7 Questions with The Tongue

Photo by Michelle Grace Hunder

Photo by Michelle Grace Hunder

Never scared to speak his mind, The Tongue has been more than just an emcee but a guiding force in the Australian Hip Hop community for many years.  He has used his mastery of the English language to articulate the importance of avoiding complacency on violence against women in an Open Letter to Eso, his view on how Hip Hop is considered his religion when fighting his fine for failing to vote in a local council election, as well as penning four full length albums covering a wide variety of topics. Though he may not always be listed among the top Australian emcees, his passion and the honesty in his message always shines through and his ability to freestyle on any given topic gives him an edge. 

I sat down with The Tongue ahead of his single launch this weekend to discuss his double life as a teacher, the impact of Eso's 'joke' photo with Rihanna and his response, plus the style of his new album, Hard Feelings, which will be released via Elefant Traks in November 2015. 


If you had to describe your life in 3 songs which ones would they be?

1. Public Enemy - Fight The Power
2. Ice Cube - Today Was A Good Day
3. Danny Brown - I Will

Tell us a bit about your career outside of music, in teaching. Is it usually helpful or hurtful when your students find out about your “double life” as an emcee?

"It's overwhelmingly positive. As an English teacher I'm trying to show the students the importance and power of expressing yourself. If you can master English the rest of your life will be a lot easier. As a professional rapper I am a walking, talking example of where strong English skills can take you. I have no musical training of any kind, I've been able to make four album because I know how to write. Money in my pocket, trips around Australia and overseas, fans and friends and girls, good times, a legacy to be proud of...it all came from writing lyrics.  I was taught how to write and be creative and entertain and I applied those things to hip hop. I had great teachers who gave me a lot of skills so I guess I'm enjoying the process of passing on this knowledge to the youth."

Have you considered any further study, maybe adding a Dr. to your title?

"I've considered it, but I feel that I need to master the art of teaching before I move onto the next challenge. Dr Tongue does have a nice ring to it though."

You were one of the most outspoken members of the community in reaction to Eso’s Rihanna photo from last year.  Do you think the incident and subsequent community reaction made an impact on complacency towards misogynistic attitudes in Hip Hop in this country or do you think we’ve gone “back to business as usual” as it has slowly been forgotten?

"Yep, I think the tide has turned. Domestic violence is a mainstream issue now. The Prime Minister being on TV saying that ending this violence is a top national priority is an important step, it makes fixing this issue everyone's business. Turnbull need to back that up with serious action now, $100 million isn't much to spend on the problem when you consider Australia spends billions on submarines every few years. I believe the public will hold the new PM accountable if domestic violence rates don't fall during his term.
In regards to my letter; I don't think Eso realised that his 'joke' was touching on such a traumatic issue for so many people (including, we can assume, much of his fanbase who are young and female). To his credit Eso has since gotten behind several big projects that are anti-domestic violence, including White Ribbon Day, so thats a start. 
I still feel that my letter was needed because to see another adult joking about domestic violence while so many Australian women are dying from it, was really gross.  The fact that he was representing Australian hip hop made it worse, because I didn't want all the progressive people in the scene to be tarred with the same brush, like we all think that shit is funny. The public's passionate response to what he said/did set a precedent for all others musicians regarding this issue.  I have no regrets about calling bullshit on what was, at the time, a very unimpressive attitude. With that said, I think Eso has done all in his power to turn it around and I'm sure he's learnt some unforgettable lessons from that experience."

You say that Hip Hop is your religion but what if for a moment we envision it as a political party (one that isn’t corrupt). Forgive me for recycling a question that Cormega refused to answer recently but I’d genuinely like to know, if Hip Hop was a political party what do you think the slogan might be and do you think you would make a good party candidate?

"Well with Kanye running for President it may not be too far off! I think if you break down the lyrical content of most of the world's biggest rappers you will see they are largely progressive. Meaning: they would be like The Greens party, but more staunch and more stylish. Any smart person can see renewable energy is better than fossil fuels, that peace is better than war, that the war on drugs has failed and needs to be reformed, that refugees need to be cared for, not caged like animals. Listen to Nas, "If I Ruled The World", these artists have already outlined their political ideas. I'd say the motto of the hip hop party should be: "Show and prove".....show the voter you have great ideas and prove that you can make them happen."

Would you say your upcoming album “Hard Feelings” is more personal and introspective, based around your own interpretation of feelings or more of a storytelling album?

"I wouldn't say it's a story-telling album, but it's certainly more personal. At the same time, half the songs on their are designed for the dance floor/club.....so it's just as much about the beats as anything else."

Who are your top 5 Hip Hop artists? 

"My 5 most played the moment would be... 
1. Kendrick Lamar
2. De La Soul
3. Action Bronson
4. Freddie Gibbs
5. Drake"

This week Tonguey (as he's affectionately called) will introduce his hometown of Sydney to his latest musical offering Hard Feelings, which was entirely produced by Papertoy, through the launch of the single "You Got Me" at Gingers, Darlinghurst on Saturday October 17th alongside Blue Mountains Hip Hop veteran Joe New and DJ Morgs (Thundamentals/Jones Jnr).  Although he's experimenting with a new sound here, let's hope that his lyrics remain topical and he comes through with the message that Australia needs right now.  In a world gone mad we need a lyrical leader to guide the way with some conscious rap. 

Buy tickets to the show at Gingers
The Tongue soundcloud (Listen to the new track here)
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