5/19/18, Honolulu, Hawaii
The 41st Nā Hōkū Hanohano Awards were held in the state capital on Saturday night, May 19, and the Hawaii Convention Center was filled with over 1500 of its attendees. The annual awards ceremony, also known as the Hawaiian Grammy, is the most prestigious musical event in Hawaii, and serves to recognize and celebrate the best music produced in the state each year. This year, Kauai-based rapper Illtalian took home the Nā Hōkū for Best Hip Hop Album of the Year, the only Kauaian to take home a Hōkū that night, and a first for any rappers from his home island. Illtalian, who is a born again Christian with explicitly Christian lyrics in his music, won in the traditionally secular Hip Hop Category, another first.
“To win the Nā Hōkū Hanohano Award for ‘Best Rap Album of the Year’ was surreal, like a dream come true.” said Illtalian, whose real name is Thomas Iannucci. “To be honest, I didn’t think it would happen. People from Kauai rarely win, and making Christian music didn’t seem like it would help my chances much; I was just happy to be there. To get the win is humbling and leaves me speechless.”
For Iannucci, the win was especially gratifying because it helped honor the memory of his friend, the late Lucas Makana Riley, whom the album was named after.
“Being able to pay tribute to Lucas in that way was beautiful. I’m so thankful to Jesus and everyone who voted for the album, because it felt like the perfect way to honor my friend and one of the best men I knew.” said Iannucci.
“Makana,” which was released in December of 2017, features some of the biggest names in Christian Hip Hop, including 1k Phew, Swift, Gemstones, and Je’kob, as well as production by Big Juice and Spechouse. It was produced by Ariki Foster, and is out now.
When asked where he goes from here, Iannucci was happy just to bask in the moment. “I’ve already finished recording the next project,” he admitted. “I’ll be dropping something soon. But for now, I just wanna enjoy this moment that God has blessed me with. With any luck, it’ll be the first of many more to come.”