Rapper Tom Francis is the first independent artist in the Southern Hemisphere to release a collaboration with California rap doggfather Snoop Dogg.
New Snoop Dogg single 'Lifestyle', featuring kiwi rapper Tom Francis has been a year in the making. Tom, a Hawkes Bay native, says working with Snoop, a hip hop icon, has been an amazing experience.
“It is a bit surreal when you think about it. But at the end of the day, I’m just here to make the best music I can.”
Tom was introduced to Snoop Dogg by LA producer KJ Conteh. While it would have been easy to be blown away by the 'Gin and Juice' and 'Drop It Like It’s Hot' rapper, Tom didn’t have time.
He was on a plane at LAX about to “switch on the flight mode button” when he got the phone call from Conteh to “link up with Snoop”.
The next few hours were a surreal trans-Pacific scramble. Tom, who'd been en route to NZ when he received the call, arrived in Hawkes Bay, where he had to quickly split and sell 30 cords of firewood in order to afford a plane ticket back to LA.
“I was back up in Auckland ten o’clock that night leaving [for LA] at eleven that night.”
The Napier born and raised Ngāti Kahungungu rapper credits his family for his drive.
“I got inspiration from seeing how hard my family work. All my family through the line. My grandparents slaved so hard, they ran an orchard and they worked so hard to not really get a lot.”
While he built up his hip hop career, Tom chopped wood to fund his dreams. Growing up in Hawkes Bay he has had to "battle with the reality that things like this [being a successful rapper] aren’t really realistic.”
“Becoming a hip hop artist it’s not a real job to them. Whereas in LA it’s a very real job and very real career path.”
He now splits his time between Aotearoa and California, and finds that his comparatively unconventional path to the recording studio has prepared him well.
“I feel because I did firewood ... [it] really grounded me as a person."
“I did that stuff that was not just physically hard, it was also mentally hard. Constantly working in real bad weather, and machines breaking down."
Whereas in the recording studio “we might lose files for a song - the whole computer shuts down and fully munches itself - well they’re all freaking out."
After firewood, computer meltdowns are “nothing” to Tom.
“I don’t really look at it as a problem.”
His time in Los Angeles has also given the young rapper a chance to share his whirlwind life with friends who have seldom left Hawkes Bay or “never been on a plane or a flight.”
“I just love to see other people win just as much as myself or anyone on my team.”
“A lot of people told me this wasn’t going to be realistic, but what’s realistic? For example, what’s realistic to Snoop Dogg and what’s realistic to one of my old school teachers? It’s a completely different thing.”
Tom's approach to the music industry and rap game is decidedly different. Within three years the young artist has released two albums and is set to drop more material in the coming year.
“We’ve done more in three years than most record labels have done for their artists in three years.”
“We’re not with a major label and we don’t plan to sign with a major label. We’re just going to take it over without a major label because of the power of the internet and the power of everything that we have.”
'Lifestyle' is out now on Spotify and AppleMusic