Sukhdeep Singh, best known by his stage name, L-FRESH The LION is an Australian hip hop artist who makes speaking up for inequality cool. He walks the walk and raps the talk; calling on his community work and Sikh faith for lyrical inspiration and to centre his purpose in bringing people together: no matter what colour, faith or how hairy your face might be.
L-FRESH edged onto the Aussie music scene with his debut album and title track ‘One’ and his latest release, ‘1 in 100,000’; a track about finding strength through adversity is rotating high on Triple J right now.
“I like to think of it as movement music, music that’s going to get you moving in more ways than one,” L-FRESH tells SBS. “Going to get you to get up and move physically, hopefully, and also get you to think about things differently, or move you emotionally as well.”
As a lawyer by trade, issues of social justice, human rights, and youth empowerment have always been at the core of everything L-FRESH does. He worked at the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre in Melbourne for a year, where he helped establish their youth program for young asylum seekers.
“I think it [human rights and social justice] comes across in my music inevitably because it’s so much a part of who I am,” he says.
"I like to think of it as movement music, music that’s going to get you moving in more ways than one." - L-FRESH The LION.
The rapper’s Sikh background also lends a hand in shaping his outlook on social justice. A big part of the Sikh culture is charity and service to others less fortunate. Sikhism also finds its roots in political upheaval during a religious revolution in Ancient India. So, as a practising Sikh, raised by immigrant Punjabi parents, L-FRESH finds this informs his music heavily.
“It plays a huge part of my life. It’s a mix of something that’s spiritual, religious, cultural, a form of discipline and a way of thinking,” he says. “It’s also political in many respects as well.”
L-FRESH, says, he chooses to don the full beard and turban, iconic to Sikh men, to show his solidarity to those ideals of charity and service.
“It’s a uniform. Back in the day, it was an identifier for people to call upon us because they’d know what we stand for, and how we are bound by those commitments,” he says. “It’s something a lot of people don’t know about.”
Of course, how L-FRESH sees himself goes far beyond being Sikh.
“My story is like any other people’s story,” he says. “Within me are all these different cultures – Western culture and certain values and behaviours that come with it. Then there’s Sikh culture. Then distinct from Sikh culture is Punjabi culture, and distinct from that is Indian culture. Then there’s the Hip Hop culture, which is unique in itself.”
In fact, there are elements of his Indian heritage that many of his followers would be surprised don’t influence his music, like Punjabi Bhangra music – a very popular form of dance music originating from India.
“My story is like any other people’s story.” - L-FRESH The LION
Bhangra is generally looked at as the Indian version of Hip Hop, and although famous Indian hip hop-Bhangra fusion artists have made names for themselves internationally (Panjabi MC, Yo Yo Honey Singh, and Jay Sean to name a few), L-FRESH says he was “never really drawn to it”.
“Bhangra and Punjabi music is very different to Sikh music, which is more devotional,” he says. “But from a rhythmic standpoint, I am conscious of its influence.”
Growing up, L-FRESH studied the 'tabla' drums, an Indian Classical percussion instrument he says “was the foundation to understanding rhythm and how rhythm worked”.
L-FRESH The LION makes up one of ten 'social influencers' set to go-live on SBS 2 Facebook this month as part of SBS Uncensored; a project where young Australians can talk openly about what issues matter to them.
L-FRESH was live @ 6pm on Thursday, July 28 on SBS 2. Catch up below and like the page for more live videos to come!
Don't miss L-Fresh on tour >>>