"The plays were going up," grins AP. "I’d be chilling at home and hear it in cars going past. And my cousin was like 'Yo! They’re playing your song at the butcher!'"
The day "Ready or Not" was officially released, Church and AP performed at an event for local art collective Raroboys. “It was a very intimate gig, and it was just crazy. ["Ready or Not"] had only been out for a few hours but everybody knew the words. That was when we were like 'something’s changed,'" says Church.
The song was the fastest-moving homegrown single, topped the NZ Spotify and Shazam charts, reached A-rotation on commercial radio, and got the boys a Spotify check. “We got like $40 from Spotify. I bought Red Dead Redemption when the money came in," says Church.
"Ready or Not" was picked up overseas too, most notably getting played by Jamz Supernova on BBC 1Xtra. "Getting a notification that it was on anything BBC/1Xtra related, that's crazy!" says Church. "That doesn’t happen a lot to artists around our ways – it’s never happened to our friends, no-one our age around us."
The song is the lead single off their debut album being released later this year, which they’re hoping will "resonate with people in even half the way "Ready or Not" did."
"The album sound is a lot more melodic. We’re just trying to make a magnum opus at 18 and 19, and whatever comes from it, comes from it. I mean, Nas made Illmatic at this age," says Church.
Cathedral/All Purpose is set to drop in late February to tide fans over until the album is ready. While Thorough Bread’s messaging was “very cautious and particular,” Cathedral/All Purpose will offer personal insight into who Church and AP are, both individually and together.
"People know "Ready or Not", but don’t know us. The EPs are a sound much closer to the streets. It’s very modern and in your face," Church explains. "It’s not necessarily a commercial sound, but it’s what we wanted to make at the time. You find the most enjoyment out of the things you do for yourself," he muses.
The recently released Loud As Hell is the lead single off Cathedral/All Purpose, another song with a punchy bassline and memorable hook that’s destined for success.
Cathedral/All Purpose, and the following album, feature collabs and production from the likes of Shallows, Dera Meelan and Spyde – their “teammates” who they hope to give the opportunities that they were given. "We were put on by Melodownz and Rizván, so being able to do that is a blessing," says AP.
While most of their collaborators have been longtime friends, Church & AP met Shallows by chance in West Auckland, but instantly clicked.
"Shallows is the 40 to our OVO. He’s our in-house engineer, producer, and third member of [our collective] YKK," says Church.
“I was running a charitable studio in Te Atatu and these guys came to another programme that was happening at the same time. We just linked up, and it’s gotten us here,” explains Shallows.
Shallows was the duo’s DJ at New Year’s Festival Northern Bass, where Church & AP were billed alongside artists like Action Bronson and Joey Badass, for a “buzzy” final highlight in a year full of “expected and unexpected” accomplishments - including opening for Chicago rapper Saba.
“There are a lot of things you can plan, and there are things you can only call blessings. Northern Bass: Blessing. "Ready or Not": Blessing.”
Northern Bass timed it well and locked Church & AP in just weeks before "Ready or Not" dropped. "They didn’t know us, but made space for us, and I think they were happy about it," Church says.
While some things happened by chance, Church & AP credit their accomplishments so far to simply setting goals and making plans.
“Plans work. People have these endgames but have no way of getting to them - we have both, hypothetically”, Church says. “If you want to do something, do it. Make a plan and you should be on your way,” AP adds. “We’ve learned to do stuff in our own time, at our own pace.”
Age is no barrier to a good plan, a message they want to empower their fellow youth with. “I think there's a general misconception that you need to be older to know what you want. You don't need to be older, what do you want right now?”, asks Church. “You know what you want when you’re 17,” AP firmly states.
One of those goals is to open for a Key!, Kenny Beats, or Isaiah Rashad show in New Zealand.
“Key! and Isaiah Rashad are two of the most influential rappers in my whole life. Key is the most underrated rapper to ever exist” Church says. “Key! Come to NZ!” adds AP.
While they wait for the call-up, the duo also want to try tour overseas: “Whether that’s Australia or the UK, we’ll just see what it’s like and try live life,” says Church. “We can’t stop a moving train and that’s kind of the position we’re caught in now.”
Given their track record so far, there’s no doubt the duo will reach every goal they’ve set. It is abundantly clear that "Ready or Not" was a testimony, Cathedral/All Purpose is the prophecy, and the yet to be named album will deliver a sermon. From now on, the only place Church & AP are going is up.