Hailing from South West Sydney, currently residing in Melbourne, 24-year old Hip Hop artist L-Fresh The Lion has made a name for himself with his versatile catalogue and his energetic and engaging live show. The Lion has been busy at work, fresh from recording his debut album due for release early next year. But not without a teaser as the first single off the album, One has just been released and boy does it leave you wanting more.

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Tell us a bit about yourself and what your name represents both in terms of your music and your culture?
L-FRESH The LION. Part of the name is an acronym. Consistent with Hip Hop culture, I’ve taken what’s already been defined and redefined it for my own purposes. FRESH, for me, is Forever Rising Exceeding Sudden Hardships; to always overcome; to grow; to build. The L and The LION come from my background. I’m Sikh by faith. And its customary for male Sikhs to be given the middle name Singh at birth, and for females to be given the middle name Kaur. Kaur translates to princess and Singh translates to lion. The idea of the lion is to remind us of our value. We are reminded to commit ourselves to righteousness, truth, equality and justice and to always being courageous, honest, humble and powerful.

You are a big believer in Hip Hop, its beginnings as a cultural movement, and the important role Hip Hop can play within the wider community. Can you talk a bit about this in terms of Hip Hop and it’s origins?
Hip Hop has a strong community connection. It was born out of the community. When mainstream society neglected a portion of the community, it responded by creating its own cultural movement with the aim of uplifting the people under the principles of Peace, Love, Unity, Having Fun and Knowledge. That idea of self-empowerment is at the core of Hip Hop. So in essence, Hip Hop is an amazing tool for assisting people and for benefitting the community.

You are a frequent speaker at different events and conferences. One of these was the recent TEDx Parramatta conference, where you presented a talk entitled ‘Self Creation Through Hip Hop’. Can you tell us a bit about that?
My talk was an extension of the idea mentioned above. Self creation = self empowerment. It’s about identifying your beliefs, values and passions, and then empowering them. I touched on different examples throughout history, using Afrika Bambaataa as a prime example, and my experiences in running workshops with young people in the community.

You founded an online clothing label and community called the Power To The Peaceful Community. Can you tell us what it was that lead you to start the project and what you hope to achieve?
The Power To The Peaceful Community began as a means of trying to extend the dialogue with the people who came to my show. I wanted to find a way to build with people beyond the show. So I created The Power To The Peaceful Community. The first t-shirt combines a fist (the universal symbol of power) and the peace sign, with the text Power To The Peaceful written underneath. People would rock their shirts and send me photos of them wearing it in spaces that were meaningful to them with a short description of what the phrase meant to them. Most of them would share common views, advocating for a peaceful society where all people are considered equal. I’ve collected the photos and put them up online as a photo gallery on the Power To The Peaceful Community Facebook page. The goal of the Power To The Peaceful Community was to create dialogue. Since then, it’s become about action, where those who’ve engaged with the idea most passionately, are connecting with one another in order to inspire each other to do positive things within their communities, such as contributing to a valuable cause. I have no idea what’s going to happen next. Each step has been decided upon by the people who engage with the idea. I simply facilitate its growth.

Tell us a bit about your band, the members and what it was that drew you all together?
We are such a diverse band. Each member comes from a unique musical background. So when we combine, it’s such a great mix of musical tastes and abilities. There are 7 core members in the band. There’s MK-1 and Mirrah (Universal Zulu Nation members, MK-1 is our DJ and Mirrah is my hype MC/backing vocalist), Chris Zammit (bass), Clinton Manshanden (drums), Duane Critcher (guitar) and Ofisa “Tee” Toleafoa (backing vocalist). Tee’s just come off an amazing run on X-Factor. What drew us together was our love for good, soulful music, and wanting to be a part of something unique and special. I don’t think there’s another band like us in the country.

How do you and the band co-ordinate the creative process from track to track?
For this album the band really hasn’t played a massive role in the creative process. Most of the production was handled by myself and my producer, Michael McGlynn of Vienna People. I had created most of the beats and then took them to Mike to have a look at, and we’d spend hours reworking them and rebuilding them, then inviting specialist muso’s to come in and play certain instruments. My band features on some of the tracks, and when they do feature, they play it to their style that they’ve developed during our rehearsals for live shows. So in that sense, they’ve contributed their creativity that way. For us, as a band, we spend more time working on live set arrangements and coming up with new ideas that way.

The first single from your upcoming debut album is titled One. Can you tell us a bit about the track and why it was chosen as the first single?
“One” really is an introduction into who I am as an artist. It puts lyrics back in the forefront. It’s heavy hitting, funky and fun. It was chosen as the first single because lyrically, it’s almost a summary of the album. I touch on a bunch of different concepts very briefly as an introduction to the rest of the album. When I was in the studio with some of my team (Michael McGlynn, my producer, Matt Cannings, my agent, Michael Crawley, my label rep, and a few members from my band) we unanimously decided that “One” was the first single. It just made sense when played next to other songs from the album.

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A line from the new single, that we feel is quite relevant at the moment goes as follows “watching politicians speak but ain’t sure of what they tell us talking the same shit just remixed like acapellas”. Can you comment on this line further in relation to the recent election that’s happened here in Australia?
I’m a firm believer in letting your actions speak. Where I come from, I was taught to do the best job I possibly could, and if people benefitted from it, they’d see the value in my work and would want to see it continue. This election is far removed from valuable discussion and substance. We see a lot of talk but very little action and substance. Most parties have been trying to beat down their opponents whilst aiming to catch that headline spot in the news. Many have demonstrated that they will do anything to win power. As a result, the ordinary individual has to filter through loads of misinformation, political rhetoric and lies in order to find the truth. And most people don’t do that. They take what they see/hear and believe it, because it’s fed to the constantly. The same rhetoric is fed to them day in and day out. And it’s always been the same story. They all talk a lot. They claim to be pushing substance, when really they’re saying the same thing over and over and over again. When you look at it even more deeply, you realise that they are playing into people’s fears, perpetuating racist ideologies and whipping up patriotism in order to win votes. It’s shameful. And ultimately, we, the people, suffer, because we feel the consequences of their words. They aren’t truly held accountable for their words. So in the search for truth and substance, I look elsewhere. I look at the people in our society who are doing their best to be truthful, righteous, just, fair and compassionate. True leaders can be found around us, each and every day.

The video clip for One has just been released and was directed by Alex Weltlinger who also directed the video for 360’s smash hit Boys Like You. Can you tell us a bit about the concept behind the clip?
Alex is a very creative director. He’s sometimes insane to haha. We worked on the idea for the clip and for the album artwork for a long time. We bounced back and forth ideas until we came up with a concept that we thought would be strong. For “One”, the single, we wanted to look at the traditional rap music video and approach it from a different angle. We based it on the concept of movement. But in this case, movement is controlled by the people in the clip, and not by a professional camera man. So you’ll see a whole bunch of different angles, expressions and activity being captured that a ‘straightforward rapping to the camera’ clip won’t get.

Your debut album is on its way, have you got a title for the LP yet and how would you describe the new album both in terms of sound and its overall themes or concept?
The album will be titled “One”. The overall theme and concept is the universal human experience. We’ve all grown up in different circumstances, but ultimately, we experience the same emotions and feelings; we exist in the same struggle; and that’s the human struggle. We each have a universal connection. There is only one human race. Stylistically it’s very soulful and lyrical. The music is based on the idea of movement, similar to the clip for the single “One”, in that with each song I’m aiming to move you physically, emotionally and/or spiritually.

When can we expect to see the next single?
The next single is on its way. I’m just waiting for a few more final pieces to fall into place and then we’ll release it. We’re just about to announce the tour for it. Keep an eye and ear out for it. I’ll make announcements on my Facebook & Twitter pages.

Image credit: Rush Photography

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