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Interview: Illy


Australian hip hop hero Illy has come a pretty long way since his humble beginnings in 2009! The Melbourne-born rapper has worked with some pretty big names and has toured extensively throughout the nation, scoring headline tours and appearances at some of Australia’s biggest festivals. The hip hop heavy-weight currently holds two Platinum singles, multiple Gold albums, and even an ARIA award! We were lucky enough to catch up with Illy ahead of the release of his fifth studio album ‘Two Degrees’.

Congratulations on completing your fifth studio album ‘Two Degrees’! What was the inspiration behind the album?

I really felt that ‘Cinematic’ and particularly Tightrope gave me the ability to pursue a new style of songwriting which is something I had previously been toying with from a distance, so going into the album I knew I wanted to be more in that lane and mix in a few genres so it wouldn’t be that typical, strictly hip hop sounding record. When you listen to the album there’s hip hop but there’s also a lot of electronic and new wave pop influence. I just wanted to make something unique and push my limits as a songwriter and as an artist.

We LOVE your music video for Papercuts ft. Vera Blue! What was the creative process like making the music video?

I didn’t have a whole lot to do with the creative side of it, so basically I just showed up and performed to the cameras! It was amazing working with Vera Blue in that sense though!

We love that your album features work from the likes of Vera Blue, Anne-Marie, and M-Phazes, what was it like to work with so much talent?

It was awesome! M-Phazes has been involved in all of my albums and he’s executive produced ‘Two Degrees’ as well as my last album, so we have a long standing working relationship and he’s one of my closest homies! I feel like I’m always in a position of strength when I start an album with him!

Once we had the album there, reaching out to these other artists and having them interested in the tracks was really reassuring. To be able to send out demos and then have people be able to see the final vision and want to be a part of it…it’s really cool!

Being your fifth studio album, how do you think ‘Two Degrees’ differs from your previous music?

I think ‘Two Degrees’ picks up where ‘Cinematic’ left off. I feel like I’m in my strongest place as a songwriter. Creatively, I think we’ve really pushed the boundaries and been able to make a unique sounding album and I guess the main difference is that it’s stronger, because I have a whole lot more experience behind me and a whole lot more time spent on improving my craft.

Growing up in Australia you must be heavily influenced by Aussie hip hop, do you find yourself looking to many international artists for inspiration?

Yeah definitely! I mean Jay-Z is probably one of my favourite artists across any genre and of all time. In terms of modern music I love artists like Drake and Future, and I love all of the new wave dudes! One of the biggest inspirations for this album was probably Sia.

I really admire the way that she’s gone about being a songwriter, and the way she’s been able to work that into a hugely successful career for herself. I’ve spent a lot of time trying to get better at writing songs instead of just writing raps so my inspiration definitely comes from artists within hip hop and from outside the genre.

You’ve performed on some pretty amazing stages around the world, do you have a favourite on tour experience so far?

Probably playing triple j’s One Night Stand in 2014. That was a really big moment for me, to be asked to headline the festival and then to have it go off without a hitch was awesome, and just performing for such an amazing crowd. It’s a moment that still gives me goosebumps if I talk about it for long enough!

Lastly, you’ve recently spoken out about government funding cuts to creative arts courses in Australia. Can you tell us more about that?

Yeah, well cutting funding to creative pursuits that students want to follow…it’s just not something I could ever get behind. I feel like there’s so much pressure to crunch numbers when it comes to budgets and there’s so much emphasis placed on money in career pursuits, arts are unfortunately one of the first victims of that. I really think people underestimate the value of arts, I mean creative types are the people that provide colour!

If it’s all bankers and accountants and corporate management, there’s really no culture at all. I think that it’s something which has been poorly thought out and to deny this sort of education to people who can’t afford it without any sort of government funding is just really unfortunate.

Illy’s fifth studio album ‘Two Degrees’ is set for release on Friday the 11th of November.

Illy ‘Two Degrees’ Album Launch Tour

Woolly Mammoth, Brisbane (SOLD OUT)
Oxford Art Factory, Sydney (SOLD OUT)
Howler, Melbourne (SOLD OUT)