Aussie hip-hop act, Illy, is set for a regional tour of Australia with the release of his album, Two Degrees. The artist behind the chart-topping Papercuts featuring Vera blue sat down with us to talk about Australian hip-hop breaking into the international mainstage, up and coming domestic rappers he is excited for, and working with long-time collaborator, the DJ turned producer M-Phazes.
When people talk about hip-hop, they instantly think US hip-hop. Do you find this to be an obstacle for Aussie rappers trying to get international recognition?
Kind of. I think, like, definitely having an Australian accent is kind of a barrier to getting overseas. In my personal experience, being over there, if you have a good live show, and you can get people into the room, you can kind of win them over. But yeah, definitely… I think it has been tough for Australian rap to sort of translate overseas.
Why do you think Aussie hip-hop, like UK grime, is such a different animal from US hip-hop? Geographical solation?
It’s a product of a different culture, there’s definitely that. Like you said, grime is different to Australian hip-hop because it’s from a different place. They’re both different to American stuff, because they’re both from a different place. The music you make is always going to be a product of the environment you’re a part of. I think that’s kind of… that makes a lot of sense. I don’t think that’s a revolutionary concept, you know?
And whereas genres and sub-genres of pop, rock, and folk generally sound unified the world over, sub-genres such as mumble rap, drill rap, and trip hop don't really reach places like Australia. It gains this global recognition, but it’s very geographically contained as a form. We’ve already touched on this, by why do you think sub-genres oh hip-hop don’t generally diffuse as well across to Australia?
Man, to be honest, I’m not sure. I definitely agree that that is the case… I guess because hip-hop is you speaking with your native tongue, there is such a difference. So whereas other genres, you know, sometimes you can’t tell whether it’s from Australia or the UK or America, with rap you really can. Which is probably why it’s so much more geographically specific.
Do you ever foresee a future where the laidback Aussie accented form of hip-hop will take the international mainstage?
I hope so, man. I would like to think that that’ll happen. I think it’ll be the right song, or the right act that’ll break that, sort of, glass ceiling, or whatever you want to call it… But, you know… I don’t know. I’m not holding my breath in anticipation for it, but I do think that one day it will happen.
Is there anyone in the domestic scenes that you’re excited about lately, and think we should keep an eye out for (excluding you for the sake of conversation)?
Yeah, I mean, the acts on my label, Allday and Citizen Kay. Outside of my label ONETWO, I think the group called Manu Crook$ from Sydney, who’s really super dope. They’re making a lot of noise… There are so many acts, to be honest. It’s hard to… I could rattle off names all day, but mainly those three I’m definitely excited for. For what they’ve got to come.
Now in your latest album, you worked with producer M-Phazes, who has an impressive resume featuring names from Eminem to Allday, from your own label. What was that like?
I’ve worked with Phazes for pretty much my whole career, man. He was my DJ before I even had an album out. All five of my albums he’s been heavily involved in. And, yeah… He’s the man. He’s no longer living in Australia, but he is in my opinion, by far the best producer from Australia. I think super highly of him… It’s always been pretty consistent. We kind of had it streamlined, this album. We both went into it, having a clear idea of what we wanted to get out of it. So yeah, I guess that was the main thing going into it. It was just more streamlined than previous times.
Papercuts is a monster track. Did you ever expect it to go triple platinum and be so openly embraced by audiences, or did you have another song pegged as the hit single?
Well firstly, thank you. It’s… triple platinum [Laughs.]
Oh! Triple platinum. Sorry [Laughs.]
It’s all good, man [Laughs.]. I wanted Papercuts to be the first single off the album because it kind of… Two Degrees as an album went in a different direction, and Papercuts really signified that better than most of the tracks on the album. And a break from what people were expecting. I didn’t really… I mean, you can’t really… I don’t think you can ever predict a song having the kind of success Papercuts did, but I love the song, and I believed in it enough to pick it as the best single. I guess as much as you could back yourself I did, but I could have never predicted it to do what it ended up doing.
And if you were to guess another song to be as openly embraced, which track would you pick?
Well the new single Oh My is probably my favourite, definitely one of my top two or three off the album. So if I were to pick one, I’d pick that one.
You’re also set to play a bunch of gigs, hitting Brisbane, here in Sydney, and Melbourne. Any expectations?
We already did the capital cities a month ago, and we’re about to do a regional tour… I haven’t done an extensive tour in a couple of years, so yeah. I’m really looking forward to that, and I really just can’t wait to get back on the road.
Check out Illy performing at the Two Degrees tour dates listed below. Tickets can be purchased here.
Thursday 3rd August – Players Bar, Mandurah WA
Friday 4th August – Prince Of Wales, Bunbury WA
Saturday 5th August – Dunsborough Hotel, Dunsborough WA
Tuesday 8th August – Wintersun, Geraldton WA
Thursday 10th August – Pot Shot, Exmouth WA
Friday 11th August - Dampier Mermaid Hotel, Karratha WA
Saturday 12th August - Pier Hotel, Port Hedland WA
Sunday 13th August - Roebuck Bay Hotel, Broome WA
Thursday 17th August - Judds, Kalgoorlie WA
Friday 18th August - Pier Hotel, Esperance WA
Saturday 19th August - White Star, Albany WA
Friday 25th August - Kay St, Traralgon VIC
Saturday 26th August - The Pier, Frankston VIC
Friday 1st September - Odeon, Hobart TAS
Saturday 2nd September - Club 54, Launceston TAS
Thursday 7th September - Sol Bar, Sunshine Coast QLD
Friday 8th September - Mills Precinct, Toowoomba QLD
Saturday 9th September - Night Quarter, Gold Coast QLD
Sunday 10th September - The Northern, Byron NSW
Thursday 14th September - The Jack, Cairns QLD
Friday 15th September - Dalrymple, Townsville QLD
Saturday 16th September - Magnums, Airlie Beach QLD
Sunday 17th September - Harvey Rd Tavern, Gladstone QLD
Thursday 21st September - Wool Exchange, Geelong VIC
Friday 22nd September - Whalers, Warrnambool VIC
Saturday 23rd September - Shadows, Mt Gambier SA
Friday 29th September - The Cambridge, Newcastle NSW
Sunday 1st October - Yours & Owls, Wollongong NSW
Friday 6th October - Setts, Mildura NSW
Saturday 7th October – Karova’s Car Park, Ballarat VIC
Friday 3rd November - Port Panthers, Port Macquarie NSW
Saturday 4th November - Hoey Moey, Coffs Harbour NSW
Friday 24th November - SSA Club, Albury NSW