LUKE: I’d watched Rock The Bells and heard the stories – still, I thought it was silly how hard it was to get all the Wu-Tang Clan together in one place. But now that it’s seven years since the Northside Swag Unit has been a thing, and at least three years since we started pulling the EP together, I feel a small amount of their pain.
But here it is – four emcees, two producers, six tracks and two interludes! It sounds amazing to me. Each track has a theme (the Heist one, the Revenge one, the Diss track, etc.) and hearing each of the other guys take the concept and go off is a pleasure. Coolio Desgracias and Housemouse have long been one of my favourite groups so to share an EP with them is pure butter.
Production wise, the beats I contributed come from my earliest attempts at sampling, before I knew all the do’s and don’ts. I love that phase of learning an instrument – you come up with stuff you will never do once you are more polished! The samples I used are from all over the shop – a scratched up Toots record I’ve had for years, an early 70s soul song I jacked from Youtube, and a snatch off Female Prisoner 701: Scorpion that caught my ear while watching the movie (I grabbed it, with foley sound still intact, straight from the blu-ray). The Female Prisoner 701 series also formed the lyrical basis for that particular track – Grudge Match – hence my shout-out to screen goddess Meiko Kaji!
And like all songwriting, but especially sampling, I was helped by a good splash of serendipity. I had just watched a video of Marley Marl explaining how he layered two breakbeats on top of each other for LL Cool J’s Mama Said Knock You Out and tried it for the song that became Goin’ Through My Mind. It worked perfectly – so good in fact, I’ve never been able to replicate it for any other song!
Lyrically it ended up being a combination of writing in the room and woodshedding at home – I’m pretty happy with just about holding my own among such esteemed company. When it came to Zonin‘, I had already written a couple of verses on the topic for an impulsive early remix – so what to do for the real thing? I ended up using the second verse of my original track but in trying to fit it in, I rapped most of it in double-time.
Coolio and I mixed and mastered the tracks, adding a few flourishes as we went along. He had the brilliant idea to add some audio of our favourite Youtube drum sensei Stephen Taylor talking about zoning to Zonin‘, and I went widescreen with sound effects on Crackerjack.
I asked Gustavo to do the cover again – it was Coolio’s idea to model it on The Doors’ Strange Days, but with the Mandalay Van in the background.
I wasn’t sure what the Brazil-based Gustavo might make of the iconic Canberra eating spot, but he said he was excited to draw a dope-ass bus after getting requests for the same sports cars over and over for other rappers’ album covers!
NICK: This one didn’t seem to take quite so long to me, cause I was just coming in as a rapper as and when we were all free. I wrote most of my stuff in the room with the other guys which was handy for maintaining a sense of healthy competition. Which probably isn’t apparent from the mid-paced slackness of my rhymes, but look the others are all so hard on their fast-and-nimble tip that it’s kind of the obvious hole to fill! I appreciated having a brief to work to for each song, and then I just did my usual Babyfreeze shit of making raw personal disclosures in a context where they will never be read as such.
I was a deliberately terrible team player on this one, scrolling my phone for any part of the sessions that didn’t require me to write or record, but I like to think I made a pretty good contribution with the chorus to Zonin’ which is easily one of my favourite things I’ve ever written for anything. That was a case of just vibing on a loop that Simon had on one of his many mixtapes, and yeah now that I think of it Luke is right I wrote that literally years ago. Anyway, the others all did a great job of writing to the theme of Travel Braggadocio, and of general world-building across the record. In fact I would love anyone who listens to the record to send me their best wikipedia summary of the NSU biopic that is suggested by the and includes the plots of all these songs.