7 Questions with Hyjak
Back in 2007 I was in Australia for the second time doing the backpacking thing when a friend showed me something that I’d have to say changed my life immediately and drastically. It was an Australian Hip Hop album, and I know I was really late finding out about that but in the US I didn’t know such a thing even existed. Of course I ate it up, I loved anything Australian. I loved the accent, the slang, the comment on Australian society. Things like flow and message weren’t as important as just the fact that it was Australian. And I think most of all I loved it because I understood it in a way that my friends from back home never would, I felt kind of like I was part of a secret club, with a secret language and everything.
Fast forward to 2015 and that club still exists, but I’d like to think I have much higher standards. It’s no longer enough just to be an Australian rapping, let’s make sure we are holding ourselves to the same standards as Hip Hop worldwide.
For what it’s worth that first album was “Drastic Measures” by Hyjak and Torcha and it was a few years old at the time I heard it. I loved it then and I still love it now but it’s safe to say it’s not a masterpiece. It’s no “Illmatic” or “Only built for cuban linx.” I don’t mean any disrespect by all of this, Hyjak was part of a movement that pushed Australian Hip Hop into the limelight and paved the way for the genre to break into popular culture. He was the kid that snuck into the Palladium night club at 15 and won the Sydney MC battle and then went on to be signed to Obese records at the age of 22. I give respect, but I’m still waiting to be impressed. And that’s not bad, I think there’s more to come.
I caught up with Hyjak recently to find out his take on Australian Hip Hop culture then and now.
Bliss n Eso have copped a lot of hate for their recent claim to being Australian Hip Hop pioneers. What is your opinion on that and where do you see yourself as fitting into the history of Hip Hop in Australia?
"We were right on the frontline being signed to Obese when a lot of the groundbreaking albums came out and changed hiphop in our country, so it was a great learning experience being around that momentum and that energy at the time, watching it all unfold and creating an album that was part of that earthquake that shook up the Australian music industry and bringing the genre to the platform that it’s on now.
As far as what Bliss n Eso said I don’t know what was going through their head when they answered that question or which one of them did but from what I heard they were lead into it and took the bait. If they believe they are the lone pioneers they are delusional. Or maybe they were just referring to being pioneers to their particular style of hiphop which makes more sense. I don’t know cause I wasn’t there when they said that.
You’ve outlasted so many of your peers in this music “game.” Why do you think this is? Do you feel that you deserve the recognition that you have and who are some others that you feel missed out and stayed underrated?
"I’ve seen a lot of people come and go because they don’t really have the dedication. They jump in it for a minute then realise that it’s not as easy as they thought to be an overnight success then they go do something else to try and be popular. I’ve never had that option because this is all I’ve known since 10 years old so failure’s not an option. I think you only feel like you haven’t gotten the recognition you deserve when you are measuring your success levels by other people’s standards which I try not to do, because they’re not me and I’m not them. I’m good with the amount of recognition I get because every day it’s getting bigger and these days you can have a cult following and it can spread to a huge amount of heads. If you appreciate them and make a quality product they will support your music through generations. I know I have a solid foundation and loyal fan base going back 15 years and that’s growing every day. Plus, working with MCs from the new generations and updating my formulas that got me stealing new ears from younger listeners as well as the old ones I already had. Anyone that’s missing out and feels underrated needs to work harder instead of complaining about it."
Speaking of Bliss n Eso, one thing that has always stuck out in my mind about you is your performance during ‘Happy In My Hoodie’ on the Flying Colours DVD. Are you embarrassed of that looking back on it and what’s your stance on pre-show drinks currently?
"No I don’t feel embarrassed about that performance or any other that I’ve done cause it’s all part of my journey. I got out there, did my verse for the track, the crowd went off, job done! I think if you’re embarrassed doing something then you’ve got no business doing it in the first place, but you know we’ve all been in embarrassing situations now haven’t we?! But I feel like I know where I belong and don’t, and if I get an opportunity to rock a sold out crowd and capture the ears of someone else’s audience then that’s what I’m gunna do and where I belong. My current stance on pre-show drinks is if I feel like drinking I will, if I don’t I won’t."
What do you think of the current state of Hip Hop in Australia compared to when you were coming up? And do you think it’s easier or harder for an emcee to “make it” these days.
"These days it’s a different world, you’ve got a lot more people without actual skill making a name for themselves and seeming relevant through social media when they should be taking the time to get their rhymes better or whatever it is they do. Then you’ve got really talented people that don’t get noticed because they aren’t promoting themselves in your face every five minutes. You need a healthy balance of both and you can make your career take off without a big record label behind you through your own hardwork and independent grind if you make the right decisions."
What new music have you got coming out? Are there any more Hyjak and Torcha collabs on the horizon?
"I’ve got an album about to be released called ‘Stage Diving With No Crowd’ which is a metaphor for releasing an album and not knowing where it’s going to land once it drops. It’s a boombap album to get the real hiphop heads head nodding again, still with a new school feel. It is completely produced by Realizm from Adelaide who’s been making his own dent in the production game. I’m also working on the D.O.A. mixtape with Lgeez, SQZ, Big Hustle, and producers Realizm and Juvie. Might do some more music with Torch when the time is right, we’ve been talking about it."
What drives you to make music and do you see your music as having a message? How has that message changed from when you first started to now?
"My music is very diverse it has so many hidden messages that you have to listen a few times just to understand them all, my music has a therapeutic theme to it that can bring out different mixed emotions from tackling depression and self doubt to handling anger issues and then starting the party until it’s time to chill and relax. It’s about capturing a moment in time and letting you know how my thoughts were at that time, and then being able to depict the imagery surrounding the scene that it was written and recorded in. And I know people can feel it because they can hear that it’s real and helps them deal with those emotions in their own way. I have someone new tell me how it save their life or got them through a hard time quite often and that’s what it’s really about, that’s when the music is the strongest."
Who are your top 5 Hip Hop artists?