This week I chat to Melbourne rapper and hip-hop producer Fresh Violet! We discuss the history of hip-hop culture, the importance of role-models, different production processes, overcoming mental obstacles and Violet’s ‘thinky’ brain! Violet’s energy is contagious, but most of all, her skill as a musician and her knowledge and respect of hip-hop music is what makes her such a compelling artist.
Did you have any female rappers that inspired you to begin with?
Part of what inspired me was actually the lack. I remember I was studying classical music, and that was like [being in] a bubble, because you had to work so hard! I was working part time as well so I didn’t have a lot of free time to listen to the radio. I always loved pop and rock when I was in high school, but I just had to focus on classical music for that time. But I remember getting toward the end of that degree, and re-kindling my love for that kind of music, and Katey Perry was actually one of the main ones, like I heard Teenage Dream and I was like, “Oh my god! Pop music is so great!” [laughs]. So Katie Perry is sort of a role model. That sort of opened the door for more pop music, and I started listening to Kanye and Jay Z and Nicki Minaj and got into the pop hip-hop. I know so many hip-hop heads will be cringing knowing thats how I got into it! But that’s the honest truth of it. I wish I grew up with my parents playing Biggie Smalls and Big L and stuff like that, but we just didn’t have that in our household.
Something that lodged in my brain about Eminem, is that he is universally recognised in the industry, and they talk about it in that really cool documentary “The Art of Rap” by Ice T. They say that Eminem is one of the best. Crazy that he’s white. [laughs]. And the reason he is so good is that he would listen to everyone. He would take the best of every different artist. And I had that thought lodged in my brain early on, so that’s what I really tried to do. You know, I worked backwards, I went back to Cool G rap, and Jurassic 5, and tried to get a thorough history of hip-hop and really understand where it came from. As much as I have a classical and pop background, I was sort of down the other end of the pool and I tried to swim over to the other end, and then come at it from that direction as well.
On hip-hop music…
Sometimes your classical knowledge will get in the way, because the approach for writing classical music is so different to how you make hip-hop. Classical music you are assessing your chord progressions, you’re harmonising your counterpoint, you are thinking about really technical stuff a lot of the time. Hip-hop was born from people in the Bronx who didn’t have much education, and their music programs had been taken away at schools and their wasn’t funding, things like that, so they didn’t have that knowledge, they didn’t have access to that. They created music out of what they had, which was their parents turntables, and their 60’s records. I think they attribute it to Grand Wizard Theodore who started scratching. It was something that was essentially born out of nothing. So i think that is a really important thing to know. I think it is important to pay your dues and know where it all came from. Especially when you are white, because you are essentially a guest in the house.
I think hip-hop is a really embracing, accepting culture, and when hip hop is working right, when we have a healthy hip-hop community, everyone is involved, everyone is welcome. It is more than a genre of music, it is a culture.
How do you start off creating your tracks?
When I write a song, usually I start with a concept. Like I’ll say, “ok this is going to be a song about aliens.” Then I’ll probably have a few phrases, like I really love word-play so if I can just free-style some ideas about aliens, or whatever the concept is, and that will give me an idea for the bpm. Then I’ll try to create a style for the beat that’s gonna communicate aliens, or space, or things like that. I don’t use a lot of samples, but I might look for a sample or a synthesiser that has like a spacious feeling to it, or pick some boom-bap, you know spacey kind of drums, and some different electronic noises, so that the beat is really part of the storytelling and the concept, and then I will probably write over that.
The sound effects used in this episode were downloaded from soundable.com