Solo rap star singing for his Tuka

August 24, 2015 11:23 pm 1 comment Views:
New horizons ... Australian hip hop has to find an international audience or stagnate. Pi

New horizons … Australian hip hop has to find an international audience or stagnate. Picture: Supplied.
Source: Supplied

HIP Hop may be the only genre where it is perfectly acceptable for players to simultaneously pursue a solo career.

No one speculated about musical differences or an imminent split when Thundamentals producer and rapper Tuka released his debut record Will Rap For Tuka in 2010 or the second Feedback Loop in 2012.

When he dropped the third offering Life Death Time Eternal last month, it peaked at No. 6, signalling Tuka has struck a resounding chord with hip hop audiences in Australia both with his group and on his own.

It’s a stunning, diverse album which genre hops from 90s r&b flavours through to drum and bass feels.

Is it traditional hip hop? Not even he is sure — probably more of the old school de La Soul variety than Straight Outta Compton — but he is deservedly proud it is part of the paradigm shift in Australian music which has seen electronic music in all of its many forms dominate the charts.

“The music is slowing down too,” the astute observer notes.

“Even Flume’s new one is so different from what people would consider to be dance culture.

“Rock is always going to have this crazy hold on the Australian landscape but the emotional pulse has moved on and maybe that’s because the audience is more emotionally mature.”

If that’s the case, he has the songs to connect with that audience from the stunningly beautiful r&b of Tattoo to the thought-provoking orchestral pop of Nirvana.

Tuka, Tattoo

But this deep thinker didn’t just broaden his sonic palette on LDTE. He made a clever lyrical shift which would immediately achieve a connection with his listener.

And it’s so simple, it is brilliant.

“The biggest change I did was stop using me’s and I’s. By the eighth studio album (including Thundamental releases and other projects), I really have got everything off my chest,” he says.

“When people share a song or like a song, there’s a moment when you are going to sing it to someone.

“If you are singing I or me, it’s not sharing a moment.”

It wasn’t the only new rules he tried to impose on his creativity in an attempt to find new ways to make his own music.

Collaborators included Count Bounce, Alex Hope, Nick Martin and his Thundas brother Poncho.

Other experiments included exploring the colours of his voice, reversing the Chili Peppers approach of rapping verses and singing chorus.

Side projects ... Tuka and his Thundamentals bandmates all pursue solo projects. Picture:

Side projects … Tuka and his Thundamentals bandmates all pursue solo projects. Picture: Supplied.
Source: Supplied

He wanted to write a record which explored duality.

“I wanted the songs to be not too positive, not too negative; not too pop, not too underground; not too feminine, not too masculine,” he says.

Love, however, does seem to be a prevailing theme.

“Yeah, love has a lot to do with it; if it wasn’t for love songs, I don’t think I would have been able to make it,” he says.

“Smiles Don’t Lie came because I f … ed up a relationship really bad. the failure of it got me in a successful situation.

“I studied psychology and I love people in love, all that positive reinforcement, as cheesy as it is. The eternal search for happiness, it really does drive humans.

“But I still want a bit in the song that will punch you in the your face. Positive and critical.”

Tuka doesn’t say it exactly but one sense he would like to give Australian hip hop a kick up the butt rather than a punch in the face.

He fears it has reached a plateau and won’t grow its audience without achieving international success.

Love songs ... If it wasn’t for messing up a relationship, Tuka wouldn’t be having solo s

Love songs … If it wasn’t for messing up a relationship, Tuka wouldn’t be having solo success. Picture: Supplied.
Source: Supplied

In fact, he fears the clock is ticking on its presence in the upper echelons of the pop charts in Australia.

“I don’t think it will be a prolonged force like dance is. I don’t want to put down my own genre at all and people like Remi coming through show there is opportunity.

“But it’s too patriotic at the moment and people aren’t patriotic about dance music and it needs to break internationally to be sustained.

“The other difference is when I first started there were so many people doing hip hop and there are far less now.”

Tuka performs at The Gov., Adelaide on October 23, The Cambridge, Newcastle, October 29, Oxford Art Factory, Sydney on October 30, The Corner, Melbourne on November 6, Woolly Mammoth, November 7, Amplifier, Perth on November 13 and Mojos, Fremantle, November 14.

www.news.com.au/entertainment/music

Leave a Reply