Author: Ben Cameron
He calls it a passion project but Illy’s latest record Bring It Back can also be summarised in one simple sentence: ‘‘It’s something I’ve wanted to do for years, get some of my mates on board and just f*cken rap.’’
A return to his roots after finding fame with 2010’s The Chase, it’s also the sound of Illy removing himself from the cocoon of his usual creative circle.
‘‘It’s more of a traditional Aussie hip hop sound,’’ Illy says.
‘‘This is just a passion project, with a bunch of mates that I’ve wanted to do (it with) for years.
‘‘This is something I want to do more for me, I’m not aiming to do any chart toppping sh*t, I don’t think it’s a mainstream record like that.
‘‘There’s no singers on this album other than myself, poorly trying to sing (laughs).’’
Some might argue it’s a way of appeasing the critics- Illy admits there’s been a few in the hip hop scene who’ve lined up up to bag him for his commercial success – but he swears that’s something he’ll never do.
‘‘It’s to be expected (the backlash), but I don’t give a f*ck… I’d never change my music for them,’’ he says.
‘‘Even if I made an album, exactly what they wanted to hear, they’d still find a way to call me a a f*ckhead.
‘‘It doesn’t bother me for a second, you’re gonna get criticised when you do well.
‘‘If it was warranted, if I was making dance music and calling it hip hop, then that would be fair enough, but I make hip hop music.
‘‘I’ve made songs that are really popular and are pop… even though I make different music now, I haven’t turned my back on them.’’
Bring It Back, featuring beat luminaries like M Phazes, Mantra and Reason, only exposes the hypocrisy in Illy’s eyes.
‘‘The dudes on Bring It Back are some of the best rappers in the country,’’ he says,
‘‘These are dudes, that these guys who call me a f*ckwit, think are awesome, but they’re cool to do tracks with me, so I don’t give a f*ck about idiots with loud mouths.’’
It’s really no time for negativity. The Australian hip hop scene has achieved what it’s always craved, big time exposure, with the likes of 360, The Hilltop Hoods and Drapht amongst the biggest names in Australian music. Illy is convinced these are the best of times.
‘‘Definitely. Anyway you look at it really, it’s been the biggest (period),’’ Illy says.
‘‘Four years until now, the level of exposure alone has been f*cking heaps more, man, it’s gone through the roof, there’s no doubt about it at all.’’
He says it’s down to increasing levels of exposure, not talent.
‘‘If people had of been exposed to it ten years ago it would be as huge, as popular, as it is now,’’ he says.
‘‘Initially, a lot of people were really stand offish about it. But then they give it a chance and they end up loving it. They just had to get familiar with it.’’
The mainstream crossover of tunes like It Can Wait have also helped Aussie hip hop’s emergence.
‘‘That’s played a part,’’ he says. ‘‘It Can Wait is a great song, and it has that pop element that resonates with people that a more strictly hip hop (fan) wouldn’t (enjoy).’’
Despite going back to his roots, Illy’s work is still being misunderstood, like first cut off the record, Heard It All.
‘‘People have taken it as ‘He was in a dark place, he had writer’s block’ but I’m like no man, it’s a fun track and I’m trying to poke fun at the fact everybody wants to original, but a lot of the sh*t (out there) is not original,’’ he laughs.
‘‘Everything in popular culture is something that’s been done before… there’s no thing that is completely brand new, that has never been done ever anywhere.
‘‘But that’s not something to get down about, as you’re bringing our own perspective to it, so it’s unique in that way.’’
Illy is just days away from starting his national tour after a quiet 2012 spent mostly conceiving new tracks.
‘‘It’s been really, really quiet, I haven’t been off the road for that long since I started touring,’’ he says.
‘‘I’ve just been p*ssing people off here man, they’re like ‘Get back out there dude, you’re driving us nuts’ (laughs).’’
Five tracks into the follow up to The Chase, Illy is bullish.
‘‘It’s a more Illy sounding record,’’ he says.
‘‘But I’ve got high hopes for the follow up, I think that will crush (laughs), I think that’s gonna be a big album.’’
Illy plays The Black Swan on August 18.