AS BRISBANE’S FIRST DIRECT SIGNING TO OBESE RECORDS, THE COALTION CREW PRODUCER TOXIC AL IS EXCITED ABOUT THE FUTURE THE BAND HAS LAID OUT FOR ITSELF ON NEW ALBUM KNOWN UNKNOWNS.
MC YUIN HUZAMI interviewed @ 12:00 AEST – Saturday 7th March, 2009
For Street Press Australia & Rip2Shredz Press
Words by RIP NICHOLSON
They’re not new to the scene but theirs is a repertoire rarely touted on our field of hip hop. Instilled as one of our most dynamic three-pieces in the land, Brisbane-bred the Coalition Crew are back at the front bar with a double order. Their laboratory range of beat-making has spilt over into what some with fixed vision would consider the outer limits of our local sound’s distinction. The balancing act only serves to fly their sound on a higher frequency. Lyrically and subject-wise, they provide a two-part catalogue surmising the global upheaval of the 21st Century in Known Unknowns. As they climb the curve of their careers to the national stage, the album has the Crew headlining on The Carjack Tour national bill and a flexing addition to the strong-armed local scene.
A by-product of the Bris-Vegas hip hop fraternity, lead writer MC Yuin Huzami, state DMC champ DJ Nikk C and producer Toxic Al came together some years back, having released their first studio album four years ago. As the ink dries on their new deal with Obese, the seasoned outfit are primed for an explosive return. Readying the launch of their double-stacked magnum opus to a broadened audience in further reaches of the country, producer Toxic Al lays out the point and purpose of the new long-player, dissected and divulged.
“It occurred to us there were two very distinct moods come out of the stock,” Al says. “Some of it was a little more bouncy, more upbeat and then a lot of stuff was fairly grimy and political. So we figured that if you tried to stick the two of them together you’d end up with an album that went for longer than an hour and the emotional curve of it would be very bipolar, very happy-sad, happy-sad and figured it would probably work better if we emphasised the difference and split it into the two.”
Carefully hand-picked and split into two CDs, the overall result is a socially conscious package respected as one of the most high-brow, post-commentary outputs this season.
“We have the ‘Known’ disc which is more positive and upbeat and the ‘Unknown’ disc which is less so really. More kinda serious. Then we figured the good side effects of this is that the listener is a bit more interactive and you can pick which one you want first, if you just want one on it’s own and not the other. You can tailor your listening experience if you like.”
With heavily weighed-in overtones of polemic rhetoric, this talented trio drops knowledge on the current global climate left behind from the last US administration in office. The album features none other than President Bush and right-hand man Rumsfeld with his now famous “Known Unknown” gobbledegook. The album title is something of a double entendre, based loosely off something made infamous by one of this generation’s most-despised White House generals.
“There is an interlude which I made called ‘Unconscious Incompetence’ that’s actually education language that’s the technical term for knowing what you don’t know. And that features samples from Donald Rumsfeld’s now legendary gibberish with the known knowns and the known unknowns.”
While most bodies of work in hip hop are influenced by our native surroundings, Al and the boys finds the bureaucratic bullshit of the 43rd President and his leading henchman worthy of subject matter for the Coalition’s latest joint, royalty cheques pending.
“On one hand it refers to that Rumsfeld thing and that whole first decade of the 21st century, Bush terrorism, fear and double speaking gibberish, and then on the other hand to be a known unknown also could apply to us as a group as in we’re reasonably well known within our circle but pretty much off everybody’s radar outside of those circles. So in that sense we could be known unknowns. We’ve got Rumsfeld on the first disc and Bush on the second in ‘Freedom is Beautiful’ so they’re kinda like sister interludes.”
Known Unknowns portrays the Crew as true audiophiles, while the tightly-knit production reveals Toxic’s wide scope of influences across the album’s soundscape – it’s heavy on percussion from drummer Joel Alexander and highly developed on instrumentation Jimmy Jams on keyboard, flautist Leenie, DJ Affiks and Anthony McIlwain on guitar for a start. Experimenting with genre fusion, he tightropes a fine line over the blueprint of hip hop on this latest product.
“It’s not a matter of being aware of any rules of hip hop as such but certain things work within hip hop. With all the great instrumentalists we’ve got on here, a big part of the mission of this taking shape was to try and cram as much musicality into it as possible while still trying to keep it street and not lose that hip hop side of as well,” Al explains. “You can get too musical and completely lose sight of your hip hop roots of course or if you stay too hard or too down low you can lose the opportunity to be more musical – not trying to stay within the confines of hip hop at all but not trying to go so musical that you leave it behind either.”
Further de-constructing his craft, Toxic says: “The music needs to be little bit minimal or strained within hip hop so the vocals can shine over the top of them without being cluttered. But there is a lot of public perception particularly in the mainstream, ‘there’s hip-hop and there’s music’ and the two terms are mutually exclusive and I hate that mentality, so we try to cram as much music in there as we can while still trying to stay true to what we are.”
The Coalition Crew dropped this new body of work late February and bring their promotional swagger to The Arena next month for The Carjack Tour, thick with the newly-signed class for a jump-off sure to be fatter than yo’ mama. From the lab creation to unleashing the live monster, Al weighs in on the measured relationship he holds with both.
“It’s a tough call – I love the buzz of getting on a stage and fully throwing myself into it particularly if there’s a receptive crowd around. At the same time, sitting down on computer, piano or bass I get a massive rush on that, that’s my hobby basically,” Al sums up this love tryst quaintly. “The writing process is very much about coffee and cigarettes, the live playing process is very much about beer really. So there’s that late night coffee and fags vibe on the one hand and the other is tear it up, let it loose.”
With a spoken-for reputation over live show-n-tells, the Coalition Crew have seemingly found their outlet and themselves in this affair. Al has a final insight. “It’s a great way to express one’s self because you’re the best of yourself there, everything is considered or rehearsed or sorted through so you can make that effort sort of portraying the absolute best of yourself.”