The Tongue is not a sexual name, Xannon Shirley assures me, despite the connotations. “Everyone reacts to it differently. The name, like I don’t even remember where it came from, that’s what I like about it, it feels natural.” And natural is what The Tongue is all about.
Having recently returned from touring nationally in support of his Redux Mix tape, The Tongue is sitting pretty, being more than happy with both the tour and tape. “It was fun getting to do the mix tape, my take on a lot of classic tracks, like Biggie and Method Man. Getting into those beats you realise why certain producers are legends, and how they manage to make classic tracks. You realise how clever some of these rappers are, like the way Ice Cube constructs a song, it seems so off-the-cuff but obviously there’s a lot more going into it.”
Independent labels normally go down quicker then a lady of leisure, but the enduring success of Elefant Traks is reason to celebrate. So the Tongue and a hefty swag of label mates will be rocking the Forum for a 10th anniversary party.
“It’ll be nice — ten years is like such a long time to exist for an independent label. And to see how it’s grown since I’ve been on board, and the quality product it’s producing.”
Part of the success attributed to Elefant Traks, and its artists, is the focus on quality as opposed to quantity. While major labels keep harvesting the field of artists and pushing them to produce as many hits as possible, labels like Elefant Traks believe in a more personal and nurturing environment in which their artists can flourish.
“Yeah I think, the thing to keep in mind is, when you’re signed to a major label, and you’re a young artist, they are going to put so much money behind you. So the pressure is on you.”
“If I sell five thousand copies of my next record that’s a success, on a major it’s a failure and you’re probably going to get dropped so it’s harder for them in a way because expectations are bigger, but then easier in a way because they have more money than us.”
Now sit down before I say this, but it seems money isn’t everything. Major labels pump dollars into the bloated corpses of Shannon Noll and Delta Goodrem, but neither have made a dint in the overseas market, or the social conscious of young hungry music fans. Thanks to the digital age, the playing field is less David and Goliath.
“For sure man, there is so much downloading and CD burning, it really is evening out the playing field. Acts need to win over audiences based on the quality of their material and their live show, who they are, rather then just their marketing.”
“When you sign onto a major label you sign onto a different ideology, because it is about sales and you know it is literally like you’re sitting down having a meeting a month after the record comes out, and if the numbers aren’t right, you’re in deep shit.”
Deep shit is something the Tongue doesn’t need to worry about, because if he isn’t rhyming, he’s hosting. Lending his name and his wicked nature to new acts.
“Oh you know, the Sydney and national hip hop community are a lot of my best mates, so it’s inevitable that they invite me along, and I guess I’m a bit of a party animal.”
“I like hosting stuff, bring the party vibe, if lending my name to an act helps them get more attention, then all the better.”
The attention will be squarely on The Tongue in the coming months as he will be supporting hip hop legends Public Enemy during their National tour in January along with a new album due out next year. Tasty.