Rap music is a divisive genre.
Despite having a few decades of runs on the board now, and having proven its massive commercial appeal, to the uninitiated, rap still demands a wide berth lest listeners should come into contact with ‘bad people’ singing about ‘bad things’.
While some may argue that rap is all about bling, bitches and bustin’ caps, there’s also elements of healing, self-expression and unity to the art, as a collective of promising young Townsville rappers is finding out.
The Towns Villains is a newly established collective of formerly solo artists, who are together unpacking new techniques to strengthen their craft including building their stage presence; evolving their recording and production techniques; blending trap, Oz-rap, RnB and soul sounds; and navigating (and celebrating) language barriers.
Founder of the group, Samson, and Producer, Milo, said they’re constantly surprised at how well each of their differences compliment the others’.
“It just flows so easily with all of us in the group,” said Samson. “We all have our own styles which separate us, but for some reason each one of the sounds feels as though it was meant to be on the track. We’re really happy with what we’re coming up with. I’m constantly shocked every time we go to the studio, not just by the rappers we’re working with, but Milo’s productions just evolved, too.”
“It’s a nice environment,” adds Milo. “Because doing anything creative, you sort of need that positive energy so it’s really comforting when you go in and all our ideas match up. There’s never really been anything where someone’s put an idea forward and someone’s just hated it. We’re willing to try pretty much anything.”
Each of the Towns Villains found their own way into music. For Samson it was through writing poetry, for Milo through the love of making beats, for Gidz it was a way to escape some trouble he’s been getting into and for Fidele, who hails from Africa, it was part of learning English.
“I started rapping when I was 14 years old,” Fidele said. “I would listen to different rappers like Lil Wayne and then I started writing. It’s very difficult for me to write in English because I speak four languages. Swahili is my first language, which is like the international language of Africa. I do write in English, but I’ve been mixing the language [in my writing].”
“When I first heard Fidele, I was completely blown away,” said Milo. “He keeps coming to us – yes, his first language is what he likes to write with the most, naturally – but he has been working super, super hard to try and create some English lyrics for us and it’s absolutely mind-blowing. Even in Swahili we love it, but obviously there’s a lot of people out there who don’t quite understand what he’s saying, so he’s incorporated the both of them. We get the best of both worlds and it’s come out amazing.”
Gidz adds that the crew is united by their love of music.
“It’s not about money. It’s not about fame. It’s about diverse culture in rap and how we all get together,” he said.
“I started off when I was in about grade 9. I got into a bit of trouble down in Brisbane and found it was a good way to escape all my problems and put some words on a page and show them how you really feel. I had a crew down in Brisbane called Home Brew – they’re pretty established down there – but I thought I’d come up here and switch it up and show Townsville what’s up.”
Samson said he was hesitant to ask Gidz to leave his own crew and join the Towns Villains.
“Because that’s his family in a way and I see this as a family,” Samson said. “But I was super happy that he was able to come join us and be able to put his brand of input into this whole group. It’s an extra touch.”
“I have that Aussie style of hip-hop whereas Samson has the trap, more of an American feel to the beats,” added Gidz. “I put my unique, diverse style onto the tracks and they flow together perfectly.”
The group all agree that while they’d like to make an album and clock up some more live performances, for the time being they’re enjoying making their own unique brand of music together.
“I think the more and more we work together and the more we grow, we are so much less focused on appealing to other people and more just wanting to make music that we ourselves enjoy,” said Milo. “It’s like, if we leave the studio and it sounds good to us, then we’re happy with it.”
“The main thing we’re doing it for is just to have fun,” said Samson. “It’s just the love of the music and I see that in each and every one of these people and that’s the main reason I wanted to come together as a group, because I know their dedication to music is just as strong and passionate as mine is.”