Chaii is the next female rapper about to make it big

Words by Indah Dwyer

Everyone, meet Chaii.

If you’ve heard of Persian-Kiwi rapper Chaii, congratulations. Years from now, you can share an anecdote about how you discovered her when she was ‘underground’.

But for the rest of us who aren’t as onto the new music front, let me be your guide.

Chaii is a self-made musician, producer and audio engineer. Her unapologetic global dance beats are influenced by Iranian drum patterns and combined with unfiltered, fast Western flows.

Already, Chaii has given a voice to the overwhelming underground music community in Iran and in the process, has reclaimed her culture.

Three years after moving from Iran to New Zealand, 11-year-old Chaii first started writing music. Rap music served early on as an escape, as well as an education. “I would rap Eminem, which pretty much taught me how to speak English. I didn’t know what  I was rapping about, it was bad,” she laughs. “But because children really retain knowledge, it worked.”

Chaii re-discovered her cultural background as she got older and it soon began influencing her practice, to create a fusion within her music.

“I listened to a lot of traditional Iranian music when I was little, and went through spikes where I would listen to Iranian music between fully just listening to Western music. This is a result of the mix of the two,” she explains.

She pays homage to this duality in the video for her new single, ‘South’, filmed in Oman, where Chaii was born.

“There is a huge rap scene in Iran, but it’s not legal for female solo rap artists, which is tricky because there is a lot of underground rap there,” she explains.

It is perhaps how ‘South’ manages to be both shallow and deep.

Filled with memorable spicy lines like Me skinny but my rhymes so fatty” – a nod to people who expected her to look different based on her sound – the track is a thick anthem for self-made queens everywhere.

Although it brushes on deeper social dictates, like how a woman should dress and sound, Chaii wants the message to be indirect and lighthearted.

“It is just about people supporting you, and then not supporting you. Really, in the essence of it, it was a really fun track and I was freestyling most of it,” she says.

The duality and freestyle nature of Chaii’s sound also extends to her dress sense.

“My style varies between sporty Western and Iranian influences,” she explains. “Mostly it is inspired by modern Persian paintings.”

Working with her stylist Brooke Tyson, Chaii conjured a kaleidoscope of style choices that match her unstoppable attitude both on- and off-screen.

Yet Chaii admits she’s also quite an introvert, using music to reflect and note her emotions.

“There are times when I am writing and it is more therapeutic. Sometimes, I am writing just to get my emotions out. It’s like my diary,” she says.

Chaii has now created music that is closer to how she feels as a woman and artist than ever before.

“It took a little time to find my sound, simply because I didn’t want to push anything,” she says. “But when it came, there was no stopping it.”


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