TYSON John Tyler is well on his way to becoming one of New Zealand premier Hip-Hop artists and his latest single Braggin' Rights which features Pieter T speak volumes of what's yet to come from one of South Auckland's finest.
Born in 1986 in Ayer in Northern Queensland to Fijian couple, Helen and Emasi Tora, Tyson's parents split before he was born and not long after his birth, mother and son left Australia for New Zealand.
"Mum's from Levuka and Dad's from Lau. At the time Mum was working in the sugar cane fields and I was attending West end in Brisbane. I was four when we left," Tyson said.
In New Zealand, they settled in South Auckland where Tyson was first introduced to artists like Snoop Dog, Dr Dre, and Nas.
"I was listening to Nas, Biggie, and Mobb Deep when I first started and they really influenced my style. I'm still a Nas fan and Illmatic has to be my favourite rap album of all time. I'm into Kanye West as well."
By 14 he was writing and producing his own music from home and at 17 he was accepted into Dawnraid's 'Str8 From Tha Streetz 2' music programme.
"My family were unaware of my interest in rap until then. I knew I wanted rap to be my bread and butter. I was young and it was still a dream but I wanted to succeed," Tyson explained.
He developed his craft in freestyle battles with seventh formers and as word spread rappers from other crews and schools were turning up whom he was soon easily dispensing of.
"We used to battle in school and at parties on the weekends. People would come and watch and I'd battle three of four guys and they'd be blown away. They thought someone else was writing my stuff," he recalled.
"I wasn't really fully developed as a rapper but with time I got better and I'm a more well rounded artist now. In terms of my music I have a lot more depth now and I can adapt to different styles of music."
After the course he came out with his first professionally recorded song co-produced by Chong Nee, 'South Auckland Anthem' which became an underground classic.
This would be one of the first indicators to the Hip-Hop observers of the youngster's intentions and ensured they would keep tabs on the emerging South Auckland rapper as did underground record label 'Breakin Wreckwordz' which gave him his first deal.
Under 'Breakin Wreckwordz' Tyson produced mix-tapes like Doomsday, Real Name No gimmicks, and Balling on a Budget as well as his debut album Reality Cheque in 2009.
"After 'Dawn Raid' I kept on with my music and I started working in a timber yard for some time and also held down a couple of factory jobs. It really helped me mature as person.
"Working for a living gives you a different perspective on life. I didn't just come up on the scene and get the deal in one go. It was an ongoing process for me and people who I worked with were observing what was happening," Tyson said.
Ever proud of his blue collar roots, Tyson says there will always be an abundance of support from South Auckland's working class and proudly adds, "They're more than just workmates and friends, and they're family".
"By then my family were well aware of my career. They'd seen me at it for long and they knew I had my stuff together. All they did was support me."
He's also been quick to shrug off the assumption by many of his gang affiliations and distanced himself from the subject.
"It came down to how I was raised. I had a lot of friends with gang affiliations but no in my family was ever involved in gang activity. We were always able to find other things to keep ourselves occupied.
"It's all up to the individual. You have to be headstrong if you don't want to be led astray and I've always tried to lead instead of being the one who was following others."
After parting ways with 'Breaking Wreckwordz' Tyler formed 'Debt Collectors' with rappers like Sammy Gallows, Godmode, Genocide, and BasicOne and this later led to the formation of an even larger conglomerate known as 'Silverback Gang' which included Mareko of Deceptikonz, Flowz of Foot Souljahs, Koma, SMV & JB of Villains, Fact of Dirty City, Pakkz & Misc of West AK Borough Kings to name a few.
"I'd been talking with 'Illegal Muzik' for years but the timing was never right. I didn't want to rush it at the time. They had a full roster and they wanted to be able to concentrate on me as an artist when they signed me.
"In the process of forming Silverback Gang I got to talking again with 'Illegal Muzik' and I signed a deal. Patriarch form 'Ill Semantics' is with 'Illegal Muzik' and knew me from the Dawn Raid workshop.
"He had been keeping tabs on me. They were looking for a Hip-Hop artist and in a way they needed me just as much as I need them. Other labels were watching but Illegal just felt right," Tyler explained.
"My family and my friends have been my biggest supporters. I'm confident of the level I'm at as an artist and being on this label certifies the kind of artist I am. Its also an honour for me to be among Illegal's other established artists."
With ten years experience on New Zealand's competitive Hip-Hop circuit under his belt and the backing of one of Australia's largest commercial record labels, he is in prime position to make his mark on the scene.
At 25, there's nothing else Tyler would be rather doing and he has plans to his release his music and establish himself in the land of his birth, Australia and in the not distant future, America.
As of lately, he's been collaborating other New Zealand artists like Young Sid, Pieter T, Red Eye Society and international artists like Kardinal Offishall, Monsta Ganjah, Lil John, and Alpha Mega from TI's Grand Hustle camp while also working on his album and he's called on Digicel bring him down to Fiji for a concert.
"It's the passion for the music that keeps me going, pure passion. Even now with the deal and the money slowly starting to come in its still pretty much the passion for my music that drives," adds Tyson
Reflecting on his favourite rap lines, 'aint no such things as half way crooks' from Mobb Deep's 'Shook Ones Pt. II', Tyson urged aspiring musicians to dig deep and fully commit themselves to their goals.
"If you're passionate about it you'll know things are not going to fall into your hands. I got signed to my first label because of a song I recorded at home on a microphone attached to a pair of headphones. You've got to pursue what you want," adds Tyson who revealed he cheers for the Digicel Fiji sevens team whenever they play New Zealand.