Born in Cape Town, Gino October was 12 when he emigrated with his family to Auckland. He talks about the influence this has had on him and what’s in store next.
“When we came to New Zealand I was so culture shocked. That whole experience of going on a plane to this clean safe place, so different to Cape Town – it made me fall straight into hip hop.”
And while coming from the different cultural background of South Africa has unsurprisingly had some musical effect on Gino, it rather less obviously also explains why he raps with American inflections.
“When I arrived here it was like, ‘I don’t talk the same, I don’t look the same, I don’t have much family here.’ So I guess that really I didn’t know who I was. When I rap and I have an American accent its because that’s who I was listening to when I got here – and that’s the closest thing to home because I listened to it in Cape Town.”
His musical beginnings come from a cousin who he asked to show him how to make beats, using FruityLoops. His older brother who was rapping also sparked something for him, buying his first computer for him at age 17. Starting out by taking music from YouTube he realised he needed to make his own beats instead. He also credits his music teacher at Rutherford College in Te Atatu for giving him support to make music.
“Music teachers need to get more shine. My music teacher gave me the confidence to actually do music. They need to be paid more if it wasn’t for that music teacher I wouldn’t be here.”
With respect to his obvious rap influence, he says he doesn’t want to be defined by one genre. Nina Simone and American three-piece psychedelia, classical soul, RnB group Khruangbin are some of the eclectic artists he is listening to at the moment. Film scores also feature on his playlist as a source of samples from, as witnessed in his song Memories.
“I listen to everything, and hip hop, but also everything that hip hop samples. It’s not some of the stuff that I would listen to on a daily basis, but it’s become so part of my life now that I just do.
“I don’t think I sound like a lot of artists out there and I don’t want to be put in a box but I listen to a lot of Jay Z, Nas, Q Tip, J Cole. I love NZ music, Che Fu is dope. I’ve been listening to some weird shit though, so in future, you might hear some of it!”
He put out his first EP, entitled ‘The Conflict’, in 2016.
“It was my first go at making a project and putting something out there. I was so psyched that I did that and it was so cool to be like, I’m on Spotify! Then I listened to it over and over again and realised I could do so much better.”
Released in July 2018, his latest 6-track EP ‘Expansion’ shows real musical growth, and has found its way onto the popular Spotify playlist A1 Hip Hop – twice. The first single, Smoke, has a powerful message about success and actually making it, despite the haters, or as he puts it, “…smoking the competition.” But it’s in a realistic way that resonates with you as a listener. It’s also produced in a way that is equal parts poppy, RnB and rap.
“I had been storing all this music on my Mac and I felt like I got better and better but didn’t release anything. Then one day I started listening to everything I had done and it became like a realisation I had grown so much, that’s where the name ‘Expansion’ came from.”
As part of his expansion and growth, Gino began collaborating with other producers, namely Dozey Doe who produced the tracks Energy and Confidence. Probably the purest rap track on the EP, Energy is a highlight. He also performs live with a collective called Little Village, which includes rappers Beau Jefferies and Kloos.
“It’s the start of new things and good things. I’ve got management now because of it. They reached out to me and someone believed in me enough to support my music and I can focus on just music now. I don’t know everything else, I know music.”
He nominates Gunshots as a standout track on the new EP. With a South African house influence, the song is about his cousin who was shot there, after Gino and his family had left. It coincided with the period that America’s Black Lives Matter movement was swinging into action.
“He was shot and killed by the police in South Africa when I was 20. We got this call about it and we went over for the funeral. It was one of those things where I live all the way over in NZ, and my family is all over in South Africa, and you don’t see them for a long period of time. It was really traumatic. When I got back I had this energy and I needed to get into the studio. It was the same time as Black Lives Matter and it was like, ‘Woah, they really are trying to kill us.’”
While unnecessary deaths of that sort are fortunately not part of his new home, they clearly are part of Gino October’s life experience and part of what will drive him towards success.
“I need to keep working, carve my own way. I don’t know what it is yet but I’m going to call it a project for now but it’s only the start. I just learnt how to walk so there’s a lot more that’s going to take place.”