Interview: The Tongue – Government, Gerald & Gangsterism

Surrender To Victory sees The Tongue coming into his own as artist and collaborator, articulating a positive vision beyond the confines of modern local hip hop. From the opening track the listener can hear this development. We catch up with The Tongue, fresh off the back of the announcement of his Surrender To Victory Tour yesterday. 

tongue tour 2013

aahh: You’ve talked about one of your goal’s for the new album, Surrender to Victory was to be a lot more positive and uplifting. Why was that decision made?
The Tongue: It was just the kind of mind-set I was in really. I don’t delve into it much deeper than that. The youth of today don’t have a lot of great role models. Every other week some footy player has been announced to be on drugs, Lance Armstrong is a cheat, politicians are corrupt, the government lies to you, the media lies to you. In a way musicians are the last people who the youth can still look up to. An artist like Kendrick Lamar is someone with integrity, trying to find positives in the negative. Watching him perform when he came to Sydney was like a religious experience, you know it’s just him and a DJ. He’s such a powerful artist, everything he says he means. He is the guy I look up to at the moment, he has inspired me to not be afraid to make the music that I want to.
With that being said, it can go too far the other way and end up becoming corny. No one wants to be preached to. I think its interesting that its rappers who are the last people who haven’t been censored. All other art forms have been compromised to a certain extent. As an artist it gets to a certain point, if you have a national audience of, say, 10,000 people hanging on your every word, you need to ask yourself how are you going to use that, what do you stand for? Is music meant to be just mindless entertainment? That’s something I think about.

aahh: Cam Bluff produced the whole album. We hear the first single ‘Drums’ was a bit of an ode to his banging beats, would you agree with that?
The Tongue: That’s exactly correct. ‘Drums’ was one of the first beats he sent through. He’s amazing. I felt very honoured when he said he’d produce the album. After the first few beats he sent me, I knew he was the one. He is just so versatile. Cam continually impresses people and raises the bar. I believe his talent is world-class, he could be producing for someone like Jay-Z in a few years if he wanted to. He could go all the way.

aahh: On the last LP there was a track titled Australian Gangster and now on Surrender To Victory we see a track titled Australian Dreaming. Both can be described as accurate representations of Australian culture but they are almost at polar opposites. Is this reinforcing the positive angle you decided to take with this record, or was there something more to this.
The Tongue: Well I got to a point in my music where I could keep doing what I was doing, raising issues and talking about problems or change it up and talk about solutions. I wrote “Australian Gangster” as a response to the Underbelly TV series because it seemed as if we were idolizing criminals. A true gangster doesn’t get killed or caught, he gets away with his crime. Everyone in Underbelly had their life ruined by their crimes and I think it was important to remind people of that. They ended up in jail or in the ground, that ain’t gangster Australian Dreaming is about my dream of a better Australia. I love this country but it always falls a bit short of its potential, a lot of things could be better. Listen to the song, you’ll see what I mean.

aahh: Would you say Finding My Religion feat. Joyride raises the question of whether or not religion actually relates to modern society as it is today?
The Tongue: In my life hip hop has been my religion. It has influenced me more than anything else, and has allowed me to do things I wouldn’t have been able to do without it. Hip Hop has enriched my life. I really can’t figure out why it shouldn’t be classified as a religion. The Dr Dre’s of the hip hop world are our Arch Bishops, classic albums are our scriptures, ‘we worship the light at night’ as the song says. Concerts are our pilgrimages. Other than believing in hip hop culture, I’m not a religious person. I think a lot of religions are outdated. The last Pope encouraging people to not use a condom in Africa, I’d call that insanity. The Catholic church can’t seem to sort out abuse scandal after abuse scandal. Then there is the issue of; should churches really not have to pay tax? Because they believe in a ghost in the sky? Thats some A-grade bullshit right there.

Saahh: ome of the other people you worked with include the two most recent Elefant Trak signings in Sky’High and Jimblah. What have your experiences been with both these guys?
The Tongue: Jim is a pretty amazing guy. The first time we met was last year at a rehearsal for the Elefant Traks Meets Dr Seuss show. The way he conducted himself, singing alongside Jayne Tizzel and Catti Baker from Sietta, he had no problem holding his own at the Opera House. I didn’t realise he was that much of a singer, and such an amazing rapper. He nailed that chorus on “Victory”, he’s got a lot of soul. I think of Sky as Australia’s own Ol Dirty Bastard. I mean that as a compliment. He was one of a kind and did what he wanted, no one could touch him. Sky straddles that border between gangsterism, consciousness and positivity. She’s so raw. Having her on that song in particular, a song about different experiences growing up in Australia and whats done in your name and others by the Government, that was important to me. She has led a very different life to me and we were able to present both sides of our stories.

aahh: The track ‘Own World’ has the line, I’m in my own world with a bunch of weed bundled up…’ You’ve obviously seen the new laws pass in America permitting the legal use of medicinal marijuana. Could you see something like that working in Australia and would you be in support of that?
The Tongue: Portugal decriminalised drug possession and the results have been amazingly positive. Look it up. I think the main difference is they treat drug use as a medical issue rather than a criminal issue. Putting people in jail for possessing small amounts of weed won’t help them an awful lot. You come out branded as an ex con, it completely disrupts your life. On the other side of the argument, how can we have weed remain illegal while smoking tobacco and consuming alcohol remain legal? The effects of alcohol are terrible, if a doctor said take this pill, and the pill had the same side effects of alcohol, you wouldn’t take it. Just in the name of logic I think it would be a good idea, without promoting marijuana usage, I definitely think changing legislation in Australia would be a good thing. The main reason the States introduced it was purely for financial reasons, it makes more sense to make revenue from this then not to.

aahh: A couple of months back there was a bit of talk about a possible battle showdown involving yourself and another local rapper, what was it about this situation that made you want to get back in to battling?
The Tongue: The way it worked was, 360 put something on twitter to the effect of ‘any old school battlers want to step up to this new battling format’ and I said ‘yeah, lets battle’. For one, this is hip hop, you want to take on worthy opponents, and I’m competitive just as most rappers should be. 60 didn’t want to do it and all the reasons he gave were insults; “The Tongue isn’t any good, doesn’t have a career and is irrelevant” etc, and we fired shots back and forth. We can do it freestyle or pre-written, the challenge still remains. But I think it won’t ever happen, because he’s scared he’ll lose. He’s smart to be scared of that. I won Revolver, I represented Australia in Battle Of Supremacy, I could take 60 apart easy. Any time he wants it, it’s on.

aahh: You recently performed at the iconic Sydney Opera House with the rest of the Elefant Traks as part of Graphic 2012. We hear you performed a version of Gerald Mc Boing Boing?
The Tongue: Yeah, that was pretty wild. It was only me on stage with a head mic, and 1500 people. Pretty intimidating. Thankfully the kids loved it and the adults loved it just as much because they grew up with the work of Seuss. The video is live now so you can check it out above.

aahh: We’ve recently seen a Melbourne Hip Hop doco drop that talks about the Melbourne scene and it’s evolution with hip hop. How do you view the current Sydney scene as it is?
The Tongue: I think every state is providing us with great artists and great albums. What’s good about Sydney in particular is the diversity. There’s a classic New York sound, you can’t say there’s a classic Sydney sound. I think that’s really cool and positive, We all aren’t in each others pockets, I only predict good things in the future. I mean, a lot of Sydney artists are very focused and taking things very seriously. Spit Syndicate are going hard this year, Jackie Onassis is going hard, there’s another Sky High album on the way, another Horrorshow album coming later this year. The Sydney scene is definitely growing in strength.

aahh: Any plans in the works for a national tour?
The Tongue: Yes indeed. The “Surrender To Victory Tour” (creative name eh?) will be traveling right around the country, with local supports in each state. Every show is a party…every show me and DJ Skoob give 100%….the new songs bang live….you can’t loose baby, get that ass to a show!

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