Mid-way through last year, South Auckland rapper Dharmarat, real name Adam Kitto, dropped a 10-track mixtape bemusingly titled ‘Jesus’ – describing it as a sampler of the sounds and flows he was working with for his second album. ‘He Said; Still Running’, that promised album, is now available and Sam Dunlay talked with Dharmarat about his evident addiction to making music, making songs from the heart and the creation process.
‘He Said; Still Running’ (henceforth ‘HSSR’) is the result of months of hard work and planning for Adam Kitto, aka Dharmarat. Originally conceived as early as March 2018, ‘HSSR’ is a turbulent and fascinating journey into the young artist’s chaotic mind. Diving into issues with family, alcoholism and drug abuse the album paints a personal picture of an apocalyptic life style and way of thinking.
“It’s about everyone needing to realise what’s in themselves to move forward,” Dharmarat comments on what led to him creating the album. “Moving forward I had to look back. I realised what I’m doing wrong and what other people are doing wrong around me.”
The prolific South Auckland rapper has released a string of EPs, mixtapes and singles since his teens, but creating an album is a different story altogether.
“When I make a mixtape I’m just making songs. I’ll get a beat or something, and whatever I can hear on it I’ll just make it. Then I’ll have a bunch of them compiled. Then I will make a tape, try and order it all good and then just throw it out.”
Dharmarat took a much more meticulous approach to making this album, including jettisoning a bunch of tracks that just didn’t fit .
“The way I approach an album is I think of the whole process first and then I think about what I want the album art to look like, what I want the songs to sound like and be about. Then I just try and take my time and not give myself a dead line with it, like I do with a mixtape, where I say I will just get this done by the end of the month. Now I’m like it’ll be done when I know it’s done.”
Leading up to the release of ‘HSSR’ came the mixtape, ‘Jesus’. That name, he said, had no meaning in context to the songs describing them as a sampler of things to come.
“When I was making the album, I was making a lot of music, like a lot of music. ‘Jesus’ is basically the songs that didn’t make ‘HSSR’, mainly because the songs don’t really tell you anything about me. They’re just songs. With ‘HSSR’ I didn’t want too much anger to turn up on the album. Because that wouldn’t get the message across the way I wanted it too. Like if I’m just angry – and there were a few angry songs on ‘Jesus’. I didn’t want my album to have rage and shit in it.”
‘HSSR’ seamlessly transitions between each of the nine songs and is a piece of exceptional storytelling and narrative. The album delves into personal places and explores the turbulent mind of the young rapper. Dharmarat explains that making music is his therapy.
“It’s just how I deal with things. I don’t want to talk to people about it, it feels weird for me to talk to people about that stuff. It’s just part of my therapy. I will go for a run or something, but it’s mainly just writing about it is nice. Then, being able to see others that are listening is a whole other thing. It’s just my therapy personally, but people tell me it helps them and that’s cool.”
There was, he admits, a feeling of unease before the release of ‘HSSR’ due to the personal nature of the album, a sense of nervousness leading up to the release.
“The week the album dropped I was nervous as hell. Like I say there is a lot of stuff in here. Even though some of it is so personal, but I try and say it in a cryptic way, so you have to try and put the pieces together. Like in 1number, that whole first verse is like the deepest stuff I’ve ever written, but it takes a while to try and piece it all together.”
The NZ hip hop scene is entering one of its best eras, with a healthy movement starting to emerge from the Auckland area. ‘HSSR’ is home to some exceptional features and production credits from a collection of local contributors including Hor, Almac, Smokeygotbeatz and the up and coming Dera Meelan. Jinzo and Rizvan feature with some incredible guest verses and Church Leon provide some skit type voicemails.
“Jinzo is one of my best mates so I had to get him on there. The way he talks about serious stuff, I love it. He’s real cryptic and I wanted it on my album. I told him to rap about his mortality and he did. Rizzy, I’ve known him for a little while. We see each other at gigs and he’s a real nice dude. He wanted to get on something that was personal, so I didn’t want to send him a song about nothing. I made the track in April last year and got it back so that was probably the first song done on the album.”
“The thing with Church’s one (Hollywood Act), I don’t want people to think, like you hear his voicemail and then you hear my reply to him and I sort of shut him down. I don’t want people to think like I’m telling Church no, that’s actually my friend, he’s not really playing himself he’s playing the role.”
The bulk of the album was produced, mixed and mastered by the ridiculously prolific artist who likes to take a DIY approach to his music.
“I basically produced everything myself. I do it all from home. I like to find a nice sample or play something myself and make a beat. It’s all mixed and mastered in my room, I do everything here. Everything I need is here, I just got to find a way to do it.”
With this album comes the growth and experience of Dharmarat who has learned to use his time more effectively. Beginning to make music at 17, the now 24-year-old artist says his music has grown with him.
“I think I just change as a person overtime. I’m not the same dude I was when I started. As you go through life and just learn stuff. I was mad immature when I started. I’d drop the f bomb so much, now I dropped it once in ‘HSSR’ and it’s like a shock moment. It’s just learning what I have and using what I have. People would say I work really hard. But it’s like, ‘Nah’; back then I worked hard, now I just work better, I use my time effectively. I make sure I’m doing something and getting some done. My music’s definitely better than when I started. I learned to polish things up, I got a diploma to get better at things.”
Despite the months of hard work leading to the album’s January release, there’s no slowing down for Dharmarat who admits he is “addicted to making music”. With more projects already underway, 2019 will undoubtedly prove to be another big year for the talented artist.