LIHUE — Everyone thought Thomas Gausepohl would one day become a lawyer or a doctor. The Kapaa High School Class of 2009 valedictorian was a scholar.
But Gausepohl had a different vision.
“Growing up on Kauai, I was always kind of ashamed to rap,” said Gausepohl, who is 24 and lives on Oahu. “So I never really did it in public or made an effort to express that rap music is a passion of mine, except for with a few people.
“I played the piano, people knew that, but that’s different. You’re pressing keys and making sounds. It’s less personal. You’re not saying stuff from you soul.”
Gausepohl is no longer ashamed to chase his dream. On Aug. 19, he celebrated not only his birthday but also the release of his first rap mixtape, “The Process.”
“It’s time to pursue my passion, and this is the first step to doing it,” Gausepohl explained.
He released the mixtape under the stage name Scholar.
The mixtape’s 15 tracks are dedicated to themes straight out of Gausepohl’s life. Falling into drug use. Cynicism. Feeling helpless. The struggle to be your authentic self. Coming to believe in something bigger than yourself. Learning to switch your way of thinking. Gratitude. Self-improvement. Allowing yourself to be happy.
Gausepohl said the mixtape’s lyrical content traces the stages of his own life.
“The last four songs are more positive, and it’s like figuring out what’s really important,” he said. “I kind of believe in happily ever after. A lot of people don’t, but I do.”
Gausepohl wrote the majority of the songs over the course of this year. In May, he took out a loan to cover the cost of renting out a Honolulu studio. He recorded the songs over 12 back-to-back hours.
The pressure was heavy, Gausepohl said, knowing that some of rap music’s stars have recorded there, such as E-40, Too Short and Mos Def.
“I was scared,” Gausepohl said. “I couldn’t really try to have fun with it because it was like, ‘Oh, my God, I’m already in debt and time is ticking and I’ve never been in a professional studio before.”
But he pulled it off. Three months later, he hosted a mixtape launch party in Honolulu that drew a crowd of 200 people.
Next on the agenda, he said, is recording a music video.
“Music is definitely the path I want to go,” Gausepohl said. “Releasing the album, it’s been a journey. The response has been pretty positive. A lot of people from home are just stoked that somebody’s done it. There’s definitely room for improvement, but I’m trying. I tried.”