Queen's Birthday Honours: Ladi6 'didn't expect' to become MNZM for her 20-year musical career

Recording artist Ladi6 has been named a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit (MNZM) for her services to music - an honour the 'Like Water' hitmaker is eager to celebrate. 

Ladi6 - real name Karoline Tamati - is still reeling from the "happy surprise", which was officially announced in the Queen's Birthday Honours on Monday morning.

"I was actually quite shocked. I didn't expect it - it really, honestly felt like it came out of the blue. I thought it was something for someone who did something really significant - more than what I do. I was happily surprised," she told Newshub.

The 38-year-old, who was born and raised in Christchurch, has enjoyed an illustrious career spanning more than two decades. With her smoky vocals and soulful blend of hip-hop, R&B and reggae influences, Ladi6 has been dubbed as New Zealand's answer to Erykah Badu, with three studio albums - released in 2008, 2010 and 2013 respectively - under her belt. 

Over her 20-year career, the hip-hop artist has received widespread recognition for her work, scooping up a number of New Zealand Music Awards and touring internationally.

After several years out of the spotlight due to bereavement and ill-health, Ladi6 returned to the summer festival circuit this year and currently appears as a panellist on Three's The Masked Singer NZ.

Speaking to Newshub, Ladi6 said it's difficult to articulate her most notable achievements, but acknowledged her ability to carve a progressive pathway as a Pacific artist was a particular point of pride.

"I think I'm really proud of how dedicated I've stayed in the music industry, producing music I truly believe in - I've never really followed any trends," she said. 

"I think I'm really proud that it hasn't been a smooth ride, or like a straight, upward-ascending trajectory in any sense. I think staying dedicated to the craft is what I'm most proud of after 20 years."

She also referenced the help of her husband and frequent collaborator, Brent Parks - a.k.a Parks -  who she married in 2015 after a 12-year partnership.

"Artists come and go, and I think I feel quite proud that Parks and I have maintained [an] honest, genuine progression of our music."

Ladi6 said she was particularly astounded by the lengthy and top-secret nomination process it takes to become a candidate for the New Zealand Order of Merit.

"I think the most special thing about getting this is realising how you actually get it - you're nominated by somebody, under full secrecy, who's in your community. They have to fill out an application and get referees… and then they get followed up, then you get recommended, and it goes for approval," she said. 

"For me, that was the most incredible thing to know - that someone out there really wanted to see me get this honour. I feel quite overwhelmed and quite proud that my community does feel I am a person to look up to… I feel so much appreciation and gratitude for being seen in that light."

Ladi6 is now looking forward to celebrating the significant milestone.

"I think I'll throw myself a big dinner and a big party with my close family and friends to celebrate it… I'll be going big, for sure." 

Takutai Kemp was also among the newest Officers of the New Zealand Order of Merit (ONZM)​, for services to street dance and youth, while Teremoana Rapley, a television presenter and member of the hip-hop group Upper Hutt Posse, was made a MNZM for services to TV and music.