Come Thursday this week, expect to see the club turned upside down for the one and only, jam-packed culture pot that is Party in the Woods. Catch local heavyweights Heavy, Yoko-Zuna, Omni Potent, and Scarlett Lashes, alongside Aus-based powerhouses, Emerald, and Dayelle, two individual ridiculously talented rappers and producers who've been running circles around conventional wordsmiths since day dot.
In case you weren't already familiar with the beautiful mind that is Emerald, it's about time you glance a geez at the words below.
Hey, Emerald! How are you?
Yeah I’m doing great thanks!
You took an arguably academic route to music. How did you come to Hip Hop?
It’s always been hip hop. Rap is raw, it’s real. I have a passion for the craft and I also have an appetite for knowledge, so it made sense to study music. It was a good compromise to assure myself and my parents that I was doing something constructive with my hobby because at that point I had no idea how far I could take it.
Rap appeals to the nerd in me for sure. I love words. I love taking my time to arrange just the right words to express a thought - and then having the added challenge of making them rhyme and flow! My brain gets a full work out when I’m writing lyrics.
I find it ironic that rap gets stereotyped as a being a low brow art form. There is such a big intellectual element to rapping. Technical skill and style are equally valuable to an emcee - book smarts and street smarts. An educated rapper is no oxymoron. I have a formal qualification in contemporary music and I still conclude that rap offers me more than any other genre.
Could you tell us about the Free Flow Co-Op?
The idea came partly from a hip hop group DoomTree from Minneapolis. They were a bunch of artist friends coming up in the same city who banded together to cross promote. I was inspired by that sense of community in a scene that is typically competitive. So I’ve followed a similar concept with Free Flow Co-Op and also with my hip hop collective Indigo Rising.
A couple of weeks after arriving in Melbourne I started running a series of hip hop nights called Emerald Hip Hop Sessions. As I got more involved in the underground scene I quickly realised that there was so much talent here that it had been begging for another platform. We were packing a small bar regularly on a tuesday. It was good for the artists and good for the venue. There was definitely a niche.
I created Free Flow Co-Op as a way to stay connected to the people who had been particularly good to work with. It created a pool of quality and reliable DJs, rappers, soundies, digital artists etc to create gigs from so that Emerald Hip Hop Sessions could be self sufficient. I also encouraged them to network among themselves too. If one of my artists needed a DJ for their own project they could hit up the Co-Op for example. I aim to connect with as many artists, promoters, venues etc as possible to continue to build this culture. My vision is that Free Flow Co-Op could become a community based movement that overtakes my leadership.
Your bars/lyrics resonate as pretty thought-provoking. What’s your process when writing, and do you think about what you want to achieve or have people consider when they’re listening to your music?
I’m glad you think so. My music is a pretty direct reflection of where I am in my life. Topics usually develop naturally. There’s kind of a threshold in my mind, and if I feel impassioned enough about something, or find a theme recurring in my thoughts then I acknowledge it and start to develop it into it into a song.
The more serious I’ve become about my music the more conscious my songwriting process has become. I definitely consider who I want to speak to and what kind of relationship I want to create with my fans. When I have a topic I’ll think about what angle I want to approach it from. Sometimes I write in the first person, sharing a story from my own experience so my audience get to know me. Sometimes I’ll write in the third person about a universal topic so that people can relate and put themselves in the story. Sometimes I’ll speak directly to them. Sometimes I’ll write a hook to have a call and response element to get the crowd involved so it becomes their song too. ‘Thought-provoking’ pretty much encapsulates what I try to be. I guess I’m trying to pass on my own inquisitiveness.
How do you feel about being called a ‘conscious musician’?
It’s a noble title. I strive to be conscious as a person, and as a musician as an extension of that. A lot of my friends are activists. I admire their empathy and knowledge and drive. I’m very eager to understand as much as I can about the world and the best way to contribute to making it a better place. Music is powerful tool. It allows the amplification of ideas and messages. It gives you influence. Entertaining is important, but I also feel as musicians, or anyone with a platform, one of the most valuable things you can do with your influence is use it to inspire people to engage with some of the bigger social/political/environmental issues which require our urgent attention. I don’t want to preach, but I do want to encourage awareness and Independent thought. I admire successful artists who use their music as a vehicle for humanitarianism. That’s an aspiration of mine.
You’re originally from New Zealand, but now find homebase in Melbourne. What is it about the Australian city that attracted you that way, and is it where you’re planning to nest for a while?
New Zealand is very isolated. My life there was comfortable and familiar. There was so much I wanted to see and achieve that wouldn’t have been possible in such a small country. I wanted more opportunities for my music. But mostly I was after personal growth, to challenge myself to be independent and take a bit more control over the direction of my life. Some Melbourne based artists I befriended at a music festival invited me to make the move. I didn’t need much convincing.
I don’t lose sight of my goal to chase music, so if an opportunity arose somewhere else I totally pursue that. I toured to New York last year and I feel like have unfinished business with that city. It was like Melbourne of steroids. But right now Melbourne fits. It has so much music and culture and diversity. It’s a good base, I can pop home easily or If I want to get away I’ll just organise another tour.
In your mind, how do the music scenes compare across New Zealand and Australia?
There are pockets of beautiful talented artists all over both countries. The scene here is bigger. There’s the obvious difference. I think what strikes me more is the similarity. I play about as many festivals as I do bar gigs. The New Zealand, Australian, Canadian and American outdoor party scenes are all very similar. Doof culture seems to be pretty universal.
There are great things going in New Zealand’s underground scene that I wish I could be there for. There’s a lot of potential. But it’s scattered. With a city the size of Melbourne it can be a lot more centralised. I think I’ve stumbled across a gem of a community here. It’s very connected and very welcoming. There’s a freestyle night called 'Can I Kick It' that I always rave about. Anyone who’s got something going will end up on the mic there at some point. There’s a bunch of collaborative projects, independent labels, hip hop and producer nights popping up. A lot of us seem to be on the same buzz with our music hustle. I live with the very prolific Elf Tranzporter of Combat Wombat, so between the two of us half of Melbourne's hip hop community pass through our lounge. Everyone in the scene is very open and supportive of each other. It really is like a family.