The past few years have held great promise for L-­FRESH The Lion. The 25 year old MC, currently residing in Melbourne, has come a long way since his days as an emerging artist born and raised in South West Sydney.

Creating a name for himself with his versatile catalogue and engaging live show, he has gone from strength to strength, nabbing high profile supports spots nationally (Nas, Talib Kweli, Dead Prez, Chali 2na, MC Supernatural, DJ Qbert, Horrorshow & The Herd) and churning out records that have hit home with a constantly growing fanbase.

Now, his much anticipated debut album, “One”, has been released and is an energetic, soulful, expressive and inspiring release with banging beats and thoughtful words. His impressive list of achievements caught the attention of Hip Hop legend KRS One, who, in a very rare guest appearance, introduces the album on the first song in praise of L-­FRESH stating “We need more MC’s like you”.

What are your earliest memories of music?
I grew up with such diverse musical experiences. I remember my parents playing a lot of Sikh religious music and Punjabi music at birthday parties and jams and then my cousins sharing Punjabi music with me. Those have to be my first memories of music. Hip Hop wasn’t introduced to me until my early teens.

What first got you into Hip Hop?
I remember the first song I ever wrote. It was titled “World of Discrimination”. My experiences with racism and discrimination inspired me to write. At the time, I was listening to a variety of Hip Hop artists, with the main two being Tupac and Eminem, who are known for being great storytellers who deliver songs with an unrivaled passion and honesty.

Who were your musical influences growing up?
My Mum and Dad were pretty big musical influences on me. Both of them sing traditional Sikh religious music. My Dad has been doing so for quite some time. In terms of Hip Hop, I’d have to say Tupac, Eminem, Common, Talib Kweli, Mos Def, Dead Prez, The Roots, Public Enemy, KRS One and Lauryn Hill were my biggest influences. Add Bob Marley and Bob Dylan to that list as well. I can always come back to these artists and their music.

What was your big break as a MC?
The Nas tour in 2009. Nas did his first headline tour of the country supported by Chali 2na, MC Supernatural and DJ Qbert. I was billed as the national support. This was at a time when I was learning a lot. I was really rough in a lot of areas. I was working on my performance game. I was still finding my identity as a MC; solidfying my style. Watching all of those artists perform really inspired me. In particular, watching Nas from side of stage to a packed house at the Enmore Theatre in Sydney… I’ll never forget that moment. It was at that moment that I said to myself, I gotta do this. I want to do this.

How important is it to represent the Sikh culture through your music?
It’s important. But I think it comes across without me having to try to do it. It’s so much a part of who I am, it comes out in so many ways. It’s at the core of my foundation.

What is the general reaction within the Sikh community being you are one of a few Indian MC’s out there?
Haha surprise is usually the first reaction. But they’re very supportive once they see what I’m about and when they explore the content of my music. Also, when I talk to them about the history of Hip Hop culture, they tend to appreciate it a lot more. There are idealogical similiarities within Hip Hop history and Sikh history. The concept of speaking out against oppression, creating your own identity, standing up for what’s right, self-empowerment and discovery, community… all of these things are similar.

You are originally from Sydney but moved to Melbourne what was the reason behind the relocation?
I wanted to try my hand at building in a new city. I wanted to take on that challenge. I wanted to put myself in a position where I’d be forced to learn new things so that I could grow as an artist and as a human being. I also wanted to experience new things. Songwriting comes from experience. So it’s all contributing to the development of new material.

What are the main differences between living in Sydney and Melbourne as a Hip Hop artist?
There aren’t any huge differences, really. It’d kind of be the same if I was born and raised in Melbourne and then moved to Sydney. The Hip Hop scene here has been embracing and welcoming. There’s a lot less time spent traveling here, as things are closer together and there are quite a few more gigs happening on a regular basis. But outside of that, it’s hard to pinpoint any differences. There are hungry and dope artists in both cities.

Your debut album “One” was just released. What messages are you trying to get across to the listener?
I’ll let the listener pick up what they want from the album. It’s really up to them on how they interpret the music. But, speaking generally, I wanted to great feel good music. I wanted to create empowerment music; uplifting music. The type of music that makes you want to feel better about yourself.

The intro features none other than KRS One what was it like meeting him and what advice did he give you?
It was a surreal experience building with KRS-One, even though it was brief. You know… here’s a guy who’s name will forever be mentioned when people talk about Hip Hop culture. We spoke about a few ideas for things, and about my album. He didn’t specifically give me any advice but he did talk a lot about the need to always be in touch with the history of Hip Hop, to understand where it comes from and to always be using Hip Hop in a positive way.

What is your favourite track off the album and why?
At the moment, “Victory” is my favourite track off the album. It’s hype. It’s one of those songs you listen to before you hit the gym, or play a game of sports etc. The beat is banging and the lyrics are in your face. It’s a great one to perform live too.

What one thing does Australian Hip Hop need right now?
We need artists to continue to push the boundaries. We need artists who aren’t afraid to talk about real issues and stories; and we need artists to challenge their audiences with that content. Hip Hop in this country is growing. It’s always growing and as it grows, we need artists to mature along with it.

What artists are you currently listening to and drawing inspiration from?
I don’t really listen to a lot of music these days. I think about I’m about to head into another creative patch of songwriting. So whenever I’m about to do that, I try not to listen to a lot of music. I don’t want to be influenced by any particular sounds or styles. With that said, I’m really digging the music of Hiatus Kaiyote; a Melbourne Soul band who are really resonating with audiences internationally. They’re really dope.

You are currently on tour across Australia what can people expect from a L-FRESH show?
When you come to one of my shows, you can expect to be moved in more ways than one. You’ll feel a great sense of positivity in the room. It’s like an infectious level of positivity haha. You’ll feel empowered and uplifted. My band and I are all about trying to build a really great environment for people at the show. We know a live show is all about the audience. So we want to highlight that and make sure the audience is engaged.

What does the future hold for L-FRESH?
At the moment I have 2 shows left for my album tour. I’m playing in Sydney at Goodgod this Saturday and then at Mojos in Perth on Saturday 24th May. After that, I’m hoping to play some more shows throughout the year. The goal is to push the album as far as possible. After that, I’ll get back into creating. I’m going to keep pushing with the music and try and hit the big stages nationally and internationally.

What’s your definition of Grindin’?
Grindin’: hustling efficiently and effectively. Knowing what you want to do and then going out there and doing what you need to in order to achieve your goals.

Interview by Duggs

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