Many artists shuffle between a music career and a day job. Michellie “Hoodzy” Pohutuhutu is promoting ‘This Feeling’, an indelible Gen Z rave anthem, during lunch break via a glitchy Zoom connection. “It is pretty challenging to juggle everything at once,” she admits. “But I think if you are really passionate about it, and about what you do, you find a way.”
The MC is shy yet self-possessed and droll. While a publicist worries about her skipping a meal mid-shift, Pohutuhutu is untroubled, joking that she’s a “fast eater”. The Māori-Australian prodigy belongs to a new wave of Pasifika hip hop stars, and is openly queer.
Pohutuhutu started rapping at 13 in her Perth hometown, adopting the Hoodzy handle in a nod to Stormzy. Pohutuhutu was spotted online by Australian hip hop pioneer Hau Latukefu, a member of the ARIA-winning Koolism and longtime host of triple j’s Hip Hop Show. “I was lucky that it was him and not some random,” Pohutuhutu laughs.
Latukefu brought Hoodzy along for the launch of the Hip Hop Show’s Bars Of Steel when she was just 16. In January 2020, Hoodzy became the flagship act on Latukefu’s label, Forever Ever Records, a joint venture with Sony Music Australia that has also signed Campbelltown’s Becca Hatch. Shortly after, Hoodzy made her official debut with ‘The Land’, leaning into UK drill.
Hoodzy’s debut single, ‘The Land’, came out in 2020
Pohutuhutu commends Latukefu for encouraging her “to be open-minded” musically. “I’m open to any suggestions – [I’ll] always take it on board,” she says.
Along the way, Pohutuhutu transplanted from Perth to the Gold Coast and then to Sydney. She’s found camaraderie in the Sydney hip hop scene, having early on warmed up for the Sydney collective Triple One in Brisbane.
“I definitely feel there is a really good support system here,” Pohutuhutu says. “I feel like I was very lucky to find that so quickly, because the people that I work with, I trust them so much.” Still, she misses Perth, especially her family and the slower pace. “When I moved here, I was kind of in shock of how busy it was.”
Pohutuhutu had an industrious 2020, dropping ‘The Land’, ‘Hardcase’ and the i.amsolo-produced ‘Jumpy’. She also featured on a remix of Miiesha’s ‘Hold Strong’, alongside JessB and Jesswar.
“[Miiesha’s] team reached out to Hau, and I believe they wanted to have all-female artists on there, which was dope,” Pohutuhutu says. “It’s just crazy being able to collab with those artists, because that was a little while ago, so I was still kind of fresh and stuff.”
Miiesha – ‘Hold Strong (Remix)’ ft. Jess B, Jesswar, Hoodzy
Last year, amid the continuing COVID-19 pandemic, Pohutuhutu went on hiatus, enabling her to grow personally and creatively. “I had time to really feel the feelings that were about and I could discover things about myself,” she says. “I’d turned 18 during the pandemic, so it was kind of a really random time for me. But the time that I had let me explore so many different options with music and myself.”
Pohutuhutu returned this year with ‘This Feeling’, a track co-produced by Thom Crawford. ‘This Feeling’ signals a surprise new sonic direction for Hoodzy – it’s a club banger.
“I really enjoy the dance sound,” Pohutuhutu says. “Like, that’s something that I listen to on a regular basis. It’s just [about] slowly incorporating that with my own sound and making it something of mine, ’cause I love house music, techno music, but I wanna incorporate my rapping and my singing.”
There’s a dark undertone to ‘This Feeling’, however, with Pohutuhutu rapping about feeling lonely in a crowd. “I feel like it really represents a point in my life,” she says. “You know, I’d just freshly turned 18. I was going out all the time and then I got to a point where it wasn’t enjoyable anymore. It was just filling spaces that I thought needed to be filled. So that’s basically where the dark sound comes from.”
Pohutuhutu intends to keep busy in the second half of 2022, and there are plenty more releases in the pipeline. “I’m working on a lot of things,” she says. “A lot of it is from the pandemic, when I had my little break. So there’s a lot of music that is waiting to come out. [I’m] just working on perfecting it, really.”