2023 Arts Foundation Te Tumu Toi Laureate receiving the Theresa Gattung Female Arts Practitioners Award
As a vocalist, MC and truth-teller, the consistent evolution of Ladi6 has firmly cemented her as New Zealand’s undisputed Queen of Hip-hop/Soul and R&B. Taking shape in different forms over the years, Ladi6 today is the group project of vocalist Ladi and a trio of accomplished Kiwi producers; her husband Parks, drummer Julien Dyne and keyboardist Brandon Haru – three of New Zealand’s most innovative creators, renowned for pushing the boundaries of electronic soul music.
Born and raised in Christchurch, it was a year-long family move to Tanzania that awoke Ladi’s songwriting and calling to perform. This led to the formation of her first group, the all-female Sheelahroc meaning “Women Are The Strength”, created with the aim to serve as an example for women in the traditionally male dominated world of Hip-Hop. Following a move to Auckland, Ladi’s musical collaboration with Parks evolved further, with the rise of their group Verse Two – a hip-hop/soul band that achieved national success, sold out tours and supported international acts The Roots, De La Soul and 50cent.
With a new direction calling, a desire to explore more experimental production and storytelling, the now-household name that is LADI6 began taking shape. The band released Time Is Not Much, the debut album co-produced by Mu (Fat Freddy’s Drop), which introduced a series of future soul classics to the NZ vernacular, hit a Top 5 chart position and led to them being picked up by leading London indie BBE. Their follow-up LP, The Liberation Of… was released in 2010, co-produced with Blumentopf’s Sebastian Weiss, bringing to life the platinum selling single and certified NZ classic “Like Water”. In 2013, Ladi and Parks decamped to Detroit’s Studio A, where they collaborated with Detroit Hip-Hop royalty, Waajeed, who joined Executive Producer Parks at the helm on LP Automatic, with lead single Ikarus.
Maintaining standards that demand they push their creativity led to the birth of 2015’s Alpha Sessions; re-imagining the studio in a live context, and then fully improvising the performance without any kind of sonic safety net. For Ladi6 it has become a vital component in the songwriting process, transporting them to their creative boundaries and beyond, which is evident on 2017’s Royal Blue 3000 EP with disruptive delights like Guru, and Royal Blue.
With a catalogue that marks a woman whose only comfortable taking risks, the inspiring live show that Ladi6 brings is no exception to this rule. Taking the stage with a decade of world touring under her belt, her ability to connect and uplift her audience is where she thrives as frontwoman. Following tours across NZ, Australia and Europe with the likes of Erykah Badu, Jhene Aiko, Digable Planets and Fat Freddys Drop, it was supporting Gil Scott-Heron on his final UK and European tour prior to his passing - taking the stage before him at London’s prestigious Royal Albert Hall - that stands as a career highlight. In 2021, Ladi received a Queens Honour for Services to Music.
“One of New Zealand’s most respected musicians, Ladi6 is an innovative creator with decades of international touring under her belt. An undisputed leader and trailblazer in the traditionally male-dominated world of hip-hop – Ladi6 has paved the way for many others to carve out their own creative careers. From song writing to performing to connecting others across the industry, Ladi demonstrates extraordinary dedication and a creative energy that has sustained over decades. Her impact is undeniable – Ladi6 is a force.”