Acclaimed Australian rapper 360 has been touted as this country’s hottest and most controversial crossover star. His ability to distil the zeitgeist into rap bought him to almost instant acclaim.
Following on from 2012’s Falling And Flying, the double-platinum smash album that resulted in Sixty’s meteoric rise to fame, his latest offering, the bold and passionate gold-selling Utopia, is the soundscape to a young man’s life who found himself growing up and facing his demons in the public eye, dealing with the double-edged sword of fame: the perils of flying too high and the vulnerability it causes behind closed doors.
This time around I worked with a bunch of different producers from New York and LA to start things off.
I got a bunch of songs together and came back to Australia to work with Styalz and then flew down to a producer called Lifted, from LA, who’s signed to Good Music (which is Kanye’s label), who executively produced the album.
I finished off the album and they all worked together.
Tell me about performing with Eminem on his tour. It must have been an amazing experience. Were you nervous about having to step up to a gig like that? He’s on most people’s list of influential and interesting people…
It was incredible. I got an email saying, ‘Eminem’s coming to Australia to do a tour and he’s asked heaps of Australian acts to put their music forward – what songs would you want him to hear?’
I chose a few songs including my rap battles, because I knew that he came from that same background. Suddenly I was told I was on the tour and I was just blown away.
It was special as well because it was my first tour sober.
And you did it sober! What was the impetus for you to get clean?
If I didn’t get clean I would’ve died. I’ve had a few near-death experiences because of drugs. When you start dabbling in things when you’re younger, you think it’s a lot of fun and you never think it’s going to be a problem.
Then snap – seven years later and you’re a demon.
Drugs and alcohol are a work hazard for most performers. Do you think that it is harder to get a real pitch on your problem because everyone else is doing it too?
It’s definitely tougher because drug use is so common these days.
When I was going through school people didn’t really use drugs – they might’ve smoked weed. But you look at 15–16-year-olds now and they’re smoking ice. They’re passing a pipe around, not a spliff. It’s fucked up.
It’s tough when you become an addict and your friends are using drugs, because they might not be addicts and be able to find a balance, but you can’t.
How does being clean change the way you approach your music? Was it scary at first to find a way through?
It was scary. I felt like I was going to suck creatively if I wasn’t intoxicated in some way.
For the first month or so it was pretty hard.
I couldn’t really write anything. But if you just stick it out and stay confident it’ll come, and it’s actually much better.
You rap on issues like homophobia, suicide and mental illness. Do you think that rappers/musicians need to be more aware of the messages they disseminate?
I think it’s important for people in the public eye to be positive role models, to understand if they do have a young fanbase that their words have a lot power and can influence them. I think it’s important they notice that.
There’re a few rappers that I know who completely glorify drugs – they have a young fanbase and post photos drinking codeine syrup, which is pretty messed up. It is possible to be dangerous and edgy without being bigoted and stuff like that.
I think Australian hip-hop is less bigoted – most Americans are bigoted in their rap but Australians I don’t find are.
What are the issues that you are most passionate about?
I’m passionate about mental illness, which can include drug addiction, depression, anxiety, eating disorders. I’m always trying to do positive things in my life and trying to inspire other people to do positive things.
How do you incorporate your own story into the narratives of your raps or your music?
Writing is always very personal. Usually or most of the time what I’m writing about comes from something I’ve been through or am going through at the time.
What should we expect for the Byron show?
Expect it to get really loose; it’s going to be pretty insane. I’m going to be doing some songs that have never been performed and some that have never ever been heard, so get ready for some new shit!
Sunday at the Hotel Great Northern.