360: Uncle Six is Just Getting Started

Love him or hate him, 360 is taking Australian hip-hop to new places. In an industry that sometimes takes itself a bit too seriously, 360 is on hand to inject some much needed perspective and keep his peers on their toes.

Uncle Sixty recently caught up with LUNA to discuss his upcoming album Flying and Falling, the internet phenomenon Rapper Tag, how he’s channelled Kanye West in his latest works, haters and crack heads in LA.

It was at the tender age of 15 that Matt Colwell was first exposed to hip-hop through his skateboarding exploits.

“When I started out at 15 I was terrible. I rapped about guns and being a gangster and shit. Only in the last 4 years have I been really going hard and taking it seriously.”

Matt’s transformation over the last few years has been aided significantly by his partner in crime and Soulmate records affiliate, Pez.

Pez and I know each other from when I was 16 and he was 18 and we used to play for the same basketball club. One day we just found out each other rapped and we started to get together and write. We just got along real well and had similar senses of humour.”

Their partnership reached new heights with the release of The Festival Song. The track proved to be a smash hit in Australia, climbing to number 7 (the highest hip-hop track that year) on Triple J’s Hottest 100 and thrusting the pair into the spotlight. From this point the duo released a collaboration album under the moniker Forthwrite. What followed was a melting pot of their trademark brand of humour and heavy-hitting personal tracks.

“The last 3 or 4 years is when we really started gelling and writing songs together. We did the Forthwrite mix and The Festival Song. When we write we bring the best out of each other. I’ll have trouble finishing a line or coming up with an idea to finish a bar and he’ll say ‘Nah, you should say this’ and then I’ll do the same thing. So, it really works out.”

“For the next Forthwrite album, we really want to do one but we just want the timing to be epic. Hopefully with this album my shit can start to do really well and develop a bit of a profile. Pez is doing his next solo album and then once we’ve got people really, really frothing at the mouth for it, we’ll do the Forthwrite album and it’ll be fucking mayhem.”

Unlike many hip-hop artists, 360 appreciates a broad spectrum of music and keeps an open mind, allowing himself more freedom when making tracks.

“I listen to everything! My favourite band’s probably Miike Snow and classic rock like Led Zeppelin and Jimmy Hendrix. Lately I’ve been getting into a lot of dubstep, it’s very new to me. I know that shit’s been around for years over in Europe but I’d never really heard anything that grabbed me. In the last year, Styalz starting playing me some real crazy dubstep and I was like ‘man I need to rap on this, it’d sound amazing’. While I was making the album I was listening to a lot of indie-rock, electro shit and hip-hop at the same time. It’s really anything that sounds good to me.”

“I started incorporating that stuff into the music as well, which I guess in hip-hop doesn’t really happen that much. I feel if I’m listening to that kind of music and it influences me I might as well show that influence throughout my music.”

This broad appreciation for music is reflected by his selection of Styalz Fuego as a producer for a number of tracks on his upcoming album Flying and Falling.

“He’s got a background where he can do anything. He does pop music, RnB, dubstep, electro and hip hop, so he can virtually do anything. It was perfect because that’s really what I was looking to do. I wanted to branch out and do a bit of different shit on the album, not just have a typical Aussie hip-hop album.”

Deciding to break the mould was a critical choice for 360. Straying from the norm meant risking his credibility and facing criticism from an industry plagued by politics and conservatism.

“I was battling demons in my head for so long because I knew when I put out this album I was going to cop a lot of flak, which I have been.  I decided it’s what I want to be doing, even if people I respect look down on me because I’ve got some pop and electro elements in there, which is really not-on to a hip-hop purist. But I’m being myself and I’m doing what I want to be doing, so fuck everyone.”

It seems that 360’s change of pace and attitude has been sparked by one of his long time heroes and an icon of the genre, Kanye West.

“I really admire him. He’s amazing just as an artist in general. I love all the music he does. He produces all the music he does and he’s not afraid to experiment. He went experimental with 808s and Heartbreaks which lost him a lot of fans because he was doing all this auto-tune shit and not even rapping.”

“Now he’s doing a straight up hip-hop album again and everyone’s fallen back in and I admire that. If he wants to make an experimental album he’ll just do it. He doesn’t think about whether he’s going to lose fans or anything like that. It’s a massive inspiration. You’ve just got to do what you feel and not let others change who you are.”

Despite the eclectic mix of songs on the album, 60 still feels that the heavier more traditional songs are his favourites.

“To be honest it’s probably one of the heavier songs. There’s one that’s real personal and deep, which is called I Hope You Don’t Mind. It’s produced by M-Phazes and it features N’Fa from 1200 Techniques on the chorus. It’s bloody personal and actually really full on. It’s got a real heavy hip-hop beat. I talk about all the issues that are going on for me and it gets full on. It’s really heartfelt shit and I like that. Also one track called Child which is about my family. I think I like the more personal ones, they’re my favourite ones off the album. I’m not making up stories or any shit like that.”

360 is the man responsible for unleashing the concept we now know as ‘Rapper Tag’ on the Aussie hip-hop scene. Since first dropping, the likes of Drapht, Suffa, Vents, Briggs, Bias B, Urthboy and Sesta of the infamous Funkoars have all lent their prowess to the internet phenomenon.

“There was this thing in America where this producer filmed himself making a beat and then in the video he called out who he wanted to rap on the beat. So, he sent the person that he called out the beat and then he rapped on it and then it became similar to Rapper Tag. It made its way mostly through underground MCs in the states and I saw that and I was like “man that could be huge here”. So, I dropped it and I thought it’d be big if everyone was down to do it, which everyone was. I tagged Urthboy first because Urthboy’s got a bit of a profile and then it just went through everyone. It went through some of the legends to some of the underground heads and to females in this as well. I think the whole thing’s really unified the Australian scene a lot because it doesn’t matter what style of hip-hop you make. It’s like having a cipher on the internet.”

Considered arguably one of Australia’s most formidable rap battlers, 360’s charismatic lyricism and overpowering humour put him head-and-shoulders above the competition. Whilst 60 admits it may not be everyone’s cup of tea, it has played a large role in the artist he is today.

“I don’t think it’s a necessity to be honest. If you’re more of a songwriter then that’s your thing but that’s how I came up, through battling. I first developed a name when I was about 16 and got in everyone’s ears through rap battling. I’ve always been in love with it and been obsessed with it. To be honest, I don’t think I’d have half as many fans as I do now if it wasn’t for battling. Since my battle with Keynote, where I pulled out a letter against him, went viral, I reckon half the fans that have come to my shows are originally from rap battling. So, I’m going to keep on doing it, no doubt. Even if the music really takes off and goes fucking quadruple platinum, I want to keep battling. I love doing it and I don’t want to give it away.”

In a testament to his stature on the rap battling scene, earlier this year, 360 made the trip out to LA to battle MC Rone.

“I was going by myself and I had no idea what was really going on. They put me in the middle of Inglewood which is fucking massive ghetto; like huge, huge ghetto. They put me in the middle of Inglewood in this place called Motel 6. They really threw me in the deep end, I had no idea where the fuck I was. Inglewood’s really far from central LA or downtown, so I couldn’t really get around unless I was paying $60 cabs. And you’re allowed pets in the hotel so there were dudes walking around with pit bulls and crack heads walking around talking to themselves, it was crazy.”

“As for the battle it was amazing. It was easily the best battle I’ve been involved in, Rone killed it. It was fucking heated and it was huge. I think the biggest crowd in an Australian battle is 150 in this format where there’s no beats. So, you’re only rapping to about 100 people at a time. But in the states, it was like 500 people crammed into this area and we’re just on stage doing our thing, it was fucking crazy. It made me feel a lot more comfortable and a lot more energetic up there. I really loved it, I fiend for a big crowd like that. It was a great experience and one of the best of my life for sure and then everyone showed me a good time after. I didn’t go back to the hotel until the day I was leaving. I stayed out partying with everyone in the middle of LA, in Hollywood and shit like that, it was good.”

Now that he’s back in Australia, 360 has this to say to his critics:

“If they get the album they’ll realise there’s a lot of depth in there and the reason we’re choosing these songs for radio is because they are catchy and they are radio-friendly songs. On the album it’s another story, you’ve got those catchy songs on there but you’ve also got the crazy and different shit. As long as people don’t judge it on those songs I’ll be sweet with the purists. Otherwise I can go head to head and battle them and just rip them, that’s fine.”

You can catch 360 on tour with Pez and Maya throughout May and June. Flying and Falling is set to drop on May 13th, with further details available at 360music.com.au

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