If they’re not in a food coma after a massive Korean BBQ session, (with possibly a few bottles of soju) you’ll find Jazz/Hip Hop/Soul duo LHA bringing soul to the streets of Sydney. The 'cross-cultural' duo compromises of Korean born producer LeeHahn and Australian MC Adikka. Whilst the internet has removed geographical barriers for discovering new music, grabbing the attention of independent label ‘Goon Trax’ in Japan was the turning point for LHA. The label locked them in for an exclusive album for the Japanese market dubbed ‘Soul Collection,’ Earlier this year the lads’ went to Japan to witness first hand just how their music was like on the other side, and they were overwhelmed to notice the massive display of them in the Tower Records placed in Shibyua. Their carefree, expressive music goes down the soul with utter ease. Together LHA represent what is right in the Australian music scene.
We chat to LHA about what we can expect from their upcoming EP to be released in 2014, how their solo projects will affect their relationship and their sound, and why tapping into the Asian markets is the way forward. Margaret Tra writes.
LeeHahn and Adikkal how did your musical romance begin?
Adikkal: Musical romance, that’s a cute way of putting it! (Laughs) We met at university back in 2003 when LeeHahn was making gangster rap and G Funk beats and I was fronting a rock/hip hop band called ‘The Suitable Few.’ I remember getting a beat CD off LeeHahn and writing stuff to every song, but our first collaboration was Post University where I did a guest spot on a J-Daiz song, (LeeHahns crew at the time). Shortly after both our groups ended and we decided to start making music together.
Your music is feel good hip hop, enough to keep you inspired. How do you guys do it?
Adikkal: I suppose it just comes naturally. It’s not like we sit down and say “Alright, let’s make a really positive, feel good track.” At our essence, we are both committed to making music that can make you feel something, whatever that feeling may be. There is an undeniable soul to LeeHahn’s music which inspires me to be as authentic as possible when I write. That’s not to say I always write amazing sh**! There are plenty of times where I struggle to find that authenticity without repeating myself but at the end of the day, we have a platform to communicate and we want to be as real as we can so that we can connect with people in a genuine way. To sum it up, we love making music with soul.
Tell us about the album 'Soul Selection'
Soul Selection was kind of like this awesome opportunity that appeared out of nowhere! Japanese Jazzhop label, ‘Goon Trax,’ who deal primarily in jazzy and mellow hip hop got in touch with us looking to license some of our tracks for their long standing and very popular ‘In Ya Mellow Tone series.’ We were obviously stoked at the opportunity and our track ‘New World’ featured on In ‘Ya Mellow Tone 8.5.’ Shortly after exploring more of our music online they proposed releasing a Japanese exclusive LHA album made up of a selection of our tracks which they thought would work best in Japan. It ended up being one of the most exciting steps yet for us! We recently went to Japan this year to connect with the label, play some shows and build opportunities and it was such an amazing experience. Seeing our album on a massive display in Tower Records in Shibuya was an incredible moment!
You guys are getting a lot of love from the Asian markets; do you think this is the way forward for you guys?
It is definitely one of the ways forward. The market for the soulful/jazzy aspects of our sound which is quite limited in Australia, so naturally we will gravitate towards markets that are more receptive to that kind of sound. The internet has removed geographical barriers for discovering new music and that presents the exciting prospect of building in the international scene. Whilst we still want to build in our hometown scene, if there are opportunities internationally then we’d be mad not to pursue it!
How does it make you feel coming from Korean roots Leehahn?
Leehahn: We've been tagging ourselves as a 'cross-cultural' duo for a while. I love eating snags on the ‘barbie’ with kimchi and Korean side dishes, and we've been hitting K-BBQ joints often and find ourselves in a food coma every time.
Also, I've released an album in Korea via 3rddan Recordings few years back and through that, I have met some amazing people. And as for Japan, I've visited Osaka/Tokyo/Kyoto/Kobe mid this year, and I also made a music video called "Koenji" to sum up my experience. There so much to unfold here but hope you check it out and I'll let the music speak for itself. So, I've got myself even more familiar with the region and it's scenes through these opportunities, and now I'm just grateful that we are able to share our music with people there.
What are your thoughts on K-pop Leehahn? Will you infuse that into your music?
Leehahn: We have some KPOP producer friends in Korea who are very active in the scene and I've met them on our recent Korea-Japan trip. To be honest, I wasn't expecting much but their production was tight and how they approach music was refreshing. Watching the KPOP movement over the course of time, I realise that a lot of people in KPOP scene are hungry. Hungry for greatness, and they work so hard for that. So, whether it's KPOP or not, I want to listen to good music and get inspired from the passion that creates such music and the movement.
Adikkal as an MC you deliver carefree rhymes how did you start?
Adikkal: I had always had a passion for words and writing. I’d always written in some way, usually stupid little rhyming stanzas about how I hated school or something equally as groundbreaking. It started innocently enough, discovering NWA as a middle class white suburban teenager and then learning all the lyrics to ‘F*** the Police,’ which we’d recite on drunken Friday nights. I can’t remember exactly when it happened but from memory I started freestyling random sh** with friends when I was high and then it kind of evolved from there. I was playing guitar at the time but I suppose I just saw rap as a means to express myself.
Your releasing your own EP in 2014, how is that going? And what can we expect from you differently without Leehahn?
Adikkal: It’s coming along quite well. I’ll be getting production from our homie P.R, Ajune & Jbeat and a couple others. Leehahn will actually make an appearance in there as well but the style is so different you won’t know it’s him! My solo is really all about establishing my own name. I’ve been rapping for a pretty long time now but I’m pretty much anonymous. I’ve never really been too involved in the scene and have always been part of a group or a band, so this is all about saying, “Hey, I’m here. This is me”. Stylistically it will be a bit of a mixed bag but there are definitely some pretty raw and up-front tracks on there. Working with other producers gives me the opportunity to explore different vibes and aspects of my personality so whilst you can expect the same Adikkal style, there will definitely be a twist. I don’t want to get pigeon holed as a “feel good” rapper - or stuck in the jazzy/soul genre either. I’m at home over a grimy bad ass beat as well so I’m hoping to explore some of that as well.
What's next for you two?
Adikkal: We are releasing our (yet to be titled) latest album in February-March 2014 and have to say we are really f***ing excited about this one. There are collaborations with plenty of awesome artists from Australia, USA and Canada, and our lead single “Salute to the Skies” is probably our best song yet. It’s been a while in the making but we are really pumped to get it out to the people and we hope that this will help us really establish our presence in the local scene. Apart from that, we both are planning to work on other projects individually, Adikkal on his own solo project, and Leehahn on his solo and collaboration projects such as P.R & Leehahn EP.
What Stimulates Your Soul?
Adikkal: Music, Great people, nature, experiencing new things
Leehahn: Life, wife, God, good music, art, food, humble people, friends, family, hope, divine moments & experiences!
To hear more from these lads, visit the LHA website.