Who is Syntax? The name might not immediately ring a bell, but if you’ve been familiar with Australia’s burgeoning hip-hop-scene long enough, you’ve more than likely had subconscious exposure to the Gold Coast veteran’s not inconsiderable talents.
With an apprenticeship served as one third of Queensland mainstays Trace Elements – the crew that birthed this country’s most preeminent hip-hop producer, M-Phazes – and time spent on the road with such luminaries as Bliss N Eso, Phrase and US emcee Supastition, there’s no doubt that Syntax has put paid to that old hip-hop notion of “paying dues”. What’s most surprising about the artist born Andrew Archer is that – despite numerous enthusiastically-received mixtapes and a formidable live reputation – he has never officially released an album… until now.
Syntax’s full-length debut, The Musical, is a hip-hop record in the classic mould of Illmatic, Ready To Die and Reasonable Doubt – a confidently individual emcee at the helm, a tight track listing, a smattering of hand-picked guests, and stellar beat selections from a handful of the best producers of the moment. It sounds local, but thinks global in its approach to time-honoured hip-hop craftsmanship.
In a rap scene where a hoarse ocker drawl is de rigueur, Syntax’s nasal Q-Tip-by-way-of- Drapht delivery clearly stands out from the pack over the album’s 16 tracks. Emphasising its potency are colourful musical backdrops provided by the likes of M-Phazes (Triple J Feature Album for Good Gracious, February 2010) and Matik (Pez’s ‘The Festival Song’, Seth Sentry’s ‘The Waitress Song’), as well as rising stars SDub, Whisper and Mules (one half of celebrated Gold Coast crew Choose Mics, whose dusty loop-based beats account for half of the LP’s tracks).
On the guest appearance front, The Musical boasts collaborations with emcees from across the cultural divide: Kam Moye (the artist formerly known as Supastition) adds his southern-fried North Carolina drawl to the soulful Onwards, while South Australian star-in-the-making Prime (Pagen Elypsis) makes his presence clearly felt on the wack emcee-slaughtering Talk. Meanwhile, Birmingham-to-Gold-Coast transplant Haunts (also of Choose Mics) contributes comic relief and unmistakable Brummy slang to the jazzy Action.
Topped off with hand-illustrated artwork by celebrated Sydney artist and hip-hop connoisseur Mark Drew, The Musical is a throwback to the glory days of rap record-making. Funk-fuelled lead single Build! probably best sums up the spirit of the record: ‘Do the time, put in work, feel the love back / one music, one love, we love rap.’ It’s a love that drips from every pore of Syntax’s being, and from the chapters of The Musical itself.
Syntax’s – The Musical will be released via Soulmate Records/Inertia on 23 August 2010.
Syntax – The Musical Album Previews
Renaissance – Produced by Mules of Choose Mics.
Open Mic Night – Produced by Mules of Choose Mics.
My World – Produced by SDub.
Stand Up – Produced by M-Phazes.