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Interview: L-FRESH The Lion

31 Aug 2016 spotlight words by Terence Ill
Interview: L-FRESH The Lion

L-FRESH The Lion is very likely one of the most recognisable personas in Australian Hip Hop right now. The Western Sydney rapper will be back in Melbourne later this week as part of his 'Become' Tour.

L-FRESH moved to Melbourne earlier in his career, before returning to Sydney after signing to Sydney-based label Elefant Traks in 2015.

We threw a quick Q&A at the man, before he hits the stage at Northcote Social Club on Friday.

L-FRESH, thank you for taking some time out of your busy schedule for us. You are currently Touring to promote your second album "Become" which you released earlier this year. How can we interpret the title? Is it a reflection of your journey so far, or is it a call to action to the listener? Or both?

L-FRESH: Many thanks! It's great to be on tour again, this time to celebrate a new album. It's been an exciting ride so far with this record, and taking it on the road extends the album's journey to people in the real world. I think the title can be interpreted as a reflection of both. It's a very personal record about my story of becoming the person I am today and who I strive to be going into the future. While it deals with very personal stories, it's also something that resonates with everybody. We all deal with complexity. We all face internal battles and external pressures. The album deals with all of it in such a way that when you listen to it, we end up riding together through it all.

The single '1 in 100,000' has been getting a lot of love on the airwaves as well as online. What made you choose that song as a single? I find sometimes you listen to a single, and when you go to listen to the bigger body of work it was taken from, it turns out to be the one track that stands out as different from all other songs on the release in some way - be it by sound or by content. Would you '1 in 100,000' is a good summary of the album or is it one of the songs that are different from the rest?

L-FRESH: When I was in the process of creating it, I knew it was going to be a huge track, particularly as a live song. So when it came time to choose the second single, 1 in 100,000 was the favourite. I think it's a pretty good summary of the album. It moves in unconventional ways, jumping into different styles and sounds, and lyrically, it's intense and in-your-face, which is reflective of much of the album.

You're a lawyer by profession. Considering how your music career is going, do you think you will ever need that qualification?

L-FRESH: I've never practiced as a lawyer. I did graduate from law school though. I've utilised that training in so many ways since graduating. It's helped in my music career but it's also informed some of my work in the community and human rights sectors.

You lived in Melbourne for a while. You had said in an Interview that Sydney was somewhat of a comfort zone for you at the time and that you wanted to leave that in order to progress. I believe you are now back in Sydney, is that correct?

L-FRESH: I'm back in Sydney. It's good to be home. I feel like I got what I needed from my stay in Melbourne. I spent almost 3 years living there. I learnt a lot about myself during that time. Being back in Sydney makes sense for right now. It's where my family is and it's where my music team is based.

While you were living in Melbourne, where would we have found L-FRESH on a Friday or Saturday night? Where were your stomping grounds? Were there any favourite spots?

L-FRESH: It's funny because for a lot of my time in Melbourne, I was actively touring, so most of my weekends were spent travelling interstate. But man, I had plenty of favourite spots; mostly food spots haha. I spent quite a bit of time in Footscray. Some of my favourite restaurants and café's are there. I'm looking forward to coming back for the tour so I can hit up those spots.

Going back a couple of years, your first album 'One' was a big break-through that opened a lot of doors for you – one would assume that it was also that album that got Elefant Traks to shine their searchlight your way. You joined the Elefant Traks roster in 2015. Has anything changed for you since you signed to the label, in terms of how you create music? Are there now more pressures then there was as an independent artist? More or higher expectations?

L-FRESH: I'd done a bit of work with Elefant Traks in the past, prior to One. I opened up for The Herd and Horrorshow at a couple of shows. I think The Herd show was my proper introduction to Elefant Traks.

Working with them has been amazing. I've enjoyed the experience and I'm constantly learning. We build on everything, from creative ideas in music to business and strategy. There’s always pressure and expectations that you have to deal with as an artist in the music industry. They're part of the job. You live with it and you deal with it. But what trumps all of that is the level of expectation I put on myself. That's the most important. If I'm on point there, then everything usually takes care of itself.

There is an artist who is now Melbourne-based, but I believe is originally from your hometown of Sydney, by the name of Morganics - MC, b-boy, beatboxer, film-maker… and it seems something else gets added to that list every time I see him. Morganics was a big influence in your musical development. Can you explain your connection with Morganics, and his impact on you and your music?

I met Morganics at a Hip Hop workshop in my hometown of Liverpool, South West Sydney.  He was running MC workshops, which I participated in. It was great, man. He got me thinking about my craft in different ways and he put me on to so much local Hip Hop history. I'll always be grateful to him for that.

You had an amazing moment with legendary MC KRS-One when you were finalising 'One' and he ended up in the intro of the album. More recently KRS has been caught up in a discussion around Africa Bambaataa's sexual abuse allegations. KRS has been defending Bambaataa repeatedly, always steering the conversations towards the achievements of Bambaataa as an artist and cultural leader, and not really acknowledging the allegations. Some would say he dismissed them completely. I have to admit, that for me personally, the situation and some of what was said killed KRS-One for me. It's a touchy subject, but I'm interested to know, has your perception of KRS-One changed in the wake of this whole Zulu Nation debacle?

Yeah man I feel the same way. I've been extremely disappointed with KRS-One's responses. I don't care who you are or what you've done. Nobody gets a pass for sexual abuse; particularly sexual abuse of kids.

Lastly, it ain't hard to tell that you live and breathe Sikh culture, which is your ancestral heritage. So, on a more light-hearted note, do you ever get pulled up on the term "Sikh"? Like being called a "sikh rapper" or anything along those lines?

Haha, we could go deep on this one. It's not really a light-hearted one haha. I'll say this though: I understand people's need to put labels on things in order to make sense of them. I know who I am, what I'm about and what I represent. No single label can define me because just like everybody else, I'm much more complex than that. Now with that said, my Sikh culture and practice is very important to me on a personal level. I think it's been really positive for people to be able to get a basic introduction to Sikh culture through what I do. It helps break down barriers and create understanding.

L-FRESH, thanks for your time and good luck with your Melbourne show and the rest of the tour.

Many thanks fam. Much love.