This week’s Wednesday Word is dedicated to Melbourne’s very own Producer, Rapper and all around mastermind of the Rugged and Raw, Sinks. I first caught an earful of Sinks back in 2017 after his success in winning the Hilltop Hoods/APRA-AMCOS initiative grant. As a courtesy from the Hip Hop Gods the platform placed his music on a wider scale and as a result fell into my lap (or more accurately/shamefully my Facebook feed) one afternoon. The events that followed I recall very vividly.
At first glance over the LP’s track list I locked onto the song ‘Eyes Wide’ which featured Sydney’s very own turntablist, elder statesman and Hip Hop connoisseur, 2buck. This collab immediately gave the project one tick in my evaluation before I’d spun it up. After pressing play I was struck with a grainy low fidelity texture of chords and I instantly, without hesitation, turned the system up. Following the keys, just seconds later, was the nostalgic sound of rising sleigh bells and I immediately continued to turn the system beyond red and assign my second tick. At this point I felt like I was back in a “Diggin’ in the Crates” studio circa 1992 as the slamming breakbeat rattled in perfect harmony with the vintage sound of stammered horns. Then the verse hit, and by this stage I had left my seat and was well and truly head nodding like the drop of ‘Simon Says’ by Pharoahe.
The sound was the most pure and untainted Hip Hop package I had stumbled across in years. It made me incredibly excited to think that this subculture and movement was still alive somewhere in our country. The entire project included textured crackling breaks, which were crushed carefully down by the glorious insides of what sounded like the classic MPC 2000. I could almost feel the bumps and imperfections in the dusty vinyl samples that were probably scooped from a dollar bin somewhere in Prahran. The beats and production on the vocals were rugged, raw and gritty which were distinctly reminiscent of New York Hip Hop in those golden years from 1990-1995.
I sat and listened in awe. Not only was the soundtrack brilliant, but the lyricism was poignant, topical and fluent. Sinks delivered his bars aggressively but was precisely calculated with his flow and message. His lexicon was deep, and he spoke on issues which tempted the listener to rewind and skip back in order to fully digested the higher level concepts. Discussions on the plight of mankind, politics and the state of the human race featured heavily on each record. The album had connected and well and truly reignited something inside of me, and since then he hasn’t let me down.
Following ‘Cold Fury’ came 2 new self produced Albums (Buy Partisan 2017 & Common Ruin 2019) which have all followed directly in the same lane but have somehow reached higher levels of quality. Sinks reputation has undoubtedly grown since his debut which is evident in the All-Star feature cast on his 2 latest records. Rostered up on the tracks are some of Australia’s Lyrical and Production heavy hitters including names such as Flu, Dialect and Must Volkoff just to name a few. In recent times, Sinks has delved deeper into the collaboration phase of his career starting a new venture with producer RaptorHandz (A.K.A Able8) and UK spitter Joe Snow (Defenders Of Style). The trio, also known as ‘Hi Trax’, have just recently signed to Sydney label Scratches Records and have been carving a lane in a more Electronically bass driven sound. In August they dropped their first EP ‘Megalodon Music’ which has been making waves all throughout the scene.
Artists that are highly versatile and multi-skilled in different disciplines is something that we truly admire here at illeqwip. We were blessed enough to sit down with Sinks and pick his brain about his process and journey into Hip Hop Culture.
How long have you been working at your craft?
I was messing around with writing in early High School but I really only started taking it more seriously after that in about 2009/2010.
You’re accomplished in both skill sets. What came first Beats or Rhymes?
Rhymes were my first and will always be the more capable skill set!
What's your one defining characteristic that makes your music different?
I’d probably say my lyrical content. There’s not many local MCs with political content. However, maybe that’s because nobody wants to hear it and I’m shooting myself in the foot! Beyond that potentially my ear for production, I’m a bit more specific than your average local MC.
Making beats/producing and then extrapolating 16’s in quick succession is tough and very misunderstood by Hip Hop consumers. I personally admire artists, such as Oddisee, who are multi-skilled in both disciplines, which artists do you look up to in that field?
MF Doom, RZA, Jehst, Q-Tip – all of them are equally as good at both MC’ing and Production in my opinion.
Weapon of choice in the studio?
I’m shamefully modern in the studio. I really just use a computer with a bunch of usb triggers. So I’d have to say my Mac.
Producers are inherently particular about the ways and techniques they work with. What is your personal process in the lab?
I’m usually heavily inspired by something I’ve heard when I hit the lab. So I’ll go in with a sound in mind and a tempo. I tend to lace the drums first then I build the sample around that. Then I go back and reprogram the drums so It makes more sense with the sample. After that I add extra sounds, percussion, melodies, pads etc. to fill it out
In 2017 you won the Hilltop Hoods/APRA-AMCOS initiative and grant. The money is undoubtedly an enormous help, but what else did you get from that reward
It also came with some credit for merchandise and some legal advice. Though I never followed up on the legal advice.
After living in the UK for the last 5 years I can certainly here this new HiTrax project is a different angle for you personally, tell us a little about the project and working with Able8 and Joe Snow? Have you always dabbled in this lane or has it been a progression?
I’d known Able8 for years and had actually always had the idea to start a more Electronic/Bass heavy project because for a while I was often going to a lot of drum and bass events and had always had an interest in a lot of the underground UK electronic genres. I had floated the idea to Able8 about doing something together and he was receptive. Around that time he’d done something sonically similar with Joe Snow and it made sense for it all to be fused into one thing. Thus Hi Trax was born! And more recently its been given a home at Scratches Records – Shout outs to Sydney’s P.Smurf.
Your production and sound is reminiscent of a beautiful period in Hip Hop. Let’s go back and sit between 1988 and 1998. What records and artists you spinning?
Illmatic (Nas), 36 Chambers (Wu Tang), Only Built 4 Cuban Linx (Ghostface & Raekwon), Muddy Waters (Redman), Stress: the Extinction Agenda (Organized Konfusion), Goodfellas (Showbiz & AG), The Coming (Busta Rhymes), Stakes Is High (De La Soul). Could be here all day!
What Australian artist impacted you the most as a young buck?
If I had to pick one album that really made me want to do it it was Axis by Pegz. I was of course listening to HTH, Muph & Plutonic and LC, which I think I probably appreciate more today. But Axis was the first time I heard a local record and wanted to make music.
Being conscious of the world around you is evident in your last album, lifestyle and plant based pathway you follow. As a fellow herbivore I’m interested in how that personally intertwines with Hip Hop culture and the music you make?
The Hip-Hop that I’ve always liked was counter culture and took shots at the governments, corporations and the media. In terms of being plant based, that in particular is nothing new to hip hop. The most obvious example that comes to mind is KRS Ones ‘Beef’, but also ‘Be Healthy’ by Dead Prez. And there’s plenty more that advocate for it; RZA, Andre 3000, Common... Even Jay-Z more recently.
Alchemist, Madlib, Daringer, Flu, Dr. Zygote, Must, Erick Sermon
On your 2016 ‘Cold Fury’ album you teamed up with 2Buck on two tracks and in the years following a host of dope Melbourne spitters from the Pang camp. Who else in the Australian scene have you been working with?
Aetcix, Theodore Moonwater, Thando, Illformat.
What's in the tape deck of late?
Mach-Hommy, Dark Lo, Westside Gunn, Conway the Machine, Benny the Butcher, Pharoahe Monch, Black Thought
Who should we be watching or coming up in Melbourne?
9to5 crew & Ill Format
Shoe/sneaker of choice?
I’m pretty plain, I don’t get much into the sneaker game , but I always have a pair of Reebok Classics
What’s your 1.Love and 2.Hate about where the Hip Hop landscape is taking us currently?
I love seeing younger artists coming up who are still interested in finding their own sound and creating their own unique art without regurgitating what ever is making money. I hate how people think that views and numbers equates to quality or merit.
What's your poison come the weekend?
Coffee ha! I barely drink these days, but when I do it’s white rum. My mental health is hanging on by a thread at the best of times and I learned the hard way that substance abuse makes everything worse. Stay in school kids.
Top 3 Rappers (personal choice)
Doom, Black Thought, Pharoahe Monch
What’s next for you?
I’m working on an album with Ramzee. Going to get a gang of my favourite local MCs on there. It’s also going be a different format; Lots of short tracks. No hooks. Just bars. Fuck structure, that’s some industry made up nonsense. I ain’t trying to crack the charts I’m trying to crack heads.
It’s no doubt that Sinks is one to watch in the coming years as the face of Hip Hop continues to change and adapt in Australia. His passion for breathing life into Hip Hop Culture and its authenticity is vital cog in the ever expansive machine that we call Rap Music .
Below you can check out Sink’s back catalogue and video content, be sure to drop the man a follow.
Written and Curated by Ryan Bennett