Tutsi Chidas laughs as he recounts his musical beginnings

Musical artist Tbi$h is making a name for himself in the Brisbane Hip-Hop scene, with thousands of listens to his tracks and a live gig under his belt. Cooper Langby reports.

As a child, Tutsi Chidas recalls that his mother had warned him not to take his shoes off at school, as the New Zealand grass would stain his feet green. Wanting to play with the other kids however, Tutsi would join them in games of barefoot tag and rugby at breaktime and had always gotten away with it. That is, until his father came to pick him up from school one day and found him playing barefoot with the other children. Tutsi’s father told him he would not tell his mother, that way he would avoid ‘an ass whooping’, as Tutsi puts it. Once home and taking a shower to clean his stained feet, he heard his mum yelling: ‘I see green footsteps on the carpet, and I hear you’ve been playing barefoot’. Before he could reply the ‘ass whooping’ had begun.

These memories seem distant now to Tutsi, who was born in Zimbabwe in 1999, before his father’s work took the family to England, then New Zealand, before finally settling in Australia, midway through high school. It’s perhaps this exposure to different cultures that has made Tutsi the person he is today. Tutsi has a close relationship with his parents, a large number of friends, and an ability to make anyone feel comfortable.

Born Tutsirayi Brian Chidawanyika, the name Tutsi Chidas is what he goes by now, to his friends at least. Others know him as Tbi$h, a hip-hop artist making a name for himself in the Brisbane underground scene. His career started less than a year ago, but Tutsi’s songs have clocked up thousands of views on Spotify, and his debut music video was well received by fans on Youtube. As I’m talking to Tutsi, he’s coming off the back of performing his first paid gig at a bar in Brisbane’s notorious party hub The Valley.

His girlfriend Paige Crealy says the show was ‘so, so good, he had so much fun’. Paige has been there from the beginning of Tutsi’s music career and has supported him all the way. “I’m so proud of him,” she says. “He works so hard and he’s now starting to get the recognition he deserves.”

Predictably, most of Tutsi’s musical inspirations are from the hip-hop and rap scene, such as Drake and Sydney musician Manu Crooks. Somewhat less predictable is Tutsi’s reason for making music. “Growing up, I always admired the artists that I listened to and how they made me feel,” he says. “Last year I thought to myself wouldn’t it be mad if someone actually sat there and played a song I made and felt the same way?”

Tutsi isn’t in it for the money, rather he says he wants to have a connection with people through music. This is a sentiment you would expect to hear from an alternative musician, but there’s something genuine about his sentiments. “It’s been really cool,” Tutsi says. “I’ve made contact with other artists like Allday who’ve talked to me about how they felt about my music and really helped me to improve in general.”

Tutsi talks about the creative process, starting with creating or outsourcing to get a beat that he connects with, before he begins with the lyrics and flow. Although he says creating at home allows him to have as much freedom as possible, he isn’t averse to working with others: “Sometimes I work on the beats with other people, and during production and recording sometimes people are around. I’m not bothered, if anything it helps to get feedback and different ideas. I always like to hear what they have to say so I can improve.”

When asked if he plans to be a musician full time, he seems unsure. “I do music because I enjoy doing it,” he says, “At this point I wouldn’t say it’s a career, but if it turned into a career I wouldn’t complain.” He says he takes the support he receives from fans and uses it as motivation to make more music.

When the conversation shifts to the immediate future, however, Tutsi’s plans seem clearer.

“I’ve started working on the production on my first EP, and just previewed two songs at my show,” he says.”(Last night) was so amazing, the support made it one of the best nights I’ve ever had.”

It’s easy to forget that Tutsi is only just beginning in the industry. His music has already made quite the impact on the underground scene. There is no shortage of confidence, but it’s in the big moments that Tutsi seems almost overwhelmed.

Another moment was when he took part in a promotion in which smaller artists could pay a fee to have best-selling musician Chance the Rapper listen to and give feedback on their music. “He was so awesome to talk to,” Tutsi says. “He said he thought Grapevine was fire but also advised me to look into better mastering in the future, but he shared it on snapchat and I couldn’t believe it actually happened.”

Grapevine was the latest release under the Tbi$h moniker, arriving to music streaming platforms in early April of this year. Tutsi tells me his favourite release was Back it Up, his third release, but the runaway favourite of his fans seems to be his second release, Running. Running carries over double the number of listens than any of his other tracks, clocking over 10,000 on Spotify alone. It’s also the only of Tbi$h’s current releases to receive its own music video, that Tutsi spent a day filming in Brisbane.

Tutsi expresses how crazy it is that his music is getting so many listeners and so much attention and says he is grateful to his fans and listeners.

There is a sense of connection to his friendships and community that isn’t lost on him. He still plays basketball and soccer in his spare time. Some of his friends are trying to break into the industry and Tutsi is keen to help. “If nobody supported me, I don’t know what I would’ve done,” he says laughing. “So I feel it’s really important for me to support people as much as I can.”

Supporting other local artists doesn’t mean Tutsi has taken his eye off the big picture, however, as he plans to keep putting out his own music and further himself as an artist. “I’ve started making contact and working on other projects with artists around Australia and the UK. I’ve really started putting more effort into music in general, and I’m really excited for what’s ahead.”

Tutsi’s happy childhood, minus the green feet incident, is a reminder of his roots. It’s his family and friends who keep him grounded in reality as he takes the next barefoot leap towards following his dreams.