PROFILE: TURQUOISE PRINCE - YOUR NEW FAVOURITE RAPPER
Meet Turquoise Prince, the flamboyant rapper and singer from the south side of Canberra, also known as LTC or Lolesio The Courageous. The latter alter ego he created as a kind of survival technique after being sent to Tonga as punishment for nearly burning down his high school. “I lit my science test on fire, because I was just one of them kids, always burning shit.”
“I’d be writing songs [in Tonga], and doing hundreds of push-ups and shit. Like yeah man, I’ve got to be hectic, I’ve gotta be a beast! I’ve got to be courageous! And then just go to school, thinking, is anyone going to test me today?” That hardness is countered though with a natural rock-star swagger and unabashed femininity.
“The balance between femininity and masculinity is huge. That’s why I have two personas. It’s LTC which is the Hip Hop alter ego, and that’s the masculine persona. And Turquoise Prince is the feminine persona. The balance.”
Freddie Mercury is his idol. He still listens to Bohemian Rhapsody just walking to the shops, and imagines what it would have been like watching him perform live, “…how wild he would have looked for people that had never seen someone that flamboyant, and that confident. I just love it. Nowadays, who have we got in Hip Hop...that are comfortable being feminine, you know what I mean? People look at it and are uncomfortable, and I reckon it’s time for them to fuckin’ grow.’
Lolesio is currently posted up in Canberra in between touring, and while there is a lot affection for the south side of his hometown, it's a place he expects people associate more with food shops, like Kingsleys, than a music scene.
“Even now when I’m in Canberra, I dress super different. Not on purpose, but just like, I look weird in Canberra. I feel weird in Canberra, but I love it. Maybe it’s just cos, it’s pretty simple here. I want to not be a simple dude, I guess.”
To illustrate how funny the scene in Canberra is, he recalls a rap beef he had with a dude when he was 14. The guy came to his school, with a carload of people, to fight him. It’s a comical story, with Lolesio ripping his shirt off, using his boxing training to jump around his nemesis who happened to have a broken arm and full cast on, still swinging at him. A school fight, over a rap battle.
“That’s nearly 10 years ago and people still come up to me and go, ‘Bro, you beat him in the battle, and in the fight!’ I’m like man, you’re bringing up shit that’s a long time ago bro.”
So, he says, Sydney is where he goes, “to be me, really.” He feels comfortable, especially around producer Adit’s neighbourhood, “I’m always staying at Adit’s house. And it’s just like, it definitely feels like another home.” Adit is one half of Ozzie hip hop duo Horrorshow, who Turquoise Prince recently opened for across Australia, alongside kiwi rapper David Dallas.
The Horrorshow tour opened his eyes up to what’s possible, it refocussed him and calmed some lingering doubts about the direction he wants to go in.
“I actually had a mad chat with D dot at the Enmore show, because when I started, or when I signed and shit, people didn’t want me to rap. The people who were in charge were like, we want you to sing, we want to market you like that, like a singer so that you appeal overseas and Europe and the States and shit. And I was just like, nah, I hate that. I don’t always feel like singing. I don’t always feel like spitting bars, it’s just gotta be that balance.”
“It was mad just talking to D dot, cos he was like, ‘Bro. Do you. Do what you’re doing.’ I know it sounds dramatic and shit, but we were in that little dressing room where he was like, ‘Bro, I’ve never met a flamboyant Tongan rapper bro. Do it, you appeal bro.’ The tour just sort of shaped my whole journey, I guess. The tour was just a huge revelation, reassurance. It was the best. Now I know, that I’ve just got to do this. The whole gut feeling shit, not to change.”
If the tour has been an important experience to his development as an artist, then being schooled in Tonga for almost two years is another significant event that aided in him getting to where he is now. His suspension from high school in Australia coming after he threw that burning science test out the window and into dry bushland to evade a narking classmate. Teachers rushed out with buckets of water, the fire department was called, and his Dad picked him up from school and threatened to send him to the islands. "Yeah? Do it!" Lolesio responded.
“Tonga was crazy, it was life-changing man. The cultural experience, it’s a huge wake-up call. One meal a day, eating bread and tea for breakfast and dinner and shit. It’s wild, the whole alpha male culture is still super strong. There’s a lot of things I don’t agree with over there, and a lot of things I do, like I respect.” There was still corporal punishment in school, “I got smacked heaps, I liked it … I would purposely not bring my homework to school so my teacher could smack my legs with the ruler cos it was funny as. Because it was mad, I was like, ‘I’ve never been smacked by a teacher before. This is wild.'”
And the daily threat of being challenged, “Everyone thought I was rich. People were trying to take my sandals, people would steal my books and shit, take my pen off me. There’s a lot of primitive behaviour. If someone takes your pen, you’ve gotta punch on with them.” It’s easy to see why the LTC persona was created in that environment, “I was writing raps every day in this shit little book. I’d be writing, ‘Lolesio The Courageous, that’s my name.’ I just had these mad rhymes.”
"It probably took until footy season for them to love me. I made the First XV and shit. Half the kids on the team don’t even have boots. They’re running out there smashing dudes, playing bare feet, at the top level, on the maddest field in Tonga."
“It’s a hectic lifestyle. It’s so relaxing but at the same time it’s tough as fuck. The amount of discipline that you get, I came back a different dude.”
“People don’t need to know that I went and schooled in a crazy arse place, but I know. And I know not to be the dude I used to be. I know not to walk around and be a troublemaker, and disrespect everyone. With music, I can just put all that energy into the music, without having to be controversial, without having to be a troublemaker. But then again, I don’t mind putting that in my music.”
The last couple of years, he’s been taking the time to become comfortable with himself, finding his sound, and finding how he wants to be heard and perceived. More careful, more considered, more confident in his approach to songwriting, and more constant.
His single, Like Your Friends, is a showcase of his talents, his singing and ability to write a catchy hook and his clever, mischievous rhymes. It’s fun but astute.
“That was the first song I ever wrote with Adit, that was the first song he ever sent me. I was like, ‘I’m gonna impress this dude, I’m gonna write a mad song to this!’ And then the hook, I had that concept when I was dating this girl back in the day. I’m like, ‘I’ve never liked your friends. And YOU don’t even like your friends. ‘It was sick. It just fit so perfectly. It just worked. It’s good when it’s like that.” And, of the many songs he sends to his crew, Like Your Friends is the one that stood out to them.
“I walked into my barbershop, back when one of my best friends used to cut my hair, and they’re all playing it in the barbershop and dancing and shit. I was like, ‘Bro, this is my shit!’ They’re like ‘Bro, it’s so hectic!’ They know all my music, I was sending them heaps of songs, but that was the one. They all memorised it straight away.”
In October, Turquoise Prince heads off on tour again with another Ozzie duo, BOO SEEKA, and has plans to drop his EP in February. “I’m trying to appeal to more than just an Australian crowd. I guess I’m just trying to have a different sound, like an opposite sound, that will appeal to overseas and shit.”
“I’m tryna hit the New Zealand scene man, I’m tryna hit that market. I’ve got family in Ōtara.”