Our Biggest Fan Hasn’t Been Born Yet.
Ordinarily that might seem like an audacious statement, but when it comes from the lips of Lane Harry you know that he’s not posturing, he really means it. As one of the most dynamic hip hop acts in the country you’d expect a lot of posturing and attitude, but with Lane-Harry x Ike Campbell what you get is two intelligent and thoughtful guys who also happen to have a disarming sense of humour. It’s almost as if they’re unaware of their own stature within the genre and the high esteem in which they’re held. But that’s not their concern, they’re only in it for the music and the message.
Three years ago Lane-Harry x Ike Campbell won Song of the Year at the Gold Coast Music Awards for Anarchy. And while the award may have caught one of Australia’s fastest rising hip hop acts off guard, it’s easy to see why the judges gave the song the nod as it tackled a host of contemporary social issues with a sophisticated arrangement and high end production values – unusual for such a raw act.
It’s early on a weekday morning when I meet Lane and Ike at Serotonin Studios, the home of Guy Cooper – their producer, manager and owner of Human Records. Lane has just finished the nightshift at a hostel, while Ike is about to head off to his day job working in a surf shop. There’s no pretence, no rock star agenda. As Lane says: “if I was in it for the money I would have become a lawyer – I topped my law class in school but it didn’t interest me”. Ike had previously enrolled at university in aeronautical and mechanical engineering, but with his dry sense of humour he says he quit because the best thing about it was Subway at lunchtime.
Their latest album Youth has just won Album of the Year at the Gold Coast Music Awards, but why would an act struggling to make ends meet as artists offer it to fans for free? Lane: “We wanted everyone to get it. When I was 15 or 16 I couldn’t afford to buy my favourite artist’s albums, we just want to make our music as accessible as possible”.
It’s not only their product they want to make accessible, it’s the music they create as well. Their cinematic approach with high end production values could include anything from sweeping strings to a beautiful melodic chorus with guest female vocalists – it’s hardly old school hip hop. When I ask them if they’re doing it to reach a wider audience their candid response is that they just do whatever works to make the song sound great. There’s no calculated strategy in what they do, these guys are the real deal.
So what separates Lane-Harry x Ike Campbell from other hip hop artists? Ike: “We try to make every song not sound like the last song. A lot of people find a sound and they craft it and then they stick to it. They get really good at it, but it’s so limiting because you can only hear the same sound so many times”. Lane: “I want to be at a point where people check out a song of ours because they don’t know what it’s going to sound like. When someone like Kendrick Lamar or Childish Gambino puts out a record I can’t wait to hear it because I’ve got no idea what it’s going to sound like”.
A number of cultural icons are referenced on Youth with song titles including Winehouse, Matthew McConaughey and Keith Richards. The use of McConaughey’s catchphrase “alright, alright, alright” is cleverly built into the chorus and once that earworm gets into your head there’s no escaping it. Keith Richards has a Caribbean dub flavour with a classic dancehall beat featuring Eliza Pickard singing the melody. The video has gained some serious traction online and is a hoot with Ike playing the fictitious TV talk show host Morty Martins, who interviews Lane dressed like Keith and asks him: “so Lane, what’s it like to be famous?”. Has Richards seen it? Not that they know of, but Steven Tyler has. He loved it and suggested they talk to Aerosmith’s manager about representation. Lane and Ike are chuffed, but they don’t let the idea of it go to their heads, it’s all part of the game in this business.