Exclusive: Scribe on enjoying his prison time, fighting addiction and starting over

He's an articulate lyricist who seemed to connect with the minds of a nation's young people with his realist attitude and catchy mantras - but with fame came hard times for rapper Scribe.

The 39-year-old turned to alcohol and drugs not long after finding himself in the limelight, before eventuating down a destructive path which saw his career and personal life falter.

In his first interview since being released from prison, the Christchurch-born hip-hop artist says he's learning from his downfall and is determined to get better.

"The last couple years of my life have been the worst," Scribe tells Newshub.

"I was depressed and at my lowest point, I was suicidal. To be honest, I never thought I'd get through it.

"For the short term, I'm focused on not slipping into my old life of hating and loathing myself and self-medicating with drugs."

In his first interview since his release from prison, Scribe is opening up about his recent struggles.
In his first interview since his release from prison, Scribe is opening up about his recent struggles. Photo credit: Jared Donkin / Rhythm and Vines

At the end of the month, Scribe will return to the same venue he was arrested at in August, 2018 - in front of fans - after breaking curfew rules to headline a show at the Motueka Hotel.

He says he had already committed to the gig before the curfew was imposed and felt an obligation to do right by the promoters  a husband and wife who left Christchurch after the earthquake in 2011.

"It costs a lot of money to put an event on and more than that, the venue owner's reputation could be ruined," says Scribe.

"Even though I wasn't allowed to go, I knew I had to. It meant me going to jail, but it was a risk I was prepared to take."

The rapper, real name Malo Luafutu, never made it onstage. Instead, he spent two months in jail for breaching the curfew before entering a drug rehabilitation programme.

The chart-topping 'Not Many' hitmaker says his stint behind bars gave him a lot of time to assess and re-evaluate what matters most in his life.

In the year's after dropping his debut album, the Christchurch-born songwriter's personal life took a hit.
In the year's after dropping his debut album, the Christchurch-born songwriter's personal life took a hit. Photo credit: Scribe.

He wants to get back to influencing others positively and that being locked up ultimately helped him, creatively.

"As an artist, that's what makes me feel fulfilled and why I enjoyed being in jail," he says.

"What better place to inspire and reflect light than in the darkest place we have."

While drawing motivation from his fans and supporters, he knows he's going to have some doubters and haters, too.

"They help me get up in the morning - but my fans are the ones keeping me on track."

The father-of-four is currently working on new music, in which he's deeply exploring his personal struggles. He hopes for redemption and that his story might help stop others from making the same mistakes.

"I guess that's why artists are so self-torturing because it's in that uncomfortable space we create our best work and I'm the same," he says.

"I need to feel the pain; I need to experience what my audience feels to connect with them and liberate them from their situations with understanding and empathy, and to let them know they are not alone."

The 'Not Many' hitmaker pictured with Lupe Fiasco and Wyclef Jean who he toured with across Australasia.
The 'Not Many' hitmaker pictured with Lupe Fiasco and Wyclef Jean who he toured with across Australasia. Photo credit: Scribe.

He knows where hard work and dedication can take him, boasting a number of achievements including being the first New Zealand artist to have a number one single and number one album simultaneously.

His new work, he explains, is important - because he has something powerful to say.

"I'm not just rhyming words together or following what's popular - I'm creating from a real place."

That place depicts the domino effect taken on rapper's personal life after abusing substances and developing an addiction to gambling within a couple of years of his catapult into the spotlight. 

Although he failed School Certificate music, he knew that he would be a musician one day and was drawn to music by its ability to teach, console and support.

"I come from an era where there was only two TV channels," he says.

"No YouTube, no Netflix, music was the only way to learn about life. We lived vicariously through the music."

He dropped The Crusader in 2003. The album featured hits including 'Stand Up' -  which broke the record for the longest running number one and still holds it - and 'Dreaming'.

After the success of his album, Scribe was extremely busy touring in Australia and trips to England, living the rockstar lifestyle without the luxury.
After the success of his album, Scribe was extremely busy touring in Australia and trips to England, living the rockstar lifestyle without the luxury. Photo credit: Scribe.

The debut offering reached gold within hours of release before going 5x platinum in New Zealand, as well as platinum in Australia.

But in the years that followed, he started using drugs again after previously kicking a habit he developed at 14 years old, and suffered disappointing sales with his second album, 2007's Rhyme Book.

He was arrested in 2011 for disorder and has since been in and out of trouble with the law for various offences. 

Scribe opened up about his ongoing highs and lows with his brother and father in their play, The White Guitar, which premiered in 2015. It was co-written by Scribe, who was a recipient of the APRA Silver Scroll - the top New Zealand songwriting honour.

The play delves into the Luafutu's transition from Samoa to New Zealand and subsequent journey.

"Issues which The White Guitar had raised for me, I'd had bottled up for a long time and now to be on the other side of that, I'm glad I stuck around, because I'm so much stronger and wiser than before."

The show sold out each event around the country and won Excellence in Production at the Theatre Awards.

Scribe is not taking for granted the chance to return to the stage this time around. It's a privilege, he understands, to share his creativity and passion with the people who have followed his journey from the start.

The rapper is hoping to work on some of his ambitions away from music, including projects with cousin Oscar Kightley (pictured).
The rapper is hoping to work on some of his ambitions away from music, including projects with cousin Oscar Kightley (pictured). Photo credit: Scribe.

"The fans that come to my shows are the 20 to 30-year-olds, who were 7 or 8 when I first came out and my music holds childhood memories for them," he says.

"They now get to come to a live show because they're of age."

He's moved hearing their stories from new fans of how they connect with his music, and is looking forward to performing on January 26 in Motueka after teasing a comeback with a surprise performance at Bay Dreams earlier this month.

"The audience can expect a great live rap show from one of the best to do it. They can expect all their favourite Scribe songs and some new ones, too," he says.

"It's always a sing-along at my shows and a guaranteed laugh." 

At a later date, Scribe says he'll speak more in-depth about how he spiralled into drug addiction. Now, he's exploring other creative ventures as he attempts a fresh start.

"I know I'm fortunate to do what I love as a profession, I worked hard and sacrificed a lot."

More determined than ever to achieve his "lofty dreams" - which include storyboarding movies with cousin Oscar Kightley, as well as some "major plans" in the works - Scribe aims to inspire others to see their own ambitions become realities. And he'll continue to fight - like a crusader. 

Newshub.

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