Trem One - Rap Diaspora
Since FTTOHNL dropped a few months ago Ive had the opportunity to speak alot through some great interviews, this one was also right on the money. I was asked to contribute my 2 cents to a couple questions for an article that ran in the Big Issue Magazine re. the state of Hip hop in this country. The article featured a couple weeks back and some good grabs were pulled from my interview but considering the depth of the interview alot of things I touched on obviously couldnt make the short editorial which also included other comments from various local artists.
With the consent of the magazines interviewer, heres the full version. It may seem a little weird to read as multiple Q’s are bunched in at the beginning of certain paragraphs. It should all make sense though as it unfolds.
Shout out to Dan Rule again for hitting us up on the topic…
* Basic Background
- Just for context’s sake, could you let me know your age and where you grew up?
I’m on the 40 side of 30, Born & lived in Sydney’s inner west (flats & commission housing) til relocating to Geelong, Victoria at the age of about 13 and right in the midst of my mind being blown by this amazing new culture that had been exploding on our shores for the past couple of years. Just as the major cities were flourishing with the Hip Hop culture I was dragged to a sleepy hollow an hour from Melbourne and an hour by train away from the action! After a while I made connects and began regular travel to Melbourne eventually moving here.
* I’d love to hear about your introduction to hip-hop…
- You came up in an era in which painting and graffiti culture was still very much intrinsic to hip-hop; were those two pursuits very much linked for you?
- Tell me a little about the transition from listening to MCing/producing
- Did you draw early inspiration from first generation Australian crews (if so who) like Def Wish Cast and co, or do you feel your chief early inspirations were golden era NY peeps?
My initial introduction to Hip hop was in the early 80’s whilst still in Sydney. Its extremely hard to pinpoint the very first thing that grabbed me or even to put them in exact chronological order but the combo of those first couple of Rap tracks to bless our airwaves in 83/4 along with seeing a preview of the film Beat Street at my mates dads video shop on one of them old vids that just had upcoming previews on them, and of course the buzz surrounding this amazing new book at the time that was supposedly impossible to obtain “Subway Art”, were the main instigators that come to mind.
Mum and I were without the oldman and we didn’t have the luxury of a car, so train was usually my travel mode, therefore those early, primitive but productive tags and pieces that began to appear from our station in West Ryde to the city captured my attention as well. The culture as a whole movement really struck our shores in a big way and all the elements grabbed me by the throat. I even enlisted in Breaking classes in Parramatta! But I would definitely say when it took a hold of me it was definitely as a total movement… Every aspect of it became part of me, so the two pursuits of graffiti and the music to me seemed one. It’s actually funny when I think about it now at how shocked I was to find out some writers didn’t even listen to Rap!
As far as my shift from avid listener to becoming a participator, it really started to manifest in about 89/90. A mate and I had put two boomboxes face to face and recorded ourselves a year or so prior after “Down Under By Law” came out but Id say by the end of 89, start of 1990 Id started to put work into writing rhymes, they weren’t for anyone else’s ears but mine of course! Then after meeting and connecting with a fellow Geelong Graffiti artist “Raise” we started talking about the local rap that had been circulating, the new AKA brothers 12” Coming Out Large was just about to drop at the time and I mentioned to him that I had a few verses Id written. I spat something to him right there on the train on the way to Central Station Records and he didn’t believe I wrote it! I had to convince him it was mine and that I had more… From there the slow process started, pause tape style recordings and eventual hookups with others in Melbourne further advanced the process, til we hooked up with heads like Frenzie we didn’t have the first clue about production or multi track recording, break beating and pause tapes was all we new. It was still years prior to me putting on my production hat, but these connects led me to learning about digging and sampling etc…
My first inspirations were obviously US artists but it wasn’t til I heard and saw the likes of A.K.A and other local artists actually put it to practice that I figured I could expand my secret rhyme writing to a larger scale. I’m a fan first and foremost and the thought of doing it was not only daunting but I always thought unless I was somewhere near what my heroes were doing then there’s no sense in airing it. I guess I saw it as an insult to not only them but the culture.
* How would you characterise Australian hip-hop in the early days, both in terms of attitude/philosophy and community…
- From my experience, the sub-culture of people making hip-hop and going to shows were something of a small village…everyone knew of each other and had their opinions, beefs etc. To be given any credence, you had to come up through the channels. Would you agree?
Yeah, you’re on the money!
Exactly that… It was a relatively small subculture; if you didn’t know someone personally chances were you knew of them. Although not everyone got along, far from it in fact, differing opinions and both verbal and physical beefs entrenched it, there still seemed to be this sense of unity in the fact that we were all working towards the same goal and for the right reasons. If you were an out and out sucker, toy or sellout, you were exposed. And the invisible guidelines were there and generally followed, paying dues was paramount, like you said to achieve any credence you had to earn them stripes via the channels set.
* How would you characterise Australian hip-hop today?
- It seems now that, with the vast popularisation and diversification of what might be considered hip-hop in recent years, the notion of Australian hip-hop as a genre or even community becomes problematic…
- Your record, for example, and what comes out of Obese these days — let alone someone like 360′s record are so far removed they can’t really be linked via genre or philosophy or whatever…
- Do you feel like you’re part of some wider Australian hip-hop narrative, or do you see yourself in terms of a smaller community of purists?
- Or, perhaps, do you understand what you’re doing as fitting into a wider tradition and diaspora of hip-hop chiefly from NY, Philly, Detroit et al…?
Firstly, I still struggle with the term Australian or Aussie / Oz Hip Hop. I don’t think I’ve personally called it that, ever. I totally see how and why it was used, and can appreciate that, but it seems like my worst fears have come to fruition with the current state of play and the people representing, using and riding under the term. I don’t think it ever needs to be mentioned, we are who we are doing our version, that’s all. Can you believe some youngsters not only, ONLY listen to supposed “Ozzie Hip Hop”, but they actually diss US rap in a manor suggesting their totally unaware that the music originated there and that we took from it and adapted our own? It’s just crazy. To me it’ll always just be Hip Hop or rap from Australia.
Beyond the bad banner, the problem we have now is that the next generation (small pockets of knowledgeable heads excluded) don’t actually know Hip Hop from a bar of soap, or pop at least. If all they know is the garbage they’re fed and told on certain radio stations locally and the terrible crap from overseas that’s also passing as Hip Hop on the TV, how the fuck are they ever gonna know? They’re not privy to the exciting new movement I was in the 80’s,they don’t have the influx of classic album after classic album of the 90’s when it was impossible to put out music unless your talent was worthy of throwing dollars at. It’s up to all of us to teach them, or at the very least put it out there for them to see. Not enough of them want to explore the roots of the music and the culture itself and the fact its being grossly misinterpreted and misrepresented is where my biggest gripe is. Using the term Hip Hop to categorize something that besides potentially a couple words rhyming together has no bearing or relation to the music or the movement at all is ludicrous.
I class my album as Straight Up and down Rap, Hip Hop Music, I’m happy with the terms real, hardcore or underground but don’t put me in the skip hop with the rest, please! I’m definitely a purist and at times a fraction jaded as any traditionalist would, but I never hate on people doing the kind of music they want, my discontent comes in when either the artist themselves or their label or even media go on to categorize them as Hip hop when they are far from it. Please, lets keep the Hip Hop section in the store, the Hip Hop stage at gigs and the Hip Hop reviews in media for the Hip Hop artists and releases, its not rocket science.
* What drives you to still make records?
- I’d love to hear a little about what you wanted to do with ‘For the Term…’
- It certainly describes a different side of Melbourne to what we’re used to hearing these days…
- Everyone’s so swept up in the whole inner-city coffee-drinking garbage these days; your record describes scenarios that couldn’t be further removed…
- The production, which is super rugged, dark and dusty also eschews current aesthetics, which are super brash and brassy and maximal..
- What do you hope people take away from the record, both lyrically and musically?
With regards to the album, it’s just me. It’s my rap life. It’s pretty much the album I always envisioned. It’s what I know, what I see, what I’ve done. I think it’s a real reflective and personal release that follows that traditional blueprint of a classic rap release. It wasn’t my intention to make something so removed from other stuff that’s out today, it just came out that way. There’s no doubt its got that golden era feel to it but I don’t think it sounds dated or throwback, maybe that’s just me? Minimal production with ill loops and bangin drums, straight up lyrics and cuts is rap music isn’t it? The new records I listen to similarly follow these lines as well so maybe I’m just in my own world?!
As far as what people take from the album, I’m open, they will what they will. I certainly know it can’t be for everyone so it’s all good either way. I made it for me and the likeminded souls who feel the same; I guess I hope those who enjoy it take from it the same as I take from my favourite releases. Break down my raps like I used to Rakims, pick out the samples if they can, have an overall appreciation for the endless hours that went into not only crafting the rhymes and beats but the marrying of it all as one complete album I poured everything into over quite a few years?!
I’ll always make records. I’ll always be doing this. I’ve done a few interviews lately and I always state the fact that Hip Hop as a complete culture found me and locked me in for life. It’s why the albums title is what it is. There’s no escaping this, I live, breathe, eat and shit the culture. You can’t escape it when it has you like it has me. I may only paint once a year but its still in my blood, I may put out an album every couple years but I’m still rhyming to myself daily, I’m still diggin weekly, my body doesn’t allow to attempt windmills at 38 but I love watchin heads spin, I play records every day. I’m still a fan first and that’s what keeps me hungry, that’s still keeps me inspired, when you lose that you might as well throw it in.
By Dan Rule