He might be a fresh face in the global hip-hop world, but with his latest single “On Me”, New Zealand artist and philanthropist Lil Mussie is rubbing shoulders with some of the greats.
Emerging from Gisborne in the east of the North Island, Lil Mussie (the musical moniker of Mustafa Sheikh) first became a presence on the radar of music-lovers with “How About You?” earlier this year. An altruistic song which focuses on themes of community-building, few fans would’ve expected Lil Mussie’s next track to feature the talents of some of hip-hop’s greats.
Working alongside Kid Cudi collaborator Charles Worth (better known as King Chip or Chip Tha Ripper) and celebrated producer Anthony Kilhoffer (Kanye West, Rick Ross), the end result is the masterful “On Me”, a career-affirming work that showcases Lil Mussie at his very best.
“When I recorded my verse I felt like I needed his flow to compliment the song,” Sheikh recalls of his work with King Chip. “48 hours later he sends me a finished verse. I remember listening to it and hearing all of the personal references ‘in New Zealand with Mussie‘, ‘break bread‘ (Bread referencing the charity I founded), ‘give back to my city’ and was blown away at how much research he did on my work.
“He’s done songs with Travis Scott, Big Sean, A$AP Rocky, Logic – so it’s an honour to collaborate with him.”
Describing the track as one that focuses on themes of “ambition and drive.”, and a hunger for wanting to reach new heights while not forgetting others, Sheikh described his experience of working with Kilhoffer as a testament to the message within the song.
“I want any kid out there thinking of doing music (or anything in life) to see this as an example of the importance of having self-belief,” he explains. “If you have a vision just make sure you don’t stop until it’s fulfilled. The only factor which will dictate whether it happens or not is your mindset.”
Speaking to Tone Deaf, Sheikh noted he achieved another career highlight thanks to Kilhoffer, with the producer introducing him to Kanye West, who connected with the New Zealand artist via a FaceTime call.
“I expected him just to talk for ages without an opening but he showed interest,” Sheikh recalled. “We’re so used to hearing him with a raised voice on social media – the real calm Kanye was so nice. I see him on social media breaking out and that’s not the guy I saw.”
While King Chip makes a lyrical reference to breaking bread in “On Me”, this bar in fact serves as a reference to Sheikh’s Bread Charity, an organisation that aims to support children living in poverty while speaking to school-aged kids and helping support them through goal-based pathways for their future.
“The whole idea is getting them to realise there’s a whole other side to life out there and they are so amazing that they can achieve anything they want,” Sheikh explains.
“My funding approaches are never about writing blank cheques and hoping they get something done. It’s more long term and personal, making the biggest impact we can.”
In addition to fundraising efforts through supercar rallies and raced, Sheikh says that his next goal is to launch a $1m youth centre, which he’s already working towards with the Auckland Police.
“I have a strong sense of responsibility in life to help people,” he explains. “As I progress through life I want to uplift communities around me. What is the point of individual success? True success is obtained when one is able to look back and see the lives they have changed and education systems they have transformed.”
Lil Mussie’s “On Me” is available now. For more information regarding his Bread Charity, check out the organisation’s website.