ADRIAN DZVUKE & POW! NEGRO The Bad Like Ri Ri interview

When it comes to embracing their roots, Adrian Dzvuke and POW! Negro (now the pseudonym for Nelson Mondlane of SUPEREGO) are perfect examples. In light of their recent collaboration on Bad Like Ri Ri, the two took to digging into some trusty Nandos and discussed everything from their creative license, their African culture and how their pursuits in music tie into it. Here, with RACHEL YEO filling in the gaps, we get an insight into that conversation – as well as a YouTube clip from the day, below. Adrian Dzvuke has just been announced on a stacked In the Pines line up for 2020.

Adrian: So Bad Like Ri Ri is finally out! Super privileged to have you on the track man, thanks for jumping on board. How are you feeling?

Nelson: Pleasure bro. I can’t believe everyone is reacting the way they are. Been lots of love, I’ve never done afrobeat or pop-like vibes… it’s always good to try different things out.

Adrian: I know, I’m overwhelmed by the support for this track. You know, when you make something that you genuinely enjoy and other people do too, it’s the best feeling of all.

Nelson: Yeah, it’s easy for a lot of musicians to get caught up in thoughts like “What am I going to write?” or “What am I going to say?” It’s super important for everyone to be reminded that they should be having fun and being themselves. That’s how great artists get noticed in the first place.

Adrian: Absolutely – and that’s why I’m proud as it’s not a conventional track to come out of the Perth music scene.

In fact, the track is the first taste of new music in 2020 from Adrian, who’s enjoyed plenty of love over a massive year performing all throughout WA. With hip-swaying basslines, playful lyricism and thoughtful verses from SUPEREGO’s Nelson Mondlane, Bad Like Ri Ri is the perfect summer soundtrack – the kind you turn up the volume for in the car…

Nelson: You know, love songs are very objectifying – and with this song, I wanted to write about a strong, beautiful woman empowering me through her own sense of self. It just gave me so much inspiration to get past your fears and set your mind to working towards where you want to be.

Adrian: In making the comparisons to Rihanna as well, the song is very much about breaking the rules and being unashamedly yourself. That’s what the main chorus line is about; she’s doing it for herself and empowering others in the process.

Nelson: Agreed. With all the love so far, it just goes to show that people will listen! As a rapper, you’re not expected to rap about real love or things like that, but I felt the need to break out of that mould. Plus, it’s been great to bring it back to our roots with the afro influences in the track. Putting your heritage out there is so crucial.

Born in Zimbabwe, Adrian moved to Australia at the age of 12 where – in the finest R&B tradition – he began his music career singing and playing drums in church. Fast forward a few years, and inspired by the likes of Drake, Wizkid and Childish Gambino, Adrian started to write and produce his own tracks. A natural and energetic performer, the next move was to form a band with a couple of friends from Zimbabwe and make in-roads into the live scene. Within months, he was hitting big stages such as Groovin the Moo as well as supporting the likes of POND, Stella Donnelly and Winston Surfshirt…

Adrian: That’s exactly why I wanted you on this track, man. You’re organic and authentic, and always pushing the boundaries. As for culture, I’m feeling very in touch with it all. For example – we’re now sitting in a Nandos, there are all these decorative walls and paintings. Best bit is we’re having this great opportunity to be here and just celebrate. Can’t go wrong with that extra hot Peri Peri sauce!

Nelson: For sure! Thanks man. In terms of being creative, I think that’s the only way we’re going to preserve culture. Our art creates a discussion about our experiences of living in Australia while still having that connection to Africa. We get the chance to talk about where we’re from, who we are, and where we want to go.

Adrian: True. What’s been really cool is to see a lot of young people in Australia starting to explore their parents’ culture, do some research and even head back home to check it all out. There’s so much positivity and the perception of African culture is changing, and bringing everyone together even more. It’s amazing to see afro-music taking off and being enjoyed around the world – even in places like where we are now, in a Nandos store in Australia.

Nelson: Exactly. Well you know, even all the spices Nandos uses are African. The Portugese acknowledge the influence of Africa on their food, but a lot of places borrow from African culture without doing so. It’s important that people are aware of where things come from to appreciate them better.

Adrian: The world is so global now, especially being 2020. I’m excited to put out my sound and just share what I’ve been working on. Have you got any new music coming up?

It was years ago that SUPEREGO (formerly POW! Negro, prior to Mondlane taking it on as a solo moniker) first emerged and unleashed their breakthrough EP, Jasmine & Licorice, which saw the collective of musicians quickly rise to fame. Having played at festivals such as Southbound, BIGSOUND, Perth Festival, Fairbridge Festival and Groovin The Moo, SUPEREGO has always remained one to watch with their experimental jazz/hip hop and truly vigorous sets. Following their previous single Last Tango, fans will be treated to more new music to come…

Nelson: This year, we’ve got SUPEREGO releasing our next EP, and our next single with Sampa The Great. My other group, Myriad Sun, will hopefully be putting out a track and EP at some point. Keen to do more art, more features and more film.

Adrian: Bro, you do everything!

Nelson: I do as much as I can because I think all the different art forms feed back into themselves. You get a different perspective; if I just did music, I would run out of creative steam. Putting your energy into something different just facilitates a whole new world as an artist to keep you going. 

Adrian: Yeah, as an artist, it’s almost impossible to separate music from art or visuals. Even when I was creating Bad Like Ri Ri, I’d already set my mind on the concept and direction of it all. Like with the Nigerian artist Burna Boy – he’s created this whole world in his music and everything around him just interlinks. I can’t wait till I put stuff out like that as well. 

Nelson: He’s great! Even more great music is going to come are from smashing genres together, and artists are already blurring those lines now. Of course, you don’t want to appropriate things but have a license to take inspiration from others. Even like working with you – finding people on the same level can be hard, but you just have to put yourself out there. 

Adrian: It’s impossible for an artist to be put in a box as well, since we’re mostly confined to a genre.

Nelson: Absolutely. And as soon as you start to generalise, you have prejudices on what a song would sound like. Our track is so much more… and it all begins with listening.