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Hnst Talk: Thomas Iannucci

By Eric N. Boston @EricBoston3 | November 23, 2019

Not everyone can go from winning awards to fully rebranding themselves and doing so successfully, Thomas Iannucci found a way to make it work.

Coming up on the release of a new project, Iannucci explained to FiveTwenty what this past year has meant for him…along with what the future is looking like.

“It’s been a great year!”

“I’ve linked with some awesome artists like Ruslan, KJ52, and Joey Vantes. Definitely a higher echelon as far as name recognition goes. That has all been really amazing.”

“Honestly it’s been more about me going back to why I fell in love with hip hop in the first place. It all started with Illyinde. The song is my biggest success ever and it has no hook! It’s straight bars, pure boom-bap hip hop. It gave me hope that I don’t have to do pop tunes to succeed in this genre.”

“This year itself has been awesome as well.”

“It’s easily been my most consistent year for releases. I’ve dropped a single every month, sometimes multiple tracks in a month, plus I dropped two music videos. I’ve been able to link up with some amazing producers like The BREWZ, J. Crum, and Enzo Gran. I’m firing on all cylinders and gearing up to drop my next project, ‘Kuleana’, before the end of the year.”

Iannucci recently took to social media to announce the release of his upcoming project.


Been two years but it’s finally time. New project “Kuleana” (executive produced by @jcrummusic) drops December 3rd. If you liked ILLYINDÉ and Take Me Back, you’ll love this. I poured my heart and my tears into making this, y’all. This one’s for my people. This one’s for Hawaii. pic.twitter.com/BZLbjKwILK

— Thomas Iannucci (@thomasiannucci_) November 21, 2019

“Kuleana is a Hawaiin word that roughly translates to responsibility.”

“The project as a whole is about me taking responsibility and speaking up for things that I feel need to be addressed. The uncomfortable topics, stuff nobody is really talking about – particularly in Hawaii. I won’t go too in-depth, it’s definitely a heavier, grittier project than anything you’ve heard from me before. It’s more Hawaii-centric too. It’s finally time I get back in touch with my roots.”

Kuleana is executive produced by J. Crum. He did almost all the songs and he did A&R for me as well. I think it shows. My rapping is on an entirely new level here, he really brought the best out of me. I think the fans will be glad he did.”

“Crum and I have been tight for a while. I’ve been a fan of his forever. We are in a group chat and we’re always showing each other the new songs we’re working on, this and that. I’d been in the midst of a massive, horrible writer’s slump…nothing was working. It just felt like I forgot how to be dope. I lost my swagger and self-confidence, it was really bad man.”

“Crum kept telling me,

‘Bro, you need to get back to your roots. On boom-bap you’re a killer. You sound so natural, so smooth. That’s the kinda music you should be writing. Let me produce a track for you and see where it goes.’

I was working on so many different things and, with my writer’s block, the idea of another song I couldn’t finish just seemed daunting. I kept ducking him. Eventually, he just sent me a beat.”

“He was like, listen and just try writing to this. JUST TRY! I made this with your style in mind; I’m positive you will kill it. I figured, ah what the heck, I’ll give it a shot. I started writing. And I kept writing. Even though it was like the day before my trip to Mexico, I stopped packing. I went and started recording it, cut the final version that very same day. It was crazy!”

“I told him to send me another…and he did.”

“We were knocking out songs in two hours, it was nuts. So I told him, bro, we should do an EP. The songs kept coming and we decided to drop a whole project. It’s the fastest project I’ve ever cut that’s for sure. I honestly believe it’s by far my best project to date. He (Crum) may pop up and steal the scene on a track.”

Working through a season of writer’s block gave Iannucci time to reflect on the process.

“It doesn’t last forever.”

“Sometimes you need an intense switch-up, change everything. Your routine, your topics, your style, your surroundings, and even your diet. Sometimes this shake-up has to be deeper than just a new theme to really get the juices flowing again.”

“Don’t get me wrong, I love switching it up. I like making songs for the radio. Shoot, my single with Joey Vantes is a vibey, Drake-inspired track and I think it sounds great. That song had been a long time in the making. I reached out to Joey ‘Jewish’ back in those days and, over time, it made sense to do the track. It was produced by Grammy-winning producer Alex Hitchens and The BREWZ. The song, called Time To Go, is about cutting off toxic, unhealthy relationships. It’s very hard to do but sometimes we need to get those people out of your lives.”

“My true passion has always been, and will always be, boom-bap. I think we’re at a place where enough people miss that lyricism, there will be a place for it within mainstream hip hop again – not just the underground.”

Iannucci has grown and developed in the CHH space for some time now. He has witnessed the genre evolve while finding himself.

“It’s tough.”

“It’s like any industry, it’s definitely a business. I think some people, as Christians, go into it expecting it to be some sort of hallelujah hug-fest. When they realize it’s not, they get burnt out and disappointed by the whole thing. There’s a sense of bitterness from some artists towards CHH in general, some of it is certainly warranted. I think some of it is also misguided. The music itself is doper than it’s ever been, no question. There is something to be said about it losing its core message in the process though. Now people don’t wanna talk about Jesus so they can get on the radio or the Spotify playlists. I’ve had to have that conversation with myself and it’s tough man. I think it (CHH) will find it’s footing, it always does. Seeing artists like NF and Lecrae crossover, while guys like Chance and Kanye are getting saved, we’re about to witness a massive spike in the popularity of ‘Christian’ rap.”

“We need to be rooted in Christ, have discernment, because there will be a lot of wolves among the sheep when that happens.”

“You’re seeing USA Today write articles about CHH – XXL tweets asking who the best gospel rappers are – it’s wild. It is also very exciting. The future of CHH has never looked brighter. God can and will use it if we’re ready and willing!”

Being from Hawaii throws in a different piece to the puzzle. Iannucci knows that it is not necessarily a hurdle, but more of a conversation starter.

“Most people tend to fixate on the distance from the mainland and assume it hampers my career. Certainly, the distance presents real challenges, but I believe it actually sets me apart from the crowd. After all, how many other rappers do you know from Hawaii compared to, say, California?”

“Artistically, you’ll begin to see more and more of my Hawaiian influences, my musical roots, in the music.”

“I had to do a style of music familiar to mainland audiences in order to be accepted. Now that I’ve begun to get known by fans, I can start showcasing things unique to Hawaii. My next album will begin to delve into a lot of the issues prevalent in Hawaii.”

“Being a Christian does inform all of my music, including how I address certain social issues, even which issue I address. Obviously, I’m not out here swearing like a bunch of my secular counterparts when I talk about issues that have me angry, even though I feel just as strongly as they do. I suppose I have a bit more, I don’t know, hope? Optimism?”

“I know that it’s all in Jesus’ hands. We are not of this world anyway. Ultimately He will work it out even when it feels like it will never be fixed.”

“Aside from that, I’m slowly beginning to incorporate more sounds of Hawaii.”

“The BREWZ are a Hawaii-based production team and we can kinda experiment with certain sounds and themes. With our sports song Soldiers, that was a Hawaii sports team anthem. Sonically the Hawaiian hip hop scene is still developing its sound as far as beats go. I would say the Asain-influenced beats are probably one of the most unique things here.”

“Stylistically, I think one thing that sets it apart is the amount of social activism. Proportionally speaking, there are way more people speaking out on social issues than on the mainland, I think.”

“Spoken-word has a huge influence here. With everything going on in Hawaii with the TMT conflict, the sovereignty movement, it all makes for some really interesting hip hop that’s a little more conscious than most. Speaking candidly, there’s also a lot more anger. The situation in Hawaii is a lot more difficult than most people would imagine. If you take a look at some of the most prominent Hawaiian rappers, there’s an anger, an aggressiveness that’s at odds with a lot of mainstream hip hop right now. It reminds me of NWA and early gangsta rap. People sharing their life stories who grew up in rough places. They aren’t trying to glorify; they’re trying to express themselves because our culture traditionally discourages us from doing so in everyday life. That will be what my new album is like.”

“It’s our responsibility – our kuleana – to speak on the issues affecting our home…even when it’s not comfortable or acceptable to do so.”

Check out Thomas Iannucci’s new song “Take Me Back” ft. Montythehokage and make sure to pre-order/save the new project ‘Kuleana’. Let us know, in the comments, what you think of the direction and sound that Iannucci is putting out!


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