The third studio album from Illy came in the form of Bring It Back. Described by the popular emcee as “a heart album“, the LP was not stylistically intended to follow-up from its predecessor The Chase. Reflective of the scene behind the genre, Bring it Back is largely a collaborative album, including all manner of vocal and production guests.
aahh: After a bit of a break from recording, you’re back now with your latest LP titled ‘Bring It Back’. Tell us a bit about the new album?
Illy: It’s a throwback to music I listened to coming up. It’s also an album that I wanted to make for a while, well the idea of it anyway: just get a bunch of mates on some beats produced by mates and fucking rap. My style is never going to be grimy underground shit, that’s not who I am or want to be, but I think this is a lot more of a traditional hip hop sound to it than my other albums. When you have people like Reason, Trials, Mantra, Pez, Thundamentals etc involved in it, it’s going to work better if you’re coming into it like that. So yeah, Bring It Back is really just some sick raps over sick beats with a bunch of sick cunts.
aahh: The last couple of albums from Illy have been heralded as great successes, did this put any extra pressure on you to repeat this feat for the new album?
Illy: Not at all. It could have, but no. Coming at it from the angle I did, the pressure was never a thing. I knew it wasn’t a big mainstream kind of album, so I wasn’t worrying about competing with the Hoods or 60 with it. And the dye was cast on a lot of heads opinions long ago, so there was no thought of impressing them either. The last album in particular was a massive success, so it’s good to have that to build on, but it doesn’t mean that formula was what Bring It Back was going to be measured against.
aahh: You’ve just come back from a massive tour titled the ‘Bring It Back’ Tour, how was that? Were the crowds diggin’ the new tunes?
Illy: It was great, man. We had real dramas with the scheduling of the tour and the album release date, so it ended up that the tour finished before the album dropped. It made it very hard to really play people new stuff other than what was on the radio, but we did throw a couple of jams in. The crowd definitely ate that shit up. In my opinion we put on a really high-energy show even in the worst case, so I find if you do shit with the same level of intensity, even if it’s completely new, people generally can get behind it. But as far as the tour itself, it was a blast, and we did some of our biggest numbers, which blew me away given that we were touring with no album out. Very thankful to have the support I do.
aahh: Where Ya Been featuring emcee Pez, seems to be a track where both of you are all too familiar with the subject matter. How did you find yourself dealing with that situation leading into the release of Bring It Back?
Illy: Just getting hit up by people man. It’s crazy how you stay really busy (in my case) or go off the grid for a long time (Pez) and are met with the same reaction. It just shows that your fans want you to be in their lives, which is a privilege, but at the same time it’s a bit like “shut the fuck up give me a minute to breathe” hahaha. I think Pez was a perfect fit for this track because of his extended hiatus. My verses are a bit more jokingly exasperated, I think the shit he’s been dealing with for the last few years really meant something. But in a lighthearted way. And in the lead up to Bring It Back, I just kept working to deal with it, did the Friday Flips, got a couple of other things on the go which haven’t seen the light of day yet.. Just kept busy man.
aahh: Diverting from hip hop for the moment, tell us about your recent graduation? Do you think hip hop in Australia will get to a point in time where the majority of artists in Australia will be able to live off their music?
Illy: No, definitely not. But there’s nowhere in the world, in any genre, where music provides such a utopian situation. There’s simply not that much room for everyone to be able to, especially in a country as small as Australia, in a genre as not universal as Australian hip hop. I got my degree, which was a LOT of hard work and effort and time, because it means in one way or another il be ok. It also means I can stick to my guns and not have to make music geared towards making money. No dance, no dubstep, none of that trendy shit. Same pop influence I always have written with, but never flavour of the month.
aahh: There are some big names on Bring It Back including Mantra, Thundamentals and the recently retired local icon Reason. What does it mean to you to be able to work with someone like Reason especially after retirement?
Illy: It means a lot, man. Re is from the generation before me, or 5 or 6 before me, from the suburb I grew up in Melbourne. He went to the high school a bunch of my mates from primary school did, used to put up in the alleyway behind where I was living etc. So even removing all the dudes done for the Australian hip hop scene, on a personal level its important to me. Also he has helped myself and especially my BBS mates out a lot over the years. I’ve given talks at his school, and he’s even written up a great review of Bring It Back, from an obviously biased position, but still obviously took a lot of time to do, and he didn’t have to. So there’s a lot of love there for Re and to come out of retirement for it was great. As for everyone else, Mantra, Grey Ghost, Prime etc.. Everyone involved in this album is there cause I think they’re fucking dope, and represent the different facets of the scene well. It makes it easier to not give a fuck about negativity when some of the dopiest in the scene are dropping verses or producing your album.
aahh: Where Is My Mind pt. 1 was a track you performed on triple j’s Like A Version a few years back. The track was released on an Acoustic EP you did not long after that. Bring It Back features part 2 of Where Is My Mind tell us a bit about how the concept for these two tracks developed?
Illy: I don’t know to be honest. When I did the like a version, I had like a week to write it and had no idea what to do, then the night before I like just thought fuck it, it might be cool to mash-up lines. It would make it more memorable than just spitting the verses I’d already written. So, I was up till like 4am writing the two verses, then up at 7 to get to the j’s studios, and put it down. It went really well, and the plan was always to do another one, just needed enough material to come out, thankfully it did by Bring It Back release, because it really fit well into this album. It was originally over a Ta-ku beat, but Trials did a remix of it which worked so well that it ended up becoming the album version. There will definitely be a part 3 in a few years, no doubt!
aahh: You have been working and touring with a super talented dude in M-Phazes, tell us a bit about the working relationship you guys have together. There was a series you guys worked on called Friday Flips, let us know about that one?
Illy: Friday Flips was a way to keep busy and producing new tunes. BIB was finished in April, and we couldn’t get a release date until what eventually became late September, so I wanted something to get me back out there, and I came up with the idea of Friday Flips. Basically it was just a cool way of making music with a degree of interaction from our fans, in that they select the track that we ‘flip’. It has been really well received, and so we will be doing a part 2 early this year. As for Phazes, I don’t think there are that many words left to describe the dude. He’s a phenomenon. IMO, and its again a very biased one, he is the best producer in the country, with a considerable amount of daylight between him and the few ultra talented dudes who would be next on my list. I’m lucky to be able to work so closely with Phizzle, and I’m really excited for the next album because I think that we have made some great music so far but the best is really going to come in future releases.
aahh: How do you see the state of Hip Hop in this country currently?
Illy: I think its great. I think there are a lot of great people involved, the quality of music is always increasing, this year has been a new benchmark for quality releases (Hilltops, Maundz, Tuka, Thundamentals, Seth, Urthy, Trem etc), and there is a real sense of community still, as evidenced by the amazing, utterly brilliant Robert Hunter Cup weekend that just passed. There is a great vibe at the moment. I think the most important thing is for the ones coming up, young dudes etc, making sure they follow the right lead, and don’t rush into making decisions regarding their music, which will fuck their careers up. But on the whole I think even the younger generation who have a real chance of killing shit can can bullshit without being influenced by it, so on the whole shit is looking mad rosy.
aahh: There has been a lot of discussion around negativity in the local scene, with the majority of that discussion revolving around racism, what are your points of view on this subject and do you think hip hop gets a bit of a raw deal?
Illy: I don’t think racism in the scene is something I’ve witnessed, to be honest with you. In a direct sense, definitely not, ever. I came up performing with Iron Projects, Diafrix and 1/6 the same as with Mantra or Forthright or BBS, and we all got along. In a broader, systemic sense, removed from the artists, who all get along, I don’t know, but it is probably reflective of the country as a whole, so to single out this genre seems harsh. I do think it’s extremely important to give a voice to those without power, and hip hop is a perfect vehicle for that, always has been. Seeing the work a lot of artists do with workshops around the country, and labels like Elefant Traks who are bringing a lot of really dope indigenous talent to the fore, is sick and long may it continue, and inevitably attitudes of the general public will shift. As far as the charitable nature of the local scene, I really don’t think that can be called into question. There are far, far too many examples of big hearts to take any comment to the contrary seriously.
aahh: What’s next for Illy? New film clip or another tour?
Illy: Currently working on the next album with Phazes, and other than a few shows over the summer period, that’s me till early / mid next year. Yesssss! Thanks to everyone who made it to a show on the Bring It Back tour. Was a great tour and I am very grateful to have people support me without even hearing the album! New Friday Flips – Series 2 in early 2013. Bring It Back out NOW!