Illy's Bring It Back Tour at The Jack
One of Australia's most exciting MCs returns with a new album and he's got some friends along for the ride, writes JESSE KUCH
When celebrated young Melbourne MC Al Murray (better known as Illy) sat down to pen the follow-up to his blockbuster 2010 effort The Chase, he didn’t have a grand plan or vision for the task at hand. In fact, there wasn’t really even an intention of an album at all.
“Bring It Back wasn’t really created at the start as an album, it was initially just a few tracks I’d done with mates lying around,” Illy tells Hit ahead of his show launching the album at The Jack this weekend.
“Then I realised I had about half-a-dozen joints (tracks) lying around and thought, ‘wow, these are all really cool and quite different’.
“That was the start of the album, there definitely wasn’t an ideology behind it or anything like that. Just me, rapping with a bunch of mates and this is the product we came up with.”
Luckily for Illy, that “bunch of mates” just happens to be a group of Australia’s finest MCs.
From established stars like Thundamentals, Pez, Grey Ghost and Reason, to a few fresh, but no less exciting faces, Bring It Back counts itself as Australian hip-hop’s biggest set of collaborations this year and the main man himself couldn’t be happier with the results.
“Apart from the guys everyone knows, there are a few up-and-comers on there, like Prime and Purpose, Raven and Elemont. Basically it was a whole slew of really good MCs and above all, everyone is just really good dudes. It’s awesome and it was great that everyone was so keen to get involved. The tracks I did with other people all turned out really good. The only trouble is, we have to be all in the same place to do it properly live. I don’t think it’s going to be very easy to get everyone on the album at the same time, so maybe not on this tour, but hopefully we can get a lot of them together at Sprung Festival later this year.”
As for the pressure in following up successful albums such as The Chase and 2009’s Long Story Short, Illy says because the whole project came together organically, it wasn’t something that crossed his mind too much.
“I’m not too phased by it all,” he says.
“Pressure on these kind of things can be good anyway. But I think because it’s so much more of a passion project than anything else, that fact removed a bit of the pressure. I’m not trying to make a chart-topping blockbuster, we’ve got that in the works and will happen a bit down the track. This one was for the love.”
As a result, the finished work is perhaps the closest to the raw hip-hop sounds of Illy’s early days, something he’s happy to take on board.
With Australian hip-hop exploding into the mainstream and its commercial popularity at a never-seen-before level, he says it’s great to do something that is a bit closer to his roots and the true spirit of the art form, particularly in the age when many people look to manufactured names like Flo Rida and Lil’ Wayne as the biggest artists in the global scene.
“Other than Hilltop Hoods, there is some really bad music that makes the chart as hip-hop,” he says.
“But Aussie hip-hop keeps building every year. I don’t think that it’s ever stopped building since it blew up. Who knows, maybe this is the year that it does. But I just see it going from strength-to-strength and I think we’re definitely at a point now where the mainstream is aware of it. But I do think there is room for people beyond Hilltop Hoods, Bliss n Eso, Drapht and 360 to do it on a bigger scale. There is definitely still room to grow.”
Whether or not Illy reaches the same dazzling heights of the aforementioned names remains to be seen, but whatever happens, the smart young MC has something to fall back on – a law degree.
While he says he still has to rely on others for the legals for his music career, it’s definitely something he’ll be doing later in life.
“I was rapping beforehand, but I was a few years into it when I started touring and everything. I was never not going to finish it, so as soon as I got a chance to, I did,” he says.
“I’m not using it now, I think it will be more useful down the road. I don’t think rapping will pay the bills for the whole rest of my life, but I’m gonna try my best until that time comes.”
Illy’s Bring It Back Tour at The Jack on Saturday night, with special guests Chasm Soundsystem featuring Skryptcha and the Far North’s own Fozzey and VanC. Doors open 7pm. Tickets are $23.50 presale, from oztix.com.au or 1300 762 545. This is an 18+ show.
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Bringing it back to The Jack: Al Murray, aka Illy, lands in Cairns this weekend with his new album.