This Deuce is the real thing

MOST people don’t know that Sekove Qiolevu was a real life gang member and actually paid heavily for it.

Being involved with gangs while growing up in the US is his biggest regret in life but instead of wallowing in that mistake, the rapper better known as JDeuce has used it as creative inspiration since he returned to Fiji in 2009.

The Kaba, Tailevu native has since risen to success as a result of his love for hip-hop and the rapper lifestyle. His consistent good work was recognised a few weeks ago as his work is on two of the three songs nominated for a FPRA Music Award in the inaugural Best Hip Hop Award category.

Presented by The Fiji Times, the Best Hip Hop award is featured on the annual event for the first time ever, bringing to the fore approximately 20 years of work of a number of musicians in hip-hop.

The nominees for the Best Hip Hop Award are Kurt Ram for Money in the Bag; Sekove Naqio, Laisiasa Dave Lavaki and Mynlessme for Stir It Up and Lavaki, Faga Timote, Sekove Qiolevu and George Wasile for Runnin.

With a rapper like Tupac Shakur to idolise, JDeuce followed a bit of a tumultuous childhood, growing up in several places in the US while exposed to gang violence. Like other successful hip-hop artistes, JDeuce took from this life when he sang.

“I was into hip hop from a young age in the US. I first found out I could write around 15, and then I started rapping.

“I love writing because there is no limit to what I can express. I used to rap with my cousins in the room when our parents would be drinking kava. That was probably the first time in front of people.”

JDeuce said the most exciting part about rap music was that it allowed him to truly express both the negative and positive facets of his life.

JDeuce sees a gap in the voices of our communities and he has decided to bridge that opening for the people he calls “the have nots”. And hip-hop music, he says, is the most effective way to speak about the life that less fortunate people on the streets may have.

“What motivates me is just the fact that I can express who I really am — both the negative side and positive side. My goal is to become the voice of the streets, the voice of the have nots,” JDeuce said.

But how did it all begin for this 33-year-old whose parents moved to the US to give the family a better life?

“Hip-hop is very attractive and being an ’80s baby it was not too hard to attract me. I ended up rapping because that was available 24/7 in the environment I grew up in,” JDeuce said.

“I grew up in Laie, Hawaii, San Francisco, California and Houston, Texas. It was real growing up there.”

Growing up in those places in the life the family found itself in meant a child like Sekove quickly outgrew their innocence. It meant mistakes could land you in jail like it did JDeuce.

“It made you grow up quicker than average, you couldn’t be naïve growing up where I grew up. I did not attend university. I earned my general equivalency diploma in prison doing seven years 2002-2009.

“It was all right” JDeuce said.

Cue life back in Fiji and the challenges of life in a place he hardly knew, Sekove had to adapt quickly and while he reckons he has done well getting used to life back here, it is the difficulties of his youth which brought him musical success.

“Coming to Fiji was a life-changing experience in itself. A new environment from what I was used to, so I had to adapt, which wasn’t too hard. But I still hold the places I been and experiences I had real close to me. It’s what made me who I am.”

Music has become like a personal journal for Sekove and often he will look back on a song and be reminded of what stage of his life or what he was feeling when he wrote it. Being able to share those sentiments makes Sekove happy.

And people seem happy with his work too. One of his first singles featuring the work of hip-hop pioneer Sammy G entitled She da baddest garnered almost 40,000 views on Youtube back in 2010 when people were just coming around to the video social media network.

The video was very popular not only because of the catchy tunes but it featured most of the top hip-hop artistes and Eleni Luvenitoga, who won Best Top Model at the Fiji Fashion Week that year.

Leni, as she is more commonly known, is now JDeuce’s wife and together the two form the second or maybe third pairing of hip hop couples who while holding down other jobs work hard to get recognition for Fijian hip-hop music.

Given that their work goes largely unrecognised, local hip hop heads have to do a lot of their work by pooling strengths and resources and JDeuce has made them his family.

“I have really worked with some real experienced individuals. Tropic Thunda, Dave Lavaki, and Mynlessme are talented individuals who I look up to. I learned that they are as they reflect,” JDeuce said.

The song Stir It Up is a reflection of that, where the beat is from George Wasile aka Tropic Thunda and he sampled it the late Bob Marley, hence the title.

“It’s basically just a good time song, I actually was inspired to write it after me and the boys performed at Uprising Festival 2015.”

In life and in love, most artistes get content for their work and it’s no different for JDeuce.

“My mother was my most key mentor (even though I didn’t listen to her most times) but she always influenced me and also stayed by my side whether I was wrong or right. She showed me the true meaning of unconditional love.”

JDeuce is working hard get into more shows and more money! While most of the best local hip-hop heads hold down day jobs, they are committed to producing more songs and collaborating on projects.

While he may have grown up different, JDeuce is like every other Fijian musician in the sense that he idolises George Fiji Veikoso. The Fiji Performing Rights Association is working with the Alliance Francaise and Fiji Airways to bring in Veikoso as celebrity guest artist/performer at the FPRA Music Awards presented by TABS Investment.

“I admire him because I grew up in Hawaii with him, especially when he dropped his first album. I’ve seen him come a long way from that and it motivates me to reach for the stars.

“His character is very likeable and genuine and have always admired him when we would be backstage at his shows. I would watch him perform; flawless performances that gave you goose bumps.”

But like others in his American family, JDeuce also holds two other famous Americans in high regard.

“Oprah Winfrey; I admire her whole demeanour, her drive and her accomplishments and President Obama I admire because working with a lot against you is very hard, I know first-hand. I respect that he can work and provide results even though he was hated.”

* Lice Movono-Rova is an entertainment publicist. She can be contacted on lice@fijiislandstyle.com.

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