In 2018, Talisi Poasa was pulling 12-hour shifts, five days a week, as a factory machine operator. In between shifts he would post videos of himself spitting bars of hometown pride for his 4300 area code of Goodna in Brisbane. When a few of the clips gained traction on Instagram, he stood behind the mic at his local Six Degrees Studio and recorded his now Gold-certified single “Say Less” in one take. The single—a menacing excoriation of his enemies with slithering rhyme schemes—isn’t mixed or mastered. It’s raw and pure Lisi, full of fight and underground bite.
“It was never in my mind to make music,” he says, speaking from his bedroom. “Because, you know, being an artist is something… especially where I’m from and for our people… We don’t really look at it as a pathway, a career to pursue.”
The track caught the attention of music industry gatekeepers and at the tail end of 2021 Lisi released his debut album, Perspective, with Warner Music and via his own Castille Records. The record cements Lisi as a formidable young rapper on the rise. Lisi swoops in with a one-two punch of rhythmic flow and creative lyricism; he explores his tribulations and ambitions over skittering beats, and pays homage to his Polynesian community. The track “Brown Brother”, inspired by New Zealand artist Poetik, sees Lisi honour the Island nations by weaving in Oceanic language from Samoa, Fiji, and Tonga.
“I’ve got all the Island nations,” he smiles. “That’s what I feel I carry and represent on my back, Polynesians as a collective.”
Community is paramount to the Auckland-born rapper. Lisi understands all too well the trappings of a daily grind where underrepresentation and untold stories mean there are no comparable role models to aspire to. Armed with a befitting self-belief and the enviable rap performance to back it up, Lisi is using his newfound limelight to pay it forward and inspire the youth around him.
“I thought the end of my life was going to be in high-vis and steel caps,” says Lisi. “But to be where we are today is… Yeah, it’s a true blessing. I got to keep running the ball.”
Stream: Lisi, Perspective
This interview features in the March 2022 issue of Rolling Stone Australia. If you’re eager to get your hands on it, then now is the time to sign up for a subscription.
Whether you’re a fan of music, you’re a supporter of the local music scene, or you enjoy the thrill of print and long form journalism, then Rolling Stone Australia is exactly what you need. Click the link below for more information regarding a magazine subscription.