Maka T is from the San Fernando Valley, affectionately known as the 818 or simply The Eight. His family however, hails from the Kingdom of Tonga, comprised of 169 islands. While hip-hop is listened to and created globally, Pacific Islanders are probably the least represented in the genre. Growing up, Maka listened to Reggae and dancehall, his mother is from the island of Nuku’alofa, the Capital, while his Father was born and raised on Hoi a tiny island. They met here in the States and started a family, raising their children in a traditional Tongan household. He grew up in the church choir, played guitar, the ukulele, piano, and sang. Maka loved music his whole life, but until last year had only released Reggae songs idolizing acts like Lucky Dube. It wasn’t until he began to listen to artists like A Boogie, that he began experimenting creating melodic Hip-Hop. Since then, he’s made an immense amount of progress and is one of the most exciting acts coming out of the Los Angeles area, having been in the studio recently with Trippie Redd, Offset, Kalan.frfr, Bino Rideaux, Yung LB and more. I caught up with him and asked him about what he’s working on, what it was like growing up in The Valley, his relationship with the Runtz crew, how quarantine has affected his career and more.
What are you working on?
Stacking songs, I been working with Bino (Rideaux), Kalan.frfr, getting content ready to drop.
How long have you been making music?
This is my 2nd year. I’ve always had a musical background, initially I made reggae music cuz you know my family is from the islands, I was a big fan of Lucky Dube.
What made you wanna step into this melodic Hip-Hop/R&B lane?
I started listening to A Boogie, it’s a cleaner sound, something I could relate to, then I really started leaning towards the melodic sound.
When did you realize you can sing?
Since a kid I was in the Choir, I played guitar, the ukulele, piano.
What artists did you grow up on?
Ty Dolla $ign. I liked him even more when I found out he played in the church too.
What was it like growing up in the 818 for you?
You really get a bit of everything, hella diverse, it gets tricky. You can be in a good neighborhood one second and a bad one on the next block.
Talk about being Tongan in music, do you feel like it’s an advantage or disadvantage?
Its a disadvantage, the islands are hella small. The biggest influencer from the islands is The Rock. I’m really trying to make a name for myself, representing the culture like it’s never been before.
I saw you were in the studio with Trippie Redd.
Its crazy to sit there and take notes from the greats and the people who have made it, Trippie, Offset, DJ Dru, its like a cheat code, no one in my position is doing that. Im just learning and soaking up game.
Talk about your relationship with the Runtz crew, Young LB and everyone.
Yung LB is my blood cousin, he’s putting me in position to win, runtz helped me gain that traction. He taught me at the end of the day you have figure out how to support yourself with your own money.
How inspiring is it to be Young LB’s cousin?
I seen how he grew from nothing. I used to listen to his music when he was starting out in High School, but we were never that close. But one day he saw me doing my thing and hit me like “aye n*gga you ready?” We been locked in ever since.
Tell me about your relationship with the guys over at A Very Special Studios.
Very Special, them n*ggas my dawgs, they been helping me get my music together, how to capture an audience, how to format a song, I wouldn’t be in the position I’m in. Very special is home base.
What’s your dream collab?
Roddy Ricch. I worked with his artist Cuhhraig, he’s Somoan. We have two songs together that should be droppping soon, “Hometown Hero” and “Load It Up”. It’s gonna be big for the islands.
How’s the quarantine affected you and your career?
Quarantine ain’t fuck up anything up, it makes me feel better. I got my chili up. I was just chillin with Kalan last night, I aint gon’ say too much. We got a whole lotta shit.