Record label Obese’s roster reads like a who’s who of Australian hip hop, Muph & Plutonic and Spit Syndicate, to name-drop just a few. It’s CEO Pegz, an accomplished artist of his own right, bought the label in 2002 having transformed it into the veritable powerhouse of local hip hop that it is today over the past 6 years.
“It wasn’t really an established label when I bought it” he explained over the phone from the label’s headquarters in Melbourne “It only had two or three releases and they weren’t distributed properly, it was just sort of helping a friend release his CD and getting it out to other stores around the country.”
“It wasn’t structured like a proper record label with publicist, national distribution and the various other things. I worked behind the counter for about 3 years doing sales, kind of retail stuff in the store so that lead to promoting my own gigs, putting out my own records, building up knowledge and confidence”.
Fast-forward to today and it’s not hard to see that the face of hip hop in Australia has changed. A nip here a tuck there and few more lines and wrinkles have seen it gain a character all it’s own as each individual scene develops it’s own sound in respect to ever evolving sound of the genre in general. This year alone there has been many notable releases including Muph and Plutonic’s third album Then Tomorrow Came that was nominated for an ARIA. With the scene having flourished from it’s embryonic stages into a bit of a rowdy teenager full of conflict and passion, Pegz saw that the time was right to start a label.
“There was definitely a need for a specialist hip hop label in Australia. There’s a lot of diversity out there at the moment, there was a stage earlier on where it was your BBQ rap and not much else, now there’s many off-shoots of the genre and everything seems to be represented. It’s really evolved in the last five years particularly”.
Indeed it has. Five years ago, an ARIA nomination for an Australian hip hop artist was un-heard of and if it wasn’t for airplay on radio stations such as FBi and triple j most releases would have gone un-noticed bar for the ears of a dedicated few. Today however, as labels like Obese and Elefant Traks continue to flourish, adding more and more artists to their roster, with more and more releases grabbing the attention of music fans.
“In terms of the music coming out of Australia, I think the amount of releases and the quality has risen. The crowds are growing from my point of view it will continue to grow and develop”.
Yet as the music industry continues to (justly) suffer the slings and arrows of downloading and file sharing a lot of people are seeing a slowdown in the mainstream hip hop industry. However the Australian scene seems only to move from strength to strength as fans continue to support artists.
“I’ve seen a lot of things come and go but Hip hop has always maintained a steady ride. I’m definitely not seeing it slowing down or anything like that. But in saying that, we’re an underground independent label, we’re not Kanye West or Timbaland. Those guys might be seeing a slow down effect. You can make the choice whether you want to listen to what’s the top of the ARIA charts or what’s on Video Hits every Saturday or Sunday; it depends on you making that judgment. I’ve never really followed the trends.”
With the Australian hip hop scene so fertile and thriving at the moment you’d think it was about time Pegz got out of the office and into the studio to drop another hip hop bomb on us.
“At this point I don’t have the time to put in the hours that I used to put into my music,” he tells me with a self-deprecating chuckle. “I don’t think I’ve ever written a song that has taken me less than a month and that’s spending 5 or 6 hours, 3 or 4 nights a week. I put a lot of time into it and I can’t do it any other way it has to be done that way because that’s the way I have been doing it for 15 odd years. At this stage I’m just focusing on the label and writing regularly enough to keep sharp.”
Well if his recent success with not only his album Burn City, but Spit Syndicate and Muph and Plutonic getting an ARIA nod as well as the success of The Block Party Tour is anything to go by Pegz is still sharp enough to shave with, although we might have to go French for a little while until we can crack out the lather.
Some of the labels recent releases include:
Dialectrix ‘Cycles of Survival’
Reason ‘The Tides Are Turning’
Muph & Plutonic ‘…. And then Tomorrow Came’
Spit Syndicate ‘Towards the Light’
Visit http://www.obeserecords.com for more information.