[listen to "Raise A Glass" by Citizen Kay - lyrics at the bottom of this article]
By Ruth Mihelcic
Citizen Kay has been on the up and up since breaking out into the hip hop scene in early 2013. The Canberra-based rapper hit the ground running and hasn’t yet stopped since releasing his debut EP Yes! in March, before spending the next six months spreading rhymes and dropping beats on stages across the country with his hyper energy fuelled live shows. His latest genre-mashing single, Raise A Glass, mixes fresh and slick hip hop rhymes with the robust horns of the Brass Knuckle Brass Band. We caught up with the effervescent Citizen Kay for a chat about his latest work and experiences in the industry thus far.
Hi Citizen Kay, thanks for taking the time to have a chat with us! Across Australia the hip hop scene is thriving, what’s it like in Canberra?
he scene in Canberra isn't quite as booming as it is in places like Melbourne, Brissy, Sydney etc but it's definitely making its way up! Over the last year I've had the pleasure of meeting so many hip hop dudes that I had no idea existed..I think the rest of Australia would be pretty surprised at the talent we've quietly got going on here!
Congrats on your latest release Raise A Glass ft The Brass Knuckle Brass Band, getting high rotation on triple j. What was it like collaborating with such a large group of musicians all at once?
BKBB are all incredible people! I personally love to collaborate and jump on other peoples tracks cause I think the more perspectives, the better!
The video clip for Raise A Glass is stunning and looks like it was a hell of a lot of fun to film. Please tell us about the filming process.
The man, Nic Vevers can take most of the credit for that! Basically all he told me was "bring a few friends, beers and sausages"..and pretty much just filmed a day of my friends and I hanging out on a property - the only part that was really 'staged' was the very beginning when we run to 'The Hut' but even that felt pretty natural and fun to do!
There seems to be a strong camaraderie among Aussie hip hop artists. What’s it been like in your experience, what have you learnt from it?
Meeting so many other big and rising hip hop artists has been so good for me; people like Grey Ghost, Thundamentals, Jackie Onassis, Remi and a bunch of others were people I read about/heard about...almost 'famous', so you don’t really see them as 'real' people but when you meet them they are all so welcoming and keen to have a chat and hang out! Building a relationship with these other artists has definitely reassured my thoughts of how important it is for hip hop artists, and artists in general to work together rather than have 'beef', because especially in hip hop there can be a lot of negative vibes which for me is super lame!
If you could collaborate with any musician, past or present, who would it be and what would it sound like?
Without a doubt Kanye - present weird-minded Kanye at that. He was my first major hip hop idol - I stumbled upon his work back when he was just producing for Jay and had only just started releasing tracks where he was the focus. To me, Yeezy is one of the only hip hop people that has really evolved; every album has been a huge difference from the last - rather than find a recipe he knows works/sells he's not afraid to do things people will 'hate'! I honestly have no idea what it would sound like which is exactly why I'd pick him!
Recently you were asked to be a part of the ‘Rise’ project, a self funded photography book of Australian Hip Hop artists by Michelle Grace Hunder. How did you feel about being asked?
I was absolutely over the moon!! To be considered as someone worthy of being part of such a project is a huge goal in itself - it makes me want to keep at this more and more to become the absolute best that I can be.
It’s our pleasure to have you featured on the Push Over 2014 line up! What are you most looking forward to on the day?
The entire day, of course! I mean, performing will probably be one of my favorite parts but since I was 14 I've LOVED talking..maybe a little too much so getting the chance to talk to a bunch of people, whether supporters, fellow artists or just people in general is always a blast for me.
I’ve read that you taught yourself how to rap, make beats and record, and are reportedly studying sound engineering. What are your ambitions for the future, to continue with rapping or to perhaps expand into other areas? Is there anyone you look up to in terms of where you want to be?
Yeah, ever since I picked up a guitar in year 8 music class I was pretty certain I would be in the music industry one way or another. I've always kind of been someone who wants to do everything so for the future my plan isn't to be just known has the rapper but also as a respected sound tech, producer, instrumentalist and all round just musician! In terms of my own personal goals, there's no one I really know of who has done everything I hope to achieve but I want to have the focus and passion to exceed in both my performing goals and also my more 'behind the scenes' goals.
Next on your agenda was learning to freestyle. How has the practice been going? Should we keep an eye out for you on any upcoming battles?
(I actually laughed when I read this question) ..lets just say I've got a long way to go before you see me on any battles - for a few months I was really becoming confident and was noticing an improvement with my freestyles (I was practicing for a minimum of 30 minutes-an hour a day!) but honestly I just got super lazy! So thanks for the reminder!!
Lastly, the best piece of advice you’ve ever received is…
"Don't aim to be as good as your idol, always aim to be better" - I don't remember who told me this or where I have heard/read it from but it's something that is always in the back of my mind.
Want to write one like it? Check out our Get Published on Youth Central page! And check out Citizen Kay at www.facebook.com/citizenkaytm
Raise A Glass (Lyrics) – Citizen Kay
Now there's a whole lot of things that’s been happening
and a whole lotta dreams unraveling
So there's just one thing that I need to ask
can we do one thing; just raise a glass
It’s a celebration, raise the roof
There's a lot of testimonies I should introduce
And I can tell they'll be good so I need to ask
can we do one thing; just raise a glass
I remember back when I was younger
I always wanted to do big things; had that hunger
like. back when I was playin' them strings
and really never thought that I would rap among all things
and I was that kid into all of his instruments-
and I only wrote love songs; ridiculous
damn. remember when I used to play in D-K(1),
Fine Led(2); those were the bands that I thought I’d stay in-
but what a change up; little Kay tryna get major
such a surprise I had gone and just changed flavor
and I was so damn sure I’d be the next Hendrix
but now was into Yeezy, Lupe and Kendrick
I cant believe it; look at how far I came
how that iddy biddy spark turned into a big flame
insane, I’m on a mission, cant intercept
its just intellect mixed with introspect
What’s YOUR dream? ..go ahead; tell me the magic
and I really don’t care how insane or drastic
whether - it's about going geographic
What’s the mathematic? is it plain, is it erratic
ahh! whether cookin beats or cookin pasta
never trip, don’t let it get on past ya
bet you been told you should get realistic-
What’s the logistics of being so damn artistic
maaaajor F it. (or effort). It CAN be done, in fact I bet
if aesthetic or athletic you deserve a damn merit
no apologies for your qualities;
do what you feel, that’s the beauty of democracy
What’s your ability, show it off; be hypnotic
officially the newest of hot topics
...so true yet so cliché
but either way I got something i probably should say...
Now lets recap, soon I gotta wrap it up
rewind a couple of lines and just back it up
no concealing the deal is I got the essence-
so appealing the feeling when you stepping in my presence
woah. what a gift; I plan to take it a distance-
and you should do the same I promise with some persistence
we could all be ballin... yeah we could all make it-
but for now you funky brass knuckle homies gotta shake it
(1) & (2) - DK and Fine Led were the first two bands Citizen Kay was in between ages 14 and 15