Savage vows to use artist status to raise awareness around mental health following devastating loss

South Auckland-born Samoan rapper Savage became New Zealand's undisputed King of Hip-Hop after his hits went global, with rap classic 'Swing' achieving platinum status in the United States - but his latest song is turning heads for a different reason.

The 38-year-old 'Freaks' hitmaker joined The Project on Thursday to talk candidly about the devastating loss that inspired his deeply personal new track, 'Reach Out'.

"Last year, my niece lost her battle with mental illness... it really devastated our family. We'd just come back from a massive family reunion in Samoa, and that news hitting us really devastated us, my kids, their cousins... it really affected everyone," he shared. 

"Towards the end of last year, at the beginning of this year, I really started to question myself as an artist... whether there is something I can do to help, to bring more awareness to mental health and suicide. 

"The song is very close to me... it's probably the most meaningful song I've ever put together. Everyone knows me as the life of the party, bringing the bangers out. This is more to home."

The hip-hop heavyweight has grown to view his musical talent as a way of giving back to his community.

"I feel like music is something I've been blessed with as a tool to bring back to my community. I guess starting this ['Reach Out'] is like the first stepping stone," he told The Project.

"I called up my cousin... it was his daughter who passed away. I told him what I was planning to do, just to get his blessing. Pretty much just to share his story, and make sure the loss of my niece, her life, didn't go in vain.

"It's a matter of me putting myself out there too... it's definitely a hard topic to talk about."

Despite the ever-growing discourse surrounding mental illness, Savage said the topic for 'Reach Out' made it difficult to find willing collaborators. He ultimately found a local producer who has hit the big time, working alongside the likes of Ariana Grande and Ella Mai.

"I reached out to a lot of top-tier musicians, songwriters and singers... but I know how raw this topic is. I don't hold it against them for not getting back to me, or saying it's not something they can see themselves doing at the moment," he explained. 

"I was able to bring in a producer, a Samoan kid from Otara, who's been working with Ariana Grande, Ella Mai and some of the biggest artists out there."

"You don't know what everyone's going through, that's something I can respect."

'Reach Out' is available next Friday.


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