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Savage is swinging with success

Published: 6:56PM Thursday November 13, 2008

New Zealand hip-hop heavyweight Savage has cracked the big time in America, becoming the first Kiwi to go platinum in the US with over a million sales of his hit single Swing. 

Born Demetrius Savelio, the rapper has always had a dream to make it big in the States and now, he is in the Big Apple celebrating his big feat.

"I'm really excited everything is going really well," Savage says. "We're over a million now, it's gone platinum, I just got a deal in the UK, so it's going really well."

Swing spent five weeks at number one on the Kiwi charts. But after landing a spot on the soundtrack of the box office hit Knocked Up, US sales went through the roof.

He has sold 1.1 million singles so far, a number rising by 50,000 a week. Savage is the first Samoan artist to go platinum in the US.

Sales off the charts are also good news for the Dawn Raid record label, which was all but sunk a year ago and placed in voluntary liquidation in April 2007. It's now on the rise, trading once again under its old name.

"This is the single biggest moment for NZ music in 10 years," Andy Murnane, Dawn Raid's CEO, says. "This is a million already sold, and what we're getting told is it's going to eventually do 1.5 million to 2 million records. This is history, the highest selling NZ single."

And like a good Samoan boy, in a triumphant impromptu freestyle on the streets of New York Savage pays homage to his mum. "My mum's proud - she's very proud."

He may be living the dream now, but life wasn't all so good growing up in South Auckland. The rapper admits to rough times living under a bridge, something he hasn't forgotten.

"I'm just out here purposely to achieve everything I can, so I can take that back to South Auckland and teach these kids that there's more to life than what's actually happening on the streets."

Ironically, he believes going gold was the real threshold, and the bigger achievement. "At the end of the day, when you're in the US you have to have something like that in order to blend in with the other artists, or else they don't believe in you. It's just their way over here."

Murnane and Savage believe the upshot will ultimately be that others can follow in his footsteps. "Now that we are here and have set up our platform, it just opens more doors for everyone else."

But first, there's more work to do - more shows, interviews, and radio appearances. The second US single will feature US star Baby Bash, and will also be the advance single back in Australasia for his second album, Savage Island.

"Since the beginning, we always said we wanna ride till the wheels fall off and that's when I'm satisfied."

From South Auckland to Times Square, it seems Savage's time is now.