweatshirt.

With songs like I Wonder and Nice Guys Finish First drawing on lazy summery vibes filled with trumpets and flutes, Choice(s) singles Psathas out from many local rappers who prefer modern, bass heavy trap beats to get their point across.

He says he doesn't listen to new music and prefers '70s soul and funk, so that crossover happened naturally.

"I've really been unsure about how the album fits into 2016 in the context of modern music. There are aspects that are very current and make sense, then there are other bits that are really old school.

"Nothing was calculated, it was literally track by track, and these were the 12."

He says he's not trying to "make a million dollars and sell a hundred thousand records" with the album, and he's not about to quit his day job.

Psathas would rather his songs help "some dude who's feeling what I was feeling when I wrote that song".

"I would like to someone hear from me and their first impression be that I have something to say. I don't reckon I would want you to hear me two years ago. I liked all my work back then, but I was very much trying to be a rapper.

"Then I grew up to an extent. It's a good time for you to hear me, right now." - Chris Schulz

"CNRBOY, Name UL, Montell2099 & Wayvee collide on ‘The Bounce’ - Sniffers Blog"

Tropical skylines meet Wellington concrete on the latest cross-ocean collaboration from CNRBOY (HAWAII) and Name UL (NZ). A favorite from of our neck of the woods Name UL aka Emanuel John Psathas meets CNRBOY – a day in the life 23yrd old rapper congruent with recreational habits of Wiz and Snoop.

“My first thought was how awesome it was that a US artist is looking to create and release a track which consists of only Kiwi artists. I think it’s a testament to the quality of sound which NZ brings to the table in the international scene. I feel the fusion of different tastes and musical backgrounds definitely comes through in the track and was why I was drawn to being involved. This track is definitely just a banger and one that you can keep on repeat, I was asked to just ‘body’ it and thats what I tried to do, nothing but just bars! ya boy got the bounce!” – Name UL

Laced with ‘precision and consistency’ the track brings together two of NZ’s most promising producers Montell2099 and Wayvee. Get bodied below.

LISTEN HERE: - Sniffers Blog

"Name UL - Kim Hill on Radio New Zealand"

Name UL is the hip hop alias for Wellington musician Emanuel John Psathas.

Name UL (Emanuel Psathas)Name UL (Emanuel Psathas). Photo: supplied
He was performing in licensed venues before he was old enough to legally drink in them, and has opened for a number of international acts including Pharcyde, Vince Staples, Jurassic 5 and Earl Sweatshirt.

He established his own label, K.W.O.E (Kids With Open Ears) when he was 15, and last year released the youth anthem Only Sixteen. At the start of this month, in the wake of two singles Nice Guys Finish Thirst, and Falling, he released his debut album, Choice(s).

He sits down with Kim Hill for Saturday Morning.


"Name UL - Good as Gold Blog"

We had a quick chat to Name UL, one of our local Wellington mates on making his way in the hip hop world and what clothing means to him.

Lets talk about your creative process with ‘Choice(s)’. How did the idea of the theme of youth culture and drinking come to mind?

Well it actually started with a big project, a bunch of different songs that were loosely connected but they didn’t really have a consistent theme - so I was wondering how to put it all into an album, it was a pretty scary thought to collate them into one solid project that was cohesive.

I started thinking about what was around me and what I could draw upon for inspiration and I found something that I felt the strongest about was just what was happening to my homies, to my friends to girls, just everyone around at a young age. It started making me think about youth culture in New Zealand and how much of an impact the kind of repetitive binge drinking cycle has on our lives, long term. That’s where it started and that’s how it shaped, I found that there were a lot of songs that were directly about it and I put those together and it started becoming a consistent project.

Who are some of your influences in music, dead or alive?

Madlib, Stones Throw Records, Dilla, Peanut Butter Wolf - all of them, that’s where I got introduced into hip hop and how my love for hip hop started.

From there Mos Def is another big influence but I think Kendrick Lamar has been a massive influence for me because I really love his music and I think in terms of what he is saying in his music he has had the most impact for me.

Describe your sound in 3 words:

Aware, dope, unique

You’ve opened for some rad international acts such as Schoolboy Q, Action Bronson and Vince Staples to name a few, what was the experience like to have that opportunity and be able to meet these guys?

It was pretty epic, I mean I’ve been pretty careful for whoever I open with, I make sure they’re people I genuinely like and their music apart from 360 (hahaha), I don’t give a fuck that I said that. It’s been pretty crazy, it’s obviously a big deal to be able to jump on stage and get the crowd ready for their favourite artist.

I feel like we’ve done a good job on each one and obviously meeting them has been awesome especially when they’ve seen my set. Earl Sweatshirt actually saw my set which was the coolest thing cause after we got to have a chat about music and he knew I rapped and enjoyed it so I was getting taken seriously by him and I wasn’t just like a fan, even though I felt like one. It’s definitely a pretty inspiring experience to say the least.

Does clothing and streetwear influence you, not just in music but in everyday life?

Honestly, not really. I think it’s cool and I like the fashion world and it’s a very interesting place - especially streetwear and music as they have a long history together, so I obviously have a lot of respect for that side of things. Essentially I find myself a little bit in a moral conflict when it comes to that because I kinda disagree with the selling of lifestyles to people, you’re kinda just selling people an idea and convincing them that they need items to be apart of a culture and I don’t really like that. People should feel confident with themselves and not need to spend like $350 on a Yeezy’s and line up just to feel like they’re cool or apart of something, I disagree with that but I think that if you can use it as a way to add to your confidence, sure. You shouldn’t be using it as a base of your confidence.

In terms of affecting me I like to look good, I like to look fresh but I don’t gain my confidence from it but it’s definitely a cherry on top. I got a lot of respect for the fashion world but certain aspects of it I disagree with.

I recently read that you feel like “Wellington made the album with you.” What does Wellington mean to you personally?

When I say that I mean in the way that I really really drew my inspiration from it, I really felt like people were indirectly helping me make the album because everything was being reinforced. Everything I thought, everything I wrote about was being validated by what I was seeing the next day when I was out and about.

Wellington to me was something I was reluctant to embrace at the start of my music career because it was different to what was happening in America and something that wouldn’t fit in traditionally. I then realised it was something that was the best thing about my music and my point of difference because it’s so unknown but it is so dope and so cool and there is a insanely cool amount of reputation and the energy is creative and inspiring.

I’m so proud to be from here and also in the last year it’s really hit home how important for me to love where you’re from and I think it’s a great place to come home to, to write about - I love it. - Zayaar Win Thien

"Name UL - Will Not Fade Blog"

Name UL [real name Emanuel Psathas] is brimming with positive energy. He exudes enthusiasm, excitement and confidence. He actively fights the national mantra of tall poppy syndrome and attempts to prove that a small-time Wellington boy can bring his A-game and punch with the international heavyweights.

It has been almost a month since he dropped his debut album Choice(s) and held a sensational album release show with help from his friends in the band Drax Project. [Read my review of the album release show here]

I begin the interview with asking him if he if stoked on the final result of the album. He wholeheartedly agrees with the term.

Psathas: “I am stoked. I think stoked is a good way to put it. It’s definitely been a learning curve for me, putting it into a package so that it is recognisable and something that people associate with Wellington in mind when they hear it – it’s pretty awesome”

Psathas talks fast. You can almost hear his brain whirring as he speaks, trying to pump out the thoughts fast enough to keep up with his mouth. But he’s not just shooting his mouth off . I can tell that he is trying to communicate something worthwhile – which probably explains why he started rapping in the first place.

“I think that Choice(s) is a good starting point for people wanting to hear my work, because I feel that this is where I really developed my voice. It’s the first time that I feel that I’ve really put something into my thoughts and specifically divided them to put into tracks, if that makes sense? Usually, with my past tracks I’d talk about girls, issues with drinking and depression, other issues, my parents, my friends… I’d try to fit it all into one track and it wouldn’t be so cohesive – it’d be a whole bunch of different thoughts and a stream of consciousness. So I feel like Choice(s) is a good place to start because everything is kind of divided up and there’s certain feels, and it means that I was able to create … like if I’m writing about a girl I’m able to create the mood and the music around what I’m talking about in the lyrics, so yeah – definitely a good place to start.”

It’s clear that Psathas has spent a lot of time in and around recording studios. His album release was a great combination of live and pre-recorded music, and he tells me about how he tries to achieve this sound in the studio.

“I like DJ-ing and the electronic side of things because it’s really crisp and you can really get things quite precise with your performance and in the studio it’s easier to make things more calculated. But in saying that, I think a lot of the really unique flavour that gives a track its energy and its heart and, you know, everything about it is from that stuff you can’t plan for. So I think it’s really good to have a balance of the two. And that’s why I like using live artists as well –because they bring that whole dimension and things that you can’t really plan for, but are really beautiful. So definitely has that touch to it. Also, playing off things that are actually from the earth (do you know what I mean?) … like playing off drums that are made of wood from the tree, and animal skin… there’s a whole bunch of things which add to it – There’s elements to it that you wouldn’t really think about, but I reckon they do have a bit of a play into how we listen to it and how we digest it.

And Psathas doesn’t just collab with talented musos, he plays some music himself. He laughs when I ask if he played any instruments on the album.

“Just the violins”, he grins, scratching his head to think if he played anything else. “Yeah, violins. But all the atmospheric sounds we made in the studio. All interludes, all the sounds of the town. The bottles smashing, phone calls – That was all made within a room with a few people.”

And, of course, there is more than just the music when it comes to releasing an album. I ask if others from KWOE (Kids With Open Ears, his collective) have also contributed to the album, noting that photographer Jeremy Hooper shot the pic on the album cover.

“ Yeah… Hoops with the visual stuff. Ben Murdock – Heist Beats – he’s had a lot to play with it in terms of the visuals on all of our platforms across Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and all of that… All of the core graphics that we put out, announcements of things we put together, some cool little posters or little photos – that’s all Ben, and he’s taken it under his belt, which is awesome. And he’s also been in the studio with me for all of the final recordings. I conceptualised everything on my own, but when it came to actually piecing it together in the studio, he had a big part in helping me with that. Also David Argue did that video for “Belong” the day of the drop, and he did a lot in supporting me in the making of the album, and filming me and documenting it.”

As well as the KWOE crew, Psathas also teamed up with his father, renown composer John Psathas. He seemed to really enjoy the process.

“It was pretty awesome, but it’s weird. My dad obviously works with a lot of people, but I’m his son, first and foremost. When we make music, it’s like, with your dad – like a go to play cricket on a Sunday, or kick a ball around at the park, or we got to make a table for your mum ‘let’s sit in the workshop and work on it together’ – kind of thing. It’s not like we’re going to make this table and sell it and make lots of money off it. It like that, you just do it because that just the way that you spend quality time together, and that’s what it’s like when my dad and I make music together. We’re not expecting some kind of outcome. We just do it because it’s a way to spend time that we both enjoy. It’s nothing like working with other artists. And dad loves it. Biggest fan, biggest supporter.”

It’s nice to see that someone experience a taste of success is keen to acknowledge his team – those who inspired and influenced him and helped him bring his goals to fruition.

“My previous DJ Denny Fackney. He was the person who made me want to rap about other stuff, and not just being cool and to blow up and all that. I remember we had a very big chat about two years ago (just before I started this album) about the whole thing. I vividly remember it – it was one of the more important conversations I’ve had ever. It was about two hours and we just sat and he just schooled me on why I should rap about this stuff. He remembers that and we reference that when we talk about this album as a reflection of understanding that conversation. Make your mark, I think he was the person who really taught me how to do that and how to harness the uniqueness of where I’m from as something that could help me more than I think. He has been a very, very big, significant impact on my musical life.

“Also my manager Pritesh had a massive impact on everything that I do with my work ethic and all of that.

“But, honestly man, the biggest person is just myself. I’m always keeping myself in check with just everything. I’ll always push myself and try new things.”

And this theme of confident, but not cocky, shines through what Psathas is saying. He knows that he has the skills to carry him, and he’s not afraid to say that. He discusses the differences between working a support slot and headlining his own gig, noting that he carries the same passion for each, despite the different pressures of each scenario. I ask him how he tries to win over people who may not be interested in seeing him when he opens for big international acts.

“I don’t really but much thought into winning them over. I just have confidence in my set and I know that people like it, so that’s what I do, and I just play the best that I can, and I can’t put thought into anything else. If I started to think in those terms it would freak me out, and could affect it. They’ve obviously chosen me for a reason, so I come out here and I do what I do. I’ve been to shows, I’ve seen opening acts. I’ve seen what to do and what not to do from the crowd’s perspective. I understand that not trying to be too big out of your boots straight out of the gate, and letting your music speak for itself before you try and get the crowd to think that you’re really good. Let them decide, and just put it out there and understand that they might not like it because obviously they didn’t come to see you. But I have the confidence in our music that people really will like it and know that our sets are really, really on point. So I don’t get scared or nervous, I’m very understanding of the process from the audience’s point of view.”

“Headlining has more responsibility because people have paid money to come and see you. The ticket is not from the support act. Sometimes it is – but most of the time it’s not why people buy it. People didn’t pay to see Name UL, they came to see Action Bronson. So at the end of the day, I can be a shitty supporter, but it’s not going to leave people saying that it was a bad show – it’s only if the headliner was really bad that people would say that. It comes back to what we were talking about before in terms of confidence. Exact same show in terms of entertainment value, musical value, in terms of an overall night – we can bring all of that just as well as any other American artist you can think of. Whether that be… uh… anyone! Anyone I’ve opened for, I genuinely believe that our live set is just as good – if not better – than theirs, it’s just that we lack the money and the fanbase. But those two things will come. I feel that in terms of headlining – I have no doubts in our ability. Looking back we killed it. We did kill it, and it was great! In terms of an experience or a show, sure you could put Kendrick Lamar aside, next to me on that stage right? But if we stripped back people knowing those songs –if it was a completely fresh thing –I genuinely believe that we could perform just as good a show. I want people to see that when they come to the show. I want them to see that we have international class acts in Wellington that will perform Wellington. Just because we’re from Wellington, and we’re in Wellington doesn’t mean that people have to see anything less in terms of production value, performance value – and that’s what we’re bringing, what we’re trying to push and get people to understand.”

This ethic has opened doors for Psathas, leading him to Los Angeles to record, and undertake an internship writing for Warner Music. He explains that as incredible as traveling to America to work within the music scene sounds, he still needs to stay grounded.

“It’s pretty awesome. I think that prior to doing a lot of the work it felt like something that would be pretty surreal, but it’s interesting, because once you get onto the other side of the work and you get there, it feels like it’s pretty much what should be happening. It doesn’t feel weird, it feels like it’s part of the plan. If you work hard enough, you get to a certain place, you have a bunch of product or content or something underneath you, there’s certain things that you have to do. And when you rub shoulders with people in The States, you might think back in the day, like back when I was younger I was like ‘oh, imagine meeting up with a publicist in LA! How exciting would that be?’ But on the day you have a folder full of notes, you’ve got a plan, you’ve got everything. It’s very serious and it’s a big deal, but it feels like it’s part of the plan – it’s what is supposed to happen if you work a certain way, and you do things a certain way.

“It is weird, because there hasn’t been a rapper from Wellington who has done that yet. But I’m not trying to be someone who hits a ceiling. I don’t put a limit on what I’m gonna do, and in order to be someone like a Kendrick Lamar, or a Kanye West, or a Drake or whatever – this is what they were doing when they were 20 as well. It’s just because I’m from Wellington that it seems really obscure, because we’re not known for being in the hip-hop community overseas. It feels stranger, but it also feels good.”

I’m especially interested to hear about one figure that Psathas met overseas: eccentric

Canadian radio host Nardwuar the Human Serviette, who is famous for his quirky mannerisms and in-depth research into the backgrounds of every artists he interviews. I ask if Psathas if he had learnt any crazy facts him.

“I didn’t! I wish I’d had longer to speak to him. It was a pretty brief encounter, but he was a pretty awesome dude, and he was actually super similar to what he’s like on camera. He’s pretty much exactly the same so I respect him for that.”

One thing that I believe sets Name UL apart from many other rappers is that he touches on issues that are deeper than the stereotypical “pussy, money, weed” culture than can sometimes be prevalent in hip-hop. He’d already shared about being asked to reflect on his message by previous DJ Denny Fackney, so I asked him what key message he wants his listeners to take from his music.

“To stay inspired I just read the news every day. I wake up, and I read the news every morning. It’s important to me to know what’s happening in the world. And if other people my age don’t, then that’s fine –that’s up to them. But I always found that the way I wanted to do that I saw a friend reading the news every day, and I saw how cool it was to know about what’s happening in the world. And it didn’t take someone telling me to do that, it took me seeing another young person. Because if my dad tells me to do that than it’s like, ‘of course my dad would say that!’ If I see one of my friends doing that, who is my age and is actively aware of what is happening in the world, who can read about it and talk about what is happening with adults, then that inspires me to do it. So if I can be that to other people, than that’s great. I can be a source of inspiration.

“But people are more lenient to be like ‘I want to change the world’, than ‘I want to inspire the world’. To say ‘inspire’ sounds like you’re being cocky, but if you say “change” than it’s like you understand that you have to take something under your belt. It’s like it’s harder than it is. If you say ‘I just want to inspire people’ than it sounds like you’re putting yourself on a pedestal, but it’s real. That’s how. I want people to be like ‘yo! That dude’s reading the news, that’s what it’s about! Cool dude! I want to do that’.

“I’m trying to say that you don’t need a big-ass chain to cool in the hip-hop world, I want to show that you need a big-ass brain. ” – Name UL

And as for the future? He’s a bit coy.

“It’s always a big surprise, but we’ve got some stuff going. More content, more shows. Just more music, but I can’t get specific about the whole thing, but a lot of exciting stuff.”

I bet!

I find Name UL instantly likable. A rapper that wants to inspire kids to read the news, who wants to put Wellington on the map and make fantastic music with skilled people. Maybe he will become the next Kendrick. He’s got talent, contacts and material. He’s got attitude and confidence. Something makes me think that is he keeps forging this path he’s on he may actually get there someday. - Joseph James

"'Rapper Name UL’s album a snapshot of a night out in Wellington' -"

Twenty-year-old rapper Emanuel John Psathas, who goes by the moniker Name UL, released his debut album, Choice(s), in early September.

Psathas, son of New Zealand composer John Psathas, has been rapping since he was about 12, and started releasing music at 15.

"Those years are a really interesting time to be making music," Psathas says, "because 13-20 is a turbulent time for people growing up."

He says the music he created in those years was more "ambitious for the future", as he had less knowledge about how the world worked.

"I was a bit more oblivious, but I like that. Being able to express that has helped show me where I belong and sit in the New Zealand context."

His music focuses on New Zealand's youth culture, with his new album being based off a standard Saturday night out in Wellington.

"It fits nicely into a 4pm to 4am journey."

The album explores the concept that going out on a Saturday night can become the pinnacle of some people's weeks.

"People talk about the weekend like it's their escape from reality. When they spend money in town, it's the money they've made at their sh...y day job that they don't like."

What's the point of this damaging cycle that ruins people's lives, Psathas wonders.

"I know people who have had so much potential, but they've also had this obsession with going out on Saturday nights.

"I think it's very negative. Why do you hate Monday? That's your life."

He doesn't want young Kiwis to continue feeling pressured to drink to fit in, and says the problem won't go away unless it is addressed.

"For those who are growing up, what kind of culture are we setting up for them as adults?

"The problem is very real – and I don't want that for my little sister, or, in the future, my kids."

Setting the album in Wellington made it both fun and easy to create, he says. "Listening back to it, it felt like the whole city kind of made it with me."
Psathas is a Brooklyn boy through and through; he went to Brooklyn Kindergarten, Brooklyn School and Wellington College. He still lives in Brooklyn.
When learning music at school, he remembers taking more of an unconventional approach.

"At the time I didn't want to know theory, but now I do want to know it. I understand now how important it is to know about your craft."

Growing up, Psathas says Kanye West's Late Registration was the most influential album for his musical development.

As he got older, he started to appreciate rappers like Kendrick Lamar and Mos Def, whom he describes as "activists in their own right".

"Music is their platform to be able to express ideas. That was powerful for me, realising that the end of the road for rap is not money."

Like Lamar and Def, Psathas' music is idea-oriented and addresses issues that aren't always talked about.

"That's when I feel I'm successful, when I can successfully articulate the ideas I have." - Megan Gattey

"Choice(s) Release Show Live Review - Will Not Fade Blog"

Name UL (real name Emanuel Psathas) has been making waves in the local hip hop scene for years now, which is all the more impressive considering his young age. He has opened for some of the more notable hip hop acts to arrive on these shores for years now, including the likes of Jurassic 5, Freddie Gibbs, Schoolboy Q, Vince Staples and Earl Sweatshirt. And his work within the scene has paid off, landing him a song writing job in LA to start next year.

Thursday saw the release of Psathas’ first full length, Choice(s), and Friday saw the album come to life at the San Francisco Bathhouse in Wellington.

This was it: two years of writing and recording finally coming to fruition. Sure, some of the songs were from older EPs, but most of this material was new. Was it going to measure up?

Short answer: yes. Yes, yes, and then some. Psathas actually admitted that he was quite nervous, but he needn’t have worried. Choice(s) debuted at number one one the iTunes NZ hip hop charts, and number seven overall. And it translated just as successfully live. The audience lapped it all up with vigour – both new and old material. There was no mistaking that the new material hit the spot, judging from how enthusiastically everyone was dancing and grooving along to the music.

The set started with Name UL on the mic and DJ Heist Beats on the decks. People were singing along to the familiar songs like “My Side”. It sounded great. And then it got better. Matt Beachen from Drax Project joined in on drums, and then the rest of the Drax crew joined during the following song. The extra live instrumentation really added to the mix. How often do you hear someone ripping it up on a sax at a rap show?

I’ve only seen a few hip hop acts with live bands (The Roots, David Dallas with The Daylight Robbery), but I think that hip hop within a live band context is far superior to having a DJ or laptop providing the beats. With more happening onstage, there is more to watch and take in, as well as the extra layers of music building upon each other.

I saw Immortal Technique – one of my more highly rated rappers -play San Fran years ago and his sound was horrendous. By contrast, last night Name UL was slaying the crowd with the most incredible sound and energy. It was also nice to hear Drax Project back on form under a different setting, after poor sound mixing marred their own otherwise-untouchable album release three months ago. They’re a diverse group of musicians who know how to adapt to different settings- progressing from crowd-drawing buskers to the next big thing, and casually adding hip-hop backing band to their résumé along the way.

I’ve only seen Name UL play support sets to dates. And he did well, but in those situations people had paid to see international headliners, not a kid from Wellington. The reception tonight was exponentially better than the lukewarm reaction I’d seen during those early instances. For this show, people were excited to be there – bouncing around and loving the atmosphere. And fair enough too – the sound was great, the tunes were fresh, and the addition of Drax Project helped to make the show even better.

Two years of writing and recording, finally realised in a live context. I can see why Psathas would have been nervous playing a lot of untested new material. But all that work paid off, and there was no doubt in anyone’s mind that the show was a complete success. Everywhere I looked during the set people were dancing, bouncing, singing and generally enjoying themselves – both on and off stage.

Do yourself a favour and check out Choice(s). And if you get the chance, catch Name UL live. Because if you don’t, the next opportunity may be when he’s selling out shows in LA. - Joseph James

"Name UL - Libel Blog"

Wellington hip-hop sensation Name UL has released his debut album Choice(s).

The 20-year-old rapper, whose real name is Emanuel John Psathas, has spent years honing his unique style, which shines through on this accomplished 12-track labour of love, capturing a snapshot of youth and life in New Zealand's capital.

To celebrate the release, Name UL will perform a special one-off show, featuring members of Drax Project, at San Fran in Wellington, on Friday, September 2nd.

Name UL was performing in bars and clubs long before he was legally able to drink in them and established his own label, K.W.O.E – or Kids With Open Ears - when he was just 15.

In 2015, he made his move from the underground hip-hop scene to the mainstream with the release of his powerful youth anthem ‘Only Sixteen’. He’s also opened for international acts such as Pharcyde, Action Bronson, Schoolboy Q, Vince Staples, Jurassic 5 and Earl Sweatshirt.

Choice(s) has so far spawned two great singles – ‘Nice Guys Finish Thirst’, which has caused quite a stir online. Note: make sure you watch to the very end!!! - Libel

"EP Review: Name UL – Summit"

I’ve mentioned Wellington based rapper Name UL (real name Emanuel Psathas) on this blog a few times now [Freddie Gibbs, Jurassic 5]. But both times I’ve glanced over his performance and instead focused on the main act. Dismissing talent this good isn’t really fair, so I’ve decided to review his 2013 EP, Summit, to make up for it.

Summit is a banger. It only features three tracks, but those tracks were enough to make me sit up and pay attention.

…”but I ask questions and what perturbs me is that you don’t get answers, nobody wants to talk about it, this event which changed the entire history of our Country, why aren’t allowed to discuss it? Why aren’t we allowed to ask questions? The moment you do you get a reaction like he gave me, ‘how dare you….how dare you question your government?” – Jesse Ventura

‘Generation Why’ begins with a sample from a Jesse Ventura interview on Fox news, discussing the topic of questioning the government. This phases into a high-pitched scat hook accompanied by some monstrous drumming courtesy of Nick Gaffaney. I’ve gushed about Gaffaney’s abilities a few times when I’ve seen Cairo Knife Fight open for Shihad in the past [2010, 2014] and his work here is no less impressive. His drumming, along with some almost-industrial accompaniment, really help to drive the song forward. Name UL urges his peers to critically question things happening around them and to speak up about important issues.

The next song also begins with a sample, this time discussing the feelings of depression, providing the name ‘Shipwreck’ for the song title. Leroy Clampitt provides ghostly backing vocals while one of my favourite musos, Adam Page lets loose on the saxophone, threading throughout and adding his smooth solos to uplift a song that would otherwise seem quite dark. If the first song was big picture – asking questions and trying to make sense of the world – then this second song addresses the same kind of topics on a personal level.

‘Eclipse’ features shimmering, ephemeral synths juxtaposed against abrasive lyrics. The track features music from Wellington drone duo The Shocking and Stunning and vocals from British electro artist Xela. This song is where Name UL really shines. His rapping is urgent and venomous, poised to spark a revolution..

I like the Summit EP for a number of reasons. I love the aggression and the political undertones reminiscent of punk music – that justified anger for a cause. I like how Name UL has chosen to collaborate with a variety of skilled musicians who noticeably impact the overall sound. I like how he is playing with ideas and unafraid to find new sounds, and how his lyrical content reveals some reflective thoughtfulness.

The EP only has three songs, which seems unusual in a world of hip hop that is jam-packed with long and convoluted mixtapes. It’s quality over quantity, concise and effective. Every song gets introduced with a sample that sets the mood. Together they help create a cohesive theme throughout the EP of inviting the listeners to become more socially conscious. I’m a sucker for that punk approach of speaking up for change, and Name UL has won me over by inciting his listeners to wake up and think.

Summit is available for free download at Bandcamp here.

Joseph James - Joseph James - Will Not Fade Blog

"Interview: Name UL — Summit, An Articulation Of My Mind"

“Don’t settle for less – even a genius asks questions
Be grateful for blessings
Don’t ever change, keep your essence
The power is in the people and politics we address”

-Tupac, Me Against The World.

Being a Pac fan, there is an element in Name UL’s music that reflects the legend’s thinking — considering that asking questions is exactly what 18-year-old Emanuel Psathas encourages his peers to do on his new EP, Summit. He explains music is one of the strongest forms of communications he knows, espescially coming from a well-known family in music. Google Psathas, see what comes up. Name says, “Ninety per cent of what me and my dad talk about since I was 10 maybe, is music…It’s never like how was your weekend? It’s like oh I got Good Kid m.a.a.d City on vinyl, lets listen to that.” When it comes to lyrical talent, Name’s strengths come from a unique ability to read between peoples’ lines and then create his own world between them; his knack for doing this is how he managed to fail the creative writing section of his English exam and still get an A. “They said I was too abstract…I can have normal conversations,” he assures me. Nevertheless, his point of view makes for good rap music; the opening track of Summit titled ‘Generation Why’ opens with a sample playing a Fox news interview with Jesse Ventura, the former Governor of Minnesota, arguing the notion that 9/11 was an inside job and a lie. That interview can be found HERE.

“I ask questions, and what perturbs me is that you don’t get answers, nobody wants to talk about this event that changed the history of our country, why aren’t we allowed to discuss it? Why aren’t we allowed to ask questions? The moment you do, you get a reaction like he gave me… How dare you question your government?”

HH: What was your aim when you set out to make Summit?

NU: I had started with a sixteen track album and I’d started making it just after Home Brew released their album and I was hard out loving that. I wanted to make something that was really chill — it was about making something that was the same..I hadn’t finished it yet, [but I’d] cleared rights and everything, then I listened to it and my old DJ, Denny Fackney was saying to me, ‘Why don’t you try doing something that is more intellectual, making a statement?’ My dad had always said that. I hadn’t really thought about it before [my old stuff] was just about being cheeky and young.. then I found the way the feedback was, “Oh it’s that 16/17 year old rapper” instead of “Oh that’s Name UL“. So I thought maybe I should make something with a statement. I saw this interview with Kendrick, because I was sceptical — I didn’t want to put anything out if it was weird, I wanted to be safe.. But then I saw Kendrick and he was like, ‘the first time I actually got anywhere and got any respect from people and started getting die hard fans was when I did something where I had no idea if people will like it – it was 100% from within me.’ And that’s how I made Summit, it’s all from within me, it’s like an articulation of my mind.

HH: And now it’s three songs, which is also, I think quite interesting when a lot of people aim for five or there abouts?

N: It is, because I thought about having many more songs but in the end it was more about having something that was concentrated into three songs rather than diluted into five. [Earlier Name explains he wrote the lyrics in a short story format.] It was just way tighter when we had three songs that were all cohesive and relative to each other.. When I say we I think about every single person that was involved, like Lui The Zu who’s credited as YSL — me and him produced two of the tracks and I did the last one Eclipse with the Shocking and Stunning.”

“I went real deep inside my own mind. I think of it as we — as real spiritual because it was. All the stuff that came out of me was like we, as a collective. I was speaking from all these different aspects from within my mind together as a thing that came out, it was real crazy.”

As left field as this all sounds I ask him to elaborate, “I really don’t want to step into the realm of talking for people, because I don’t want to talk for people. That’s just an arrogant thing to do. [Therefore] because I can’t talk for people, I just talk for myself but I talk about myself as a member of a group of people, so when I say aspects of my mind I think about the aspect of me that is completely focussed on my music and then I think about the person who’s real into going out and having a good time kind of thing — I don’t think of that as the same person — I think about that as two separate people [when it comes to] the socially and politically aware kind of person that I am. Then I also think about the person who’s completely under their control and a slave to the media as well, I think about all these type of people, instantly when I think about those people within me I can think of people that I know like that as well. So in a way I am talking for myself so I get away with saying [me], but I am also talking about other people.. But I am not saying that I’m above them, I am part of them — I’m them as well in away.

“It doesn’t matter if you like me or not, or if you disagree with what I’m saying, because I feel so passionate about it there’s nothing you can actually say or do that’s going to change how I feel about this.”

HH: How did you do in your english exam? I am asking you about English specifically, for a reason.

NU: Pretty, pretty well aye. I did one piece, for my creative writing I got fail because it was too abstract they said. [Laughs].

HH: What are you reading at the moment?

NU: Oh, it’s real cheesy, but I am reading Unconditional Life by Deepak Chopra he is a therapist kind of dude and that book is like, crazy, wholly shit. I’m half way through but the first chapter is honestly like, it tells you about all these people who got terminally ill and I thought it was fake — I looked it up cause I was like, is this actually real because he was saying you can get an illness just from being stressed because the brain sends the same signals and he says that people who thought differently [shook the illness]. It just teaches you to live in a way that you’re going to die — it sounds real dark but people have literally beaten their illnesses with their mind — completely changed everything with their mind. [They’ve been told] there’s no way you’re going to live, we’re going to try everything and then just one day they’ve changed everything and they’ve turned their whole life around.

HH: It’s kind of relevant here because I have a question pre-planned, there are samples in the EP that talk about depression, why were these things poignant to you?

NU: I was thinking about people I know that say they’re depressed, and it’s easy to say that they don’t really know what’s going on in the world you know and they’re not ready to understand that people have bigger problems and stuff like that; I thought there’s been so many songs about depression and stuff like that.. The first song was like okay, we need to do this, we need to stand up, do this, do that; the second song was talking as if I was having a conversation with these people and someone said ,’we can’t stand up and talk about the bigger things’, because within the bigger conflict, the societal conflict, there’s our own conflict that we’re going through. So it was addressing that if you can’t understand what’s inside of you and you can’t understand the conflicts happening with the youth — then how are they going to understand what’s happening above them?

“I hard out love someone who’s confident — they might not even be talented but they’re just so confidence in all these other things and being an individual.”

HH: It’s very Zack de la Rocha your sound and feel on the EP.

NU: Who is Zack de la Rocha?

HH: From Rage Against The Machine.

NU: Aww, yeah. It’s real weird because I watched like 1000 live shows, [one of them was] a Rage Against The Machine in Mexico. It was the most insane thing I’ve ever seen. People were just going absolutely crazy because of what they were talking about, you know standing up and stuff. And I actually do find a little resemblance behind the first song, Generation Y and Rage Against The Machine. I listened to them a lot when I was younger.. I saw them at Big Day Out 2007 — I was like 11 years old — definitely in ‘Eclipse’ and ‘Generation Why’ there’s a strong resemblance — I like it aye, I don’t shy away from that, I think it’s cool. I’d rather be compared to them than like Gucci Mane or someone.

HH: There being only three tracks showed a sturdy confidence to me, in you.

NU: Thank you. Yeah it’s weird because I thought if you did something that isn’t asking for approval, I was thinking, why don’t I just come out and say this and just be like, ‘I don’t fucken care if you think I’m wrong’? Like this is actually what I feel like 150% ..It doesn’t matter if you like me or not, or if you disagree with what I’m saying because I feel so passionate about it, there’s nothing you can actually say or do that’s going to change how I feel about this.

HH: In a way are you trying to teach people something?

NU: I think, instead of trying to teach, it’s kind of like encouraging, I’m trying to encourage people to ask questions that’s what the whole first song is about..Instead of teaching I think of it as like putting on glasses [when you listen to the song] and it’s a different lense. But it’s not trying to say you need to do this and that, even though it sounds like I’m saying that in the songs, it’s [me] trying to be encouraging.

HH: Expecting people to receive an underlying message is like stabbing in the dark don’t you think? How do you feel as the artist that people might miss your point?

NU: I feel, that’s the thing, you know I think it’s way cooler to just give your album over with the artwork and everything surrounding it. I didn’t put out any videos or anything, it’s supposed to be all up for interpretation. I want to see what other people derive out of it, that’s way cooler.

HH: Who’s someone you spoke to after the release and you were like, yeah man, you fucken got it?

NU: Someone said to me, ‘Aw bro I like how you were talking about yourself, using yourself as a metaphor for the wider group and then you used the metaphor of the wider group for yourself. You were separating yourself, but you weren’t but you were.’ That was real cool.

HH: Okay your thinking process — do people in general have to get to know you first before they understand you?

NU: Yeah. [Laughs.] I don’t even think that anyone really gets it aye. You have to spend a lot of time with me to kind of get it.

HH: It’s like some kind of complex pattern that seems to bounce of the parameters of your mind or thinking — but not in a random process, a logical one.

NU: Yeah, well I think, cause I can have normal conversations with people and that’s easy and that’s what a lot of people know me as. But I haven’t had a chance to have these kind of conversations with everyone so not everybody gets it. There are people, like me and my old DJ, Denny — Bucks A Pop, he is one person who definitely gets it. My Dad definitely gets it. I think those two, honestly, those two.

HH: Those two in particular are interesting comparisons because they’re also the two people you mentioned at the beginning of the interview who you took advice from when switching the whole EP up.

NU: Yeah, it’s cause they get it. They know that I’m not going to just disregard what they say. Even if they said something that was completely offensive and like straight insult, I’m going to digest it and I’m not going to take offense or get real depressed about it… I’m never going to disregard anything that anyone says, I don’t ever want to be the kind of guy who someone says something to me and I disregard it, because I’m encouraging having an opinion [in the music].

HH: What things in the world though, don’t you care for, like human nature in general?

NU: I don’t know.. I don’t care for..I think it’s fucken stupid to be a part of a group, if it’s not a group of individuals — I honestly, that’s one thing that I fucken hate — when I finished school I totally separated myself from a lot of people because it felt like when I hung out with them, it was like I was being assimilated.

HH: So you detest pack mentality?

NU: Yeah. I fucken hate that shit. It’s stupid man. I still hang out with a lot of people, but the difference is that it’s a group of individuals. One thing I don’t care for is people getting and pulling confidence from getting fucked up, I hard out love someone who’s confident — they might not even be talented but they’re just so confidence in all these other things, and being an individual; not from someone being a bit tipsy and they can talk to someone because they did like a 10-day bender and got pissed every day. It’s cool to pull energy, not from inside you, but from around you.

HH: What aspects of Summit do you feel will improve in your next release?

NU: I think that I wish there was more thought put into the relationship between the vocal and the music. I think that’s something that I want to work on for my next project, the relationship between the vocals and music and having them as one thing as opposed to separate.

HH: Did you have a beginning, middle and an end in mind?

NU: Yeah well I was originally going to call the songs different stages of the mountain. Like the ‘Summit’ is the peak of the mountain, and this is crazy — this is the full concept and I haven’t told anyone this — the EP is like a mountain right — the summit is the top, watching the ‘Eclipse’ from the top, that’s the end, that’s the last song. So we’re at the summit, but [in the beginning] we’re at the base with ‘Generation Why’ because that’s the encouragement of asking questions. What I’m saying is from starting the climb up the mountain is by us asking questions right? And that’s us starting to move up. But then it’s like we’re questioning stuff, but why can’t you guys figure out anything for yourself? And then it’s like half way up we start figuring out conflicts within ourself which is Shipwreck. So that’s when we figure out all this stuff within us, we’re lost but we’ve come together — we’re all travelling up together. But then we break past that, we get to the summit and we watch the eclipse and all this energy, the process and all the frustration, everything that comes together explodes at the top as we watch the eclipse and that’s where all that passion is. That’s the top. That’s the Summit. That’s it - Aleyna Martinez - Whendidyoufallinlovewithhiphop Blog

"Name UL- Seventeen With Rap Dreams"

Wellingtonian Hip Hop artist Name UL says, “I feel when I’m rapping I’m contributing to the culture of hip hop. I’m rapping with a beat and people were doing it 10 years ago; people are doing it right now in New York, LA, Europe, Asia – and I’m in Wellington, New Zealand.”

“We’re all just contributing to this beautiful thing called hip hop. It’s so cheesy man, but it’s like my religion. Think about it, you do, you say your prayers like you’re rapping.”

Having just returned from travels in New York, Japan and Europe, Name re-wrote an EP had all ready to go before he left. “It gave me a whole new perspective and motivated me to create more challenging material.” With some big opening acts already under his belt like Six60, Home Brew, @Peace, Pharcyde, Action Bronson and more, one would think Name lucky. But he insists he gets these spots through resilient emailing and seizing an opportunity, mostly from working hard.

For his next EP he says, “I’m trying to not just dissect myself and what’s around me, I want to dissect the world from my point of view and the whole. Like everything I believe that’s going on. Not necessarily be right… just like a point of view. What I’m aiming for is – you sit down and listen to my music, and it’s like, you’re essentially picking up glasses and looking at the world from a different lens.”

HH: Where Are You From?

N: I am from Wellington, New Zealand. My ancestry lies in Greece though. My dad’s full Greek and my mum’s Danish and South African.

HH: How did you came up with ‘Name UL’?

N: Basically I was fumbling around with names for ages. I had weird names like Pre-Mad, one like Ill-Trill or something stupid. I don’t know. And then I landed on Name UL. I always thought it would be real funny if someone was called ‘Name’ like their name’s name. Also name backwards is E-Man, which is what people call me.

HH: Do you consider yourself an artist or an emcee?

N: I think that initially I considered myself a rapper, but as my music evolved and as I evolved as a person I felt that I wanted to be more of an artist because I thought there’s so much more room. If you close yourself in as a rapper then it ends up just you rapping over beats. I like creating art because I think it gives it a broader definition than just rap music.

HH: What school do you go to?

N: Wellington College.

HH: When did you start rapping?

N: I’ve always idolized rappers. I thought they were so cool. When I was about 12 I started listening to heaps of Madlib and Jay Dilla. It was real weird, I slow transitioned from like Nelly and Kanye West into Mos Def and then I started really liking Biggie and Wu-Tang. I liked rapping at first because it was real rebellious. I was getting into that and then heaps of stuff from Stones Throw…I started wondering who made the beats for the rappers, found out it was Madlib then started listening to him. I thought it was so cool and was like, ‘I could try rap’. It was just atrocious but I liked the idea of it so I kept doing it.

“I like DJ Premier but when I hear him I just want to rap on his beats. With Madlib and J Dilla I just feel like they just need to be left untouched.”

HH: You mentioned that people have their three favorite artists, who are yours?

N: Definitely one is Mos Def like without a doubt – Black On Both Sides is one of the greatest albums ever. Kanye like, Late Registration and probably also Nas is definitely up there. I mean influentially, Illmatic hard out and the one he just put out, Life Is Good, I thought that was dope as.

HH: Do you remember your first rap, can you do it?

N: Yeah I remember just one line. It was like, ‘I wrap up meat like I’m a butcher and it never ends, dishing out my rhymes like I’m dishing out M & M’s’. It was so weird man, it was like, I have no idea man. I was real little like 11 or 12.

HH: Do you ever feel intimidated because of your age, in terms of the people who you work with?

N: Yeah, sometimes. I feel – not in a cocky way – that my music is at a level that’s kind of good enough, that I don’t need to feel intimidated. I kind of put it on the table. I’m not embarrassed about it or anything, I don’t feel like it’s immature, I feel like some of the stuff that I do is actually quite mature in the sense of ‘for my age’.

HH: How do you get into clubs?

N: My parents sometimes have to come with me. It’s got a bit looser recently. I used to stay around for the whole show, but these days I don’t. I come for mine and I know it’s a bit rude to other artists but it’s kind of how I have to do it otherwise I can’t come in. If I stick around then it’s a bit complicated.

HH: Have your parents always been supportive of you wanting to be a rapper?

N: They’ve just kind of recently realised, ‘Oh he want’s to do this with his life’, and I think they kind of maybe panicked initially. I think my dad’s real supportive, hard-out. My mum, she’s so supportive, but like she obviously is a mum and thinks I should go to university and do that which obviously is so smart to have a back up and all that stuff… I just feel like our communication isn’t real on point because we’re in different perspectives of how much I want it and how much they think it will benefit me. I feel like if I’m 20 and I’m still doing it and I’m still at this stage, they’re going to be like,’you need to start focussing on your life’. At the end of the day I want it to be my career.

HH: Have you always been really focussed as a person?

N: Yeah that’s like my personality. I feel like my life is real focussed. That’s real important like if you’re focussed as a person then you can really progress. I think I wasn’t initially, I was influenced by other people. You can’t do well if you’re not disciplined in everything.

“I can’t be slack at school, in my home or with relationships and stuff and then expect to be disciplined with my music. I think it all goes hand in hand. It’s so hard to master.”

HH: What’s you game plan?

N: My game plan’s making music. I can’t predict how stuff’s going to go. I have no idea. I want to just make music, and there’s heaps of steps involved, making that your job. But I got to get out of school and I think next year when I am out I ‘m going to make that my full-time job.

HH: What are you working on at the moment musically?

N: My EP. That’s what I’m working on with Loui the Zu, he’s a rapper whose 18 years old. I’ve just been going up to Auckland to his house and making beats. Then working with a band called the Shocking And Stunning from Wellington. I’m trying to break away from the whole age being associated to me. I want it to be a real. Not a 16-year-old rapper, but a rapper who happens to be 16 or a musician who happens to be 16.

HH: Do you have a beat maker who you work with one-on-one?

N: Yip, Loui The Zu and Thallus from Switzerland who did ‘End of The Sky’ and ‘The Moon’.

HH: So you said you’d been introduced to Kanye and all of that first, but when you heard Madlib, hip hop really began to resonate with you?

N: Yeah that’s when I truly, truly fell in love with hip hop. It was beautiful, like amazing. It really stuck to me.

HH: What is it about J Dilla, because you’re obviously hearing a certain quality in the production?

N: Yeah, I’ve actually thought about this heaps and I think it’s because I feel like the beats, they’re not like other producers. I like DJ Premier but when I hear him I just want to rap on his beats. With Madlib and J Dilla I just feel like they just need to be left untouched. When I listen to the beats nothing comes to me in terms of rapping. I don’t think it’s a bad thing, I think it’s like a really good thing. I’m just so in the zone, like the beats are just beautiful and simple by themselves.

HH: What music did your parents listen to when you were little, do you think it’s had an influence?

N: Definitely. Mum listened to a lot of Genesis, Doobie Brothers and then my dad listened to everything, like everything. The whole CD row had Wu-Tang, Tribe Called Quest, classical music, jazz, world music and that’s rubbed off on me. Now, I barely listen to rap… I listen to a lot of instrumental stuff like jazz, experimental, I literally listen to everything like classical music, opera, house, whatever, religious music.

HH: Are you religious?

N: No I’m not but I love religion, I think it’s so amazing. Not necessarily right for me personally, but I think some aspects of it are amazing and how people are so dedicated just blows my mind. My dad’s got this tape of just the Koran like just a guy reciting the whole thing and I’ve only got four tracks. I don’t know what any of it means but I reckon it’s real beautiful listening to it.

“In my head the whole time. I’m my best friend hard out. I used to go to parties heaps and be a hard out social bloomer. But now, Saturday nights man, you’ll just find me in my room eating cookies and drinking chocolate milk, rapping.”

HH: You’ve played some pretty big gigs, how did that happen , did promoters hear you or…

N: Yeah. But heaps of people have hit me up like, ‘I’m not getting any gigs bro, no one’s hitting me up. But it’s real weird cause you can’t just wait and expect people to just find you on SoundCloud. Me personally, I hit up so many promoters, like everyone, like please give me a chance I’ll do 10 minutes at the beginning of the show, I’ll do anything. And it was kind of like nah, 16, like they didn’t really know and that’s before I’d even put out a tape so people just heard little raps I’d done. And then Blink who does Camp A Low Hum and runs Puppies was like, ‘I’ll give you a 20 minute slot at this Mighty Mighty show’ and I was like, ‘oh cool, sweet as’.

HH: So would you say he gave you your break?

N: Definitely in terms of live shows. And I did that show and then Tim Brown saw me who’s in the Wellington Phoenix and he owns 2B. He loved my stuff and I ended up going to them, he hooked me up with some shoes and stuff. He put me on to Marek whose like a promoter and then I begged Marek to put me on the Home Brew line up and he was like okay, I’ll put you on at like five in the evening. I played to like four people and the bar staff – one of those four people was Josh Mossman who does La De Da. What happened from there was I got put on to, cause I asked to do the Pharcyde show in Wellington, I hit up the promoter down south and was like is there any chance to do a show down there and then he’s like, ‘if you get yourself here, pay for everything, you can do the national tour’. I was like, ‘yeah bro’ and I was also doing little shows at Zeal just to get experience on stage and stuff and they were real helpful – I thank them heaps. Then I moved on to the Pharcyde tour. It took a lot out of my pocket but it was so worth it. I didn’t do the Auckland show but I did Christchurch, Wellington, Queenstown and Wanaka. Pharcyde gave me so much advice just talking to them, their DJ -Vick One works on Hot 97 in Los Angeles and I was like, ‘oh my god’. He gave me so much advice and just helped me with everything. Then I came back and was just getting booked like crazy. Everyone thought I did real good, I ended up booking Smoke DZA, Action Bronson, @Peace Showcase, it was cool.

HH: What was your favorite gig to date?

N: Hilltop Hoods because the atmosphere was just buzz and I got the crowd pumping and then I did an a capella. I was feeling it so much. Then I did Camp A Low Hum and that was crazy, like in a forest out in Wainuiomata. Then I did Six60 at St James and that was crazy man. That was 2000 people, like insane.

“If you want to listen to my music it takes a bit of patience. It’s not easy listening, it’s not like you’re just going to get it straight away. You will have to think about stuff.”

HH: What’s the buzz like playing in front of that many people?

N: It’s insane like I can’t even describe it. Seeing people’s face light up or dance to a song like, ‘oh my god, I’m generating this right now’. Even at Six60 I couldn’t see anything because the lights were on me and it was just all black. I did my first song and then just stopped and heard like 2000 people screaming. I had goosebumps, it was just insane.

HH: Whose your DJ?

N: Bucks A Pop, yeah he’s awesome.

HH: Describe your sound…

N: I don’t know my sound is just so varied at the moment. This EP is so different. Like way, way different. I would describe it as, like, Flying Lotus meets Lupe Fiasco beats with – this is going to sound real weird, but like a Mackelmore meets Kendrick Lamar and like Mos Def flow. That’s like my flow yeah, it’s real weird, the beats are real varied.

HH: You’re very focussed for your age, do you have other people tell you that?

N: I feel like I’m kind of aware of it. I have some people who really inspire me like my friends. I choose to surround myself hard-out with people who really inspire me. I used to hang with guys and girls and just talk about getting pissed and getting fucked up – I just found it so boring after a while. Now, my friend Braiden for example, is an amazing dancer and he’s like me just trying to have this plan and stay focussed and my DJ as well, we just have these deep talks not even about music, like just about everything it’s so interesting.

HH: How did you meet Bucks A Pop?

N: It’s actually a real funny story like I was going to La De Da and my DJ couldn’t do it and I was looking for a DJ real last-minute and this guy who paints my house tweeted me and was like, ‘bro I’m going to DJ for you, I’m talking to your mum’. I was like: ‘What? Who are you? Why are you in my house?’. Then yeah we just linked up and he played me some tunes, came to La De Da and just vibed hard out. Now he’s my DJ and mentor as well. - Aleyna Martinez - Whendidyoufallinlovewithhiphop Blog


Name UL - Choice(s) (September 1st 2016)

  1. Where The Heart Is
  2. Choice(s)
  3. No FOMO
  4. Nice Guys Finish Thirst 
  5. Belong
  6. I Wonder
  7. My Side 
  8. We Talk Too Much 
  9. Waiting 
  10. Falling
  11. What's Wrong
  12. Over The Influence

Name UL x KVKA - Hydrate (Single) (April 2016)

Clouds and Crowds EP (April 2012)

1. Above the Atmosphere (Prod. OneLoveBeats)
2. Christmas (Prod. Mzwetwo)
3. Reminisce (Prod. OneLoveBeats)
4. The Funeral (Prod. Heist Beats)
5. This Time (Prod. OneLoveBeats)
6. WTWNN (Prod. Name UL)
7. The Lounge (Prod. OneLoveBeats)
8. Live and Let Live (Prod. Mzwetwo)

Summit EP (December 2013)

1. Generation Why (feat. Xela) (Prod. Why S.L)
2. Shipwreck (feat. Leroy Clampitt, Adam Page and Why S.L) (Prod. Why S.L)
3. Eclipse (feat. Xela and The Shocking and Stunning)

Only Sixteen (Single) (July 2015)

1. Only Sixteen (Produced. Race Banyon) 

Name UL x LMC EP (December 2015)

1. Mavelli Drive (Prod. LMC)

2. My Side (Prod. LMC, Wayvee and Zuper)

3. No FOMO (Prod. LMC)



You may’ve heard the murmurings about this young rapper from New Zealand. He’s the whizz kid from Wellington who, in the space of five hard-working years, has gone from secretly recording rhymes in his bedroom to sharing stages with some of the biggest names in the game. He is Name UL. And, as New Zealand’s discerning hip-hop community will tell you, he’s one of our brightest emerging stars. Now with his debut full-length album Choice(s) which dropped on September 1Name UL is stepping up to the plate, readying himself to take on the industry hype that’s seen him compared to Drake and touted as New Zealand music’s next big thing.
Hard work and sheer determination underpins much of the last five years for 20-year-old Name UL – whose real name is Emanuel John Psathas. He was performing in bars and clubs long before he was legally able to drink in them and established his own label, K.W.O.E – or Kids With Open Ears - when he was just 15.
In 2015, he made his move from the underground hip-hop scene to the mainstream with the release of his powerful youth anthem ‘Only Sixteen’ - a collaboration with fellow Kiwi Race Banyon (Lontalius). He’s also opened for – and impressed – a whole host of international acts from Action Bronson and Schoolboy Q to Vince StaplesJurassic 5 and Earl Sweatshirt.
This year, on his own steam, he headed off to one of the biggest music showcases in the world, SXSW, to shop his wares. The trip landed the young artist an internship as a songwriter at Warner Music in LA, where he’ll spend the first few months of 2017. It’s all part of the journey that’s led the rapper to this moment as he stands on the cusp of the great unknown with his 12-track labour of love, Choice(s), which 
debuted at Number 1 on September 1st 2016 on the iTunes Hip Hop charts above artists such as Vince Staples and Isaiah Rashad.

Since Choice(s) was released two lead singles (Falling & Nice Guys Finish Thirst) have both been included in playlists such as: New Music Fridays (New Zealand), New Music Fridays (Australia), New Music Fridays (Sweden), Viral Hit's Australia Playlist, Viral Hit's New Zealand Playlist. Nice Guys Finish Thirst Peaked at number 8 on the Spotify Viral Charts NZ and number 23 on the Spotify Viral Charts Australia. Falling peaked at number 16 on the New Zealand Spotify charts while another song from the album called 'My Side' hit Number 3 on the NZ Viral charts as well as number 6 in the Australian Spotify charts.
The combined streams across all platforms for the lead single Nice Guys Finish Thirst is well above 300,000 streams including Soundcloud, Spotify, Youtube and Facebook. The album also has an iTunes rating of 4.6 stars (out of 5).

The album is an accomplished body of work, which shines a spotlight on the unique nature of Wellington’s hip-hop culture. It also stands Name UL out from the crowd as a gifted vocalist and a sharp lyricist, with an acute awareness of youth issues – namely the ‘drink ‘til you drop/get high ‘til you fly’ culture that so often goes hand-in-hand with navigating young adulthood. It opens with the haunting and beautifully delicate instrumental track, ‘Where The Heart Is’. The opener lays the foundations for 11 cracking tunes, including the album’s first single ‘Nice Guys Finish Thirst’ produced by C-Sick. The song is accompanied by a video shot in LA that’s raised more than a few eyebrows on You Tube and clocked up a whopping 80,000 views. Special mention must also be made of the album’s current single ‘Falling’ produced by WHITEROSE. It’s a catchy-as-hell tune, which just gets better with each listen and has had huge amounts of love on Spotify since its release just a few short weeks ago already clocking well over 100,000 streams.
You heard it here first, s***’s about to get serious!
Name UL… no longer New Zealand hip-hop’s best-kept secret.

Stream Choice(s) on Spotify here: 

Band Members