THE TONGUE IS ONE OF THE BRIGHTEST CONTENDERS IN THE ELEFANT TRAKS STABLE, AND THE MAN BEHIND THE MOUTH XANNON SHIRLEY ISN’T SHY ON AN OPINION AS HE PREPS FOR HIS SET AT SOUNDS OF SPRING.
THE TONGUE interviewed @ 15:30 AEST – Monday 10th August, 2009
For Street Press Australia & Rip2Shredz Press
Words by RIP NICHOLSON
A battle MC to mix it with the best of them, Xannon Shirley has beaten down opponents through some of the country’s hardest battles as The Tongue. In 2005 he used a razor-sharp lyrical onslaught to chop down adversaries with comical character costumes and distractions of theatrical impersonations – swimmer Ian Thought, blind MC Sympathy, Osama Been Rappin’ – cutting ribbons through whomever dared. He remains the only New South Wales lyricist to win the 7th Revolver MC battle and repped for the Green and Gold at the Battle4Supremecy MC championship.
The following year The Tongue was scouted by Sydney indie hip hop label Elefant Traks, which harboured his sold-out vinyl release of the EP Bad Education. This afforded him slots under label flagships The Herd, Urthboy and Hermitude on their 13 stops before readying himself for his debut long-player Shock & Awe in 2007. The Tongue found his net worth in 2008 billing at both the Big Day Out and Good Vibrations festivals. The latest footsteps imprinted in our hip hop, Shirley says it’s all love in the heavyweight label house of Elefant Traks as they prepare his sophomore drop for 2009.
“They treat me pretty good, there’s a lot of love with Elefant Traks,” Shirley explains. “Because the thing is, it’s mostly funded by The Herd. They’re putting money into backing me and most of the label. It’s as personal as you could get. If that’s not proof that someone’s got your back, then I don’t know what is. They could be putting that money into their pockets, instead they’re reinvesting it in us, so I’ve got nothing but love for Elefant Traks.”
The Tongue’s latest desire becomes part of a rich tapestry, weaving classic Australian voices with the new fabric of music. He’s currently on the hunt for Cruel Sea’s Tex Perkins. “Yeah I’m chasing Tex, he knows I’m after him now,” Shirley confesses on his next choice of collaborator. “The Herd did a show with him last Sunday for the Kev Carmody tribute. It was an all-star line-up and Tex Perkins was there, so I told The Herd to tell him, I’m coming for him. But I’ve gotta find the right beat and the right concept, then Tex is down for it.”
This concept has already seen Phrase invite Wendy Matthews to the forefront with a remake of ‘The Day You Went Away’ – to mixed reviews. Shirley draws the line at running a parallel between Phrase’s interpretation and the vision he reserves for Tex.“They shouldn’t have done that, that’s a terrible song,” he interjects, insisting he is not worried that he may fall victim to the same result. “Ahh not really, no I’ve done a track with Bertie Blackman on the first EP and with a band called the Paper Scissors, so I’ve done that kinda stuff before.”
However, he says he is a traditionalist of hip hop’s core elements, turned off by the latest trend in hip hop. “Personally when I see a live hip hop show, I’m getting sick of every hip hop act having a band. It’s cool to do it, but hip hop for me is two turntables and a microphone.”
Travelling this to Brisbane’s Sounds Of Spring stage, expect the purist to drop elements interactive and true to the hip hop four. “I do a freestyle session through the show, it’s what I like to do – keeps me sharp. I’ll take a word or subject from the audience and kick freestyles. A freestyle session always picks up the energy. It’s a good party trick. But it’s nice to rap in front of people and see them rap it back to you. We’ll have to wait and see what comes next.”