1200 Techniques burst onto the scene in 1998 with their track “Hard as Hell”, and built a following with energetic live shows and solid releases that crossed the boundaries of funk, soul and hiphop, with a uniquely Australian edge. DB magazine spoke to their MC, Nfamas, about the upcoming tour with Kut Master Kurt, and about the nature of Australian music today.
Nfamas got into hiphop when he was a kid, with his brother who also used to be part of the group until he moved in 1999. “We started to emulate early rappers. Like other kids who were into basketball and who all wanted to be Michael Jordan, we wanted to be MCs,” he says. People like LL Cool J, Chuck D, KRS 1, De La Soul, Big Daddy Kane, and Ice T were all targets of the duo’s admiration. “ We’d be taking their rhymes and re-writing them making them our own way. We used to go all over town to breakdance and DJ places, just building a base of knowledge and connections. All through high school I was into that, and when I left high school I made a conscious decision that I wanted to be an MC. It sounds kinda absurd but I really believed it could happen. Then I moved to Melbourne and everything is working out.”
1200 Techniques came about from Nfamas and his brother moving to Melbourne. “I was going around to bars and stuff. I knew a couple of dudes through my brother who played in really good funk bands, and I used to get up and play and MC with them, and one of them said “you gotta check out these two MCs from Perth, they’re really good” and that, hooked us up with DJ Peril,” he says. “Me and my brother were doing our own thing and doing our own beats, and we tried some stuff with Peril his vibe was different and good, so we started working with him. It was really casual, we’d get together every three, four or five months, make a track, and mid to late 1998 we did that ‘Hard As Hell’ track with Kemstar on guitar. We started using guitars on every track after that. Then my Brother left in 1999, and realised in about 2000 “shit, we’ve got a record”, went around to record companies, and ended up by accident with rubber records.”
I think the term accident is a little misleading, as Nfamas is quite a determined person. “I don’t think you can think anything (about a career), just look at it as something to work towards,” he says of his popularity. He also has a lot to say about hiphop’s popularity. “I think the scene here is very real, quite raw, and quite demanding. You have to be really on top of your game to get respect here, which I think is good, makes a good breeding ground. There’s a lot of MCs coming up now, and there are a lot of good people making music and people getting into the whole hiphop thing right now, and I think there’s quite a few dudes who are about to get notoriety not only in Australia but overseas. I think in the next few years you’ll see a big change, as young kids these days instead of looking to rock are now listening to hiphop, than the majority of kids when I was growing up. You’ll find a lot of people becoming really good at rhyming and that. Australia has a lot of good rock bands, and rock engineers, and you’ll see that changing through hiphop.”
“The overseas market is getting really big here. People like eminem have helped it blow up so much, because I guess people can relate to him, and makes the big companies go, “oh shit, we can make big money off of this”. They don’t care what music is big if it makes money and if its hiphop and that’s cool, as long as it doesn’t get bastardised.” What does he mean by bastardised? “I think there’s potential for a lot of Australian groups put on an Australian accent, and aren’t as ‘Australian’ as they act. I don’t have the full on ‘occa’ “How ya goin’ mate!”. I just rap how I rap. Koolism, Downsyde, Hilltop Hoods, they all have their style; it’s not typically Australian or US or British,” he says. “The most important thing (about rapping) is not the accent but the rhythm patterns. If MCs have hot rhythm patterns people are going to like it anyway. If you’ve got sick rhythm patterns you’ve got it made. I’ve heard MCs with really sick words that kill mine, but their rhythms are un-enticing and you don’t want to listen to them.”
Their latest tune ‘Eye of the Storm’ is quite soulful in parts, particularly the chorus, and I wondered if it was deliberate or not. “All our stuff has that soul vibe”, he states. “I like a lot of soul music and it’s always going to come out in our work. It all happens as I write. The chorus I had in my head for a while, I just hadn’t worked out where I was going to use it, and then ‘bang’ that was the spot, and it worked out nice! We just finished the video which should be on Channel V and that soon”. Along with the new single, they’re about to tour with Kut Masta Kurt, who has never toured here before. “Mainly we got him out so we can see the show ourselves,” Nfamas laughs. “He’s a legendary producer and DJ, and will educate people in his ways. We’re not trying to piss people off by not touring with Australian acts, we’re trying to introduce something new to the people,” he adds.
Eye of the Storm is the first single of 1200 Techniques next album, which should be out October with the title ‘Consistency Theory’.