Wordplay interviewed L-FRESH The LION in the lead up to his release day – which is today the 9th May – for his new album One and also his Australian album tour show at Mojos Fremantle on the 24th May 2014.
Hey man, thanks for your time! Firstly, for those who are unaware, can you tell us a little about yourself? Where you grew up and your beginnings in Hip Hop music?
Likewise! Thank you for the opportunity to share. My name is L-FRESH The LION. 25-year-old MC born and raised in South West Sydney, currently residing in Melbourne. I’ve been rhyming for over 10 years now, constantly trying to master my skills as an MC. I started rhyming in high school after listening to a variety of hip hop records. I instantly became obsessed with hip hop music and started to learn about hip hop culture and its history. Since then, I’ve been working towards the release of my debut album, titled One, which will be released Friday 9th May 2014. My music is often referred to as powerful, lyrical, thoughtful, positive, uplifting and soulful.
The first couple singles from your new album, One, have recently been released. How have these been received?
I’ve released 3 singles from the album so far: One, Faithful and Survive (ft. MK-1). They’ve all been received really well. I’m very thankful for the opportunity to share my music with people and I’m always grateful for their kind words of support. One and Survive (ft. MK-1) have been added to triple j’s rotation. And all 3 songs have been receiving widespread radio play across the country and across the world. Each of the songs have music videos, and they’ve been received really well too. It’s been great.
What can you tell us about your debut album? Was there anything in particular you were trying to achieve with it?
One, the album, is an empowering journey. The sounds are soulful, emotive, banging and thoughtful. The lyrics are well thought out and the production is very expressive. I worked on it at Vienna People Studios in Annandale, NSW, with my mate Michael McGlynn who produced the album. We aimed to create an album that’ll move people in more ways than one and I think we’ve done that. Other than that, I’ll let the music speak for itself.
I saw the One Intro freestyle by KRS-One, and that was dope! Can you tell us the story behind that?
That was such an awesome moment! KRS-One was on tour here a little while a go, as you know. During his tour, he was doing a few community stops to speak about the history of hip hop. My mates Mistery and MC Trey were coordinating his community visits. They lined up a visit in Liverpool, South West Sydney, where I grew up, and also where I was working at the time: at a youth space called The Street University.
So KRS came in and delivered a 3-hour talk about the history of hip hop. Not a single person left the room while he was speaking. It was amazing to watch. And I learnt a lot from listening to him speak.
Afterwards, we were hanging out and I told him a bit about the album. He asked me to shut the door and as soon as I did, he started busting out a freestyle about my album. Afterwards, he’s like “put that on the album!” We shook hands and then hung out for a bit longer before he took off. It was a dope moment…
Your music has always had an overarching positivity to it particularly when touching on topics like religion and politics. This approach can be hard to come by in local hip hop. How important is positivity when discussing these sometimes touchy subjects?
I don’t know if it’s something I tried to do consciously. It just comes across in the music. With all of the topics I address in my songs, I don’t begin by sitting down and saying “okay I need to make a song about politics”. These are ideas and concepts I think about all the time. So when I write about them, they’re my own reflections expressed in the way that I see them. So as such, I don’t necessarily see them as touchy subjects since I’m thinking about them all the time.
I think the positivity comes naturally. I vibe to a lot of positive music. That gets me going. I feel like there’s a gap at the moment, in that there isn’t a lot of that style of hip hop coming out these days. So I try to create the kind of music that I love to hear.
There is some great footage online of you at the Nannup Music Festival addressing an experience that you had at the festival, and the broader racist implications of that. Do you have any thoughts on the recent discussions about apparent racism within the Australian hip hop scene?
I did a 3 part video series, where one of the videos addressed this topic in particular. People can check it out here. Racism in Australia in general is not taken seriously enough. Mainstream conversation about the issue is dominated by those who don’t regularly experience racism on an every day basis, directly or as a result of systemic and ingrained attitudes.
It must be pretty hectic polishing off an album and having a hefty tour schedule, what are you coping mechanisms to relax and keep your head straight?
I got a great team of people around me. I really do. I count my blessings. My touring team is amazing. My band members are so much fun to be around. We’re like family. There’s 8 of us on the road. Myself, MK-1 (DJ), MIRRAH (fellow MC and backing vocalist), Kimberly Aviso (keys and backing vocalist), Clinton Manshanden (drummer) and his partner Melissa Boyle, Chris Zammit (bass), and Duane Critcher (guitar). We keep each other grounded. We support each other. And we have so much fun. I can’t overstate the importance of having a good, grounded, honest team in the music industry. Outside of that, I try to meditate consistently.
You’ve toured and played alongside some pretty impressive local and international names. What has been your favourite memory from these experiences? And least favourite?
I’ve been very thankful to be able to tour with some amazing names in the hip hop scene. My favourite memory has to be watching Nas perform, from side of stage, to a backed house at the Enmore Theatre in Sydney. Touring with him on his first headline tour across the country was an amazing experience. I learnt a hell of lot on that tour. During his set in Sydney, I said to myself, this is what I want to do; this is what I need to do. I need to get to that level one day.
The least favourite moment is a common one at this point: the red-eye flights. When you’re flying around on tour on a budget, as an independent artist, you have to make some sacrifices, and sleep is one of them. We get up early for the morning flights on the days after the show sometimes. I’m not complaining though, that’s part of the job and part of the fun too. But it’s far from the perceived “glamour” of the touring lifestyle that a lot of people have.
You’re headed West to play Mojo’s on the 24th of May (alongside local favourite Mathas). What can we expect from an L-FRESH live show?
You can expect to feel uplifted, empowered and inspired. Hip hop, at its core, is about empowering self and others. I’ve taken that on board and made it a feature for the show. The music will move you on the night so you can have fun, but it’ll also move you mentally to the point where you’ll be wanting to push even harder towards your own ambitions. There’ll be a lot of energy, passion and interaction on the night. The line-up is great. I’m honoured to be able to share the stage with Mathas, Marksman and Selekt Few. I have the utmost level of respect for each one of those artists. They all stand for something greater than themselves. That’s the theme for the night. It’s not about us. It’s about you, the people who’ll come and experience the show.
After this tour, what’s next on the agenda?
I’m hoping to play more shows around the country alongside fellow artists. I’ll be pushing the album as far and as wide as I can, and building from the opportunities that arise from it. After that, I’m hoping to focus again and work on the next album. I’ve already started coming up with a few ideas. So we’ll see… Thanks again for your time! Peace.
Interview by Ollie Read.
You can purchase L-FRESH The Lion’s album One which is out today here.
Also check out the Facebook event page for more information on L-FRESH The Lion’s Perth show.