Lay­ing down the law

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - Music - PAUL DONOUGHUE

UN­TIL Mel­bourne rap­per Illy was 12, his idea of mu­sic was the old Bob Dy­lan records in his par­ents’ col­lec­tion and the oc­ca­sional top-40 hit.

Through his mates’ older sib­lings, though, he even­tu­ally found hip-hop – most of it Amer­i­can.

‘‘ I guess I just sort of con­nected with . . . the mes­sage they were putting out in the songs,’’ the 26-year-old says.

Illy is speak­ing on the phone from his car, head­ing home af­ter the first writ­ing ses­sion fol­low­ing his suc­cess­ful sec­ond al­bum, The Chase.

‘‘ From there, as I ma­tured and grew up, I’ve never found [ an­other genre] where there has been some­thing with the sub­stance, ex­actly what I was look­ing for. It’s the genre that re­ally caters to ev­ery­one, even though some­times it can be por­trayed dif­fer­ently.’’

Illy started to rap in high school. The past six-and-a-half years have been spent jug­gling mu­sic and a law de­gree, which he fi­nally fin­ished in July.

‘‘ I’ve got in­ten­tions of us­ing it in some ca­pac­ity even­tu­ally, but for the time be­ing I am go­ing to be fo­cus­ing on mu­sic,’’ he says. ‘‘ It’s been such a jug­gling act at times. Now that I have got some time to just fo­cus on mu­sic, there is noth­ing else that I re­ally want to be do­ing.’’

He says in a per­fect world, he could use the de­gree to work in the mu­sic in­dus­try. But he is not quite at the stage yet of writ­ing his own con­tracts.

Although he got into hip-hop early, it was never through a tal­ent for mu­sic. Illy doesn’t play any in­stru­ments and freely ad­mits he can’t sing. He also works with pro­duc­ers who cre­ate beats for him.

‘‘ I will work with them and go over the melodies and drums and any parts that are needed. If we need live in­stru­ments on it as well, we will get live play­ers in,’’ he says.

‘‘[ Aus­tralian pro­ducer] M-Phazes has made the ma­jor­ity of both of my al­bums.

‘‘ He’s so good at what he does that I don’t re­ally in­volve my­self too much.’’

While Illy be­lieves Amer­i­can hip-hop has ‘‘ lost its soul’’, he says the smirks and ridicule about ac­cent, orig­i­nal­ity and au­thor­ity in the Aus­tralian scene have also largely dis­ap­peared.

Artists such as Illy and Drapht are mak­ing highly melodic, cho­rus-heavy hip-hop that sells well and gets ma­jor ra­dio at­ten­tion. Songs such as The Hard Road and Illy’s The Chase or Cig­a­rettes are more about striv­ing for some­thing rather than the thrills of hav­ing every­thing.

‘‘ When I was start­ing to rap in high school and started go­ing to gigs, a lot of the peo­ple I went to school with thought it was a joke and would take the piss out of me and peo­ple in the same boat as me,’’ Illy says. ‘‘ I don’t think now a kid in high school would have the same sort of stigma at­tached. So it’s def­i­nitely grown and peo­ple’s views . . . have changed as well.’’

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