If you’re into gritty hip-hop that comes from a real place, you’ll already be across Rates. Describing his 2013 debut album Destroy And Rebuild (which peaked at #9 on iTunes’ Australian Albums Chart) as his “ode to hip hop”, Rates now brings something completely different to its follow-up. Untold sees Rates blending lyrically sharp rhymes (think Big Pun and Tech N9ne) with a big, creepy sort of sound musically (Rates: “Deftones are a big influence for me”). All tracks for this new release, except for Suicide 2, were written collaboratively with Bennie On The Beat at the producer’s Coffs Harbour studio; lyrics written alongside beats during their creative process. Listen to the latest album – Untold – out now!
Inked: Let’s talk about Untold and the upcoming release, how long did you work on the album?
Rates: Untold is my second album release. I released my first album “Destroy & Rebuild” in 2013, which was more traditional boom bap style hip hop. I wanted to do something new and exciting with “Untold”, I wanted to incorporate the energy and aggression from my early punk/hardcore upbringings. I moved to Coffs Harbour in late 2014 to be with my partner for the birth of my baby girl. It was in Coffs I met Bennie on the Beat, who had very similar musical tastes and an honest talent for playing instruments and making huge hip hop beats (plus all the filth bands he has been in). From day one we got stuck into trying to blend big riffs, haunting keys and real bass with my aggressive style I was working towards. It all just worked. We spent the whole 2015 making the album, and sat on it waiting for the right time to emerge with my bro Kerser’s label ABK Records, and boom, here we are.
What are you most happy with regarding the album? I feel satisfied that this album represents different styles of music that both me and Ben have appreciated for most of our lives, while still maintaining that raw hip hop edge. It’s an honest album and Ill always be proud of that.
What’s the feel or story behind Untold? Untold is a diverse album, but throughout most tracks I feel there is a haunting, dark vibe. That’s always apparently been evident in my music, ha-ha… “If its real they gonna feel it, if its fake then how they gonna feel it?” (Suicide 2 feat hyjak)
How is Untold different to Destroy and Rebuild? Musically its much more diverse, most tracks are played with live instruments by Bennie on the beat, and I feel my lyrics and flow and especially delivery have progressed a lot since then.
Do you prefer touring or the studio? I enjoy both, ha-ha. While I’m in the studio, writing or recording the tracks, the thing that drives me is picturing me performing these tracks to people, or imagining their reaction when they hear it. This time round’ I think ill enjoy the touring, in fact I’m real excited to take our show on the road.
How’d your career get started? Since I was a kid I’ve been obsessed with music. Once I found the underground and seen a network of people supporting each other’s music, I never slowed down. Most of it was heaps more interesting than any of the shit we’d see on TV or radio and I was a part of both the punk/hardcore and hip-hop scenes in Sydney, so I had a confused unique plan from the start ha-ha. My bro Kerser started recording tracks, every week, having five or 6 new tracks for us to listen to, and his buzz just started to grow…and grow, and still is. He really had/has something special going on. Around this time my hardcore punk band “Life sentence” had taken a break, and I had an army of raps that I wanted to show people. I started supporting my bro at shows and writing some tracks with him and Jay UF, just like old days after school, we developed a vibe that we knew would someday be something. My bro went on to be one of the most successful independent artists in the country, so being around that buzz at the time was a definite advantage for me, but I knew I had work to do and just haven’t slowed down since. It feels crazy I can call this a “career” now.
Were you surrounded by a lot of musical people? Yeah, for sure. My cousin Luke was a big influence on me as a kid, he was a wicked drummer and knew all the underground stuff, which he’d later introduce me to. Me and Kerser would always be playing music, pissing off the neighbours, it was an obsession for us both ha-ha. Most our mates were like minded, and I had a lot of friends who were in bands or musicians etc. that I always stayed in contact with. I had a lot of mates who loved graff too, so there was always freestyles and sessions happening around them.
What’s the battle scene like in Australia? How did you get involved in it? The battle scene has been up and down for years, but I think now a lot of the people who really aren’t any good have been phased out, but there are definitely guys who stand out. I used to do a lot of freestyle battles, it was easy to jump up and grab the mic for a battle, but these days most are pre written-accapella format, which is cool too, but I was never too interested in because I prefer to flow a rhythm on a beat yak know? I keep an eye on Greeley and Manaz ILL, those guys are sick and always entertaining.
When did you start getting tattooed? And what was your first piece? Started to get tattooed when I was about 19, I got the hot water music logo on my left leg.
Are you a spur of the moment type guy or do you plan your tattoos? I like to plan my tattoos, trying to understand exactly the theme or concept we are going for. My tattooist (Schmocky from Shinto Tattoo gallery in Geelong) says: “bro I’ll work like you write your raps, ill have a concept and we will get it”.
What do you dream of achieving in 2016 and beyond? I hope to get my music heard, get it out there and hopefully abroad. UK and European tour is something me and Ben are considering after our national tour. Above all I just want to be the best dad and partner for my little family. I wanted to leave an impression on Australian music scene and I feel this album will.