Huskii’s debut album Antihero contains the Wollongong rapper’s most personal songwriting to date. On the record’s opening track, ‘Heroin Rap’, Huskii admits that, “Fighting all these demons ain’t as easy when your fans know truth.” But the extra scrutiny coming from Huskii’s fanbase hasn’t stopped him laying all his cards on the table.
On ‘Ruin My Life’, the now Sydney-based MC lets his anxiety bubble to the surface. “I’m just a fuck-up, I don’t know how these people listen to me,” he raps. Later in the song, Huskii chews on the idea that “being a crim’s in my genes.”
This is not an abstract fear: now in his mid-20s, Huskii recently celebrated the one-year anniversary of his release from prison. He’s back living with his partner and their two and a half-year-old daughter, and he’s determined to not return to prison.
Antihero is a manifestation of Huskii’s determination. Working with Sydney producer Tasker (Danté Knows, Tuka), Huskii loads the seven-track release with equal helpings of self-examination and glowing confidence. The record includes guest appearances from UK MC Grubbo, Perth rapper Shadow and Huskii’s Sydney associates Mic Pompei and Ides.
Music Feeds caught up with Huskii to talk about Antihero, working with Tasker, growing up in Wollongong and rebuffing negative stigmata.
Music Feeds: Caleb Tasker produced this record. How does your relationship work in the studio?
Huskii: Me and Tasker, we don’t hang around each other outside of being in the studio. His group of friends are opposite to my group of friends, we don’t make sense. But that helps me because if I was around some of my peers, I probably wouldn’t be singing, I probably wouldn’t be doing the stuff I was doing and experimenting how I was because I’d be embarrassed. So he kind of brings out the best in me.
MF: What sort of discussions did you have with Tasker at the beginning of the process in regards to the direction you wanted to take on Antihero?
Huskii: It kind of just happened. I went into the first studio session with some YouTube beats and said, “Look, let’s do some shit I’ve written down, see what happens,” and it took Tasker like ten seconds to [make a beat]. I had no idea what direction he was taking, but once I heard that, I just was happy to go that way because he’s a weapon. Madlib styles and stuff like that; I was already listening to them type of beats. I think he knew straight away. Like, “This is the vibes.” He’s a genius.
MF: Songs like ‘Heroin Rap’ and ‘Ruin My Life’ are really personal, reveal a lot about your life and your psyche. Does it cause you much anxiety, exposing so much of yourself on record?
Huskii: Not these days, but it used to. When I first started, my songs were less artistic, more expressive. Just expressing myself on some kind of wack instrumental on Soundcloud. I used to be scared that people would use that shit against me. Growing up where I grew up, everyone knows everyone and it’s a small little scene. People get stuck in that area because it’s houso and there’s a shop there and there’s drugs there. It just seems like everyone knows everyone.
When I decided I wanted to start rapping I felt like, “These people are going to use all this shit against me,” because it’s a bit of a hostile environment. And it didn’t end up that way.
MF: Where was the housing commission that you grew up in?
Huskii: In Wollongong, out in Mangerton. It’s just blocks of flats. There’s thousands of people living there, right on top of each other. It’s bad. People get stuck in there.
MF: What compelled you to start writing songs?
Huskii: This is weird – I think I started writing suicide letters as a kid. I would never give them to anyone because I wouldn’t kill myself, but I would be writing every night trying to get it perfect. I’m like, “Literally, this is me – I need to say what I need to say,” and then that turned into learning to articulate myself in weird ways.
And I started writing music because I kind of was just against everyone else who was making music. At the time I was like, “What the fuck is this shit? I know some of these guys that act super tough on these songs; I’ve seen them in my house and I’ve seen what happens to these people. Why can’t they just be honest with themselves?”
I don’t think anyone was talking about their feelings and stuff back in the day. They were just talking about “I could bash ya.”
MF: You’ve worked with a bunch of different producers over the last handful of years. Do you feel much apprehension about going into a studio and working with a new producer?
Huskii: It’s kind of like waking up for work in the morning. You just have to do it. I could be awkward with the producers all day long, but it’s my music I’m trying to make and at the end of the day, it’s just going to reflect on what I’m making. I still feel awkward with Tasker even though he’s the best dude I could work with. But I just know it’s worth it. It’s for the art – I’ve got to suffer a little bit.
MF: Are your motivations for making music still mostly about expressing yourself?
Huskii: Yeah. I got lost for a little bit and I was wondering why I was having trouble writing music and why I wasn’t happy with what I was making. Until now, I’ve never really been happy. I’ve always had a vision – the vision was 100 per cent, if only I could master it. But then I’d feel awkward with the producer or I didn’t want to say certain things and then by the time I dropped the song, it’s 50 per cent. When I made this, I made sure it was perfect. I didn’t want to release it and cut corners.
MF: There’s only seven songs on Antihero, but you cram in a lot of information. ‘Heroin Rap’ doesn’t even last for two minutes but it’s thematically dense enough to keep me thinking all day.
Huskii: That was the point of that song, to be honest. I was going to make that an interlude for another song and I just thought, “Nah, it’s too much. We’ll do something else with this song.” The whole point with that song was I wanted to turn people off. If people listen to that or hear the name of that song and before listening to it they don’t like the song or they don’t like me or they judge Huskii, like, “This guy’s a fucking junkie,” I don’t want you listening.
MF: Do you get much negative feedback about the references to drug dealing and drug taking in your songs?
Huskii: You can’t say that I’ve caused this in the kids and that. I’ve never had one kid come up to me and be like, “Look, bro, if it wasn’t for you I wouldn’t be on drugs.” But I’ve had a lot of people come up to me and say the other way – “If it wasn’t for you I wouldn’t have been able to get off drugs.” That happens literally once a week.
Huskii’s debut album Antihero is out now, debuting at #1 on the ARIA Album Chart. He will play sold out shows in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Newcastle, Wollongong, Canberra, Adelaide and Perth in April.