Interview: Fraksha – Bars, Beats & Bangers

Earning his stripes in the UK’s underground live circuit, Fraksha has proven himself to be one of the UK’s finest MC’s. As a founding member of the UK outfit Nine High, Fraksha spent time honing his craft and sold out two mixtapes, a testament to his tenure in the UK scene. Fraksha now presents his debut full length player, My Way, and it’s out now.


aahh: Was the title for the LP ‘My Way’ an obvious choice?
Fraksha: Yeah pretty much it was. I had a couple of different working titles while I was recording, but towards the end while I was listening back to tracks, I realised I said it a few times in different tunes and it seemed to sum up what the record was about really.

aahh: Can you tell us what a few of those working titles for the album were?
Fraksha: ‘All Seasons’ is the only one I can remember now actually, I felt that it suited the varying moods across the album at the time, but really in the end ‘My Way’ suited it perfectly.

aahh: Your new LP contains elements of grime, but spans across a wide range of sounds. Was releasing an album with such a diverse range of tracks high on your agenda? 
Fraksha: Not in a conscious way really, I think that in general I’ve done different things and not really stuck to a ‘sound’ as such so it was natural that my album would follow a similar path. Grime is an electronic genre that is traditionally 140bpm and originated from the UKG scene of the late 90’s early 00’s as it became more MC orientated and a bit darker. It shares a lot of similarities with how hip hop came through in that it was a sound that came from the streets and had a dancehall influence to it. I’m not sure how I see its future in the UK, let alone Australia to be honest. Sounds are becoming more interwoven everywhere and while you might not see a huge grime scene spring up, I think you will see influences creep into people’s sounds a bit more over here.

aahh: You recently signed to independent kings BTE. What was it like having the experience of the guys over there, they have been in the game for a long time now. Obviously this had it advantages?
Yeah man, it was an honour to sign up with the guys at BTE. The label and its artists have a long and rich history within the scene here and have really cemented their place in it. It’s wicked to have that backing and hopefully some people who might not have heard of me might check the album out on the strength of that alone. Obviously, I’ve put out records before, but to a large extent a lot of the non-music stuff has been done by myself and the other people I’ve worked with. It was such a good feeling to have friends I trust be able to shoulder that stuff and use their wealth of experience to do it right. This meant I didn’t have to stress about anything other than the music really.

aahh: As an emcee that’s released a mixtape titled Just Bars, you must always be writing. Did you write specifically for My Way, or did you have some raps put away for a project like this? 
Fraksha: For the most part, I’d say 80-90% I wrote specifically for it and I had maybe a couple of verses here or there that I re-wrote for it. I did have stuff stuck away for an album, but then by the time you come to do them they just feel stale. I just threw away pages of rhymes at one point because I wanted a clear head and a fresh start.

aahh: We’ve seen a few film clips drop for the album including Creepin’, So Long, Fix Up, and This Thing Of Ours. What has it been about these tracks that made you want to do a film clip up for each?
I feel that each track has something different about it that made me wanna showcase those tunes, in a way. ‘Creepin’ we just had to do a video for no question. I really wanted to do the tune with Flea and Gutz because they’re both sick guys and its a mad tune and I knew it’d be a popular one. ‘Fix Up’ is a personal favourite of mine and I’m real happy with how that one came out. ‘So Long’ is a just a mad hype tune and an automatic choice for a video. Lyrically and sonically its an important song on the album.

aahh: Why would you say that ‘So Long’ is such an important tune from the album?
Fraksha: It’s a big tune, it’s got quite an anthemic feel to it I reckon. It’s an important tune for me personally as it really sets out what I’m about and what I’ve done over the years.

aahh: We’ve started to see a lot of top American rappers head out here to perform from the States. Would you like to see more UK heads touring in Australia and if so, who?
Fraksha: Yeah for sure man, I’d love to see Skinnyman and Durrty Goodz over here, both MC’s I’m huge fans of and I think would go down well over here.

aahh: You mentioned Skinnyman and Durrty Goodz, as artists you’d be keen to see out here in Australia. Are these guys the albums that you reach for when you want to listen to a bit of music?
Fraksha: Oh yeah for sure, certain guys music just doesn’t ever leave my headphones. Some music you’re always adding and deleting off your iPhone, iPod or whatever but some stuff will always remain. Another artist I’d add to that would be Trim, just the song writing ability and his consistency is just too much. I often put all his mixtapes on random and I’ll never get bored or find myself skipping through tunes. There’s a depth to these artists missing in others.
I listen to a hell of a lot of DJ mixes, that’s what I mainly check for because you’re getting variation, different styles and it’s a good way to keep on top of the biggest tunes really. I listen to a lot of dancehall too, there’s so much character to it and really it’s probably the most varied and versatile genre in modern music.

aahh: My Way has been out for a moment now, whats the feedback been like?
Fraksha: Feedback has been real good, been real happy with it. Obviously you would always like more and from certain quarters, but of the feedback I’ve got it’s been nothing but positive. It’s always interesting hearing people’s favourite tracks and often it can be the last ones you might expect!
I’ve noticed that people have generally been more taken by the more Hip Hop sounding tracks over the grime joint which I assumed would happen locally, but a lot have people have commented on the consistency across the whole thing and it sounding like a complete package even though there is such variation in the sound.

aahh: Looking back on the album would you have changed up anything if you had the chance too?
Fraksha: Nah nothing really I don’t think. There’s other guests I would like to have worked with, but you can’t fill up an album with a million guest spots, although some do I suppose.

aahh: You’re a big fan of spitting live bars, we’ve seen you in numerous radio shows and cyphers. What is it about that type of performance that you seem attracted to?
Fraksha: Because that’s what rapping, mc-ing is all about at its basic form, spitting live! A studio MC is a dickhead MC, if you never put yourself on the line in a live environment to prove yourself, then you aint no MC in my eyes. I used to try to run cyphers on Triple R and it was actually hard work persuading people to come in an represent or they wanted to prepare for weeks and all this bullshit or you got the feeling they didn’t wanna put themselves out there to be judged alongside others who might show them up. No confidence in their own skills. I used to be think for fucks sake most of them are part-time hobbyists, basically.
Radio was always a huge part of our culture back home and instrumental in giving us a platform to practice and to get better. When you know you’re on radio every single week for an hour, just spraying bars basically, it really makes you sharpen your stuff pretty quickly. You wanna be standing out from the others, you wanna be coming with new stuff not just recycling stale old bars and I’ve tried to where I can encourage more frequent radio sessions and getting as many involved as I can. It’s all about sharpening skills at the end of the day and doing what I love and I feel that myself and my crew have been vital in championing this live radio element over the last 5-6 years.

aahh: Following on from that question, what are you thoughts on the state of MC’s in Australia currently. Do you think there’s enough live performance etc?
Fraksha: I don’t think there are enough live performances, but what that’s down to I’m not sure. There seems to be a shortage of promoters I’ve noticed, or promoters working in the underground at least. Gig wise in Melbourne used to be more vibrant for local stuff, international shows have increased I think, but getting the support really depends primarily on your relationship with the promoter rather than your musical output.
I know I can probably come across as quite negative, but I make no apologies for it. When I look around at the rap talent coming through It’s pretty shabby in my eyes. Now that doesn’t mean people don’t have talent, its music after all so it’s all individual taste but to me most of it taste’s pretty shitty.
There’s probably a handful of MC’s I’d check for and a handful more that, while I don’t listen to them, I can rate them for what they do.
I used to be anti-elitist, but nowadays I’m actually sometimes feeling like this shit aint for everybody to do, some people just shouldn’t get involved. There’s this have-a-go attitude which is all well and good but with the more people doing something, the more it gets watered down. You start off with red and end up with pink, we don’t all have to be nice about each others music, we need to be critical for the sake of quality. That’s why we’ve ended up with so much blandness and copycatting. I wouldn’t have dreamt about going anywhere near a mic until I was sure that I wasn’t gonna get mocked, now kids are ‘practicing’ in the full view of anyone, making mistakes publicly and putting music that ain’t ready out there and this is stuff that will follow them forever. Once it’s out there, there aint much hope of getting it back, that’s why it’s so important to work at your shit and not just release stuff just because you have the ability to do so.
Stick to being a music fan if all you’re gonna do is imitate. If you wanna get involved start a label, start promoting, do something other than making music if all you’re doing it for is to ‘be involved’. Nothing wrong with just enjoying the music that’s there!
As well as all the shit that has to then be sifted through it also clogs up the scene with too many rappers and then you have a situation like we do now, where there are not enough gigs then it can be next to impossible to get gigs unless a) you have a booking agent or b) you’ll do the gig for free or for drinks. A huge proportion of people are falling into the latter category unfortunately. At international gigs, most people are there for the main act and support acts are there to pass the time so crowds will be there regardless, so an act playing for free or for a bucket of Melbourne bitter stubbies and $50 is always going to be the more attractive option to a promoter.
The politics that goes on behind the scenes of putting on shows, booking artists etc is incredible and about as far removed from ‘the music’ as can be.

aahh: We want to ask you about some of the earlier days when you first arrived in Australia, what was it like trying to break into the local scene back then and what were your first impression of hip hop here?
Fraksha: My very first impression was a live gig (Culture of Kings 2 in Melbourne) and thinking man that’s strange hearing an Australian accent rapping. Back in England I hadn’t really been exposed to much Australian culture, it was Neighbours, Home and Away and Romper Stomper so it was weird at first. Once I’d began to check out some different stuff and see what was what I really started to get a feel for it and I love the way the accent is used by some people. What I’m not a fan of is the kind of bland neutral accent that is pretty prevalent where its kind of neither here nor there, I like hearing a strong accent with character.  It wasn’t hard to get doing stuff over here, I put in work and made some good friends. Everyone was very receptive and we all love music so it doesn’t matter where I’m coming from really. When I first arrived it was real exciting meeting loads of new people, shows at new venues and all that comes with just jumping into a new city in a new country, it was a mad busy and fun time!

aahh: Do you have any feelings on the current threat to community radio, and what impacts do you think this could have on the scene as a whole?
Fraksha: Yeah I do, it’s terrible that they might be getting funding cut, but it’s also not surprising really is it. It’s not big business so government couldn’t care less. If stations like PBS etc had to shut down it would be a big blow to our scene, but what exact effect it would have, I’m not sure to be honest. For artists like myself these stations are our main radio output and to lose that would be unfair, not just to us as artists – though that would undoubtedly be shit – but I mean for the general public. Taking away that option and leaving people with just commercial radio and the few huge non-commercial stations – which behave in many ways very similar to the commercial ones – would massively restrict the type of music available to listeners and leave us with whatever the majors want to force feed down our throats. Of course, you can say well just turn the radio off if you don’t like it, but that doesn’t account for the people who don’t know there’s other stuff out there, people who are not currently enjoying it purely because they’re not aware of it.
Telling someone to turn the radio off if they don’t like it is basically saying ‘you shouldn’t be allowed choice.’ Think about it as it’s the same for all of us. We all grew up hearing pop music on radio, in shops, on TV etc etc and no one questions it really. How happy were you when you realised you’d discovered something new musically and from the time you realised there was a whole other world of music out there, you never looked back. It’s almost pity you feel for those unaware of the world of music out there aside from the Top 40.
On a related note, Triple R are on some dickhead movements the way they handled the recent issue with the Top Billin’ show and showed they’re completely out of touch from the local scene they claim to represent. How can a so-called ‘community’ based station make such a rash decision going against the collective anger of the same community that supports them by tuning in, by subscribing etc. Big mistake.

aahh: Your quite a vocal MC when it comes to commercial dick ridding and all the connotations that come along with hamming it up for radio. What do you think of artists who pander to markets?
Fraksha: Most of the scene are fucking yes men and I think my opinions are pretty well-known, as you say I have been quite vocal about it. A good radio DJ/station will hunt out good music and educate the listener or bring awareness of quality music that perhaps isn’t as widely known. A shit radio DJ/station will play music based on personal and business relationships or perceived ‘cool’ factor regardless of the music itself. If Skrillex recorded the sound of him shitting into a plastic bag and drummed up enough internet hype – which ain’t hard to do with the right backing, see ‘Harlem Shake’ for example – then mainstream radio would play it and drum it even further into our heads. We see this kind of stuff all the time yet no one goes ‘hold on a minute, ain’t he just recording the sounds of him taking a shit into a plastic bag’, it just gets lapped up.
One thing I won’t ever do is beg for airplay, I wont beg for ‘Likes’, I won’t set up a Facebook page to beg for ‘all my fans to email/SMS Triple j to request my song’, I wont show respect to some lame pop station just in the hope that they will allow me some day time spins, I wont suck up to presenters. If my music is ever gonna be played it’s gonna be down to the music only! How many artists getting national radio play can honestly say they’re getting spins purely on the music they’ve made and the work they have personally done and not off the back of some relationship or someone else forging a relationship. They exist, but it’s very few and far between. I know how this shit works, people can’t take me for some mug, I see it with my own eyes and it’s not a game I’ll play.

aahh: Do you have any plans to take My Way around the country?
Fraksha: I have plans if people wanna see me! I’d love to play the new stuff around the country and hopefully I’ll get out to most places this year. Melbourne is locked in at Laundry on May 18th and that’s a double album launch with Sarm. The rest will follow as shortly soon as they’re locked in.

Fraksha – My Way is available now through Broken Tooth Entertainment. 

BTE  ||  Fraksha  ||  Twitter