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Na Hoku-winning rapper Thomas Iannucci releases new album

Thomas Iannucci was “The Illtalian” when his album, “Makana,” won the Best Hip Hop Album category at the 41st Na Hoku Hanohano Awards in 2018. So, he knows about musical success.

He also knows to follow his heart.

With his second album, “Kuleana,” he’s back to being Thomas Iannucci.

The results?

“By far, the best work I’ve ever done. It just came so naturally,” he said.

Kuleana is a series of songs through which the 27-year-old Kauai man expresses his feelings and thoughts, how he views the world around him.

“I’m telling things I see through my lens,” he said. “It’s just me sharing my heart.”

And to do that, he had to be authentic.

“I’m Thomas Iannucci,” he said. “If I make these statements, I want to make them as myself, not hiding behind a persona.”

Executive produced by veteran hip hop emcee and producer J. Crum, “Kuleana” sees Iannucci return to his roots. It follows the successful release of his acclaimed new music video, “ILLYINDÉ.”

It was all recorded at his home.

“‘Kuleana’ is a return to form for me,” said Iannucci. “I get to rap on the boom bap, Golden Era beats that made me fall in love with hip hop in the first place, and I get to rap about Hawaii, my home.”

“Kuleana” is available online wherever music is streamed or sold. It carries nine original tracks, all written by Iannucci. As he wrote from the heart, the music and words came quickly and it came together in about three months.

“I’ve never, never made a project this fast before,” he said. “It was flowing really well.”

Iannucci knows about the pressures of having multiple jobs to keep the bills paid. He works at Kauai Community College and as a manager at Pietro’s Pizza Kauai in Harbor Mall.

Finding time for music isn’t easy, but it’s his passion. He said it’s been refreshing to get back to the basics of music and not worry about the awards, keeping up with social media or appearances, “any of that stuff.”

“It was just me, Crum, and some music that was near and dear to my heart. I look forward to others finally getting to hear my music, because this is without a doubt the best music I’ve done to date,” he said.

“Kuleana” deals with growing up in Hawaii, and the struggles, pitfalls and pain that are present, but usually unspoken, Iannucci said.

Drug addiction, suicide, the tensions of having to work multiple jobs, the high cost of living, while struggling to survive in Hawaii, are all tackled in Iannucci’s new project.

One of the songs is “My Way.”

“I wanted to start a conversation about some things I’ve seen growing up that never really get addressed,” said Iannucci. “It hurts my heart to see my friends, family and community struggling alone. We aren’t alone — we have Jesus, and we have each other. But if we never reach out — if we never even acknowledge that there’s a problem, how can we progress?”

Another song on his new album is “Take Me Back,” which he described as a wistful, positive and happy look at the old days.

Others take on more difficult subjects.

“Fly Away,” performed with his sister, singer and musician Dondi Iannucci, is about a girl Thomas knew who committed suicide.

“I’m definitely touching on local issues through my lens,” he said.

Iannucci himself struggled when he was younger to express himself. It’s still not easy, and it’s one of the reasons his music is so important.

His hope with this album is that he can at least bring to light some of the issues people are facing here. He wants to “start some important conversations that need to be had.”

“It’s not healthy to not know why you feel the way you feel,” he said. “We just need to talk about it and get it in the open.”

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Bill Buley, editor-in-chief, can be reached at 245-0457 or bbuley@thegardenisland.com.
Source: The Garden Island

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