If you start talking about local rap artists who run in their own lane, it won’t take long before the name of Elf Tranzporter pops up.
One of the few American MCs to make his home on Australian shores, Elf Tranzporter has over the years established himself as a major force within the Melbourne hip hop scene.
Not that he’s there all that much at the moment: the man known to his parents as Marlon Porter is usually found somewhere else in Australia, conducting hip hop workshops for disadvantaged youth in primary schools and juvenile justice centres, and running music programs within refugee organisations and Indigenous communities.
When Scene catches up with Porter, he’s in the Warlpiri community of Lajamanu, approximately 870km northwest of Alice Springs, teaming up with production partner Monkeymarc to conduct a series of classes involving computer music programs.
“We’re running music workshops rather than just recording songs and making clips,” he explains. “We're here with an emphasis more on training up some of the older mob on how to operate and get around on the computer stuff. Once enough people here fully grasp the process of how to create a song – or an album, for that matter – there won't be as much dependency on outside help for post-production. Many here seem to have genuinely caught the sonic bug, so the process has felt pretty successful so far.”
Porter has been conducting workshops within a variety of Indigenous communities for almost ten years now. As such, he’s had an opportunity to watch many of the children and teenagers he previously tutored grow to become talented artists in their own right.
“The experience carries a lot of evolutionary and progressive sensations to it. In March of this year, for instance, a Warlpiri man, along with his partner and their new baby, came along to the music sessions we were doing in Yuendumu [about 250km outside of Alice Springs]. Throughout the week, he put down some fresh raps over beats he and the others made, with some resulting tracks that were quite impressive. The coolest thing about it, though, was how long I'd been aware of this man… I could vividly recall his musical endeavours back when he was a still a boy, banging out mad rhythms on the drum pads. Marvelling over such creative evolutions and history I've had with the young people out here still blows me away. That sums up a lot of the feeling out here for me.”
If you’ve been keeping tabs on Porter you’ll know he’s due for a fresh release, both as a solo artist and as part of Melbourne collective Combat Wombat. It’s worth wondering then whether the intensive schedule of workshops takes away from his ability to concentrate on his own artistry.
“With regards to Combat Wombat, no,” he reassures. “All of my verses for the upcoming LP I actually wrote over the course of a week or two whilst taking some downtime in the Northern Territory. On a few 'seize the day' instances, Monkeymarc and I even managed to track a few verses out here. Our plan, however is to do most of the recordings when we’re back in Melbourne. Perhaps in relation to my own solo release, the answer to this question could easily lean toward a 'yes'. Ultimately, though, I don't like to invest in excuses as it relates to one's music. It's just taking its own sweet time and will drop on heads when the monster's good and ready.”
It’s a small miracle, then, that Porter and Marc have enough time to pull themselves away from their workshop commitments and make it to Brisbane for Roots And Bass, which hits this weekend. They sit high on a line-up that also includes Dysphemic, Miss Eliza, Circuit Bent, and The Mank.
“We’re just on the cusp of starting five weeks of workshops in five separate remote communities scattered around Australia,” Porter says. “During this spell of full-on, back-to-back workshops, we've managed to squeeze in not only the Roots And Bass gig we're set to do in Brisbane, but three separate shows at the Kuranda Roots Festival in the Billabong Sanctuary near Cairns, all amid the hectic schedule we've got coming up involving dozens of flights and four-wheel drive dirt road treks pretty much all over the shop. Straight after, is the Lizard’s Revenge Festival in South Australia, where Combat Wombat will be performing. Following that, it's looking likely we'll be continuing on with another spree of similar itinerary madness!”
ELF TRANZPORTER PLAYS ROOTS AND BASS AT THE HI-FI SATURDAY JUNE 16.