Wednesday, July 18, 2012

On A Friday

Beach Road Hotel, Bondi Beach, Sydney
13 July 2012

Maybe because it was Friday the 13th and the third one for 2012, everyone decided to lay low and not risk some witchy, devilish shit happening at a gig. That must be why the only hip hop gig I could find on that night was Sky'High's second Sydney album launch. Every Friday that falls on the 13th I claim as my own, especially in July. The day I was born, unlucky for some, was on a Friday, the 13th day of the month of July. Now I've definitely tried to lie to some about the year, but if you really want to know just go read the book by George Orwell.

Permanent marker maybe?
I commemorated the day by getting it inked on my arm permanently, so now I'm a real life lucky charm. And if you know me, then you know that if I'm in your life you really are lucky.  That's because I live life the way I want it to be.  I seek out all the good things and I attract them to me.  So people could say that I'm living the dream. If you know how to dream than you know what I mean.

So I thought I'd give this Sky'High gig a try, after very mixed thoughts on her from several people that I have asked. Elefant Traks of course is right behind her, and when asked Adit spoke very enthusiastically about her, but most of my friends haven't been too impressed with lyrics, beats, or her attitude so far. I first heard of her on Triple J early this year which was my first taste of the “Hoodie and Nikes” song, which I really like.  Embarrassingly enough at first I thought she was a young boy by the way she sounded.  At first that really intrigued me because I thought "hold on, who is this 10 year old on triple J?"  But even better was finding out that it was a chick, because there aren't a lot of female rappers on the scene holding it down on their own. She did an interview with Hai on the Hip Hop show before she went on tour with 360, and talked about her new album coming up later in the year. I thought she seemed really sweet and shy, and that definitely got me interested, I wanted to know more.

a couple of cool kids I know
I saw her perform earlier this year opening for The Herd. Basically all of Elefant Traks was there to show their support.  There's a bit of controversy about why Elefant Traks would sign an artist so different to their normal aesthetic.  The answer is complex and maybe the benefits won't come to fruition straight away but rather incubated like an egg.  It's like they took this little newborn chick under their generous and protective wing and introduced her as part of the scene. But she's no baby chick, innocent and wide eyed. She's like a crazy owl: shifty eyed and alive at night time. Scoping out the scene and then swooping down to swiftly snatch her prey.    

Although it might seem like there's some arrogance rooted in her name, it's really just a clever play on her actual name, Skhai. You might be put off by the fact that she rocks sunnies inside at night, wears a frown, screams into the mike, and yells at the crowd. But at least she's herself, she's not afraid to be a little angry. And we shouldn't put her down because it's that type of raging that hip hop was founded on in the first place. And in stark contrast to all that aggressive and negative energy, if you're lucky enough for her to drop her sunnies and smile at you, you'll be all but stunned by the innocence displayed in her face. Which goes to show that, maybe it's not quite all an act, but but a carefully constructed tough outer mask that she has worked most of her life to maintain.

I spot a reoccurring theme
This genre of music, always came out of a desperate need to make sense of a world that doesn't make sense at all. The most notorious rappers came out of the darkest ghettos of New York and LA. Yet, it evolved to be something so much more that. The fact that Australian hip hop exists despite that overall absence of such harsh and dangerous living conditions, is testimony to the fact that you don't have to have had a really hard life to make good music. Everyone suffers in their own way, emotional pain can penetrate the psyche of someone even with the most seemingly carefree lifestyle. But someone who has actually seen hell comes back completely changed. Therefore I don't think we should write off Sky'High easily because it is known that her childhood consisted of being witness to some of the most unsavory neighbourhoods and activities that Sydney boasts. So even if she hasn't completely come into her musical groove yet, she's comfortable with herself and her point of view alone is so unique that everyone should take note.

Sky checking out my tat
As for the gig itself, it was a huge let down. The choice of venue (come on who goes to see hip hop all the way out in Bondi? Put her in Newtown for god's sake), the lack of promotion (I only saw it on Elefant Traks site), and the crowd (lack of, and lack of participation from those that were there) all contributed to a huge flop of a night. But it wasn't all bad. She has a stage presence like no other, she's definitely comfortable with who she is. She is unique and brings something completely different to the Australian hip hop scene. And I think because of this, and because of her record label backing she will come into her own and the country will start to see her as the star that she already believes that she is. If the event had been promoted better and the crowd was getting into it, I believe the show could have been a hit. But like I've said before, the crowd really makes the show. If the artist is up there giving their all and the crowd is giving nothing back, then the night will be a flop, just by default.

fuck the world
Bottom Line: She's an aggressive chick, with energy and edge, doing it on her own with her mate Emily Blake of course, an amazing singer, to back her up live. A new piece to this hip hop puzzle that we haven't seen yet. I think she will go far. Then we'll be saying, “yeah I was at this gig in Bondi ages ago, and there was no one there, it was crazy...”

"Look At Me Now" off the Your Highness EP

Latest Video: "Wake Up" featuring New Zealand rapper David Dallas

Sky'High on facebook
Sky'High merchandise- elefant traks
"Your Highness" EP FREE DOWNLOAD

Buy Sky'High's first full length album Forever Sky'High through Elefant Traks now.

Tweet Me: @iamskyhigh

Want to know more about Skhai's life and background?
Watch this mini documentary series....
Part 1 / Part 2 / Part 3

Good night kiddies! Thanks for tuning in!
Catch you on the flip side, 
<3 <3 <3 Jen <3 <3 <3 

no rest for the wicked!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

She Lives Her Life in the Graveyard

written on: 2nd April 2006

       Walking the street one day I came upon a graveyard, and as I was passing by, I heard it call my name.  It beckoned to me with its little blue flames.  But I couldn't stay.  Because when I entered through the gate I laid under a tree in the shade, and it was reminiscent of the grave in which I laid too many times.  That darkest winter, alone and blind- still living through that borrowed time of days and nights just marching by.  And when spring finally did come, was it years or months until it stopped and I was born again?  And as I contemplated, the wind picked up and shook the trees and sprinkled me with autumn leaves.  So I knew it was about that time again.  Why do I remember it? And why do I linger so long now?
       So I got up to leave, I got out of that sleep that was pulling at me.  That old sense of familiarity.  That haunting, calming, alluring dream.  I tried to leave but the full moon above the trees was beaming down on me, rainbows cascading over me.  Hypnotized, it stopped me dead.  And as I stared into its encompassing beauty, the wind passed over me, surrounding me, it was holding me.  And as shadows passed by they whispered to me.  They said, don’t leave, there is someone we’ve been waiting for you to meet.
       Picking my way through the graves, the whispers drove me to this certain place.  A grove of pine trees with an opening where the moon was beaming down with it’s full intensity.  And as soon as my eyes spotted it, my mind was tripping over memories, and I slipped into a different dream.  The stars were moving rapidly until their images where no longer one clear spot, but a solid stream, white lines painted on a canvas of black ink.  I fell, but was that in the dream or in reality? 
       I awoke to a familiar smell- a match.  And then I saw the smoke of a cigarette- curling, dancing- then disappearing into the blackness.  Slowly you brought it to your lips and that single puff was like a kiss.  From where do I remember this?  Then I realized I was on my knees, as in prayer, still in the clearing and you were there, looking at me indifferently.  Lingering purposefully in the shadows so I could barely see your face.  But I knew instantly that I was safe.  I recognized you from those images in my head as I lay in the grave.  But as I walked toward you, you turned away as if maybe you’d forgotten what had already taken place.  In frustration I screamed to the trees, I demanded the moon tell me what was happening. 
       But I wasn’t the only one waiting to see.  Soon others were there, surrounding me.  Everyone was questioning, but their identities were unclear to me.  Soon I felt as though we all were in a sea.  Riding waves of uncertainty, drifting endlessly, just waiting to be saved.  The faces bobbed in and out of my vision, but no one seemed to realize the division between what was a dream and what was really happening. And no one seemed to notice me.  They were all lost in a hell of their own questioning.  For what were we waiting?
       I slipped under the water and found that I could breath easily, but all around the the others seemed to be drowning.  I saw you again as you swam beneath me.  You turned and smiled at me.  And then once again I was standing- with you next to me.  The world held its breath with the waiting.  The leaves weren't rustling.  No one was whispering.  Was it majestic or haunting? 
       I might have seen it first about the earth as if it were a distant star.  A point of light so far away.  It came upon me suddenly- the biggest flash, the brightest light I had ever seen.  And when it covered me I thought finally.  But it was instantly.  It seeped into me, filling me, engraining itself fully into every particle of my being.  I left my body and I was free.  I was released.  And when I went into it I knew everything.  It wasn't like the sea because there was no more questioning. There was no uncertainty.  The light became seamlessly part of me.  I was that thing.  I was everything.  The world was before me to see, and I was absolutely stunned by its beauty.  This connection that runs through everything.  I still felt you next to me.  Surrounding me, inside of me, all around me.  This is our journey.  You're an integral part of me.  And we're just floating through that stream, where history has no meaning because it's still happening.  
       I knew this couldn't last because I have a soul not yet complete, but these lessons are becoming easier.  I see everything with a soul much clearer.  So maybe I'm nearing a day when I can spend eternity inside this Perfect Unity where all information is available to me.  And I can access anything and live through it as if it were part of a dream.  And flow forever through this never ending stream with stopping points along the way.
       Then I awoke as if that were my dream.  But I remembered everything.  I knew it was reality.  I understood what was shown to me.  And then I turned over in bed to look at you.  Because I believe now is the beginning of our life where you can remember it too.

Peace and Love my lovelies! Stay tuned for more reviews next week!
<3 <3 <3 Jen <3 <3 <3

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Best Intentions

360 & Spit Syndicate
Metro Theatre, Sydney
29th June 2012

I have to admit it, I don't love 360. So how appropriate that my blog expressing my love of hip hop should reach exactly 360 page views today, when I sit down to write about him. It's not that I have anything against him. I've always thought his music, falls more into the pop category than hip hop. As he explained today on his twitter, “...I don't even label my music hip hop, cause it ain't. I make (in my opinion) GOOD pop music, and I rap on [it]... I give a fuck about genre.” This could explain the very different vibe we felt entering the gig this weekend. One of the first things that I noticed was the lack of hip hop clothing on display. Usually at a gig all the merch comes out and people display their love for all hip hop artists, not just the group that is playing. Generally there is heaps of Funkoars, Bliss n Eso, Hilltop Hoods, and Drapht tshirts and jumpers floating around the crowd. However, I don't think I saw much besides Shoosh Cunt shirts, and 360 hats. Fair enough if he just has very loyal fans, but it's more like they only listen to him.  

me and Cathy, that's how we roll...
From the start, it felt like a hip hop gig with something essential missing from it. It even had more of a punk rock sort of vibe. It was missing the soul, the nitty gritty, the collective feeling of the whole history of the genre backing us up. It's like these fans have missed out on the basics and are just jumping in on the bandwagon. Again, I'm not against it. I think it's great to get new people involved. I'm not the kind of person that only likes a band because no one else knows about them. I'm more of a pusher, if I like something I will try and get as many people to listen to it as possible. Not only do I want the artists to get exposure so they can share their art with as many people as possible, but I want the average person to understand what good music is. Rather than just singing along to whatever overplayed, overproduced, bullshit is played 1000 times a day on every radio station.

Once you start getting into it, the world of hip hop is like an enormous puzzle, only you don't see the size or scope of it at the onset. You start by picking up one or two pieces and as you fit each piece into the next, you being to see a bigger and bigger picture with more and more pieces to fit into place. Suddenly you realise the view is so wide you may never find the time to examine each piece individually, that and more and more pieces are being added all the time, so it's hard to keep up. Not only does this culture involve groups, crews, individual artists, djs, producers, beat makers, singers, dancers, graffiti, and street art, but almost every other genre of music is also sampled within the beats themselves. It's a culture, that although is young compared with other genres of music has extensive depth, and history, and with a long way to go from here, because there are infinite directions to branch out into. Hip hop isn't just one thing; that's why there's room for all types of people to express and enjoy themselves through this music. And as many as want to jump on the bandwagon, I saw hop on up. Just respect the culture, the history of the culture, and the blood and sweat and soul that so many have put into it so that you can enjoy it as it is today.

(Ok bottomline: yeah the atmosphere felt a bit different, but there's room for all types of people in this world.) Enough of that rant and onto the show....

I really tried to get into 360's show. And I did for a while. Although I don't know many of his songs, I believe he opened with Child. I really dig the song “Just Got Started” with Pez which he played that night sans Pez. (And it's the ring tone on my phone, guilty.) The video clip to that song is very funny, if you haven't seen it, check it out. This sort of epitomises the type of songs that 360 is famous for. Catchy tunes, with a singable chorus that make you laugh. Again nothing wrong with that, it's just that the lyrics are missing a lot of the depth and intricacy that a lot of other artists have.

360 doing his thing
As we worked our way into the crowd, I started to enjoy myself a bit more. As we were way to the side of the venue I could see the whole crowd and I was mesmorised as I watched everyone swaying to the beat. One thing is for sure, the crowd was really into it. There was one song that I really enjoyed, although I can't remember which one it was at the moment. Just as I was about to let it all go, and really get into the performance, everything quickly fell to pieces. A fight started somewhere in front of us and two guys kept coming further and further towards the back of the room. I almost thought we weren't going to get out of the way fast enough, they were coming at us so fast. I have spoken about fights at gigs before and I don't understand it. It's like people get all hyped up and then suddenly decide to use that energy to punch someone instead of directing it into something positive like dancing, or jumping, or waving your hands in the air like you just don't care. Usually a fight only lasts a few seconds before someone jumps in and pulls the aggressor away, be it a bouncer or a few mates, or guys that happen to witness. This fight just kept going. One guy was on the floor and the other guy just kept going for him. We had to fight our way out of the crowd and into the back to get out of the way. Then just as the two boys hit the back of the crowd the aggressor gave the guy on the ground a kick to the face and blood sprayed everywhere. I was feeling sick to my stomach, and extremely annoyed that they weren't stopped before it got to that point. The bouncers were still no where to be seen although a couple minutes later they were dragging a totally different guy out of the room. The fight pretty much ruined the rest of the show for me. I couldn't get over the fact that not only someone would use this venue, and this time, when we are supposed to be getting together to share our mutual enjoyment of music and the artist on the stage, to let out all their anger and frustration at someone, but also that no one stepped in to help the guy that was on the ground getting hurt. I couldn't stop thinking about it for the rest of the night.

me looking naturally evil
I'm trying to think of some good things to write about the show so you don't think I'm hating on 360. Another pet peeve of mine is all the crap that people give him on facebook. If you look at the comments on any status that he writes, there are hundreds or thousands of comments and it's a good fifty fifty split of which ones will be positive and which ones will be negative. This doesn't happen with any other artist as far as I know. If you don't like an artist, then why would you “like” them on facebook just so you can throw insults at them? I guess these people really have nothing better to do with their time.

To be fair, did have a really good light show, and the energy was there, despite the fact that he didn't seem to be providing much of it himself. In fact, although most hip hop artists normally bounce all over the stage dancing, and bobbing, and waving their arms to get people involved. 360 tends to stay in one place with one arm raised over his head for the majority of the time. I also see a lot of photos where he likes to do a Jesus pose with both arms outstretched. In fact most of the energy seems to come from the crowd itself rather than a dialogue between the crowd and the artist.

The song that it seemed everyone was waiting for came on “Boys Like You.” Gossling came out and performed with him. I have to admit, if the fight hadn't happened I probably would have had a much better opinion of the show. It was quite a performance, with the lighting effects instilling an almost dream-like quality to the night that lay blanketed over the crowd and the stage. Unfortunately I didn't quite feel like I was under that blanket. And then came the final blow. The set seemed very short. 360 only played for maybe an hour. It just didn't feel like he really made the effort for a show that he was headlining, but maybe that was just me being distracted.

Listen with your heart baby, close both eyes, can you see me now?”

The SS boys
Spit Syndicate, who came out just before 360, in my opinion, stole the show. Also in my opinion, one of the most underrated hip hop acts in Australia. They hail from Sydney's inner west and they are real people, no acting here. They keep it low key. They are down to earth guys that really are doing this music thing for themselves and their friends, and their fans, because they honestly enjoy it rather than for the money or the fame. No one said they don't enjoy themselves immensely along the ride though.

Again, we didn't make it in in time to see Bam Bam, the first opening act. Or maybe we did but we were too interested in the bar. So Spit Sydnicate started off the evening right for us. They kicked things off, as they did last time I saw them with “See Me Now” off their Best Intentions Part 1 mixtape. A chillingly beautiful song that uses the beat from the XX song “Intro.” In this song Nick and Jimmy set up their rapport with the audience that lasts throughout the show. They welcome us and they introduce themselves. The lyrics invite us to close our eyes and get lost in the music.

I don't know what's going on here but I kind of like it.
From there we bounce into a more upbeat Crooks and Crime scenes, trying to get the crowd hyped. They kept looking to their friends at the side of the stage for support which was cute as the crowd obviously didn't know them and wasn't sure what to do at first. But it only took a couple of songs before they started getting comfortable and the crowd started getting really comfortable. Their show is very interactive, talking to the crowd, playing with the crowd, and getting the crowd to yell back to them. Of course they played “Starry Eyed” and “Pretty Girls Make Graves” two of their signature songs. Although they don't have the romantic songs, like the other group in the crew, Horrorshow, these songs do show a softer side of hip hop. I think they also sneakily played a song from their new mix tape without actually drawing attention to it. But I believe it was during the song “Stumbling,” which features the amazing sing song styles of the man, the myth, the giant himself, Joyride, that the crowd really started to go insane.

Opening for 360 was really good exposure both for the Spit Sydnicate boys to get more fans and for the 360 fans to get exposure to a different type of aussie hip hop that they might like. For sure they gained quite a few new fans that night, definitely including the guy that was standing behind us. I think our dancing may have had an influence on him too, but I'm sure it was mostly the music.

Nick Lupi - Also Known As: the guy in the red plaid shirt
As you know if you're a Spit Syndicate fan, that they have been in the lab cooking up their new album and it's almost ready to share with us. This was the night they decided to throw a couple never before seen songs in our direction. When I heard both of them, I was instantly hooked. The first one is possibly called Also Known As. Very catchy, it's certainly going to be a hit. If you need proof that these boys have taken it up to the next level then check the video. You can tell the crowd was in love with it too, from the random shouting and screaming with glee that continues through the whole song, even in a crowd that for the most part didn't know them at the start of the show. The other new song has no working title as of yet but it will be their new single. It has a very catchy chorus that tells us, “there's beauty in the bricks of the city that I'm from...” I really can't get that line out of my head. All I remember from the show is that I was singing right along even though it was the first time that I heard it, it was so familiar already. By this time in the show, I'm pretty sure that everyone in the crowd was hooked on what SS was showing us.

With a new single dropping next month, a new mix tape not long after that, and a new album by the end of the year, with a tour possibly linked to it, we certainly have a lot to look forward to from these boys. So stay tuned.

Spit Syndicate performing "Also Known As":

SpitSyndicate – download their free Mix Tape Best Intentions Part 1. Part 2 dropping soon.
Elemont - up and coming artist to check out. Mix tape coming out in early September!

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 Peace out my people. 
Take care of yourselves and each other, 
<3 xoxox