Interview: Drapht returns to hip-hop at its best: “It’s healthier than it’s ever been and I love it.”

A month ago Paul Reid aka Drapht dropped Seven Mirrors. It is his fifth studio album, and his first in five years. Despite his last album, The Life of Riley debuting at no. 1 on the ARIA chart and becoming his most successful to date, something was missing. The love for making music was gone, it had shifted from creative outlet to day job.

“When [music] turned into my livelihood, I unknowingly lost a lot of love for the writing process and I wasn’t seeing the same rewards that I was seeing in the past,” Reid says over the phone.

So, Drapht decided to hang up the mic for sometime and focus his energy into a hospitality venture, opening Solomon’s Café with his sister Alisa.

“I think it’s good for everyone to have a break from something that they really love,” he says. “To be able to pick it apart and understand why they really loved it in the first part. For me, it was more an internal battle of why I was making music in the first place.”

“The first two albums were super enjoyable, the reason purely being because that was my venting process and something that I depended on to get through my day to day, it was something that I could rely on as a creative outlet.”

“It was great to have that break and reestablish why I was doing music, to relight that flame and just enjoy that process again.”

For anyone who has ever worked in hospitality, you know unforgiving it can be. The long, late hours don’t provide much space to produce an album, but in what little spare time Reid had, the bones of an album began to form. “I was still writing, I would never ever stop writing. It was just whether I was going to release it.”

It took eighteen months for Reid to realise he was ready. “I had a bit of a body of work, and I was getting really excited and I wanted people to hear what I was working on. At the same time were the stresses of the business and obviously not being able to go on holiday, let alone tour. All these things started adding up. I did miss touring and playing live, I wanted to get back out there are start doing shows.”

Last month, Drapht dropped Seven Mirrors, going back to the start and working with Dazastah, who produced Pale Rider and Who Am I. “This album is not about searching for accolades or trying to achieve something in regards to an industry standard, its more about getting back out there and reestablishing myself as an artist and releasing music and driving that into people psyche.”

“It’s a very fickle and non forgiving industry and being away for six years is a pretty long time. Not many artists have the opportunity to be able to step away for six years and then come back and be so greeted with open arms and be played on the radio and do a Groovin The Moo run straight off the bat. I really appreciate those opportunities.”

It wasn’t just the fans welcoming Drapht back, Seven Mirrors is packed with big names. Hilltop Hoods, Briggs, Bradley Stone, Katie Noonan, Nat Dunn, Joyride, Brendan Welch, and Dune Rats were more than happy to jump on board a new Drapht record.

“It means a lot to me coming back from that break and then having the support, not only from my fanbase but from my peers within the industry too.”

As for an international tour? “I’d love to. I love playing in Australia, but with this album, I’d love to be able to get over to Europe and do little lap over there and even over to the States. I’d love those opportunities, I’d grab them and run with them if I was presented them, for sure. We do have a few little things we are working on and hopefully we can get over there in the middle of next year and do a couple of shows.

“I think it’s definitely being a lot more widely received. I get messages on Facebook from all over Europe, it’s so nice to have that support from other territories and other parts of the world as well. Where people can barely speak your language and they are affected by the words you say. It’s pretty powerful and that’s universally what music is about. I can’t wait to have the opportunity to go over there and play some shows.”

The closing track on Seven Mirrors, Odds, is accompanied by the skit Midnight At The Hospice featuring hip-hop pioneer Robert Hunter. Hunter was one of Australia’s greatest MCs and one of the first to develop the local scene. The skit is quite confronting as it features actual speech from Hunter in the final months of his life in a hospice.

“I’ve known Hunter since I was 13 years old. It went way back before either of us started rapping. We formed a bit of a bond but it wasn’t until I was 17 or 18 and we had this crew in Perth called Syllabolix. Hunter’s flat was basically the centrepiece of that crew and we would go there and we would drink and write.

“Daz and Hunter at the time were working on Done DL and I remember spitting Hunter my first verse. He was super supportive and a little bit blown away. They asked, ‘Do you want to write for this track on Done DL?’ I hadn’t even released a song at that stage, and he gave me the opportunity to write and release my first piece of music, a song called Adolescence. After we did that song Daz, Layla, and Hunter we did another two for the album.”

“For me he gave me what I have today, he gave me the opportunity. Without Hunter, I don’t know if I’d be doing what I’m doing right now.”

Hunter died of cancer five years ago, the subject of Drapht’s track Odds. In it, he honours his contribution to hip-hop and slams those who treated him as a social media opportunity after his diagnosis.

“It was very sad, Hunter was our best friend and it’s sad what cancer does to people. It’s hard for me to speak about this subject. It’s obviously very touching.”

Done DL came out in 2002, and was our first taste of Drapht’s lyrical ability. Now 2016 we are still hearing his outstanding ability. Over an almost 15 year career Drapht would has witnessed a lot of changed in the hip-hop scene and in the culture.

“I welcome the changes with open arms. I was having this conversation yesterday with someone and they were sort of just bitching about the state of the genre. I feel like this is the healthiest that genre has been since it began. People have this platform to be themselves regardless of what’s trending and what’s a fad and what not. It seems there are so many different little pockets of the genre and people are just being themselves without that fear and judgment. And that’s what music is about, that’s what art’s about, being able to express yourself openly without fearing that someone is going to persecute you.”

Remi is killing it at the moment and he’s just doing his thing, it’s authentic as fuck and I love it. There are lots of young dudes that are coming up, like B-Wise, who’s doing super exciting stuff. Briggs and Trials (A.B. Original) are just kicking in doors, I am so proud of those dudes and so excited to see them release their record and just change the game, not only change the game but change Australia for the better, it’s super exciting.”

“You have pioneers who created this whole fucking movement, The Hilltop Hoods, who went from playing a little 500 cap room back when I was 17, and that was massive for them back then, to now playing 16,000 cap arenas by themselves with no other noticeable support acts. It’s just fucking insane, no one else in Australia is doing that regardless of genre. AC/DC and Tame Impala are the closest things, it’s huge!”

“Even Kerser, I’ve got heaps of love for Kers, because he is literally just gone out there and been himself, he’s been a fucking hood-rat and just released his songs on YouTube, without a radio platform and achieved the things that he wanted to achieve, it’s amazing! You couldn’t do that back ten years ago. It’s healthy, it’s healthier than it’s ever been and I love it.”

The thing is that while the hip-hop culture continues to flourish and grow, many consider “Aussie hip-hop” to be one dimensional, and don’t bother exploring what local artists have to offer.

“I fucking cringe when I hear ‘Aussie hip-hop.’ I hate that terminology, but I love the movement, I love what it creates, I love the self expression side of hip-hop full stop.”

Drapht is heading out on tour next month, including a stop at This That Festival on November 5. “I’m pumped to play at This That,” he says. “I’ve never seen Sampa, I haven’t met her yet either so I am psyched to go see her play. Koi Child, I haven’t seen them play before, so I’m psyched, Hermitude I love to death, those dudes are legends. ScHoolboy Q, haven’t seen him play either. So there are a bunch of acts from a fan standpoint that I actually want to go see.”


Drapht Seven Mirrors Tour Dates:

  • Thursday, 6th October 2016 – Wharf Tav, Mooloolaba
  • Friday, 7th October 2016 – The Triffid, Brisbane
  • Saturday, 8th October 2016 – Metro Theatre, Sydney
  • Sunday, 9th October 2016 – Club 54, Launceston
  • Thursday, 13th October 2016 – Granada Tavern, Hobart
  • Friday, 14th October 2016 – 170 Russell, Melbourne
  • Saturday, 15th October 2016 – The Gov, Adelaide
  • Thursday, 20th October 2016 – Prince Of Wales, Bunbury
  • Friday, 21st October 2016 – Capitol, Perth
  • Friday, 16th December 2016 – Discovery, Darwin
  • Saturday, 17th December 2016 – Gap View Hotel, Alice Springs

Drapht Festival Dates:

  • 5th November 2016 – This That Festival, Newcastle, NSW
  • 12th November 2016 – Park Sounds Festival, Brisbane, QLD
  • 26th November 2016 – VanFest, Forbes, NSW
  • 18th December 2016 – Live At The Orchard, Perth, WA
  • 6 January 2017 – Summernats, Canberra, ACT