In 2013, Australian hip hop is better placed than ever. Moving forward in leaps and bounds names like Bliss N Eso have legitimised the genre locally — made the industry count.
No doubt, artists, producers and MCs alike are doing things for the scene that have never been done before. Albums are being delivered thick and fast, and their music is brimming with brilliant and focused material. Production continues to impress and push boundaries while stage performances are as frenetic and kickin' as ever.
But it’s not all about the bright lights of the show; social consciousness is high on the list of priorities particularly for the Bliss N Eso crew. So much so that it has changed their entire outlook and perspective. The profoundness of a trip to Africa some years ago manipulated their social fabric - to the point that their hunger to connect, to please, to deliver is now more paramount than ever. “Basically we're always about broadening out the landscape of what our work should feel like,” MC Bliss says. “We're dropping the conscious shit and keeping our lyrics fresh; we've been digging in the crates and producing music.”
The boys preach this profound notion that by 'creating your own path' as it were, you reach a destination never found by following directions.
“We wanted to allow our minds to venture out of our own neighbourhood. Years ago, we spent some time in Portland, Oregon and in Whistler, Canada. We hooked up with this crew who reminded us of the old Wu-Tang. They call themselves the Sandcastle Crew; they live in a basement they call the sandpit! It's an entire mindset. That's what we're striving for.”
Their ‘Flying Colours’ album of 2008 — which cemented the crew in all their glory — was a triumph in the Australian hip hop scene. The LP spent forever in the ARIA charts, which gives you some idea of the reach it had across our toasted continent.
“We decided that our motto was going to be like if you give, then you get back! We went on a trip to Africa and lived in mud huts and worked with people far worse off than ourselves. It changed our perspective and helped pull the wool back from over our eyes. We're not conspiracy theory freaks, but when we realised that radio and TV wasn't telling us what we needed to know, we went to find out. The saddest thing about walking away from there was that it was very intense. We all had our moments where we'd just sit in the car and sob. It makes you want to try and stand up to things like that.”
A year later, the ‘Running On Air’ album — while taking them in a slightly different direction — still moved fans and critics alike. But none of this matters to the boys, who are still about putting us on the map in the most profound way possible.
“We might get in trouble for this, but really from the beginning, Australian hip hop needed to be called hip hop — just to allow the kids to step up and grab that microphone with courage. Because we're not American we're not going to be talking about the same stuff that they are talking about. We needed people to get up and be proud to be Australian and talk about Australia. And cats are getting up and being proud of being Aussie. Now the music is straight up hip hop — we've earnt it with stompin' shows from Adelaide to Darwin. It's on a world scale and we're doing hip hop music — not Australian hip hop.”
The Bliss N Eso tale is a legacy of royalty. But the lads are just stoked that it has taken them this far. “We hope that all the young kids come out to see our shows. You'll get to see some old schoolers doing their thing.” And the fact that they're sharing top billing alongside artists like Nas sort of helps make the point, too.
Bliss N Eso Headline The Movement, curated in association with Nas, at The Brisbane Riverstage Sunday April 28.