'ClassicILL' is the fifth studio album from Downsyde, having released their previous album 'All City' back in 2008.
The lads drop 'ClassicILL' this December in a massive hometown show at Rosemount Hotel featuring past and present members of the crew plus an epic line-up of special guests and supports.
Before we get the new record, we chat to MC Optamus about 'ClassicILL' and what comes next for Downsyde.
It's been eight years since your last album 'All City', what's been happening for you in that time?
[MC Optamus] At first I think we were all burnt out from touring for ten years and needing some RnR in the west. Our tour schedules were intense going state to state, city to city and everywhere in between. It was f$%#kin' kick-ass and we toured hard more like rock bands than a hip hop group.
"The lessons we learned is to stick to your guns and don't give a f@#$."
I think it is partly why we have such a massive grassroots fan base, but I think it took its toll. Since then we regrouped in Perth and have worked on numerous projects and live shows (Drapht, Optamus, Syllabolix etc.).
We are now running a mountain of community-based hip hop programmes from prisons to youth centres, suicide prevention, prison, mental health and high schools which meant we could put our social justice-based lyrics into action. But the 'SYEED was calling us back and this year we finally got it together.
Let's talk about the new album 'ClassicILL'; firstly, being such a long time in-between albums, what was your vision when you started writing this one?
I think we started writing one Xmas holidays and were really inspired and the songs just came out.
We never over thought what we did; if it's felt good and made us want to write rhymes we smashed it out. There is definitely some more 'new wave' sounding songs. But for the most part, it's that banging drums and brass that we are known for around the world.
And how might 'ClassicILL' compare to previous albums in terms of sound and style?
I think it's a love child of 'When The Dust Settles' and 'All City', but again we just don't analyse our shit at all.
I think I listened to 'When The Dust Settles' on a long drive this year and that was the first time since we released it. I was surprised how much I liked it and made me feel pretty proud of what we have achieved to be honest haha!
Are there any themes or motifs recurring throughout the record?
Yeah I s'pose we tend to like back and forth Beastie Boys-esque verses, which I think is a bit lost in the new era. I think universal themes are always our cup of tea: money, life, relationships and being 'dope MCs' haha!
'ClassicILL' will be your fifth studio album: at this point, what are some of the most important lessons you've learned about making records?
Wow, that's a tough question. I think just not to make any rules and also not to be pressured by radio, labels, managers or shit talkers.
We are lucky to come back after eight years and have so many new fans that are young fellas as well as our dedicated, grassroots mob and think the lessons we learned is to stick to your guns and don't give a f@#$.
You guys are launching the album at Rosemount Hotel (Perth); how are you feeling about getting the new songs in front of a live audience?
We did a preview party at the Rosie and it was a massive, hype-as-hell crowd. We were crowd surfing and the audience was incredible; there was people of all ages, cultures and genres, and it made us really appreciate that we have alot of home-town love and support.
We are super pumped to bring this live show to the masses and play new and old bangers side by side.
What can punters expect from the launch show?
The show is going to be such an epic event. We have so many special guests and all the OG members getting up to play songs: bboys, live art displays. It will be a night no one will forget and lots of crew haven been anticipating. I'm excited talking about it.
Will you be taking the album on a national tour some time?
Absolutely! Early next year we are coming for you: NT, QLD, VIC, NSW, SA and Tassie. You best be ready.
Given you've been in the hip hop game since 1996, what are your views/ opinions on the current state of the local Perth scene?
Look, music's a trans-formative beast and hip hop's no different. There are so many sub-genres now.
I think in 2017 hip hop in Australia embraces a multicultural identity, which is dope, especially coming from a band that is Aboriginal, Burmese, Italian, Middle Eastern and Colonial Mongrel. There is now way more opportunities for artists, which I reckon is incredible if you can rise above the over-saturation.
What's next for Downsyde as we head into 2018?
We have a vault full of killer tracks ready to drop and projects in the making as we speak. We will be touring the country and also hoping to do heaps of workshops on the road in remote communities, country towns and in the cities.
We feel like Downsyde adds something different to the Australian music landscape so we are going to get out there and make our mark again.