Lessons In Lineage and Listening | An Interview With L-Fresh The Lion

Prior to gracing this side of the country with his double-header billing with Aristophanes at Chevron Festival Gardens on February the 24th, hip-hop hazard L-Fresh the Lion took the time to chat with our writer Sam Stopforth about his lyrical inspirations, writing process and the importance of understanding our lineage and cultural heritage.

SS. You’ve talked before about the importance of story telling in any culture, as humans it’s essential we learn from our past to better understand our future’s potential. I was wondering if you could please extrapolate on this a bit for me? 

Sure, I am a firm believer that history repeats itself. For instance the lyrics from ‘Faithful’: “The history’s the future, it repeats like the barrel of a gun. Here it comes full circle to hurt you, I never run.” I think it’s essential that we learn form our past and draw strength from each other. I always try to inform myself of myself, in ‘Never Alone’ the lyric: “This is some of the history I take a page from. There’s power when reminded of the lineage you came from.” If we are to have any hope of making a difference we must remove it from the individual and think about it from a broader national context. We are still a very young country, we have accomplished many great things but we still have a lot of challenges that lie ahead. We have to move past 1788 and understand that the only way to pave the way for a more humane and compassionate future for all is by better understanding our past.

SS. You’ve been quite vocal about how the indigenous people in this country are constantly being mistreated by the leaders of our nation. This is shown annually with our Australia day celebrations held on January the 26th; If you could plead your case to Turnbull or anyone else with the power of potentially making a change – what would you say to them? 

It’s actually really simple, we need to respectfully, actively and genuinely listen. That’s the first step, sadly we haven’t even managed to get that far but if we can manage that then that will be a very big step in the right direction; all of the complexities come after that. We must understand that we will be a stronger nation if we can do this and work together, but that also means relinquishing space and power.
SS. Remi features on the album on a song called ‘Hold Up’. how did this happen? Also love the message behind the song, what do you think it is about this topic that really itched at you? Subconscious racism? 
Ah we met at a gig a long time ago, I’m pretty sure we opened for each other quite a lot and got a chance to hang out in Melbourne. I also got to tour his Raw X Infinity record with him so we have known each other awhile. I guess it started out as something that was friendly but eventually became slightly annoying. It’s like if someone comes up to you at a venue and repeatedly starts poking you in the shoulder, at first it’s fine but eventually you can’t lift your arm! It’s funny I’ve actually had other artists come up to me a fair bit saying “Man I know what you mean, you could have got me on that track!”
SS. Triple J have been very supportive of your music for a long time, backing you with unearthed, like a version and general radio play over a number of years and now you’re set to play at another one of their events: The hottest 100 party in Parramatta park in Sydney. Why do you think they play such a key role in the Australian music industry? What makes them so great? 
I suppose it’s that they don’t act in isolation to where I am in my career; also they have managed to garner a very large audience but steer clear from becoming a commercial radio station. Also they are very passionate about finding local music, which I think, is a major factor in their success. When I was coming up I just had this goal that I wanted to become unstoppable, you know? How do I become so good that no one can stop me? Well it has a lot to do with luck, but I also couldn’t have done it without all of the great community radio platforms around the country, my team at Elephant Track and also my band, which have become more like a family. 
SS. Upon my first couple of listens the album spoke to me as the inner monologue of someone who is going through a bit of an identity crisis. Or perhaps it’s more of an environment crisis coming from someone who has always been a part of multiple different cultures – creating your identity. Born in western Sydney but told you weren’t from here etc. 
Thank you man, I’m so glad that came across because that’s essentially the crux and complexity of this record – and I’ve been lucky enough to speak to a lot of people who have empathised with that battle. Trying to figure out who you are internally but also the spaces you occupy and the culture that influences you, and your environment informs that and it informs you… they’re not separate, they can’t be.
SS. In ‘Never Alone’ you spoke a lot about people who have influenced you, your mum in particular. What do you think makes someone a good leader? Why do you think some people can touch others in a way that transcends most?
Wow great question. I feel like it’s really a person who is able to bring out the best in others. They recognise that it’s not about them, this is an individual pursuit that can take some time but I think that it requires some kind of relinquishment of ego and self. Great leaders in my opinion know how to listen to the people around them and recognise but also understand when they are needed and when they are not needed.
SS. In terms of your writing process, I’m sure it’s different for every tune but on average how long would you say you write something before it’s actually recorded? Do you have any verses from years ago that you’re still playing around with? 
Well I started by listening to a lot of hip hop when I was younger and it was almost like I was having a conversation with the artist but could never respond. You’re right it definitely does vary from song to song, I wrote the majority of ‘Pray For Me’ in 30 minutes and it was basically done. But ‘1 in 100,000’ took much longer; we had about 6 or 7 versions before we found the right one. Usually I will come up with a concept throughout the process, whether it’s a sentence, a word or even just a feeling. One of the benefits of this is that it keeps it fresh every time because usually I’m starting from a different place depending on the idea. But also I’ve noticed that if I don’t have a concept it’s like I’m writing aimlessly, I think having an anchor of sorts that you can always come back to really helps my process.
You can catch L-Fresh the Lion at Chevron Festival Gardens for the Perth International Arts Festival on February the 24th. Tickets can be found here, while all the details for the event can be found here.