Ziggy offers powerful insights on music and social change ahead of SOTA
Perth-based hip hop artist Ziggy very rapidly went from ’emerging’ to ‘established’ over the course of 2016, with his insightful, emotional and arresting debut EP Black Thoughts including telling single, Black Face , and its equally stirring video clip. With a style that owes itself more to the Golden Era of hip hop than the glossy, over-produced, auto-tuned ‘rap gods’ of today, Ziggy’s scything flow, effortlessly combined with a politically-charged focus, puts him in a league of his own. Growing up in remote Arnhem Land, regional NSW, Sydney and Perth and with family connections in Far North Queensland, his music speaks to the silenced injustices of Aboriginal Australia as well as making powerful statements other social issues. Ziggy finds passion in giving voice to issues affecting those not heard.
Ahead of playing the FREE SOTA Festival this coming Monday 5 June – WA’s biggest celebration of WA music held at Elizabeth Quay as part of the WA Day Festival long weekend (times below) – WAM interviewed Ziggy on National Reconciliation Week about music as a catalyst for social change and being your authentic, creative self.
Your politically charged songs have been getting people talking – and thinking! How important is creating change as a goal for your music compared to catchy songwriting in general, and – now that you’ve been acclaimed as an important voice – do you feel any sense of responsibility or pressure in creating change?
It’s still very surreal to me to be considered as an ‘important voice’. That being said it’s something I have always wanted, as I feel that I have been given the capacity and understanding to bring a unique perspective and voice to the conservation. In terms of trading message for catchy lyrics and vice versa, I am a strong believer that they can be one in the same. If you take song writers such as Bob Marley, Stevie Wonder, John Lennon, Michael Jackson etc. They all write with an amazing pop sensibility but their music has undeniably had a significant social impact. Of course I feel a sense of responsibility in that sense that it’s a corner stone of my culture to strive to leave what you have been given in a better state and my desire for success in the music industry is all driven by serving my people. For me the desire to create change isn’t specifically an Indigenous issue, it’s a human rights issue, as one threat to human rights is an attack on all rights everywhere, to paraphrase the great Martin Luther. It’s all encompassing, I want to be a catalyst for change in all regards.
It’s National Reconciliation Week – how do you rate WA re: racism, and what have you to say to those still thinking ‘black face’ is acceptable?
I have come to a place in my life were I am very comfortable with the person I am and I have an understanding of what I bring to the table. I think it’s extremely important to be authentic, transparent and real. That being said WA is not alone in having a long way to go. It is not just the state we live in that has an unacceptable amount of racism in it, anywhere in this country that fosters the belief that you can dehumanize someone in any regards, whether that be sexuality, gender or race is disgusting breach of human rights and something I refuse to stand for. I think the most important thing is to take onus, educate yourself on your privilege and become aware of how you can be part of the solution, although we all go through different experiences at the end of the day we all live the fundamental core feelings, prejudice isn’t inherent, its learnt and in 2017 its time to start unlearning it.
You’ve said your more interested in the “Golden Era of hip hop than the glossy, over-produced, auto-tuned ‘rap gods’ of today” – please tell us more, including your influences.
For me it was the perfect soundscape for the specific stories I wanted to tell. Boom-bap is birthed out of storytelling as it places and emphasis on the MC and the words are given a platform to shine. The way I see music, is the same way I see food. I want to take care of my health and will nourish my body with nutrient dense food the majority of the time, but sometimes I want to enjoy myself and believe me I will. This is the same with music and hip hop, sometimes I want to not have to think too hard, I just want the music to make me feel, so don’t mistake me when I say I think there is a place for all art and expression. Just for me, sonically I wanted to start at my core and I grew up listening to classic hip hop. Nas, Jay, Mos Def, Adre 3000, Common, Talib, Lauryn Hill all these artists have been my rap education and to start where I did was to acknowledge that. For me music is art and I will never be stagnant, as an artist I will always evolve but I think it’s so important to have a strong foundation to your roots and I will always understand what has gone before me.
Your must see act for SOTA this year?
POW! Negro. That’s the family, love those boys and they are crazy talented. Do yourself a favour and love them before everyone else does! I’m calling in now, they are the Tame of hip-hop.
How do you think living in WA has affected your music?
WA has such a strong scene. Because we are stuck out west we have a lot of time to play music! For me it’s everything as I have been able to bring together an amazing bunch of musicians to help realize my vision. My band I play with ‘The Love’ and my producer/drummer JCAL are WA natives and they are a core part of what I do, they breathe life into my songs, they are my brothers.
Do you know WAM has a time machine? What advice would you give to your younger self as you were starting out in music?
Enjoy the ride, it goes way too fast.
In WA, your fave…
WA acts that have influenced you?
Not to bash you over the head with it, but the POW! Boys. Being around a bunch of guys who are awesome and authentic and also coming up with you its really inspiring to win together. For me, its super dope we are getting to play festivals like GTM and SOTA together because it feels like family, we win together!
Jack Rabbit Slims. Mitch does such a great job there and we go pretty far back. He has always supported what I do, he even produced a song for me which is hidden deep in vault!
‘The Love’s’ crates. A few of the boys collect records and I love sifting through them for myself. GD (our guitarist) just picked up this Solomon Island record which is so DOPE!
Gig you ever attended in WA:
Kanye. I grew up listening to him, I credit college dropout for really sparking my interest in hip hop so to see ‘All Falls Down’ live was something I will always cherish. I was also there with my best mate (who I reference in Black Face, he is the father to the most beautiful daughter in the world) and we probably didn’t look at Kanye once, we locked eyes and rapped at each other the whole time haha.
Best spot for a quiet beverage:
Either Mechanics or Dominion League. My sister’s boyfriend’s cousin has had a hand in pulling those spots together and he is the best in the game.
Something you get homesick for when on tour:
My kitchen. I love to cook so when I am way (which I currently am) I miss being able to cook.
Something that’s closed or gone that you miss:
Blockbuster/video ezy. Don’t get me wrong I love being able to stream, but when I was younger I remember getting so excited to go to the video store with dad and look at the new releases. We would get chips and everything and watch movies whenever mum would be busy because she 1) would never let us eat junk food like that haha and 2) always fell asleep in movies, so I just wish I could have that with my future kids.
What’s that mysterious flying object? Aliens have come to visit… What is the first thing you take them to in Perth? (and why)
Flora and Fauna. Simple they do the best food and everyone needs to eat after a long flight.
What’s happening for you in the near future?
We will be super busy on all fronts which is exciting. Just got added to Big Sound so everything is moving!
SOTA Festival is proudly presented as part of the 2017 WA Day Festival, and co-presented by WAM. The sixth annual SOTA showcase will be held at Elizabeth Quay Monday 5 June, as part of the WA Day long weekend festivities with both under 18 and licensed areas. Best of all, it’s free!