Drapht – Long Way To The Top

Had you told Drapht nine years ago that he’d have an album at the top of the ARIA charts and be touring the nation relentlessly playing to packed out venues, you would be quite the prophet. Seriously, that’d be some psychic shit, no one saw this coming, not even Drapht himself.

Better known to his family as Paul Ridge, Drapht started out as a rapper all the way back in 2003 at the tender age of 17. Being introduced to hip hop through school mate Damian Allia aka DJ Armee, soon going on to become a central member of the Syllabolix (SBX) crew, Drapht’s love of hip hop was a reflexive and irrepressible one, the rapper’s first contributions being released only months after he started writing.

Cut to the present day and his fourth album The Life Of Riley is at the top of the ARIA Charts, and his tours are selling out faster than he can plan them. About to set out on his Party Party Party Tour as well as headlining the inaugural Sprung Hip Hop Festival in Brisbane, we caught up with the rapper to discuss success as well as his new-found sobriety and how he’s dealing with both.

Music Feeds: So you’re gearing up for the Party Party Party Tour? Has there been much partying?

Drapht: There’s not been much partying. It was my birthday yesterday and I just had some friends over and roasted some almonds and had some green tea, that’s about all the partying I get up to these days.

MF: Yeah, I read that you had quit drinking, how’s that going for you?

D: I literally don’t feel the need to drink at all anymore, which is pretty crazy as with Aussie hip hop and everyone who’s grown up in it, drinking sort of goes hand in hand. I actually performed the other day in Perth on Saturday night and I went out after, and I can go out comfortably now without booze, which is good. I just handle all the drunken idiots talking my ear off and spitting bourbon in my face while doing so. So that’s a little hard to deal with, but I’m sure I’ll get there.

MF: Yeah, being sober around a bunch of drunks is a really good way to end up hating everyone around you.

D: That’s exactly right, and hating them turns you into a recluse, you end up staying home every weekend. I mean, I enjoy that anyway, but now I look at touring as a break from that and a chance to really enjoy the crowd again.

MF: I’d imagine that it’s quite a feeling to be playing to the crowds you are now. Must be a different type of feeling though, being in control of the crowd as opposed to being a part of it?

D: Exactly. I mean, it’s a shame because a few years ago I could go into the crowd and enjoy myself and not get hassled too much, and I really miss that side of things. I used to put on a lot of my own shows in Perth and I really enjoyed mingling with the crowd, but now it’s just too insane. I can’t really go out there cos if I do it attracts a crowd. But now when I’m on stage, I really use that as an opportunity to really connect with the crowd and enjoy that as much as possible.

MF: Is it strange having grown in profile as much as you have in the last twelve months? Are you getting to the point of masking up Michael Jackson style?

D: No, but funny you say that as I did have lunch with my family yesterday for Fathers day and it’s gotten to the point where I can’t really go out without being recognised. Like, I was out yesterday with the family for my birthday and this guy came up and asked me for a photo with his kids, and it’s kind of like ‘come on man’ but still I’ve got to put on a nice face cos I don’t want to be a wanker or anything. So yeah, it’s great, and I don’t want to sound like I’m whinging, but at times it’s annoying and I’m just thinking to myself ‘I wish I could just tell these people to fuck off.’

MF: Yeah, it’s always really hard to deal with when someone is pissing you off, but they’re doing so with the most positive of intentions. It’s almost worse than when someone does so maliciously because you can’t really get angry at them.

D: Totally, and that’s why I’ve never wanted to meet any personalities that I respect music-wise because I don’t want to ruin the image of them that I’ve held for so long. Even when I’m doing a festival, I’d never go up to Jay-Z or Kanye West and bug them because I probably wouldn’t listen to their music anymore. So when people come up to me, the last thing I want to do is to shatter their image of me, but at the same time I’m not always a happy chirpy person and deep down I am a recluse and I love my space, so it can be hard.

MF: So tell me about the tour then; what do you have planned for the crowds?

D: We start the tour in a week and a half in Jindabyne and then head off around the country. We’re just sort of fine-tuning the set now, and it’s been quite a new experience for me as I’ve been going back through the back catalogue and bringing back some songs from my earlier albums, all four albums getting sampled within the set, and I’ve never sort of had to wade back through all my material like this before. It’s weird too because songs off Pale Rider that are like nine or eight years old – it’s just like I can’t even remember writing these songs. So I’ve been going through and transcribing my lyrics and it’s been a really nostalgic process. I’m really looking forward to playing these songs live.

MF: That’s great that you’re getting to go back through all your old stuff.

D: Yeah, it really is. At the same time though, it’s more about giving the fans something new. Funnily enough with the songs all being so old, as because I’ve been touring pretty much non-stop since November and if fans have already come to a few shows they don’t want to hear the same songs over and over again. I’ve just been really focusing on giving the bands something fresh as well as trying not to be so robotic up on stage and enjoying myself too.

Drapht’s Party Party Party Tour kicks off at Jindabyne’s Station Hotel on September 14th, and he’ll be headlining Sprung Hip Hop Festival on October 15th at Brisbane’s Riverstage click here for full dates.

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