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Rapper KINGS and dad blogger Ben Tafau chat about their lives as single fathers

Two solo dads chat about the joys and challenges of parenting and how life changed forever when their daughters were born. One is Vodafone NZ Music Awards Breakthrough Artist of the Year nominee KINGS, the man responsible for the smash hit ‘Don’t Worry ‘Bout It’. The other is Ben Tafau, author of the popular blog 1 Player Dad and champion for single dads everywhere.

While in Fiji late last year, Kingsdon Chapple-Wilson shot an impromptu music video, using nothing but his iPhone, to accompany his then-unreleased track ‘Don’t Worry ‘Bout It’. The song, released under the name KINGS, grew an underground fan base before skyrocketing to success. At the time of writing it has had over 2.5 million streams on Spotify, almost 700,000 views on YouTube and has gone platinum on the New Zealand singles and radio airplay charts.

Ben Tafau is a single dad to daughter Esme and one of New Zealand’s favourite dad bloggers. Both Kings and Ben share care of their daughters so they have plenty in common. Here they chat about the ups and downs of being dads, their parenting styles, and what it means to be truly selfless.

Ben: Hey Kings, you’ve been doing really well with your music lately, congrats! How long have you been in the game for?

Kings: You know how it is with Māoris, singing at maraes all the time! But the proper passion in turning it into an actual business, where I could make some money, happened as soon as my daughter was born. I thought “I can either do this properly, or I could go get a job” and I just was like yeah, I think I have the resources and talent to do it, so I just stuck in the hard yards.

I dropped out of school when I was 17 and studied music at MAINZ (the Music and Audio Institute of New Zealand), graduated the first year, was about to graduate the second year and ended up moving to Australia with my mum. I had moved away from everyone at an age where I was supposed to be set, I felt really out of place and I had to relearn myself so I spent all that time in the studio learning how to make music. I came back to New Zealand, got the missus pregnant (laughs), and then that was the decision – I saw that I could provide for bub doing this, it’s just going to take time. And that’s where me and (my daughter’s mum) kinda didn’t see eye to eye, she said “You gotta do something now” and I was like “Nah, I got this! You just gotta trust me!”

I formed a record label with my dad, and started out doing things like jingle work for commercials, did a lot of stuff in Malaysia, did some stuff for Les Mills, I had a lot of projects ticking over. The money was really up and down, over the last six years I was on and off the benefit while I was trying to make it. About two to three years ago I just really focused, chucked everything in and said “nah, I gotta do this” and three years later, signed to a major label!

KINGS

KINGS

That’s a big call to make when you’ve got a young baby to provide for

My mum wasn’t too supportive of the idea either, she was more traditional: ‘the man makes the money and the mum stays home’ and I was like ‘Nah… guys, I’ve got this, please!’ That’s kinda why even when I did get signed and everything started happening, I didn’t actually celebrate until like four weeks after because it didn’t hit me properly. And it’s not even like it’s stopped yet, it was just a huge milestone that I didn’t really take the time to soak in it and be like “Shit man, you did what you said you were going to do!”

You were like “I’m still grinding, I’m still hustling…”

Yeah, exactly bro. And it’s just gone up and up from there – booked my first big shows, which is a lot of money that I’d never seen before, so I look at that and it was worth it, all the hard shit… It’s been a journey man.

So you were the primary caregiver of your daughter after you separated from her mum – how did you find balancing your career as a musician with your life as a single dad?

I stay up ‘til like 4am or 5am working on my music – I’ll do the whole dad buzz, then go to the studio or get on the laptop and just tutu around ‘til 4 in the morning, get up, take my daughter to daycare, go back home, and that was my entire life. Still to this day I still stay up til around 4am-5am and just grind, it’s become a habit.

Are you a vampire or something? When does the sleep come in?!

Haha! I was just so determined I guess – not even to prove the naysayers wrong, I was just determined to do it. I told everyone I was going to do it, I saw the vision and I just did it. Of course, I wouldn’t have been able to do it without support from family – whenever I needed to do anything, like a gig was on, Mum would be there, Dad would be there to help me.

BEN TAFAU AND HIS DAUGHTER ESME

BEN TAFAU AND HIS DAUGHTER ESME

How were your friends during this time when you were on the grind, balancing your music and your life as a single dad as well as being a young guy – were they accepting of you being a dad and trying to get your career off the ground?

When I had a kid, my priorities had to change – [in the past] I was going to town, trying to find a girl, and that had to stop. Well, not so much stop, but I just had to prioritise properly. So it went from the number one priority to like the number three priority. I’d still go out and do that every now and then, but I just had less time for the bros. They all understood the situation though, they just let it be what it was. They stopped hollering at me to come out all the time, but then I’d holla at them when I was able to come out and they’d be like “Oh cool, Kings is coming out!”

Nice, so they were still there for you when you were available to hang out?

Yeah, they understood that, and cos I was starting this label, it was just a huge grind. All my true friends from day one are still with me, and now they’re kinda like “Woah, yeah man, you did it – let’s go for a beer now”

Your shout now! So what’s the biggest thing that’s helped you in your role as a single dad?

I gotta give credit to the family, man, they helped out so much because I was like a pig out of mud – they were a great support system. I live with my dad at the moment, and he was out of the picture for a while when Mum had full custody of us kids until I was about 12. When I reconnected with my dad, we turned out to be like best friends. It was awesome, because as a guy you really need that male energy around you.

Did you find you had to deal with any stereotypes when people learned you were a single dad?

Yeah, people are like “Oh…I thought it would be the weekends” and I’m like “Nah bo!”

It’s interesting when people find out I have a daughter and they ask how often I see her, and I say ‘four nights a week’ and they’re like “Oh!” like it’s always a surprise to them.

I’d be happy to have my daughter full time, but it’s also cool to have that split custody to give me a break.

Yeah, you definitely need those breaks! It’s fortunate that I have those nights during the week where I can be like “I’m not a parent tonight” and I can do my own thing to help keep that balance in my life. What’s the biggest challenge/hardest thing you find in working as a single dad?

The hardest thing was probably trying parent the way I think I should, versus parenting based on the way that I was taught. We were taught things differently as a kid, like when some parents say “don’t sit on the table, don’t do this, don’t do that”. Or cultural things. And I kinda wanna distance myself from that so it’s not me parenting her the way I was taught, and more just kinda guiding her, you know? Instead of being like “Do this, cos I’m the adult”, be more like “You should do this because (of this reason).”

KINGS AND HIS DAUGHTER VALI

KINGS AND HIS DAUGHTER VALI

I remember when I was young, in the car there’s a handle on the side of the steering column that you can use to lift it up and down, I didn’t know what it was and I was like “Dad, what’s that?” and he’s like “Don’t touch it” and I was like “Oh, OK…” Later on I worked out what it was for, but it was like ‘just tell me what it is, then tell me not to touch it’ – explain to me ‘if you pull that and you get it out of alignment, then it can be dangerous when you’re driving, and the car might crash etc’ and that’s cool, because I learn something. But don’t just say: “Don’t do it,” because that doesn’t teach me anything!

Yeah, the biggest challenge for me was trying to develop my parenting style where I wasn’t being just forceful, I was actually being a parent and trying to guide her in the right direction.

I have a similar challenge where sometimes I lose my patience a bit when my daughter’s not listening and I raise my voice at her. The cool thing about her is that she might react to me losing my patience, but then two seconds later she’d be like “oh yeah, all goods” as if it never happened. And I’ll be like “oh phew!” And then I’ll apologise and say “Sorry darling, I shouldn’t have yelled at you like that, Daddy’s just a little bit tired and it’s hard to do things on my own sometimes…” and she’s like “huh…ok yeah cool OH LOOK OVER THERE can I have some chocolate?!” just like, total distraction! And I’m stoked that her instant forgiveness helps me when my parenting reactions aren’t too flash.

That’s cool man, I don’t know if that’s common, it’s cool that you do that. I think that’s how it should be man.

I think that’s one of the things that I’ve tried to do in terms of bridging the way we were taught versus the way we want to, or the way we should, parent. Maybe it is more common nowadays, but this is the first conversation I’ve ever had about it so I don’t know!

I’ve talked to some other dads about it, and they’ve got real traditional mentalities about it, like “What I say in the house goes” and I’m like cool man, but you’ve gotta think about their future, not yours!

It’s like – well, if you do it that way, all they’re gonna do is live in fear of doing something wrong and not knowing why it might be wrong, but if you teach them and explain things to them, you allow them to think and make decisions. My daughter’s really well behaved, which is a good thing because it would made this single dad thing a helluva lot harder, maybe 5 percent of the time she can be a little shit but most of the time she’s awesome, and I think part of that is due to not trying to “rule by force”.

My mum used to do this thing when we used to go to other people’s houses, where she’d say “don’t be rude” and “shush”, so growing up whenever I’d go to other people’s houses I’d be really overly shy, like too shy, to the point where they’d be like “Are you OK?” and I’d whisper “Oh yeah.” She didn’t realise how much of an impact it made on me until I told her, and she was like “Wow, sorry!”

BEN AND ESME

BEN AND ESME

Trying to be a parent these days, I was going to say there’s no manual, but there’s actually so much stuff out there nowadays in books, on the internet, social media etc, that it’s almost too confusing, and you’ve gotta find your own way.

The way I’ve raised my daughter is to ask questions and I’ll always try to answer them, you know how kids always ask random questions? I always try to answer them as fully as I can. I’ll even Google them to find the answer. You know the dent at the top of your lip? It’s called a philtrum. The only reason I know that is because she asked me a question that I didn’t know, and I Googled it. So now we both know!

I do a similar thing too, when my daughter asks me a question and the answer might be a bit beyond her understanding, I’ll just tell her anyway. The answer might go over her head, but that information might also get absorbed somehow. Kind of talking to her like an adult, in a way.

Even with stuff like politics, we go into town down Queen Street and she’ll see homeless people and I’ll tell her to go give them some money, and she’ll be like “Why does he need money?” and I’ll say “Because he doesn’t have a home” and she’ll go “Oh no!” She’s still got that care for other people, and that’s the one thing that I’m like “Please, don’t lose that!”

What was the biggest change in you when you became a Dad?

That was straight up, just becoming not just about myself. I thought I was selfless when it came to my partner but I didn’t really know selflessness until I had a child. Now I could actually give her everything and not even want anything in return. Like full unconditional love, you know what I mean? That’s probably the biggest and most beautiful lesson I’ve learned that changed my life. Looking at that love, I realised in all my other relationships with anybody else – family members, business people – I approach them now with a more mature way. Like in negotiations with these contracts with major labels it’s helped me develop a mana, or an inner strength, that helps me say no when I need to say no, and say yes when I need to say yes. Because it’s not just about me now, I need to make bigger calls. It’s more than confidence, it’s like I’ve got someone more to live for now.

KINGS AND VALI

KINGS AND VALI

OK, one last dad question before we finish up: What’s your favourite thing about being a dad?

Ooh. Favourite thing? The love, man. The love. You can’t even put a word to it, the days when you feel purposeless, and you just look at your child, and you’re like: “That’s right.” I can’t even picture my life before, to be honest. Before I was a dad I couldn’t picture my life now, but now it’s like, I can’t go to a carpark and drink 12% Codys, and hang outside of clubs anymore, you know?

The best thing is that reassurance and love just from a look, or from a hug, and it’s like “Oh yeah, I’m in the right place.” Especially when you have those long days at work, and they come home and ask you questions like “Hey dad, why is the sky blue today?” and you can just sit there and talk to your daughter and just enjoy that love.

KINGS is a nominee for ‘Breakthrough Artist of the Year’, ‘Single of the Year’ and ‘People’s Choice’ at the 2016 Vodafone New Zealand Music Awards, taking place on November 17. His self-titled EP is released on November 25. The EP features ‘Don’t Worry Bout It’, the new single ‘What We Supposed To Do’ and four other tracks.


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