TZU FRONTMAN AND NEW SOLOIST WITH HIS ALBUM, VOYAGER, THE MC TENDS TO PAINT HIS HIP HOP IN VARIOUS ABSTRACT COLOURS AS SEEN FROM AN OUTSIDER’S PERSPECTIVE. AN INSIGHTFUL AND WELL-JOURNEYED MUSICIAN, JOEL “JOELISTICS” MA DE-CONSTRUCTS HIS MUSIC TO RIP NICHOLSON AS BEST AS HE CAN WITHOUT AN EASEL AND BRUSH.
JOELISTICS interviewed @ 18.45 AEST – Friday 15th July, 2011
For Street Press Australia & Rip2Shredz Press
Words by RIP NICHOLSON
“If I woke up some day and suddenly became deaf, I’d become a painter,” announces Ma decisively. “I like to think in colours when I write the music and when I write beats I try to balance the musical frequencies with frequencies of colour.”
When asked how a book of rhymes would look when accompanied with art, he states, “I see it splashed with plenty of colour and heavy textures. I would Jackson Pollack the shit out of it.”
The MC/guitarist from rap group TZU, Joelistics has always kept his artistry dressed in coloured and cultural cloaks from around the globe. The second-generation Chinese Australian went from picking apples in the furthermost fields of Tasmania to teaching English across China to a Mongolian orphanage and travel writing through Paris. Forever the traveller, Ma has breathed in so much cultural air and celebrates his findings through this year’s Voyager, his first solo LP and with new label Elefant Traks.
“I tried very hard not to be the tourist. Everywhere I went I lived for a long time: I settled in China for six months, settled in Paris for six months and found some stable accommodation and work. I studied Mandarin and French when I was living in both places and made it a lifestyle. In Mongolia, I did some work in a French-speaking orphanage which was cool – it was a total
standout of places that I went to. When I was in Paris I hadn’t seen the Eiffel Tower for about three months. I’m much more of a traveller than a tourist.”
Tracks like Modern World, Madmen and Sooner Or Later cover so much of his experiences – the album written recalling traversing time zones and language barriers, new cultures to new colours.
“A lot of the lyrics were written when I got home. So the lyrics really were about how travelling made you more aware of where you came from. I felt a lot more Australian when I was overseas, more so that when I’m at home. So it took that to really be able to analyse the culture I came from and to sometime both romanticise it and criticise it and be able to look at it for what it is.”
New single, Head Right, finds Ma narrating from an outsider’s perspective, as a multicultural Australian who’s always found it hard to assimilate and frankly prefers to stay on the periphery for artistic and creative license.
“The sentiment within Head Right is more about not judging a book by its cover in a cultural sense, because the world is such a mash-up of culturalisms in that you can find every colour of a human being in every country and they will somehow be native to that place as well. It’s still very much a part of being a second generation or non-Anglo Australian,” admits Ma on feeling left out of the Australian culture, even as one of the country’s leading rappers. “I feel like an outsider within hip hop, I feel like an outsider within the culture I live in, probably equally because I choose to be outside of that mainstream or the obvious paradigms; I prefer that position. And it’s a choice sometimes to not want to fit in – both musically and in artistic outlook. It gives you a lot of creative freedom with the art and in life it gives you a crystallised observational position to look at things.” Ma closes with a laugh, “We were never flag-waving Aussies, that’s for sure!”