Tag Archives: hip-hop

Live review: Alice Ivy + Miss Blanks + DVNA – The Foundry, Brisbane – 7/6/19

Fun and positive vibes were the name of the game at a bouncing Foundry in Fortitude Valley on Friday night (7th June).


Alice Ivy

In town to promote latest single ‘Close to You’, Melbourne beatmaker Alice Ivy was to play the penultimate show on a nine-stop tour in style, but if she was tired from yet another sizeable national tour, it certainly didn’t show.

First up was Gold Coast producer DVNA, who played a fun, earnest and endearing set to a filling Foundry, while taking time to thank her audience for coming along. Among a swag of smooth tracks, ‘Girl on the Move’ stood out as a soulful, glistening pop gem.


DVNA

Next came Miss Blanks, who dialled the sass up several hundredfold and truly got the party started in her typically brash and entertaining fashion. Between tracks the Brisbane rapper, and former Alice Ivy collaborator, was genuinely funny and self-deprecating, with set highlight ‘This Bitch’ bringing together everything good about her act: lyrical savviness, humour, profanity, and solid hip-hop chops.


Miss Blanks

This gig, however, was all about Alice Ivy. The Victorian producer and multi-instrumentalist was on top form from the get-go, as the audience increasingly let loose on a Friday night.

Switching between guitar, bass, electronics and more, she showed off her range across a swag of tracks from her debut album I’m Dreaming, but it was single ‘Close to You’ that we were here to witness in the flesh. The track, a poised and slick electronic pop number, went down a storm.

The good vibes increased with Alice Ivy thanking and expressing her love to everyone for coming, with fans returning the love many times over as the set came to a climax and a night of celebratory electronic pop came to a close with a sea of smiling faces spilling onto the street.

For Scenestr

Drake: Force of Nature

drake

HE MAY HAVE started from the bottom, but Aubrey Drake Graham is very much on top of the world right now.

Rapping is the 28 year-old’s bread and butter, but with fingers in the metaphorical pies of acting, business, clothing, management, production and sports, the multi-award-winner could never be accused of being a one-trick pony.

The focus, however, will be very much on the Toronto native’s musical skills when he performs for the first time on Australian soil, headlining Future Music Festival and completing a run of sideshows. Drake tops a bill featuring Swedish EDM superstar Avicii, English electronic stalwarts and 2013 headliners The Prodigy, rap-ravers Die Antwoord, Grammy Award-winning DJ Afrojack, as well as local favourites Hilltop Hoods, in what is another stellar line-up put together by the festival.

Future Music Festival director Brett Robinson told news.com.au of the organisers’ joy about securing the rapper in a less competitive marketplace following the demise of the Big Day Out.

“Scoring Drake for the festival is a big jawdropper,” he said.

“We have been able to focus on presenting the festival we really want with less competition in the marketplace and not being pressured about who is going to get what act.”

“And that has been very good for the budget too with ticket prices going down.”

An appearance at Brisbane Entertainment Centre two days before the Queensland leg of the festival is set to serve as a warm-up, with support coming from friend and frequent collaborator 2 Chainz, who is also booked to appear at the festival. The fact that promoters have confidence enough to book a slot at the 13,000 capacity venue when a festival appearance is already locked in says everything you need to know about the Canadian’s popularity in Australia.

Rising quickly from an acting stint on the small screen in Degrassi: The Next Generation to holding the record for the most number ones on Billboard’s R&B/Hip Hop chart, Drake is a genuine phenomenon, with 36 million Facebook followers in tow and close to a billion YouTube views to boast about. But how has an artist who didn’t even release an album in 2014 managed to remain at the forefront of Hip hop and R&B culture? The answer likely lies in the diversity of his output; from becoming rap’s hottest co-sign and second biggest touring star (after Jay Z), hosting Saturday Night Live and the ESPYs, to allegedly getting his wood on in Nicki Minaj’s Internet-breaking ‘Anaconda’ video.

Great things continued to happen for him despite a misguided swipe at Rolling Stone for pulling his front cover at the last minute in order to pay respect to the life of Philip Seymour Hoffman. He also claimed quotes he supposedly didn’t say about Kanye West made it into the feature, which the magazine belatedly published.

“I’m disgusted with that. RIP to Phillip Seymour Hoffman. All respect due. But the press is evil,” he Tweeted, before adding “I’m done doing interviews for magazines. I just want to give my music to the people. That’s the only way my message gets across accurately.” Rucking with the music press has been the downfall of many an artist, but Drake has managed to ride the critical storm and come out the other end smiling.

Not happy with only taking verbal potshots at the media, he has been involved in so many beefs with other rappers that there is an entire Wikipedia page dedicated to them. Perhaps most prominent was his diss trade-off with rap mainstay Pusha T, in which the two traded lyrical and online blows before Chris Brown became the new target after an alleged incident in a nightclub.

As well as having his share of first-world problems, Drake hasn’t always had a life of glam and glory. Writing about the origins of his single ‘Started From The Bottom’ on his label’s blog, he said “I feel sometimes that people don’t have enough information about my beginnings and therefore they make up a life story for me that isn’t consistent with actual events. My family and my second family (consisting of the best friends anybody could ever have) all struggled and worked extremely hard to make all this happen. I did not buy my way into this spot and it was the furthest thing from easy to achieve.”

It’s perhaps unsurprising then, with such a willingness to roll up his sleeves and put in the hard yards, that Drake is so heavily involved in a number of successful enterprises outside of music. As global ambassador and member of the executive committee of his hometown basketball team the Toronto Raptors, he is subtly and successfully merging his love of sport and music. His record label October’s Very Own (OVO), which he founded with longtime friends Noah ‘40’ Shebib and Oliver El-Khatib in 2012, is home to a small roster of North American rapping talent, with ILoveMakonnen, PartyNextDoor and Majid Jordan being standouts. Building the OVO brand into a multi-faceted business which includes a clothing range and the OVOFEST festival – the latest of which featured Outkast and the man himself – Drake has proven himself to be equally adept at raking in the dollars via non-musical methods as he has done via rapping.

As far back as 2009 he was writing the lyrics “I want the money/Money and the cars/Cars and the clothes/The hoes, I suppose,” for his song ‘Successful’. Fast forward six years and he’s got all of these things and more in the palm of his hand. Now it’s Australia’s turn to feel the force of Aubrey Graham.

DRAKE PLAYS BRISBANE ENTERTAINMENT CENTRE, BOONDALL, MARCH 5 AND FUTURE MUSIC FESTIVAL, DOOMBEN RACECOURSE, MARCH 7.

For Scenestr

Record review: Illy – Cinematic: Uncut (2014, LP)

illy cinematic uncut

Putting Melbourne rapper Illy’s latest album into some sort of frame of reference as a new release isn’t easy, as it’s not a new album at all. Cinematic: Uncut is simply a re-release of his successful 2013 Cinematic album, with six new tracks tacked onto the end to make it more tempting for the record-buying public to shell out their hard-earned dollars in these twisted times of rampant online thievery. The original album featured collaborations with the likes of Hilltop Hoods, Drapht and Daniel Merriweather, and peaked at number four on the ARIA charts, but does the new material make giving it another shot worthwhile? The answer is probably not, unless you’re a diehard fan, although the 28 year-old has plenty of those. New collaborations with Spit Syndicate and Way Of The Eagle and a re-record of his triple j ‘Like A Version’ are laudable enough efforts, but each of these doth not a new album make, while adding another mix of ‘Am Yours’ is pretty damn lazy. While ‘Tightrope’ remains one of the most annoyingly-catchy Australian songs released in the last twelve months, and there is plenty of decent material spread over the album, the addition of a feeble six new tracks leaves a bad taste in the mouth. There are plenty of re-releases which are as welcome as they are fascinating; offering previously unheard studio cuts or alternative versions which breathe new life into old songs. This isn’t one of them. (ONETWO)

For mX

Record review: 360 – Utopia (2014, LP)

360 utopia

If you believe everything you read on the Internet and most music press, then you either love or hate Matthew James Colwell, a.k.a. 360. The likely truth, to which this reviewer can relate, is that you’re probably one of the silent majority of music fans who simply couldn’t give a fiddler’s fart about the 27 year-old Melbourne rapper’s music or persona, and the only reaction the constant “is he or isn’t he a sell-out/scumbag/self-obsessive” questions bring about is a jaw-cracking yawn. On his third album’s opener ‘Still Rap’, he tries to address the common criticism that his music is too “pop” and that he can’t rap… on a track that is ironically one of the most “pop” here. Lyrically, there’s no real direction throughout; the bulk of the subject matter involving sulky reflections on the price of fame (literally, on ‘Price Of Fame’, featuring Gossling) and getting sober, as on ‘Must Come Down’, ‘Early Warning’ and ‘You And I’; the latter coming off like a bad Temper Trap B-side. Ultimately, there’s very little that stands out, and each song plods along at a similar pace with no real zip or zeal. ‘Uncle 60’ may be the biggest rapper to come out of the Australian scene, barring Iggy Azalea (if she’s still being considered an Aussie), but this latest pop-heavy, rap-light stab at hip hop utopia shows that he could really do with a bit more musical meat if he wants to continue to be a heavyweight contender. (Inertia)

For mX

Record review: Remi – Raw x Infinity (2014, LP)

remi album cover

Last year, Melbourne rapper Remi Kolawole dropped the single ‘Sangria’; a blissed-out scorcher of a tune that spoke of the joys of summer, sun and getting sh#tfaced. There’s always a time and a place for songs like that, but the 22 year-old’s lyrics have moved on from those hazy days in the bars of Brunswick, to somewhere where the present isn’t looking quite as rosy. Like a rabid greyhound out of the traps, Remi – backed by Sensible J on drums, production and DJ duties, and Dutch on beats and production – sets off at speed from the start and doesn’t let up, with many a sacrificial rabbit in his sights along the way. He has insisted in interviews he’s not a particularly political rapper, but lines on the title track like “Tony Abbott and the Government / Need to get on the boat to Iraq and sh#t / Take a walk down the Gaza Strip / They’ll either wake up or get blasted then” say something different and show something Australian music needs a lot more of in 2014: guts. There are party tracks too (never fear), and ‘Livin’ might be the best one here; a controlled diatribe against workin’ 9 to 5, while ‘Tyson’ is brutal braggadocio at its best. While this is only Remi’s second album, after 2012’s Regular People Sh#t, it feels like the work of a seasoned pro. This guy is going to do big things. (House of Beige)

For mX

Remi: “I was trying to write stuff that was a bit deeper”

remi

REMI Kolawole began collaborating with Sensible J and Dutch in 2011, and the rapper’s lyrics have continued to evolve without looking back. The Melbourne trio’s new album Raw x Infinity takes a new, edgier direction, as on singles ‘Livin’ and ‘Tyson’.

“We’re just trying to show to anybody who had only heard ‘Sangria’ last year the direction we’re going in,” Remi says. “Our last album, Regular People S#%t, was quite an eclectic listen. A lot of people who have heard that album would probably be ready for our current album, but for a lot of people who hadn’t – as triple j opened us up to a much wider audience than before – this was a good way to let them know what they were in for when they were getting this album. We have beats that are heavily driven by strong drums, live musicianship and there are no samples on ‘Livin’. I guess it’s also a bit deeper than ‘Sangria’; we’re talking about how we’re all being told how to live, as opposed to getting pissed in Brunswick [laughs]. I guess that it’s more of a move to show people our range and what we’re going to do. We just really like the song as well.”

The 22 year-old is keen on embracing a wider range of subject matter, and tackles topics like racism and politics in his songs. But does he consider himself a political rapper?

“Quite the opposite [laughs]. I just write from the average person’s point of view. I can’t pretend to be anything more than I am. [Tony Abbott] doesn’t really speak to me or the people who are around me. Obviously that’s just my opinion, and that’s what rap is. If anyone agrees, that’s cool, and if anyone disagrees, that’s cool as well. It’s all quite progressive; we’re always trying to do something new. On this album, I was trying to write stuff that was a bit deeper. This was all stuff that I just kind of picked up, but by no means do I want to be considered a political or super-conscious rapper. I just write about what I see or what I experience, and I guess some of the political issues came out.”

New single ‘Tyson’ is a no-holds-barred blast of Remi flaunting his lyrical talents over a brutal beat.

“Obviously you should be sending a message,” he says. “That should be a part of what you’re trying to do. But at the same time, you can also rap just to rap and get it out of your system. You can write some shit that hopefully sounds cool, you know what I mean? That’s ultimately what ‘Tyson’ is; just straight rap braggadocio bullshit that I’ve tried to construct to be as entertaining as possible. All the stuff that I write is basically made up of my experiences, or stuff Sensible J, Dutch and I talk about. I could be anywhere; I could be on the bus and see something happen and write about that. On the flip side, with Sensible J; he’s making beats in his head while he’s at his computer at his day job, so you just got to let the music take you whenever, in the most un-corny and unclichéd way [laughs].”

The new material has earned the trio plenty of national radio play, which Remi happily embraces, albeit with a touch of caution.

“Up until about three or four months ago we didn’t actually have any management or anything like that,” he says. “So we always operate like nobody’s got our back, if that makes sense. We’re thankful for anyone who plays our shit, because the stuff we’re doing at the moment is lyrically and sonically different to what’s going at the moment. It’s strange to us if anyone picks up on that and we’re thankful for it. By no means are we banking our career on anyone, because I don’t think you should be writing your music for a station or a magazine or anyone. Those avenues should allow the artist to do what they do, then spread their music, not the other way around. I’m totally thankful for what triple j has done for us, as well as any other media coverage that we’ve received. At the same time, I’m not going to bank on the stuff we do being picked up or written about because that would stifle my creativity and the creativity of Sensible J and Dutch.”

The group’s upcoming calendar is a busy one, with plenty of chances to air the new material.

“We’ve got our national tour coming up; the Raw x Infinity tour,” Remi says. “Then after that, we go to Splendour in the Grass, which will be great. Then we’re doing a few other – perhaps two or three – nationwide tours before November. Then we’re going to Germany in November, and back in December to hopefully do a bunch of festivals. We’ll be doing a couple of showcases in Germany, and we’ll definitely be going over there just to kick it [laughs]. I’ve been told only good things about Berlin, so I’m pretty excited.”

RAW X INFINITY BY REMI IS OUT NOW.

For Beat Magazine.

Dizzee Rascal: “I’m just trying to make good decisions and stay out of trouble”

dizzee rascal

BARTENDERS TAKE NOTE: Dizzee Rascal would like his champagne served in the traditional fashion when he returns to Australia to play Groovin’ The Moo and a run of solo shows this month.

The East London rapper’s latest album, entitled The Fifth, came out in September, and introduced the 28 year-old to a range of new experiences.

“This was the first one I actually did in America; jumping from studio to studio, working with different big producers and other pop artists,” he says. “I’ve never done that before; everything has always been done at home or in-house up to this one. Going to the clubs out there and seeing the music in its environment can be an absurdity; the crazy, over-the-top-ness, especially within the music industry. I’ve seen things like that in London, don’t get me wrong, but when there’s a line of fifteen girls with fifteen bottles of champagne with sparklers in them that cost a few grand each, or a girl in a rubber dinghy delivering champagne to a table full of fucking drug dealers and rap superstars in the middle of a club while they play the Superman music, it’s a bit much, you know?

“I’m just kind of starting to understand [America] a little bit, so I was linking up with people there, and it just felt nice to record out there and be out of the way. And then obviously – in LA especially – there is a lot of big music being made there; it’s one of the key music places, as well as Atlanta and a few other spots. But LA is the serious one; when you’re there you can bump into anyone. I walked into the studio one day and Chris Brown was there talking to Spike Lee. There’s random shit like that, know what I mean? [My music] was always influenced by American music, but the last few years I’ve spent more time there, on my own even. From 2002 I’ve always spent time there to do shows or a few little tours, but it was always just in-and-out. All I knew about America was just from TV, music and movies, and it wasn’t until the last few years that I actually got to absorb it; mainly Miami, LA, Houston and a bit of New York. You can argue that that’s not even the real America, but those places are their own thing in their own right, and I understand America a little bit more now.”

A seasoned touring artist and grime pioneer, Rascal is confident of putting on a good show.

“There’s lots of energy in our show, and we’ll be bringing it all to Australia,” he says. “There’ll be material from all my albums, from the first up to The Fifth. At the smaller shows I’ll be playing more of the stuff that I won’t be able to fit into the festival set. I wouldn’t call it abstract stuff, but it’s stuff that’s geared more towards the die-hard fans, as well as the big or the more commercial stuff. For the festivals, it’s all the big stuff; things that will work in a festival environment. Big sing-alongs and things that will make people jump up and down, basically. [The new material has] been going down alright. To be fair, we played a lot of the stuff before it came out anyway. A lot of it was debuted in Australia as well, and it’s going to be nice to come back there after the album has actually been out and people have got to absorb it, so I’m looking forward to it. The thing is, for the last few albums, because of the time of year they have been ready to be put out, the music was tested out in Australia and New Zealand first.”

Collaborations have always been a major feature of any Dizzee Rascal album, with his latest featuring a range of guest vocalists and producers.

“Some of it was planned,” he says. “Someone like Will.i.am; I’ve bumped into him for years but we never managed to get anything recorded, or we recorded some shit and never finished it. This time I was working with Jean-Baptiste and he and Will.i.am have done a lot of work together, and that’s how the Will.i.am thing came about this time. Robbie Williams was another one I’ve bumped into a few times and we got on and everything, and I was looking for someone to record that song with. We rang him up and he agreed to do it as long as I came out there and recorded with him, which is rare as these days as most of the time I’m never in the same room with people. It was nice to actually sit down with him as he recorded his vocals. I’ve got number one songs I’ve done with Calvin Harris and we were never in the studio together; it’s crazy.”

Despite having been a recording artist since the age of 16 and already a veteran of the scene at 28, Rascal still feels the pressure of releasing new material.

“There’s always pressure,” he says. “It’s always one of the most stressful things, anticipating how it’s going to do and all that. But once it’s all over, I just want to get stuck in and do it all again. I know what it’s like, but just love doing it and seeing how far I can go. If it works, wicked. If not, I’ll try something new. There’s nothing worse than thinking you’ve got a big tune and when you play it live it’s not quite going that way, and everyone’s looking at their watches. That’s never any good. You got to work harder to perform those songs and get them across, but you live and you learn, innit? Some songs don’t come across as well live either; some are better for radio or albums, and vice versa as well. People get twisted up in asking about what I used to sound like or what I still sound like. What was good about what I did back then was that it caught the moment; I think that’s what the best music does. If I tried to capture that time again it wouldn’t sound right, so I’m just capturing now the best way I can, and so that people will still want to hear it in ten years time.”

While his earlier career was peppered with controversy, mainly surrounding an alleged feud with fellow grime MC Crazy Titch, Rascal insists the future is all that matters.

“I’m just trying to make good decisions and stay out of trouble,” he says. “The biggest thing for me is just trying to not do too much dumb shit; that’s what ruins a lot of artists in this day and age especially. Information gets out there so quickly and people can change their minds about you so quickly. Sometimes it works in your favour, because a lot of people seem to like the whole fucking reality TV idiot thing, but people can get really tired of you quickly as well. The best thing to do is to stay out of the way and let the music do the talking. The most you’re going to get out of me is my Instagram; sometimes I’ll put some crazy shit on there just to have a laugh and show a bit of my personality. I’m always working on new stuff; I’ve got ‘We Don’t Play Around’ with Jessie J, [which] I’ve just approved the video for that a few days ago, so that’s going to be on TV soon. I’ve been surprised [that] it’s been really big in Australia; I never saw that one coming. Even though I’ve played it there, I didn’t expect it to be the song with the most radio play so far. I love the friendliness of [Australia]. It’s one of my top-three places to perform. I like the people, the vibe, the buzz. There’s a really good gauge for live performing in Australia; if they like something you fucking know you’re onto a winner.”

DIZZEE RASCAL PLAYS GROOVIN’ THE MOO BEGINNING APRIL 25 IN OAKBANK, SA. THE FIFTH IS OUT NOW ON UNIVERSAL/DIRTEE STANK.

Cut Chemist of Jurassic 5: “We’re not just phoning it in”

cut chemist

WITH WOUNDS HEALED and lessons learned, Jurassic 5 are back and better than ever, explains DJ Cut Chemist (Lucas MacFadden).

“[Getting back together] was super-easy and amazing,” he says. “It was like no time had passed. The magic we had on stage ten years ago never went away. We got an offer from Coachella, who were interested in getting Jurassic 5 back together and having us perform. I think it was the perfect timing as everybody had done their own solo things and were ready to come back together and do something. The fact that they asked us at that time was kind of perfect timing for everybody, and everybody was up for it.”

The alternative hip-hop group formed in California in 1993, but split in 2007 amid rumours of the dreaded “musical differences”.

“They just didn’t get along at that time,” says Cut Chemist. “I left in 2004, and I read it somewhere in an interview and I was heartbroken. I had my own solo career during the split; I had a deal with Warner Brothers at the time, and put an album out through them. I toured a lot for the Hard Sell album with DJ Shadow in 2008, and in 2009 I worked on a project called Sound Of The Police, which came out in 2010. After that we started talking about the reunion, which then happened in 2013. It’s been a year now and it’s been great; one hundred percent. People can’t be cynical about it because we’ve done so many different shows, not just big festivals. I think there was some talk in the beginning about us just doing it for this or that reason, but we’re doing it because we love it and when you see our show you can tell that we’re not just phoning it in.”

With a diverse group of members featuring five rappers and two DJs vying for creative input, it would be easy to suggest that the reunion will be a short-term one. Not so, says Cut Chemist.

“I think any past disagreements became irrelevant,” he says. “It had just been so long, and people doing their own thing outside the group gave them the perspective of what they can do on their own and what they bring to the group. I think the split reinforced everybody’s idea of themselves and it’s given us a more professional approach this time around. We’ll be taking it year by year, you know? As long we have a project and work to do this year we’re good. Last year was the reunion, and this year it’s to expand the brand and get it back up and running, and continue re-establishing ourselves. Next year it could be anything, and I couldn’t say right now, but we’re not just going to go dark again. J5 is a strong brand and we want to keep it going for the rest of our lives, and any way we need to do that we’ll do it; whether it’s touring here and there, putting out product, videos and documentaries or whatever. It’s something we don’t want to die.”

The group may have an EP and four albums worth of material to play live, but new tracks can be expected in the coming months.

“We got something coming out,” says Cut Chemist. “We have a single that may or may not be ready by the time we get out there, but it will be some time this year. We don’t know about anything bigger yet. Right now we’re just trying to take baby steps towards locking our show down and our touring down, then we’ll work on putting out some music and see how that goes. Not only has our music changed in terms of technology [since 2007], but in the way people buy music too. We come from a day and an age when people bought the product in a case, but in the age of free downloads and singles content we’re trying to figure out how we can adjust, and that’s what this year is going to be about.”

Australian fans can catch Jurassic 5 in March during a five-date tour; something Cut Chemist is looking forward to.

“Australia has always been one of the best places to tour, no matter if it was Jurassic 5, with DJ Shadow or myself,” he says. “I’m just looking forward to being out there and digging the shows, because I think people are going to go crazy over the show; it’s going to be nuts. I just can’t wait to see the support and excitement we get from the Australian audiences, because you guys get wild. Expect a very entertaining show that encompasses a lot of the elements of hip-hop; DJ-ing, creativity onstage, and all the different things coming together. We’ll be bringing in a lot of new sounds; we’re not stuck in the time when we were making music before; DJ Nu-Mark and I try to mix it up a little bit. Anyone who has seen Jurassic 5 in the past won’t be disappointed.”

JURASSIC 5 PLAY EATONS HILL HOTEL MARCH 22.