Forrest Lake drill rapper Nokz in the booth for Red Bull 64 Bars.
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Music

"I won’t give up until I get where I wanna be": Nokz on what drives him

The Queensland rapper isn't in it for the fame -- he does it for his family, his community and the people of Forest Lake.
By Katie Cunningham
6 min readPublished on
There’s a bar in his Red Bull 64 Bars that Nokz says sums it all up: “See that’s the difference/ there’s a reason to why we do this / I love this shit so much cause at one point all I had was the music.”
“I cried when I wrote that part,” he tells Red Bull. “Because I’m not young, you know. A lot of these guys making music now, they’re 21 and they blew up when they were 19 or 20. I went through years and years of not getting paid and no one supporting me. Not to get deep, but I lost a lot trying to pursue this and get to where I am now.”
Today, though, Nokz is in an enviable position. At 25-years-old -- and just a year after he first started releasing music -- Nokz has become an ascendant name in Australian hip-hop. He’s newly signed to Castille Records, the label founded by fellow Queenslander and friend Lisi. He’s racked up six figure view counts on tracks like ‘Chat’ and ‘Warm Up’, as well as collaborating with Nerve on ‘Walk & Talk Part 4’. And, now, he’s stepped up to deliver a Red Bull 64 Bars, joining rank with the likes of Tasman Keith, JK-47 and Genesis Owusu.
Across a breathless two and a half minutes, Nokz uses his 64 Bars to rap about the long road to where he is now: from being broke and working in a warehouse to hustling his way into a music career so that he can build a better future for his family. Which is, as he says, why he got into rap in the first place.

3 min

Nokz78 Red Bull 64 Bars

The Queensland rapper isn't in it for the fame -- he does it for his family, his community and the people of Forest Lake.

Nokz first began rapping as a kid with his older brother in their garage at home in Forest Lake, a suburb in the outer southwest of Brisbane. Together, they spat bars about “what we thought love was as a 12-year-old” into a $2 headset from Crazy Clark’s. But it wasn’t until last year that he went into a studio to properly record a track. It was necessity -- not ego -- that motivated him to get in there.
“Honestly, it was just -- you’ve gotta do something in life, you know,” Nokz says. “I’ve worked full time in the warehouse since I was 16-years-old. So for me it was just like, what am I good at that I can help make my family some extra money with? It wasn’t about music, or the scene, or even me. It was just mainly about trying to provide; do the most. I know that’s not an exciting answer, but that’s the truth.”
A source of inspiration was fellow 64 Bars alumni Lisi, who broke through in a big way in late 2019 with his track ‘Say Less’. Having grown up near each other -- Lisi’s home base of Goodna is a 15-minute drive down the M2 from Forest Lake -- he and Nokz go back way before either of them got serious about music. Signing to Lisi’s label a couple months back felt like leveling up.
Working with Lisi is a blessing. If you wanna be the best, you gotta be around the best.”
Nokz
“I’m used to working alone, so being around people that have the same goal -- the goal becomes the ting, rather than ourselves. So I’ve learned a lot,” Nokz says. “But working with Lisi is a blessing. If you wanna be the best, you gotta be around the best.”
Both artists share the drive to uplift the people in their postcodes. Lisi has spoken about the adversity he saw in Goodna, and how he wants to motivate his area to ask for more from their lives. Similarly, for Nokz, Forest Lake wasn’t the best place to come up.
Forest Lake / Queensland drill rapper Nokz for Red Bull 64 Bars
Nokz for Red Bull 64 Bars.
“It was pretty rough,” Nokz says. “To put it into perspective, I’m the only one out of nine mates that is not in jail. There’s ten of us and eight of them are in jail; one’s passed away. So that paints the picture of how we grew up. We were very poor; we didn’t have much money and not a lot of kids were lucky enough to make anything out of their life.”
But he also sees a lot of potential in his area. “I’ve always said the most talent is in the hood. I’m probably the tenth best rapper I know in my area, but I’m the one that’s popped. And that’s just purely because I refuse to give up and I continue to work. A lot of people in my area, they’ve seen how hard I’ve worked to get it. I don’t like calling myself a role model because I’m not perfect, but I think it shows them that if I can work like that, hopefully they can too … I want to try and inspire some of the young kids.”
To put it into perspective, I’m the only one out of nine mates that is not in jail
Nokz
He thinks the burgeoning Queensland rap scene is a positive force for his community.
“People like myself and Lisi and Day1, we’re really creating a scene that hopefully some young boys [can be inspired by],” Nokz says. “I know there’s a lot of young Islanders out here who are starting to pursue music and they’re getting better and better. I listen to some of them and I’m like shit, they’re better than me.”
“But it’s exciting -- we’re definitely creating something here and hopefully in a year’s time, we’ll be able to swing with the big boys in Sydney and Melbourne. I think our best days are to come.”
And while Nokz has sometimes been compared to south-of-the-border acts like OneFour or Hooligan Hefs, he says he doesn’t identify as a driller. “I mean, I make drill music. But I’ve got a song with [Melbourne bounce producer] Joel Fletcher coming out. So there’s no real category I would put me in … I go in and make music from the heart. That’s why I make all different types of music -- because it’s just what I’m feeling at the time.”
Forrest Lake drill rapper Nokz and producers in the studio for Red Bull 64 Bars.
Nokz and producers in the studio for Red Bull 64 Bars.
On his Red Bull 64 Bars, he wanted to document the “360 moment” stepping into that booth marked. For a kid from Forest Lake, it was a big deal.
“Everyone used to laugh at us making music. They used to tease us. We used to have a mattress next to the cupboard to keep the sound out making music and now we’re here at Red Bull,” he says. “So for me, that’s pretty much the story throughout the whole thing: it’s about how we started and the fact that I won’t give up until I get to where I wanna be.”
And as for what Nokz’s family -- the people he does it for -- think of his success? “I had to make them believe over the years,” he admits. “If my son came around and said he wanted to be a rapper, I would probably say no as well.”
“But now they support me and everything I do regardless,” he smiles. “They love it, bro. Even the swear words.”