Monthly Archives: July 2012

  • Artist Interview Epps

    You think you know the meaning of the word “energetic,” and then you meet Epps. Infectiously enthusiastic, curious, talented, distracted, equipped with a seemingly boundless supply of energy to expend on a seemingly infinite array of projects: someone should cast him in red bull ads. Just a few of the topics up for discussion during our interview include the deaths of migrating ducks in an American copper mine, a deserted amusement park near Chernobyl, and the question of just what happens to flies when it isn’t summer. Oh, and hip hop. A lot of hip hop. Also time out to watch a rat the size of a small possum scamper around the Yarra, followed by a quick glance at a public traditional tattooing – but mainly hip hop. The thousand distractions that materialize during our conversation are fascinating, without question. (In fact that may be the one discernible feature they have in common.) But it is in hip hop, after all, that Epps is starting to make a name for himself. Specifically, it is in rap battling.

    The Melbourne-living, New Zealand-born MC/battler has just returned from a trip Sydney way with 1OUTS, the league who calls him champion. A trip to his home country is also in the works, where he’ll (hopefully) be representing the Australian arm of the originally Kiwi league in a trans-Tasman match-up. This sudden increase in his travel plans comes after his taking out of the Rap for the Future competition, which saw newcomers to the battling scene compete in Melbourne’s graffiti-saturated Hosier Lane. As said newcomer, Epps certainly isn’t doing too badly. While he’s been penning lyrics since 16, and making music since 19, his tally of battles to date adds up to a grand total of six. Yet he and battling partner Young Lean were pitted against well-respected and well-established MCs Dribbles and Fluence in recent event 2-UP SKOOL, a symbol of respect if anything is. They lost – but as Epps says, it was still “a really good battle”, and you can’t really complain about coming up against “two of the top 10 battle rappers in the country” and still leaving in one piece. Especially significant about that night for Epps was being on the same bill as Ilyak, who he remembers being blown away by at the now defunct Revolver nightclub battle nights.

    Some would let this growing success, evidenced by events such as 2-UP SKOOL, go to their heads, but for Epps it is more of a “pinch of reality.” You see, he is still coming to terms with the idea of calling himself a battle rapper. While he is first and foremost about making music, battling for him is about “proving to myself…that I am an MC.” He relays to me a story about MF Doom, who by sampling a poem by Charles Bukowski, made the point that his verses were just as valid an art form as the renowned author, only with a bit more rhythm. For Epps, who doesn’t play any conventional instruments, the question raised by that anecdote is an important one. Is he a musician? Can he rightfully say his voice and his rhymes are instrument enough? He wasn’t sure – until the experience that comes with a variety of gigs and battles, provided him with a definite yes.

    While it has lately dominated his attention, battling is only a peripheral part of Epps’ hip-hop output, coming second place to the creation of his music. He is yet to release an actual EP, with the exception of a few copies with MC/Producer Kwasi, sold at gigs but unavailable online. For good reason though - he would rather release nothing at all than something “substandard.” And I think we can all thank him for not adding to the endless of pile of low-quality shite available on the Internet - safe in the knowledge that when he does finally release something, it will be worth our time. Rumour has it EP no.1 may even be written from the point of a ghost.

    Recorded music aside, the depth and breadth of his live shows speak for themselves. Take his first for instance – opening for M-Phazes at the renowned producer’s album release in Traralgon, Epps’ home at the time. After cutting his teeth working as a hype man for Young Lean - which provided him with valuable experience in putting on a live show - he has been lucky enough to share the stage with artists such as Yelawolf, Briggs, and the talented members of his crew, L-Burn. It with the ‘L-Burn ILLuminati’ that Epps has played for the last month every Monday at Melbourne’s Laundry Bar, as part of the group’s residency. So why does he put so much work in? “You make music for two reasons,” he says. “For yourself, to make sense of the world, and for other people, to gain their respect.” In other words, as well as the personal factors that inspire so many people to create, his talent has exposed him to artists he grew up emulating.

    As an emerging talent already who already has substantial live experience, an obvious capacity to learn fast and razor-sharp rhymes, Epps is definitely one to watch. I for one will be the first in line to get my hands on a copy of whatever he does decide to release

    Written by Frances Vinall Exclusively for Ozhiphopshop

     
  • New Music! Taylor Made Tactix - Uninvited Guests

    Taylor Made Tactix - Uninvited Guests Available Now For Purchase

    Taylor Made Tactix Taylor Made Tactix

    Straight out the slimys of Morphett Vale, SA, local hip hop outfit Taylor Made Tactix have gate crashed the party with their long awaited debut album ‘Uninvited Guests’, and as the title suggests the group have arrived unannounced but they are here to stay... and you might just like them.

    Taylor Made Tactix is MCs Mesha, Mnops and Senca who have joined forces with DJ Snair (Social Change, Cross Bred Mongrels, Battlehoggs) to deliver a powerful account of their time spent forging forward in the music scene. Perserverance has been key in delivering an honest contribution to Hip Hop and a gritty documentation of the last five years of their lives.

    After building a strong following via the release of their demo and a heap of live shows around Adelaide, the TMT crew have released a rock solid debut effort that has all the bases covered from hookless singles (Hometown) and raw battle tracks (Crazy Thoughts) to chilled out tunes that would suit your sunday sessions (This Is Living feat Joy Sparks). ‘Uninvited Guests’ is a reflection of Taylor Made Tactix both individually and collectively and it speaks of the journey underground artists go thru to have their music heard - that to get anywhere sometimes you’ve gotta show up uninvited and make your presence known.

    The album itself is handled entirely by Taylor Made Tactix with Mesha producing all but two tracks of which DJ Snair holds down the production. Snair also slices it up on the turntables all over the project as one would expect and Funkwig (Social Change / F&d) adds his signature basslines. The result is a raw yet well crafted sound scape that serves as the perfect backdrop for the three talented wordsmiths to deliver rich content with technical precision.

    ‘Uninvited Guests’ is a diverse kick kick snare interpretation of life from the perspectives of 3 MCs and 1 DJ, and with mixing by K21 and mastering by Neville Clark it is also sonically on point. If you enjoy sample based, deep Hip Hop, you’re all invited as Uninvited Guests.

    Uninvited Guests is available now for purchase in our store via the link below.

    CD

     
  • Artist Interview Mdusa

    Mdusa
    The MC/producer/video editor/everything who goes by Mdusu has been around since the Australian hip hop scene was taking its first steps; it seems like he hasn’t stopped to breathe since. With seven albums and countless collaborations under his belt, his latest project is a soon-to-be-released album with fellow Tasmanians Dunn D and Greeley, under the moniker Mic Dons (subtly titled “Raps, Drugs and Swearing.”) Then there’s his stuff with K21, like the energetic ‘Won’t Stop’; he’s also been working with Born Fresh, as well as with his label Tape Death. Oh, and he expects to have the solo album ‘Ex-Samples’ finished sometime this year. All this on top of supporting a four-year-old son and, assumedly, doing normal things like eating and sleeping. Just thinking about it is enough to make you exhausted – so Ozhiphopshop had a chat with him to get his take on the Aussie hip hop scene, and more importantly find out how the fuck exactly he gets everything done.

    So, what is his secret? He says that the cornerstones of any kind of hip hop are “versatility and self-sufficiency.” A quick browse through his catalogue of work confirms that these aren’t just empty words. His releases are often filled with deeply personal takes informed by his upbringing, under a West Indian mother and Caucasian father in the northern suburbs of Hobart. This has given him a unique perspective, of being pale-skinned but understanding the racism that still permeates Australian culture. An example? “Coppers would wipe their hands after they shook hands with my mum,” he says. Also apparent in his music is a dedication to hip hop that is somewhat awe inspiring. Out of necessity, he has uploaded tracks on a stolen mac through free library WiFi in the past, continuing to work even during a period of homelessness. One of his most touching tracks even details the break up of his marriage, a writing experience he equates to “getting your gear off in front of people.” Contrast that, however, against his latest work with Mic Dons, which he describes as “literally just about us calling ourselves fucking awesome drug-taking big dick rap gods. Absolute arrogance. You guys can get as deep as you want – we’re going to fucking rap.” Nice.

    This versatility crosses over to other aspects of his music as well. When it comes to producing, he writes beats and uses samples with the aim in mind of telling a story, without the explicit accompaniment of vocals to convey the message. Plus, he’s a multi-instrumentalist, who has been performing in various incarnations since age 10, and continues to play all of his own samples. Always a hip hop fan, it wasn’t until he stumbled across pioneers such as Lyrical Commission that he decided to try his hand at it himself. But it isn’t only hip hop he listens to – far from it. Everything from J Dilla to soul and Motown to Johann Sebastian Bach is cited as an influence. It is this versatility of taste, in fact, that drew him to his chosen genre in the first place: in his words, “hip hop is every style of music, with bangin’ drums.” The only thing necessary for a piece of music to be incorporated into hip hop, Duse explains, is that it be good. Hip hop is based on “realness.” Honest latin music, honest classical, honest pop – in the hands of the right producer, any of this can become honest hip hop. And that’s the beauty of it.

    This honesty is also part of what makes the Australian hip hop scene so distinctive, and why Duse doesn’t have a problem with the pop-pier, softer direction it seems to be heading in. After all, rapping about fucking hoes and toting guns is ridiculous unless you are actually fucking hoes and toting guns, which really, if you live in Australia, you probably aren’t. So does that mean middle class white boys shouldn’t be making hip hop? Of course not. “What most Australians relate to, is your average Australian person,” he says. This happier, more loveable style of music is more relatable amongst the white middle class Australian majority – it only makes sense that it would be more accessible to the mainstream. “As we grow up, we are learning what our version of realness is, and we’re not necessarily attributing ourselves to another country’s version of realness,” he says. In other words, if you connect to triple J style hip hop and the kind of subject matter contained in it, listen to triple J. If you connect to the more personal themes and refined beats of artists like Mdusu, listen to him.

    Not, however, that he’s saying all hip hop is good hip hop. There’s no denying the genre has been receiving a lot more attention lately, which Mdusu says is both good and bad. It’s positive that there are “more people on our side” - increased recognition of the genre, more radio airplay, new fans popping up seemingly by the second. But the negative is that there is an emerging breed of “artists” more interested in instant success than a deeper understanding of what hip hop is. Knowing the history, the New York roots of what is now a worldwide experience, is a prerequisite to producing original, informed music beyond the 5-minute attention span of popular culture. As Duse puts it, “everyone wants to do something new, but you don’t know if you’re doing something new unless you check your history out.”

    It isn’t a phenomenon unique to hip hop. In the early nineties electronic music was only played in certain niche clubs; now everyone thinks they’re a DJ. The Beatles struggled in shitty little dive bars for years to gain recognition; now everyone who can afford guitar lessons is in a rock band. It’s an unfortunate side effect of the expansion of a genre that there is simultaneous expansion in its talentless wannabe sector. But while the repercussions of sudden growth aren’t unique to hip hop, it’s history is - and what Duse is saying is that you need to grasp this concept to have the first hope of having any impact whatsoever. “Hip hop isn’t just a style of music,” he explains. “It was all people had when the council wouldn’t fix their apartment block, when public transport wouldn’t stop in their area, when unemployment was up 20 per cent. As you get more and more removed from that, you get people forgetting that hip hop is supposed to be the voice of the disenfranchised.”

    So you’ve got the versatility and the self-sufficiency, the dedication, the knowledge, the history – is there anything else he credits his ability to? Well, just one final thing. “I get so stoned that people are scared I’m going to fall over,” he says. “But I love it, because then when I get on stage I feel free and I feel like the expectation is less and the people are more forgiving. And being stoned makes me a heaps better dancer, so.” An example I’m sure most of you would be more than happy to follow.

    If you haven’t already, you can listen MD’s previous releases here - http://itsthemd.wordpress.com/releases/

    To keep up with when the new album drops check out his Facebook - www.facebook.com/mdusu

     

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