Taz is a 17-year-old rapper from Cambridge. Over the last three years she’s taken part in a number of music-making projects run by local youth charity Romsey Mill.
The team at Romsey Mill have supported Taz to write, record and produce music in their in-house studio – helping her develop as an artist alongside her college studies in psychology, sociology and criminology.
Rap is me
“[My sister] was into loads of different rappers,” recalls Taz. “I was like 10 when I used to hear her listening to these rappers. As I got older she gave me her little iPod, and from then I just got into rap, and I was like ‘yep, rap is me, definitely’.”
However it wasn’t until Taz met Karl, the music leader at Romsey Mill, that she started to write and perform her own material. Taz says Karl’s encouragement has been a massive influence: “K made me realise that what I have is actually different to most people my age.”
“I didn’t have any intention of going again and writing and doing rap music, but I think from that day, if I didn’t meet K, I wouldn’t be rapping.”
“It’s like a big family here”
Taz feels comfortable at Romsey Mill with Karl, because “he’s lived [a] similar [life] to us… I used to go to youth clubs, and I didn’t like how a lot of youth workers, if they saw how you dress, or they’d see the area you’re from – they’d sort of label you.”
“[At Romsey Mill] we’re all different ages, different genders, different cultures, yet we’re all like a family,” she explains. “People are labelled, but you get the wrong idea about people. When it comes to music, like all these boys are actually really sweet and they actually do want to do well.
“I feel like the studio, it brings out the true in people, it’s a really, really positive thing, and I definitely think that without this, a lot of us would be very different people.”
“It’s such a good way to get things out”
“I have so much to say about the world,” continues Taz. “If I’m feeling something, I’ll write it. It’s such a good way to get things out.
“One, I’m a girl and I’ve come up in a traditionally man-dominated culture, so for me, that life is hard. Second, I grew up in Arbury – it’s not the best area – and third, like, learning about it in Sociology, it opens my mind.
“If I was an A* student in English, maybe I’d write a letter to the council… I see so many things that really anger me, and I just want to do something about it, but when it comes to rap you can actually just express it really easily.
“When I’m with my mates, I’ll talk about it, and they’ll just be like ‘oh Taz, you’re so typical, always talking about this and that’. But I’ve written it into a bar, and I spat it to my friends, and they were like ‘oh my god, everything you’ve just said, that sounded so true’ – that’s because I put it into a bar and it sounded interesting.”
“I’m actually good at it”
“I felt like all my siblings had one thing they were really good at,” says Taz. “I just had it in my head that I was going to fail, and everyone has something they’re specifically good at, but what is that for me?
“I think [rapping] has helped me to have a purpose, like – something to work towards. I feel satisfaction after I’ve just written a lyric.
“I’ve always been really outspoken. It hasn’t changed my confidence in how I talk around people, how loud I am. [But] it’s changed my confidence about myself – like my security about how well I can do, what I think about myself and what I can achieve.”
“I want to be the boss”
Taz’s ambition is to have her own studio and producer one day. She describes Romsey Mill as a “kick start” for her and her peers – “and then from a certain point we can just flourish.”
Although Taz wants to earn a living from her music, she says, “I don’t want to be famous. If it came to it, I’d just want to travel the world and share my music, but I wouldn’t necessarily want to be all over the media.
“I want to be the boss,” she continues. “And doing something I enjoy, which is music. Maybe something like K, maybe teaching kids… K was telling me ‘you should start getting young girls into rap, there’s not really a lot of girls in Cambridge that rap’.”
And whether or not it becomes Taz’s career, she’s certain that she wants to continue making music in the future regardless. “If I stopped, I’d just feel horrible. I’d feel like I’m wasting something.”
The Sound of
the Next Generation
Check out the full report into the diverse ways young people engage with and value music and music-making, and read more stories from the young musicians we spoke to.