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Friday
Aug182017

Meet UK MC Otis Mensah, the rapper who is driven by instrumentals 

Otis Mensah is a young storytelling poet and rapper based out of the UK. Describing himself as an alternative hip hop artist, he has had one hell of a year performing at Glastonbury and releasing a number of singles. 

We sit down with Otis to discuss inspirations, the art of rap and new music. Harry Upton writes.

Tell us about a typical day in the life of Otis Mensah?

A typical day for me usually consists of listening to a lot hip-hop music, a lot of boom bap and contemplation. Keeping up to date with all my favourite artists and discovering new realms of music and artistry. I spend of a lot my time working out my release schedule and writing new music and poetry, whilst monitoring my work and figuring out how to best progress to reach the goals that I’ve set myself for my music and art. I also try to keep up to date with emails and bookings as an independent artist. A typical day for me, when I have a show in the evening is usually spent rehearsing, drinking lots of honey/lemon tea; trying to preserve my voice and getting into the headspace I need to be in to perform to the best of my ability.

I recently had the opportunity to see you live and you have quite a unique style and flow, how would you describe it?

I’d describe the style and realm of music that I consider myself to be in as alternative hip-hop, which I feel necessitates a level of experimentation and openness stylistically when it comes to flow and my approach to writing music. I’d describe the style & flow as off-kilter and slightly to the left.

And you perform a mixture of spoken word and hip hop, was it always the plan to do both?

I feel like the two lend themselves to and fuel each other so it kind of happened naturally that I participated in both worlds of hip-hop and spoken word. When I feel that I can’t write within the parameters of an instrumental, I often find I’m able to write without music, which ends up sounding a lot more free-fall but in essence is the same expressionism. I don’t tend to think of them as separate and feel that the kind of hip-hop artists I’ve been inspired by naturally lean towards a style of hip-hop that is more poetic. My perception of rap as an art form is ‘rhythm-assisted-poetry,’ which is a term that I discovered online but feel best represents the art form that I love so much and see myself contributing to. I feel that versions of rap music that don’t fall under that definition are essentially pop music that uses or sometimes extorts the art of rap. 

So who do you like listening to?

I listen to so much hip-hop, different styles, sub genres and cultures. Some of my favourites are people like Childish Gambino, Kid Cudi and Open Mike Eagle. I’m also a massive fan of the Rhymesayers collective so artists like Atmosphere, P.O.S, Dem Atlas. Common is also one of my favourite artists and enjoy listening to a lot of The Roots.

How do you go about writing new music?

Most of my writing is driven by the instrumental, I’m currently working alongside some incredible producers including the intern from Berlin, who creates soulful, jazzy, mellow, sample-driven, boombap instrumentation and hearing his instrumentals along with others lead me to the place where I’m able to sit and write. Writing for me is very personal and I use it as a means of therapy and expression. I find I’m able to write at points when there’s been a natural build-up of thoughts, ideas or worries, internally which eventually translates into what is my music and poetry, externally on paper.

Does it take on a new form when you perform live? 

Yeah, it definitely takes on a new form when performing live, it almost feels that in focusing on the performance aspect of a song I disconnect slightly to the emotional attachment I made with the lyrics when writing them and I’m able to observe the music from a spectators standpoint to see how what I’m saying relates to others, which teaches me a lot about my own songs.

2017 looks like it's been a big year for you, what have been the highlights so far?

It’s been such an incredible journey so far, I’d say one of the highlights was being able to perform at Glastonbury Music Festival on the BBC Introducing stage. It was an amazing experience and showed me what is possible with my art and music. I found the whole experience truly inspiring and encouraging knowing that I was given the opportunity to perform on a stage of that calibre, at the same festival alongside some of my favourite artists. Another highlight was recently traveling to Berlin to meet up with my producer the intern and being able to sit together with him to discuss new ideas and music, whilst recording some new material in SoundCloud Studios.

For people who haven't seen you live, what could they expect?

I try to create an atmosphere live that resembles a journey from start to finish, where the audience can grow together with me, accompanied by some mellow, Boombap instrumentation, lyric heavy songs. I guess you can expect high energy, narrative, an introspective look into my life and potentially a light shined on our shared existential quarrels.

What's coming up next for Otis Mensah?

I plan on continuing a series of single releases that I started during the beginning of 2017, available on platforms like SoundCloudBandcamp and now Spotify, working with producers like; The Intern, Oskar Rice, Elijah Bane etc. In an attempt to remain consistent, continuing to grow and develop with my music and progress my sound and style. Along with releasing visuals to accompany the new music; telling the story of my music and trying to make an artistic statement from a perspective that hasn’t been reached before. I’m also currently planning a UK tour and will be playing live as much as possible; all updates on new music and live dates will be made available over on my Facebook/Instagram. Just continuing to reach the people who feel they can relate to my music and growing a community who are able to feel less alone in solidarity with the art and culture called Hip-Hop that we love so much.

What stimulates your soul?

Experiencing hip-hop music & culture, being able to contribute to that myself through writing & performing my music, reaching people through my art, and spending time with loved ones.


Tuesday
Aug152017

Opening the Electro/Hip Hop Movement Flood Gates with MC Frame

Merging hip hop and electro music these days is not uncommon. It is however rare seeing the movement in Australia. Trap music is being brought to the forefront with Melbourne MC Frame with his latest release ‘Without You’ which is a future-bass trap love song.  

We sit down with Frame and talk about the introduction of trap music in Australia, how having a different spectrum of music influenced him and the inspiration behind ‘Without You.’ 

What are your thoughts of hip hop and electro merging together?

The two genres together is something I feel can genuinely define the sound of newer artists’ in Australia are moving towards pushing, I definitely see potential for it to grow into something that can make waves internationally. 

Your latest track is about love, was this inspired by someone?

My song 'With You' although inspired by a particular girl, it is also a reflection of many others I've had. 

Your influences range from different artists’ with completely different genres, how has that effected your music? 

I feel having a broad spectrum of music that influences your own is crucial to developing range as an artist creatively. Certainly helped mine.  

Tell us what the LVME DEMO project is about.

LVME is a representation of all the thoughts and emotions I went through trying to love this person and in the process off that learning to 'LoVe ME'

What is the noticeable transition that you have see in hip hop from Australia?

I think since we've had artists like 360 and Allday really push the ideas of what and artist can creatively do in Australia. The flood gates have opened and artists are finally starting to realise that there truly are no rules to making art. 

What’s next for you?

What's next for me is to really focus on my debut EP which will creatively challenge me further but also really define Frame. I also have a heap of singles to drop in the mean while. 

What stimulates your soul?

What stimulates my soul is contributing to the positivity that the world needs and living my life without killing or harming a soul. 

Tuesday
Aug152017

Isolation and the rise of Perth hip hop scene with Premiss 

Premiss are an impressive eight piece hip-hop/neo-soul ensemble currently tearing up stages all around Perth. The outfit continue their unconventional venture of writing music and serving it up to the best emcees around with new offering 'Just For Kicks', featuring the talents of Coin Banks and Marksman Lloyd. Led by bandleader and composer Brendan Scott Grey.  

We sit down with Brendan and chat about the rise of Perth MCs, working with Coin Banks and how the isolation of Australia helps us in the rap game. 

Your track ‘Just for Kicks’ is about child labour industry. What got you interested in this issue?

 'Just for Kicks' was inspired by a news clip Marksman saw featuring people in the US camping outside a shoe store overnight for the chance to be the first to buy the latest brand of sneaks. Watching this it occurred to him that the person who made the shoes was probably sleeping on the street as well, albeit for very different reasons. Looking at the dichotomy of these two scenarios became the inspiration for this track and our work with various charity organisations with the release.

What rappers are you currently listening to?

Man, heaps of stuff at the moment, so much new talent popping off locally and around the world. Sylvan La Cue is definitely taking up a lot of my playlist space, so inspired by his works, always keeping an eye on whatever he's doing now. Local cats POW Negro have got some dope new tracks that i've been lucky enough to hear before their official release, peeps are gonna lose it for this EP. Perths' Scottish liaison Silvertongue has got some incredible new works i've had the privilege of checking out prior to release, super poignant as usual from that guy.  And of course Sampa the Great and Jurrasic 5 are always featuring in there somewhere.

What is it like working with Coin Banks?

Me and Coin have been working together for years now so it's a very predictable experience! We first put stuff together on his Heads and Tails EPs, he would send me beats and I'd write horn parts to be recorded live over the top. From there we spent years working together on live shows utilising a full band (which became the foundation for Premiss) or adding a horn section with a DJ. Since then we've been consistently featuring on each others works including his latest release, there's even a few awkward shots of me in his latest video clip playing sax! 

How do you see the hip hop world in Australia vs internationally? Do you think there is room for growth? 

Man good question. It can be hard to judge where Australia is at compared to the global scene. Our isolation really still does affect what we're exposed to (especially in Perth) but at the same time isolation is necessary for punctuated evolution so it may prove our greatest strength in time. I feel like the Australian hip-hop scene is in a huge growth period atm, there's so many voices and styles coming to forefront that move outside standardised tropes. Trap is quickly becoming more and more musically sophisticated and a blend of live band elements with DJ's/ samplers is becoming the norm. Content is becoming more about our own cultural issues and societal problems which inspires me a lot. I suppose the big thing which we're missing in Australia is the venues to play at! But fuck it, really this music was made for house parties anyway, might be time to return to that.

Why do you think there is a rise of rappers coming out in Perth?

Yeah, there definitely is a rise! I honestly don't know. The foundations in Perth hip-hop were sown just over 20 years ago now by the likes of Downsyde and Syllabolix, that's a long time for a cultural identity to solidify. We may have just hit that tipping point where raps have become so accepted as an art form that our generation feels very comfortable in using it as a form of expression. Someone should write a paper on it!

What other projects are you working on?

I'm super lucky at the moment, have got a stack of projects I'm running or collaborating with which is keeping me busy and inspired. The West Australian Youth Jazz Orchestra lets me write/arrange for hip-hop shows a couple of times a year which is stupid fun. Just finished a show featuring POW Negro, Mathas, SIlvertongue, Hyclass and Macshane. Already working towards another show in December with some new feature MC's. Putting together two new singles (which we just need to record) with DT and Silvertongue which I'm pumped to show everyone. Going to be recording on a track with POW Negro some time soon and am touring with Drapht in September. And in between all that I've got the great pleasure to be running the bands for Hyclass, DT and Marksman Lloyd in upcoming gigs. Definitely feeling pretty blessed to get to work with all these incredible artists. 

What stimulates your soul?

Music. It's one of those double edged sword kind of deals, if I'm honest with myself I'm only really happy when I'm creating, playing or listening to music. Does feel like a bit of an addiction sometimes and definitely has its impacts on other parts of my life but I guess it's just the cards I've been dealt. That being said a good round of Dungeons and Dragons with good peeps and a bit of herbal is a close second.

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Friday
Jul282017

Why MelloSoulBlack is your new favourite hip hop outfit

If you love A Tribe Called Quest and The Roots then MelloSoulBlack are the hip hop outfit you are going to fall in love with. Their your new favourite hip hip outfit straight out of Texas and have just released a delicious EP dubbed ‘SexamaliciousRambunctification.’ 

We sit down with MSB and ask them why they love to name things without spaces, their tell us who their top 3 favourite hip hop groups are and why J Dilla is the most under-rated producer in their opinion. 

How do you guys come up with your group name and your EP name?

MSB or MelloSoulBlack is a perfect explanation of who we are. Mello and peaceful as apposed to some of our counterparts, full of soul, and unapologetically Black. The title from the EP is just a unique expression of how the music sounds to us. Mike B's masterful production mixed with our respective styles sounds like SexamaliciousRambunctification... to us. 

Who are your inspirations?

The Roots, A Tribe Called Quest, Outkast, Wu-Tang, Slum Village, Kendrick Lamar, Tupac, Big K.R.I.T., Nate Dogg, George Clinton, James Brown, Ice Cube, Mos Def, Rakim, Nas and Snoop Dogg.

Top 3 favourite hip hop groups and why? 

The Roots - We admire their use of live instrumentation and how the lead vocalist Black Thought commands the microphone in such a way that it almost demands respect.  

Tribe Called Quest - I love how the group gave off a light hearted smooth vibe and traded back and forth over masterful production heavily influenced by jazz grooves. 

Outkast - The duo are like no other due we’ve seen before. They were both lyrically potent MC’s and they had so much soul and taught so many valuable lessons. 

Who is the most under-rated producer in your opinion?

Probably J Dilla (he’s loved by heads but not many others know him) 

If you weren't doing rap what would it be?

GEA: Probably somewhere helping people in some other way. Clue: Military. CREAM: Stand up comic 

Favourite dish to cook and why?

I love cooking chicken wings

What stimulates your soul? 

GEA:What stimulates my soul is anything that can is real and authentic that I can apply to my life. Clue: Music, good food. CREAM: Family/love, music, good food. 

Monday
Jul242017

Perth MC Reams Tells Us His Top 5 Australian Artists That He Looks Up To

From writing raps and recording on a Macbook in his bedroom at age 14, MC Reams is an old soul in a new era of DIY Aussie hip-hop. 

With a growing catalogue of heavy-hitting and gritty tracks about drug abuse, young lives and personal addictions, Reams' ability lies in his incredibly versatile vocals and production. Perth-based artist has put forward first single ‘People,' a boom bap influenced cut with lyrics about the hyper normal realisation of the world around us.

We sit down with Reams and ask him who are his Top 5 Australian artists that he looks up to.

YARNS

One of the first Perth spitters I heard when I arrived from UK. I was about 13 and everyone had all his songs on the old block phones, sending from phone to phone via bluetooth! He's a man of many talents, not just with crazy artwork but also his crazy delivery and punch you in the face style voice. STAUNCH MUSIC! Lyrics instantly grab your ears' attention with that rawness. Me and the crew would have it bumping from a phone in the local bong spots around.

DRAPHT

The very first Aussie rapper I ever heard and I was hooked straight away. At this time I was 14-ish, roaming the streets on weekend with the lads, blasting it thru a boom box speaker I carried around with me everywhere I went. I was obsessed, running a muck through Woodvale. Whenever I hear an old Drapht track it brings back memories of being young, dumb and free to do what ever we wanted.

HILLTOP HOODS

I think the name speaks for itself. First song I ever heard from them was when I had just moved from England to Perth and I heard "Nosebleed Section". I remember waiting all day for it to come back on and I quickly slammed in a tape and recorded that shit and had it on repeat for weeks on end! Hilltop Hoods inspire me. I dig how they change up their beats, rhyme schemes, and the crazy bridges and choruses they come up with. My mates and I always argue over who's better (as you do). I'd say Pressure takes the win, his song about "his son hit me hard" its heart-felt as fuck!

Hunter and Dazastah 

"DONE DL,” bumped this from the age of 15, the album is an absolute classic. Old school-ish kicks and snares that will snap necks - I was lucky enough to have Daz teach me the basic on how to make beats when I was 17-18. From then on I was able to produce my own beats and since then have sold many. So dope to make money from what you put your heart and soul into.

MR GREVIS

Always bumped Grevis and always will, he's one funny motherfucker!

In 2016 I awoke to a status saying that I had taken the win for the yearly Song competition. I was confused because I hadn't made a song, I just uploaded a video the day before spitting bars on some shit quality camera and he gave the win to me from just hearing that! Previously people would all make a song the same beat and he would pick the best so I felt very privileged. Massive respect for Grevis when I toured with him for his Perth and Bunbury shows along side Paulie P, Shaker and my man Uncle Sam. We did the Bunbury show first then the next morning rushed back to Perth all in ruins from the ethanol - fun, fun times.

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