Dylan Joel is a rap artist who does not adhere to the archetype in any way. About to release his first album and step-out on an Australia tour, we spoke to him about his influences and passions.
I started learning drums at 12. My parents told me I couldn’t do drums until I got to high school. I took drum lessons for two or three years. At that time, I was still just transitioning out of listening to whatever my parents were listening to, so my influences then were Bob Dylan and Fleetwood Mac. In fact, my father is such a big Dylan fan that I suspect that’s who I was named after!
In 2007, Joel, already driven by a strong, social conscious, was MC for a Make Poverty History event where one of the artists was Bliss n Eso.
That was honestly the first time I had seen live hip-hop: that night. And I remember just watching them get a crowd of 1500 people scream “peace, love and unity”. That image is so strong in my mind. And I walked away thinking that there is so much more to this hip-hop than just rapping, and I want to be a part of it. So I woke up the next day and wrote my first song.
Much of Joel’s strong social justice ethic comes from his background of growing up in a church community, yet the label “Christian musician” doesn’t sit comfortably with him.
It’s definitely a journey for me to figure out where that line is. But I’ve never thought of music as a way for me to push my religion or beliefs. I started in music because I wanted to give back to people, connect to people and create community. But i do think my church upbringing plays a huge role in what I chose to write about.
Joel certainly walks the walk: he is currently involved in a group providing mental health support to young people, runs workshops for the YMCA and also has his “baby”: a workshop for high school boys, where they can talk about things that boys don’t usually talk about. Joel says his favourite topic is “Bitches and Women”, where he gets the boys to unpack the words they use to describe girls. And while he is doing all that, he is also busy making great music. Joel’s hip-hop is not the standard doof-doof: his rap is layered over blues, swing and anything else in between.
I think people in Australia have this idea that hip-hop has to sound a certain way. But when you go back to the beginnings, hip-hop started with sampling other genres: it wasn’t a genre to begin with. They would sample jazz and blues and all sorts. So I really like working with all those genres. I think my album will be new waters for some people, because they’ve never heard anything like that: and that’s kinda cool!
We think Dylan Joel is kinda cool!
Interviewed by Tracey Korsten
Joel’s album “Authentic Lemonade” is available now. Tour started October 2nd in Melbourne. Dylan Joel plays The Rocket Bar in Adelaide on November 7th, and the Gorgeous Festival in McLaren Vale on November 28th.