Having worked with an impressive slew of both local and international hip hop artists, his resume including Bliss N Eso and Phrase as well as Pharoahe Monch and Talib Kweli, M-Phazes is held in high esteem by the local hip hop community, sitting next to the likes of Hermitude and Unkle Ho as some of the country’s leading producers and beatmakers. Working in the scene for a while now, M-Phazes, otherwise known as Mark Landon, has seen Aussie hip hop go from a dirty word to a buzz word with alarming velocity in the past few years, the producer feeling a great sense of pride in the massive steps the genre has made, as well as a touch of anger and frustration toward the mainstream music industry here at their stubborn refusal to give Aussie hip hop the recognition it truly deserves.
Set to play the inaugural Sprung Hip Hop Festival in Brisbane on Oct 15th, both as a solo artist and as Illy‘s DJ, we caught up with him to discuss what it feels like to be seeing all Aussie hip hop festivals popping up on the scene, how he sees the genre’s place in the Australian music industry as well as about his work with Kimbra and Josh Moriarty from Miami Horror on an as yet unannounced side project.
Music Feeds: It must be great for you to see these all Aussie hip hop festivals popping up now, after having worked as long as you have in the scene?
M-Phazes: It just sort of goes to show how popular the genre in Australia is now and how much steam it’s picked up. I mean, you wouldn’t really have imagined it even five years ago, even though there were a few groups doing big things like Hilltop Hoods and Bliss N Eso, but it’s just great to see that we have enough quality artists to support something like this now. It’s very promising and it’s only going to get bigger, so we’re really excited.
MF: It’s been a bit of an uphill battle though hasn’t it? I mean, I remember back less than a decade ago that the words Aussie and hip hop together would make most people cringe?
MP: It’s been a hard slog and it’s just good to see that we’re getting the recognition that we are. The main thing is the fans though, we’re still not really recognised in terms of awards like ARIA where we’re still lumped into an urban category alongside Guy Sebastian or Jessica Mauboy, but it’s the fans that made this happen and they just give us so much support and that’s sort of where the drive comes from.
MF: Who really gives a fuck about ARIA though, winning one of them is almost like being declared irrelevant these days. You’re way better off with the recognition of the fans, the industry are all lost when it comes to music; they’re too busy managing their super funds and looking after their grandkids.
MP: Exactly. I guess, though, that on a mainstream level that a lot of people still aren’t aware of it. I mean Kyle Sandilands commenting on a rapper who was a contestant they had on Australia’s Got Talent recently said that he “was going to be the first rapper to come out of Australia”. Hip hop in Australia has been around for years and we’ve got some major major acts, Hilltop Hoods are always number 1, Drapht recently got number 1 and Bliss N Eso as well. That mainstream people are so ignorant of it and don’t even realise that we’ve got a strong hip hop industry in this country is just ridiculous. I think it’s just ignorance, they just get the Top 40 and they don’t really listen to anything else, but it is what it is, there’s nothing you can do about it but outgrow it.
MF: What’s it like playing an all Aussie hip hop festival compared to playing something like Big Day Out or Splendour that’s more of a mixed bag? Do you find these all hip hop ones are a bit more lively?
MP: We did the Come Together Festival in Sydney at Luna Park, which is somewhat similar to Sprung Festival, and the energy was just incredible. It’s different though; doing normal festivals is great though, because you get a much broader group of people, lots of people who you didn’t think would be interested in your music, but the all hip hop festivals are a different thing altogether. There’s a lot of love; a lot of us who are playing are mates, so we all watch eachother’s sets and catch up and everything and it’s just one of those things where the energy is right up there because the fans are there for hip hop, rather than people just checking it out because they heard a track on the radio or whatever. Also, at these types of festivals you get the dedicated hip hop fans and they tend to go a little crazy and I definitely think that the dedicated hip hop festivals get a little wilder than the mixed up festivals.
MF: Are you excited to be playing in Brisbane coming from the Gold Coast? How are the crowds up there? I’ve always felt there was a strong hip hop scene up there.
MP: I love doing shows up there, and the crowd definitely are on another level; Brisbane is definitely one of the rowdiest crowds we’ve ever played to. They love their hip hop up there and there is a good scene growing and they’ve got a real grass roots vibe going on with the Born Fresh fellas and others, and it’s really cool. Any shows I do up there, whether it’s in Brisbane or on the Gold Coast, it’s just really nice to be on home turf, out in the sun and catching up with my boys and other people.
MF: Playing up there in the lovely weather to a home crowd – is that going to change your set at all or do you have a set and that’s sort of it?
MP: We have the set, with my set alone and also with Illy’s set who I DJ for, and we sort of stick to the same formula. I guess that with each show you get a different crowd and vibe so you can always interact with people differently and maybe approach certain ideas a little differently, but I’ve only got one album out, so there’s not too much room for variation if you know what I mean. I do get guests up and they freestyle and I might change the beat up here and there, throw in some new stuff maybe, but for the most part, I keep it pretty consistent outside of that.
MF: Cool, so what do you have planned for the rest of the year?
MP: Well, I was working on Kimbra‘s album, which just got released; worked pretty solidly on the whole record helping with co-production and I also made one beat on it, but we’re working on a little side project ourselves, which I hope to do some more work on in the next few months. Depending on how busy she is with her album out and everything, she probably won’t have time for this little project, but I’d really like to squeeze a few more songs out for it. We’re also working with Josh Moriarty from Miami Horror and I’m just really excited about it. Other than that, I’ve been working with my main dudes, like Illy. I’ve got two tracks on 360‘s new album, which is about to drop; working on some stuff for Pez and I want to start throwing Drapht a few tracks as well, so just staying busy till the end of the year and then start looking at maybe doing another solo album.
M-Phazes will be playing Sprung Hip Hop Festival on October 15th at Brisbane’s Riverstage.