A coincidence of course, but the May release of Sauce40’s ‘introductory single’ Active fits rather perfectly into the NZ Music Month 2022 theme of Level Up. Sauce40 may be a new name on the Kiwi hip hop scene, but the artist previously known as Y3K$ arrives with the express intention of taking things to a new level; for himself, his team, and for other Kiwi rappers who might also see their future as being bigger than the confines of marketing and success within Aotearoa. And having moved from Huntly to Auckland recently himself, he knows a few things about stepping up – check out the video to get a better idea. NZM spoke with the artist introducing not just himself, but ambitious new Auckland creative hub None Entertainment. Things kicked off with an ice-breaker…
[After some convulsive laughter.] I haven’t thought about this, I’m more used to staying at my aunty’s house or something! I don’t know how that feels yet, so I wouldn’t want to say, y’know? I guess I’d check in as Ibyss [Edmonds], which is my name!
Most definitely. There was one rap group in particular called Low Key. I was watching them and how they got out there with their music. Personally, I was never very good at sports, or academically, so I latched onto music pretty quick cos it helped me get credits with English and stuff.
Later on, my music teacher told me that I could make money with my music, from shows and streams and all this. He talked me through all the APRA rights, and things like that really inspired me to take it seriously.
For a while there we really focused on trying to get the community aware of the musical capabilities of the kids in Huntly. For the whole time I was in Huntly College I helped with fundraiser shows towards getting a music studio in the music department. That was the first studio I was ever involved with. There’s definitely a big culture there now, and I hope there’ll be more artists coming out of Huntly in the future.
I made that up when I was 14 or 15. It started from YC, which was a nickname we all kind of used. It comes from an Adidas brand I liked, a high-end designer called Yohji Yamamoto. So from 14 to about 20 I was known as that. [Then] I was an underground artist trying to take it from music classes in school to doing shows in bars and clubs and stuff – and even trying to get more interviews! Then I ended up meeting the right people and got signed to None Entertainment.
That really is one person, my manager Ho Lee. He found me at one of my earliest shows, it was my first headline show I’d done for myself, in Hamilton. We sold that out too! Afterwards, we had conversations for about a year, and halfway through that, he talked to me about wanting to start a label, and how he was talking to investors about it. Those investors are now the ones behind None Entertainment – and they wanted to line me up as the first artist on their roster!
For me to take that step from a small town like Huntly (with a population of like 6000 people), to trying to take it to the next level in Auckland was a scary, scary step! It took a whole year to be convinced to come up here, and now we’ve got the music out and it’s all looking pretty exciting!
It was more a label decision that I needed a new identity. I felt like Sauce40 suited what I want to portray, like look like in the future, and I think it sat with me as a creative artist and as a person to be able to brand that later on.
Some of it was label related, and part is from my own background. The 40 comes from a group of my best friends. We had 40-87 as a random number that we kind of stuck to with our little crew in Huntly, and we’ve just been good mates ever since. I’ve got some tattoos from it! Just to show our friendship or whatever!
I think it was more like a new feeling. In some ways it was sad, but I felt ready for it. I needed a new achievement to accomplish. I felt like I had finished everything I could with this name, taken it as far as I could have, and now I’m ready to start a new brand and see how far I can push these boundaries. It’s time to raise that to a new standard.
Ummm. It’s more to my liking of music. I guess there’s an NZ standard here that is what people believe is our sound, what NZ hip hop sounds like. I want to test that and show the rest of the world, as well that as our country, that there is more organic stuff coming out of NZ than what has been accepted as being from here.
So my rap style is more along the lines of that American style, but still keeping my story and accent, and my interests in my music. Because I’m a Maori kid and from humble beginnings – but I also want more. And I want my people to have more, and to strive for more. We have to take the initiative and get out there and take it forward. I want to elevate the NZ sound and compete with the rest of the world rather than just compete with others in NZ rap.
‘Sauce’ sort of relates to the slick drip, the style, and how I hold myself. How a role model in NZ rap should look like as inspiration. I want people to hustle with their own business in order to get out of the hood. I think this is maybe how I can have an effect and help others.
I kind of got inspired by this American rapper called Sauce Walka. There are similarities there, but how he holds himself as a businessman and as a hustler I see as an inspiration. You can turn your music from words and sounds to money, and opportunities for people around you as well! I’m ready for that. We’re ready for that.
That song is almost two years old now. At the time I was wanting to do something that was new and my best, under this new brand. I felt that under Y3K$ I was stuck with doing a certain sound, but with this new name I could try all these new things. When I was writing Active it felt like the time to let people know who I am and the aspirations I have, where I want to take things, how far I want to go.
Active took me a long while to complete. I was shown the beat two years ago and my manager really wanted me to use it, but I had nothing that I had to fit that at the time. Later on, I did some collab sessions with local rappers, and when I came to this beat somehow Active just come out! I said the first bar and it was history from then! From that point on the writing process was just a few days.
There was a whole bunch of songs considered for the lead single, but I think Active is the one that spoke to all of us in the team as a statement and one that is going to pop first. As well the sound is new. Everybody is on their drill stuff, or RnB-ish, there’s no one really trying to run the ball and get promoted onto a mainstream platform. Build some confidence. I think there is more good music out there, but no one is really promoting it because of this shell that NZ puts around us.
No, but I think it was a good peek into my head to how I am looking at myself, and where I want to go. That last scene is to signify that it was all in my head, the dream that I have for the future. I’ve never been around anything like that before…
When it comes to the extravagance of all of it I did put in a few ideas, like wanting to be in a nice car. But it was all my team, None Entertainment and 24KMedia, with my manager, HalfOfNothing and stylist Blue – they all just ran with an idea that, especially here in NZ, we might only see in our imagination or on YouTube.
It was a three-day shoot, in July 2021 I think. A full-on week but it was fun! I’m like a fan when I get to watch the video clips! I still can’t believe how good that all come out, it’s amazing!
[There’s laughter as he figures just what to say.] Hop out the whip – that’s me. As soon as you’re out of the car I’m there, I’m ready. I’m first on scene and ready to host everybody.
The mattress line is about if anyone is going to get harsh on me… that’s more for the theatrics. It’s a read-between-the-lines sort of message, but I’m having fun with it. And it’s easy to say! If they want smoke – that’s sort of the same theatrics. Trying to be a little show off y’know!
Haters talk’n but ain’t nothin’ happen – I have been trying to do this for the last years and now with that Active video clip I’m getting the most adversity I’ve ever had! I guess I sort of wrote into the future, but it’s all part of the game. And I’m here to entertain, so…