SOMETIMES PEER PRESSURE IS A GOOD THING – IN THE CASE OF OZI BATLA IT HAS DRIVEN HIM TO DROP HIS SOLO RECORD WILD COLONIAL. HE CHATS TO RIP NICHOLSON ON KEEPING IT PURE AND OF HIMSELF.
Ozi Batla interviewed @ 12.45 AEST – Friday 28th May, 2010
For Street Press Australia & Rip2Shredz Press
Words by RIP NICHOLSON
Away from his post at The Herd, the lone MC, Ozi Batla – aka Shannon Kennedy – has just delivered perhaps one of the scene’s most individually created rap albums for 2010. From fronting one of the nation’s leading voices across our hip hop plains, Kennedy answers to plenty of peer pressure to drop his own album. Teaming with ex-Good Buddha producer and local DJ Sandro, Wild Colonial is all Ozi no compromise, bridging spheres of worlds both old and new.
“I’ve always had other projects on the boil with The Herd and [recent project] Astronomy Class. I just had some time between Astronomy Class albums,” said Kennedy. “The concept with Wild Colonial is in two parts. It’s sort of a play on Wild Style from the era of original hip hop and looking into how I see myself as being Australian and making Australian hip hop while balancing the innovative side with respecting the history of it and the culture.”
For the love of the art he’s fought for so many years now, Kennedy puts this one out to guide today’s fresher scene down the right path toward new thought. He also warns of the pitfalls in “colonised hip hop”. “That means I’m part of a borrowed or an appropriated culture and I’m aware that we need to pay respect to where it comes from so I try to express that. It’s not so much how your
country has been colonised, what matters is what you do with it afterwards. We need to be aware of creative hip hop, because it came from somewhere and it’s going somewhere. The more that you know about what’s come before it, the less you are likely to imitate. Otherwise it’s throwaway music or just a tag on a wall that disappears a few weeks later,” he muses. “I think the more you know about it, the more you will be able to contribute.”
While Wild Colonial seems a very early Australian convict-fabled concept at first glance, Ozi insists he didn’t plan a shoot out suited up like Ned Kelly. Nor did he try to rub a little pop sheen into a few tracks. “There was no compromising on the album. We just wanted to make it sound like the hiphop we like. The one thing I’ve learned from this project is that you don’t need a super over polished, shiny and new packaging if the product is alright. If the music is cool it should sell itself without the gimmicks.”
After working amongst the collective that is The Herd and then with Sir Robbo and producer Chasm in the more recent Astronomy Class, there’s a new freedom with going it alone. “Working with other lyricists there’s always push ‘n’ pull. That’s what makes working in a band exciting from all different angles.” Introspective tracks like ‘1000 Drummers’ on Wild Colonial paints a view from the lyrical battler we don’t often see. “There’s a couple of tracks that I’ve had for a while and seemed suitable for more of a personal album.”
Wild Colonial’s producer Sandro was invited by Kennedy. The DJ, who brings with him the golden era school of funk has been around the traps working with the likes of Good Buddha and legends Def Wish Cast, also came out of the same school in Sydney’s western suburbs that bred fellow Fortians, (Fort Street High School alumni) MC Solo and Adit from Horrorshow, Unkle Ho from The Herd, Phatchance and Mr Squiggle.
“I’ve known Sandro for ages, through Andy from Good Buddha and Joelistics from TZU. There’s a school down here called Fort Street that produces way more musos and artists than most schools. Andy is from the same year as TZU and Unkle Ho from The Herd. He’s been producing beats for the some of the old heads around for ages including Def Wish Cast and working on their new album as well. When I needed beats, he’s one of the people I approached and it became quickly a case of him doing the whole album. Sandro and I have a mutual understanding of how I like production and structures of songs. And being a long time DJ, he has a very good ear for lyrics. So I just wanted to put down a solid album that’s cohesive and works together and this gave me an opportunity to get back into that and do some of my own stuff.” He weighs in, looking over a handful of heralded albums between himself and his cohorts. “I couldn’t really say I like one more than the other, but it’s good to have free reign and you can say what you want.
Now seemed the right time for the MC to bunker down in the outhouse and come out with something that was entirely his own shit, so to speak. Rich in texture and political stink, it’s uncompromising and straight up – with no guest appearances. “I think featuring guests has gone out of control. Its like people go to the back of the CD to check who the guests are first to define what the album’s gonna be like. Often when you try to do a track with a singer there’s a kind of adjustment.
“I just wanted to switch it up too. If there was a “I’ve always had other projects on the boil with The change in mood or feel of the track, it was me that was doing it, not someone else’s flow or another singer. It was a balance, but real enjoyable as well. Originally I was gonna get a few different singers to sing on the hook at least but after a few demos, a couple of people said to me I should have a crack at doing it myself, so I did. Whether or not I should have taken their advice, time will tell.”
That ethos extends to the upcoming live dates as well. “Yeah, its a lot more immediate, the first show I’ve done without a backing MC or hyping man or someone to bounce off but its where I came from. I used to do the DJ – MC shows with my original DJ, Alf, doing drum ‘n’ bass sets. So I’m looking forward to switching it back to two turntables and a microphone.”