Melbourne-born rapper Mantra has been dubbed one of the biggest and brightest up-and-coming local hip-hop acts. 'Your favourite rapper's favourite rapper', even. After releasing his debut album Power of The Spoken to acclaim within the Australian rap community, he's now readied his second release, Speaking Volumes, a personal body of work that touches on a multitude of different themes and infuences. After touring with his fellow rap comrades for the Homegrown 2 Tour which hit Adelaide in October, Mantra took time to speak with me about his new album, being a Melbourne lad and the future of Australian hip-hop.
GB: As a Melbourne local, how important was your home city to developing and growing as an artist?
I definitely think living in Melbourne played a big part in my development as an artist. It’s a city full of live music so there are heaps of opportunities for a musician starting out.
GB: Your album draws on many different influences including world music, what were some of the inspirations behind it?
Yeah, I like to incorporate a lot of different sounds from around the world in my music. We used a lot of Eastern samples and sounds on this record, which helped to shape where we took the rest of the album.
GB: How personal are the songs on Speaking Volumes?
This album is probably my most personal work to date. I address a bunch of things that are quite important to me and my songwriting came from a much more honest, personal place this time around.
GB: I've read a few websites and interviews that have given you the nickname 'The Freak', explain the story behind that.
I’m not even sure where that nickname came from. I did a tune with M-Phazes called “Freak Show”, so maybe it started from that. I think it refers to my outlandish nature on the mic, which is good, because in reality I’m very boring.
GB: You've collaborated with a lot of artists including many big name Australian hip-hop artists, what did you learn from working with them?
I think you learn a lot from working with different artists, especially those of a high caliber. Working with people who have different methods, different styles and different ways of doing things is really helpful in your own development as an artist.
GB: How do you feel about the hip-hop scene in Australia? Do you think we're on the right track?
I think its healthier than ever. There are more and more high quality records being produced, radio is getting behind the music, people are coming to the shows and supporting. As long as peeps in the game keep putting out good, honest music, I think we’re in good stead.
GB: Touring and live performance is obviously an important part of the Mantra package, what are some memorable live performances or venues you've played in?
Performing live is probably my favourite part of making music. There have been so many amazing gigs over the years, but some highlights this year were Come Together Festival in Sydney and Sprung Festival in Brisbane. They both featured a completely Australian Hip-Hop bill and had attendances of thousands. I can’t tell you how incredible it felt to be a part of that.
GB: What's next for Mantra? How long until we can expect another album from you?
Not exactly sure. I’m gonna do some more touring over summer then probably get back in the lab early next year. I’ve got a few projects to work on but another solo record is definitely my first priority.
Speaking Volumes by Mantra is available now, it can be purchased on iTunes here: http://itunes.apple.com/au/album/speaking-volumes/id459015864