If you’ve just come back from a month long overseas holiday and you’re doing a round of press interviews from the comfort of your own bed, it’s entirely plausible that you’ve reached somewhere pretty close to the pinnacle of your music career.
If you’ve also won an ARIA, featured strongly in the Hottest 100 on several occasions and are about to embark on an almost sold-out national tour, you are probably entitled to a little sleep-in. Melbourne MC, Illy, however, is an artist who’s not in bed because he feels he’s earned a rest, but because he’s always chasing the dream.
Last year he not only took home the ARIA for Best Urban Album for his third full-length release, Bring it Back, Illy also put out his fourth album, Cinematic. Despite all the accolades from the Industry and the public, his goal in the studio remains the same – to record the best album of his career.
“I don’t know, I went into Cinematic thinking it was going to be one thing and it came out something quite different, and Bring it Back, came out as something entirely different. So, I could tell you what I think my next album is going to be like, but I don’t really know whether it’s actually going to be that when it comes time to release it. I hope that I’m going to make the best album of my career, so we’ll see how it goes!”
“If you give a fuck about the music, you have to enter it on the basis of making the best album of your career. And if everything stays the same in terms of outside influences, you have no excuse not to make something that’s as good, because you’re going into it as a more experienced artist. If the inspiration is the same, if the people you’re working with are of the same calibre, you really have no excuse not to go in there thinking, ‘I’m gonna be making the best album of my career’, so, yeah I always go into it like that.”
On stage, the goal is to connect with the live audience.
“The sort of set that I do, it’s not dumb and it’s not low-brow, but it’s not a passive set; it’s not something you’re meant to sit back and view and critique and clap at the end of songs. It’s like, what I do is, I think, it’s more intelligent than a lot of Aussie hip hop, but I want you to be a part of it; I want you jumping around and singing in full voice, the same way I’m doing. I want you to go home and have no voice, the same way I do a lot of the times that I’m on stage.”
Wait, so Australian hip hop is low-brow?
“Yeah a lot of it is. Which sucks because it doesn’t do credit to a lot of the people in the genre, who aren’t low-brow. And it’s a good stick to the people who don’t like the music to beat us with and to paint us all with the same brush.”
He doesn’t elaborate, but that doesn’t mean that Illy has become jaded by the progress of Australian hip hop.
“I wasn’t a teenager and I wasn’t in school when Aussie hip hop was totally a mainstream genre. It was still a bit weird in my last year of school that I was a hip hop fan because there weren’t many of us. Kids now, they’ve grown up, since they were old enough to choose their own genre, kids have grown up with Australian hip hop being a serious genre.
“I think what you’re gonna see from the newest generation – dudes like Allday, or Remi or whoever, they’ve had such exposure to Australian hip hop for so much of their life that they don’t view it as something they need to be protective of, they just view it as another genre, which is great because it gives them the freedom to make a new sound and to take it down different paths and take what they like from it and move it around and yes, dudes of our generation did the same thing, but we were a little bit more restricted because Australian hip hop was still fighting to gain legitimacy.
“We had Australian hip hop as a reference point, the dudes who were a lot older than us didn’t have that. They only had American hip hop and they had to find their way and make a path, and we were lucky enough to be the next generation and walk that path and take it to the next level and the kids who are coming after us, I don’t even know what they’re gonna do! And it’s exciting.”
Illy’s next exciting project will be the release of a new single, Tightrope and its accompanying video, and the Cinematic tour, kicking off in Melbourne next week.
Illy – Cinematic Tour featuring Jackie Onassis, Remi
7th March – The HiFi, Melbourne, Australia – sold out
8th March – The HiFi, Melbourne, Australia
14th March – The Metro, Sydney – sold out
15th March – The Zoo, Fortitude Valley – sold out
16th March – The Zoo, Fortitude Valley
20th March – The Gov, Adelaide – sold out
21th March – The Capitol, Perth - sold out