Train of Thought, the new album from NT-raised hip-hop artist, Birdz has been highly anticipated since the release of his first EP back in 2013. The debut album has been steadily gaining fans and attention for his honest delivery and banging beats in the single releases leading up to the record.
Birdz connected with a talented family member, Fred Leone, who was already well-established in the music scene, to learn what it takes to 'make it' in the industry.
"In 2013, I was in Brissy reconnecting with a lot of family ... while at a friends house recording I met Fred Leone, who went on to start Impossible Odds Records - one of the first Aboriginal-owned and run record labels in QLD, and we found out we were cousins. He told me he was putting a record label together and we started making music. He gave me my first opportunity to put out an EP and showed me what it takes to get something out as a professional release." Birdz tells NITV.
In his music, Birdz touches on family and personal struggles and the wider issues that affect black communities. He says that the strength of his own father has been a huge influence on the way that he approaches his music and the intention behind it.
"I’d have to say my father, first and foremost, being a strong black man has always been, and still is, my hero. A lot of his story is infused in and influences my music and my story. I try and put a lot of my family story in my music and make it as real to me and my family as possible."
"I’d have to say my father, first and foremost, being a strong black man has always been, and still is, my hero. A lot of his story is infused in and influences my music and my story."
Growing up in the town of Katherine, Birdz was exposed to a number successful local bands but also became influenced by hip-hop music coming out of the USA. It was somewhat of a revelation for young Birdz, which made him feel connected to a wider narrative and experience the power of music. He remembers clearly the impact of one artist in particular, who inspired his decision to become an artist.
"I remember seeing people like Yothu Yindi using music to create awareness in a real uncensored way, being straight up and proud - repping where you are from while identifying issues but still having a positive message in their music as well, had a big impact.
"The first time I heard Ice Cube growing up. In Katherine, Northern Territory, there wasn’t much exposure [to that kind of music]. I was always a huge Michael Jackson fan as a kid and then hearing hip-hop - that was really a window to the outside world for me ... seeing people who resembled me in a way ... black or brown people on TV saying how it is and informing people about what is happening in their communities. I think with Ice Cube and NWA, Tupac, people like that ... even though they are American, they were speaking on police brutality, harassment and similar issues I was experiencing as a youth with authority, and so that was a big influence on me. Hip Hop has always been a real driving force it’s taught me to be fearless in a way."
I think with Ice Cube and NWA, Tupac, people like that ... even though they are American, they were speaking on police brutality, harassment and similar issues I was experiencing as a youth with authority, and so that was a big influence on me.
Being a powerful voice who explores issues around identity, race, racism through music, Birdz says that having a strong support system within the industry helps him to amplify the message. He recognises the support and brotherhood within the Bad Apples Music label, founded by fellow artist Briggs.
"I met Briggs around the time leading up to his album ShepLife through mutual friends, and we built a bond and friendship naturally as brothers over the first couple of years.
"After the release and success of ShepLife, Briggs wanted to share that platform with his brothers, we are all a close knit family we have all kind of had friendships together before Bad Apples music, so it was just a natural progression coming together and for Briggs to invite everyone on to his label."
"It’s very much like a family thing. There's so much support and understanding, its not your average label situation. Briggs has been through it all and we have had similar experiences and it’s a blessing to be able to work with people who have that understanding of you. To know where you are coming from as a young Aboriginal man is really important to me and I think to everyone on the label. There’s no road blocks or barriers when it comes to content I think because there is just that understanding … Briggs gets the vision, Bad Apples gets the vision and it’s a beautiful thing."
To know where you are coming from as a young Aboriginal man is really important to me and I think to everyone on the label.
One of the more powerful tracks on the album features Fred Leone and described as a slow burn, but one that Birdz says is the masterpiece.
"Testify took the same time over the process of the whole album to create, and just chipping away at it that was kind of our little masterpiece in the sense that we didn’t rush anything as we knew it was kind of special from the get go. We took our time and nurtured it because it was such a sensitive topic and a very vulnerable song for me to write and very important. Having Fred sing on that ... I can’t imagine anyone else singing it cause he's family and he understands and he knows the story so that was really important to me."
Birdz says tonight album launch in Sydney is going to be a celebration.
"Expect a lot of energy! I’m really excited to be sharing the moment also with my brothers Nooky and Tasman Keith [who are the support acts] I think it’s going to be a really strong moment for me and everybody else in the room, representing black excellence and sharing our stories and having a lot of fun, a lot of energy, banging beats. It’s gonna be dope."
For more info on Birdz's official album launch 'Train of Thought' at the Rolling Stone Live Lodge in Sydney, head here.