New Zealand rapper Lil Mussie wants to change the world—especially that of poverty-stricken children in LA.
His latest single, “On Me,” focuses on ambition and drive. Lil Mussie—also known as Mustafa Sheikh—said his drive paid off by forging a relationship with Kid Cudi collaborator King Chip and Kanye West’s producer, multi-Grammy winner Anthony Kilhoffer, on the single.
“When I recorded my verse, I felt like I needed his flow to complement the song,” Sheikh said of King Chip. “Forty-eight hours later, he sent me a verse.”
When King Chip returned the verse, it included nods to Sheikh’s work, which impressed the fledgling rapper. “Breaking bread” refers to Sheikh’s charity, Bread, and giving back to his city.
He continues to give back. Sheikh donates the money he makes from his music to Bread, which he founded at age 22. The charity aims to assist children in low-decile schools through mentoring and student funding.
To raise money, Bread runs the largest supercar events in New Zealand. Supercars from manufacturers such as Ferrari, Lamborghini and McLaren take part in this event, during which police escort the cars down Queen Street in Auckland.
“We’re taking the car to schools to have a physical embodiment of what you can do,” he said. “Kids are creative thinkers, so it makes so much more sense to them. I’ve dedicated my life to this. I want to change and influence generations.”
Now 25, Sheikh was born in London but moved to New Zealand as a child. Music is a longtime goal of his. He recalled getting kicked out of class at Gisborne Boys High because he sat in the back of the class writing raps. Sheikh had decent grades in classes like biology but preferred music. He played piano in competitions and writes songs on his laptop.
“We’d write the most stupid raps,” he said with a laugh via telephone from New Zealand. “It was funny. I guess even the teachers thought it was a negative thing back then, that it wasn’t productive in that stage of life.”
Proceeds from “On Me” are slated to help poverty-stricken children in LA. He grew up in an area of New Zealand like the poorest reaches of Los Angeles.
“My friends have lost their lives to the cycle of poverty,” he says. “When I went to school, it wasn’t uncommon for kids to have no lunch or the right shoes. I’ve shared a lot of that pain. I feel a responsibility to give back to my people.
“We have plans to make Bread international and donate to LA. Music is such a good way to raise awareness. We donate everything. We don’t do it for personal gain. Focusing on the youth is such a crucial aspect.”
Sheikh’s next goal is to launch a youth center.
“For me, it’s not so much the connection to the community. It’s just the message and seeing how life unfolds. I just love learning from people’s success and the method they took, like Eminem’s persistence. It took a lot of courage for a white male to enter those rap battles, to muster up the courage to follow a dream.”
Sheikh likens his drive to Eminem’s journey, which the Detroit rapper shared in the film “8 Mile.”
“It’s so much easier to write about feelings as opposed to making stuff up,” he said. “Just like Eminem, I’m a kid with a dream, and no matter what it takes it’s going to happen.”