Interview: Fraksha Unites Australia’s Standout MCs For The ‘Grime Down Under’ Mixtape
Volume 2 is here.
March 22, 2017

Words by Christopher Kevin Au // Image by Kyel Golly

While the grime wave is now going global, Fraksha has been championing his English roots right here in Australia for over a decade.

Having grown up around raves and pirate radio back in London, Fraksha toured around the UK underground as part of Nine High before relocating Down Under in 2006. Since then, he’s been a trailblazer for grime in Australia, from clashes to mixtapes and performances alongside Skepta, D Double E, Stormzy, Plastician and more.

Now, Fraksha has just dropped another ambitious project named Grime Down Under: Volume 2 – a snarling compilation of Australian MCs delivering staunch verses over brooding, bass-driven production. In light of the release and an increasing demand for UK sounds in Australia, we spoke to Fraksha about grime’s expansion and how his multitude of projects are lifting the local scene:

You’ve spent 12 months compiling ‘Grime Down Under’ Volume 2. What was the selection process for the mixtape, and what do you think the final tracklist says about grime in Australia right now?

Well, what I said when it dropped it is that I don’t want people to look at it and say “this is a definitive list of grime artists in Australia.” There are other MCs out there doing their thing, some of who I approached, some I only just found out about in the final stages of putting it together and some I maybe still don’t know about. The artists featured on this are all ones that I’ve come into contact with through doing shows around the country at the few grime parties there are, or ones that I have come across and reached out to online.

We have MCs from 5 different states on here, so it’s a good snapshot of grime in this country, but like I say there are still more out there and I am always keen to hear from new people, as the only way it will grow over here is with more participation. Some of the MCs on the release have been doing grime for many years, some are very new to it, but they all have something about them that warrants their inclusion. I didn’t include everything I was sent, but I’m also keen to ensure that I encourage people. It’s such a small scene here, so I wanna bring people through rather than shut the door where I can.

It’s been five years since Volume 1 dropped, and a lot has happened since then. What would you say are the main changes in the scene that you have observed?

In the grime scene as a whole you’ve obviously had the huge worldwide success of people like Stormzy and Skepta, which has thrown grime fully into the mainstream in many ways. I find although everyone knows what grime is now, it’s still mainly just a select few artists who have broken through, so it’s early days still. While you may hear Skepta on mainstream radio, you’re not likely to hear President T quite yet. It’s still such a relatively young genre, so it’s going to be interesting watching it over the next few years.

With the scene here in Australia, there has been a huge increase of interest in events and more people making music – mainly from the younger generation, who have heard the music from a younger age and are less inclined to be like, “What the fuck is that?” There is definitely more understanding of the music and the culture behind it nowadays which is good, but still some way to go for sure which makes it an interesting thing to be a part of. I don’t have so many people coming up to me asking why the DJ kept stopping the track nowadays anyway!

Volume 1 featured Kerser, while the likes of Mitchos Da Menace are featured on Volume 2. Why do you think grime and West Sydney rappers have found such an amicable crossover over the years?

I don’t think there is anywhere necessarily that has found more of a crossover than anywhere else, so you’d probably have to ask the guys from that area. I’ve not lived there, but grime is synonymous with lower socio-economic areas, and so I think people worldwide can identify with it just like they did with hip-hop, which socially came from a very similar place.

Tell us about HAZRD’s contributions to the mixtape. What were your first reactions when ‘Response’ started going so viral?

Well I knew HAZRD a little before then anyway, he’d be at the grime shows like Reload in Sydney when I’d go up to play them, so I’d heard him spray and chatted to him a bit already. It was surprising how viral it went, but then I thought that for people in England it would have been so weird to hear that accent on grime. So it got a lot of attention and a bit of hate which is totally to be expected. The first time I heard an Australian spraying I thought it was odd too, of course you’re going to when the extent of your exposure to Australian culture is Neighbours and Home & Away, which it is for a large number of English kids.

For me it was refreshing because I like the Australian accent on grime now, because it is so different and you can do things with it you can’t with an English accent. What I liked about HAZRD was that I could tell he was heavily influenced by midlands grime which has a style of its own. So to me it was like, here’s a guy who has got into writing bars through grime music and grime music solely, loves it and understands things properly so I can only support that.

Melbourne is represented in the mixtape with yourself and some long-time collaborators. What is the vibe in Melbourne at the moment when it comes to grime in clubs, gigs and the live arena?

It’s real live at the moment, the best it has been. For a long time it was only our crew putting on events, but now there’s other people doing it, I’m hearing from new promoters or old promoters who wanna get involved, more DJs and definitely more support at the shows. Internationals are always well attended – we had about 30 people at Skepta in 2009, so to compare that to now is nuts!

What is wicked now is that we can put on events with just home grown names at 50/50 and pack the venue still, which a few years ago was never happening. Our Fully Gassed nights even get people coming from interstate, so I think the demand is there in all the major cities right now for proper grime raves with MCs, because I have noticed interstate it seems like the grime events are more pretty much DJs only for the most part.

The next 50/50 show will be held at SaintSide in Melbourne at the end of this month. What can we expect from a gig inside a clothing store?

Its gonna be fucking mental, basically turn the place into a zoo for three hours. It’s a perfect little spot to pack a load of people into and go nuts, and the SaintSide crew are a wicked group of people so its a perfect link up. We got Smutlee, Alaska and Auz One spinning with myself, Diem, Scotty Hinds and Alex Jones on mics. It’ll get nice and rowdy in there, so for anyone in the area on March 31st make sure you head down!

We now have international grime emcees playing more mainstream festivals here in Australia, and also getting more radio airplay on Triple J, FBi and the ilk. How do you think the genre will keep its underground spirit in the face of rising popularity?

Where there is an overground there will always be an underground, so I don’t think there is any worry there. There will always be young hungry MCs coming thru, but it is always difficult when something goes big because inevitably things will get misrepresented, but what can you do. I see it becoming more and more aligned with hip hop, which in many ways it almost has to in order to get a foothold in America, but hopefully it doesn’t lose the rave/radio element that is the most exciting part of it for me.

The grime movement gained a lot of international attention in recent years with co-signs from Kanye as well as Drake saying ‘ting’ with greater frequency. What are your thoughts on this and how its affected the trajectory of the sound across the globe?

It’s been a little amusing at times, I wont lie. Ultimately it can only be good for the artists and the the UK industry which is finally starting to switch up. I’m no Drake fan, but I’d be a dickhead if I had a problem with it as it can only benefit people who deserve to get paid. It’s had a trickle down effect everywhere, and if it means that the genre needs a co-sign from someone like Drake for it get noticed, then so be it.

How do you hope that people will look back on this mixtape in five or 10 years time?

I would hope that its looked back as the landmark release that it is, a snap shot of some of the veterans of the scene along with a load of young guns who I hope will make a big mark on this music here over the next ten years. Auz One did a heavy job with the mix, and I think there is a lot of talent on show throughout.

What do you have in store for Volume 3?

Nothing locked in as of yet, but I am leaning towards making Volume 3 a producer only instrumental release. There are a load of emerging producers along with a couple of older ones, and I think the next few months we’ll see a lot of other people trying their hand, so I think its important to put some focus on the production. To have a good balanced scene you need producers along with the MCs, so I want to provide that outlet on the next one to showcase everyone in one place.

What’s on the cards for Fraksha for the rest of 2017?

I’ve got a totally nothing like grime band project I’m working on – early stages at the moment, but I’m looking forward to getting going on that and dropping some music because it’s a lot of fun. Working on a few things with Juve who, if you don’t know, is an incredible producer from Melbourne that’s definitely on his way up right now. Fortnightly on Thursday nights between 9-10pm, myself and Auz One do the 50/50 Champion Sound show you can listen to on TRNSMT.TV. And I’ve got the 50/50 parties I put on which keep me pretty busy, so taking a break for a couple months but will back with something special later in the year!

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