ACTS LIKE IMPOSSIBLE ODDS PAINT PEOPLE AND POLITICS WITH EYES OF WIDE ANCESTRY IN THIS SHARED NATION. THE VOICE IS ONE AND THE SAME BUT THE EXPRESSION MAS MATURED THROUGH AGES.
FRED LEONE interviewed @ 13.30 AEST – Wednesday 8th April, 2009
For Street Press Australia & Rip2Shredz Press
Words by RIP NICHOLSON
Like early drum beats, the oldest known culture has roots in the true elements of hip-hop from further than our calendars can count. The first scribbles on the wall explained our local flaura and fauna. Today ‘Making Waves’ and acts like Impossible Odds paint people and politics with eyes of wise ancestry in this shared nation. The voice is one and the same but the expression has matured through ages.
“Hip-hip to me, fits in perfectly with indigenous culture. It’s like a template that was made to fit into this 40,000 year culture.” Expresses Rival MC, leading Impossible Odds to the forefront of our native tongue movement. “You’ve got a DJ and we’ve got a didg’ player who can keep the beat and for breakdancers we have corroborees, so we shake-a-leg and do our dance. Then you got graffiti and we have the oldest graffiti in the world.”
Rival MC aka Fred Leone was brought up on the land from the Garrawa, Waanyi & Butchella mobs. His roots rich in the Australian soil as well as the outer islands from Tonga to Fraser Island to the Gulf of Carpentaria. Where and what he plants himself as, comes from where he was raised over his wide ancestral periphery.
“I was brought up Aboriginal-Australian, my father is Tongan and my mother is Aboriginal and South Sea Islander.” Rival declares, “I identify myself with the Aboriginal side more so than the Tongan side, that’s only because that’s how I grew up.”
Bred on a diverse spectrum of music, the influence from his mother’s Johnny Cash, Bob Marley, AC/DC records and father’s Tongan heritage with dance and gospel church culture, music became second nature.
“I always grew up around church or singing. I picked up especially from Dad’s side of the family the harmonising and gospel vocals. So it had a big impact on how I write today and put together songs.”
As a Brisbane emcee, Leone has been deep in the genre since 16. In 1997 he honed his skills after opening for acts such as Koolism and Sage Francis after winning the Urban Method MC Battle and performing at Inala’s Stylin Up Festival to a receptive home crowd. In 2003 he became Willing & Able sharing stage space with Bliss N Eso, The Herd and Third Estate. Now 30 years young, Rival MC has joined with Jeremy Youse aka UZY MC in Impossible Odds to be the voice for the struggling classes – that’s hip-hop.
Odds were included in the Brisbane NAIDOC celebrations, Brisbane River Festival and a spot as support act for Apostles NYC and at Lions Den Night Club in the East Village, New York City. In ‘07 Impossible Odds won a $25,000 grant through The JB Seed Speak: Indigenous Hip-Hop Competition to attend the workshop conference and record a 5 track EP at the famed Electric Avenue studios. Leone took away one of the biggest lessons – the business behind music.
“It’s entertainment, but if you don’t get the business-side locked down, if you don’t nurture yourself as an artist, give yourself a room to grow plus look after the business-side of things, you are pretty much wasting your time doing music.”
Impossible Odds are playing a pivotal part in the Making Waves For Hip-Hop compilation for Gadigal Music. Featuring 19 tracks from 12 of the brightest indigenous talents using as the promo explains, ‘The power of the lyric and hook of the beat’ to revist their personal journies and socio-economic concerns.
“Ingenious young kids and 30 plus (artists) who MC are always highly political, always trying to voice a feeling of helplessness. It is a strong tool, it is empowering.”
With an acute sense for the real values of what hip-hop stands for, Fred Leone is planted and flourishing well. With final words left over from a worthy conversation he is content with where he is in our local scene.
“Hip hop is whole movement by itself and I feel so good to be a part of it. It is not just about me, Aboriginal people, but this whole crew of people all around the world that love this one passion – hip-hop.”