Do-It-Yourself may be a term often associated with Jamie Durie, but try telling that to LookUP, the Sydney hip hop collective who failed to find a record label that fit, and ended up creating their own.
LookUP is the best kind of whore, a record label, merchandiser, promotions company and home to Sydney artists Scott Burns, Bingethinkers and That’s Them. The label-arm of the LookUP enterprise officially launched in November with the release of Scott Burn’s debut album Day 1.
The concept of LookUP was hatched from a mutual dissatisfaction with the Sydney hip hop scene. Aeon from The Bingethinkers explains that sometimes necessity really is the mother of invention:
“We felt like there was definitely a rawer more underground edge coming out the Sydney scene, which had started to get a bit more traction with what Sereck (from Sydney hip hop originators Def Wish Cast) and Rivals were doing with their night Back to Basics. But there still wasn’t a label or promo company around that represented the sound that we wanted to push. Everyone sort of felt that Sydney needed to step up and do it, get organized. All the other states had labels in that kind of vein, so Sydney was almost conspicuous by its absence. We all kind of felt that if we didn’t do it, then someone else would.”
So LookUP escaped the proverbial womb and were born. But despite having both just released mixtapes into the Sydney underground, both Scott Burns and Bingethinkers conceded there were more hard yards to go before an official LookUP album release would see the light of day:
“Bingethinkers put out an ‘unofficial’ record Shelf Life in 2007 just to get people interested, test the waters. Scott had done a similar thing with his mixtape Seven Day Sessions just before that. That’s Them had put out their EP through Obese. All the records had done pretty well, but we all knew it was still a way off putting out an official LookUP release. So we just put our heads down and concentrated on building awareness for LookUP. We were all either DJs, MCs, producers, video artists, sound engineers, web types, whatever, so we decided to pool our talents and just focus on building a network from the ground up – playing live and putting on shows, building our presence on the web , hitting the forums, putting on competitions, doing collaborations, videoclips on Youtube, everything. These days there is barely a hip hop artist in Sydney who hasn’t performed at a LookUP show, and definitely the punters know about us! ”
But if LookUP grew from deep roots in the Sydney scene, their sights we’re always set higher. The official national release of Scott Burns album certainly means good things for the Sydney underground, and is perhaps just another example of how the record industry is shedding its corporate boardrooms and Prada loafers for internet connections and local knowledge. But a wider audience aside, don’t expect a radical change any time soon from the crew, it seems they’ve got their feet planted firmly on the ground:
“Our music is definitely accessible, and so is the performance, but there is always that element of hard-core hip hop, so it’s sometimes treading a fine line with getting radio play. We could intentionally make stuff that we thought would get played, but if its not honest then what’s the point? We need to make records we’re going to listen to. That’s not shooting yourself in the foot, that’s what any artist should do, and that’s what we try to do ourselves. That’s what LookUP is about.”
Scott Burns album Day 1 is available from JB HiFi and hip hop stores nationally.
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