Coming in with a fresh funk and new flow, rapper Hancoq from the ESESE collaborative has dropped into the rapping scene with the single ‘Ain’t No’. With music incorporating a fusion of new age soul and reminiscent of old school hip-hop, the multiple-tuned album will tune you into a combination of many genres at once. Featuring a photogenic music video to match, the uptempo mix reminds you of a summer afternoon with the excitement of an unknown summer night.
We chat to Hancoq about inspiration, the value of collaboration, where he see’s the Australian Hip-hop scene going, and the upcoming album 'Juxtaposition.' Saron Girma writes.
What do you do?
In a nutshell; I make videos, I make music, I rap. I rap in a 10 piece band called ESES. It’s basically a collective-slash-band.
How did you form?
I got booked to DJ at the Carlton Club on Thursday one night and Matt (Hudson James) was running the Thursday’s there and after the night I met him, I started playing every week there, started residency there. Once we did that, we had one big night where we went to Geelong and I showed him my old music that I released when I was 17. He was like “Dude, I knew you had something up your sleeve, we’ve got to make something”. On the drive back, I showed him ‘Acid Rap’, Chance the Rapper’s mixtape and he [Matt] didn’t know much about hip-hop but he was like “Yo, we need to make something cool”.
The next week, after he sent me a few beats, we made the first song ‘Give me back my money’ [to be released in their EP]. Then the following week, we made ‘AINTNO’ and then it just kept flowing after that. Then we decided we were going to make an EP together and see what happens.
So we started together, then he brought in a few of his friends (who was Phillip and the rest of the band basically) to come in and help jam on these basic beats that he made.
We put together the whole band and Matt has always had the name in mind. He has always wanted to create the band that we are now but just didn’t do it back then. Now, it’s the perfect time with the right people, I guess. But yeah, that’s how we formed.
I just needed to release creatively, and it wasn’t working any other way so going back to music was the perfect time to break writer's block.
Did you have to establish good sync in friendship in then in artistry?
We were already old friends so it all worked, everything was perfectly synchronised already. We didn’t really need to do anything, it just felt organic to be honest and it was my first time working with a band which I never had, which meant working with real musicians (I was just finding beats online and rapping over them). Working with a pop producer created a really good back and forth and with everyone jamming on it, because they are all really talented musicians on their own, it was the perfect thing.
Did you first understand having a mixture of flow through DJing?
I guess so, I guess DJing did help a lot but it wasn’t just because I had started DJing that I listening to music and mixing and whatnot, but I’d just say it was a combination of all of the music I had listened to. Basically, I only started DJing because I started playing around with my laptop and the mixing part of it happened because I started working for a venue making videos and they needed a DJ. It kinda has a repetitive pattern that has been falling into things.
Are you more lyric oriented or do you focus on the beat?
No, way more lyric oriented compared to what I was focusing on when I first started rapping. Before it was more trying to find my voice and rhythm and now, lyrically, I want to actually say something and paint a picture if I can. Hopefully it works for whoever is listening to it but at the end of the day it’s something positive. Especially since hip-hop isn’t the most positive genre, especially rap music, so I’ll just keep it positive because we don’t really have that many struggles down here, it’s not like we’re in America getting shot at ever day, so I try to reflect that.
As a rapper, if you hear a beat or a sample, where does your mind go to first?
Flow. I would come up with a flow then try to fill it with words. I’m not much of a freestyler, I’d definitely admit that. I come up with a flow and then I try to fill it out.
Would the positivity be for you or your audience?
It’s, you know, ‘lead by example’ so it’s a bit of both. So I could be telling my story and how all of this stuff happened, and that could inspire somebody else. Or I could be saying some inspirational things to other people for them to open their mind in their own way, I guess, but that’s the goal.
What genre of music started you out?
First time I started looking for good hip-hop was when I found Wiz’s mixtape Kush & Orange Juice. After I found that, I found a blog and it was just a hip-hop blog which posted new music every day, it just got me into the pattern of looking for music that isn’t everywhere, that probably made me really like music even more; realizing there’s good music there that wasn’t being show to me otherwise.
In terms of Australian hip-hop, do you think of yourself as an Australian hip-hop artist?
Yeah, 100%. Because, I am in Australia, of course but, I want to reflect our environment. Melbourne has a very specific vibe in Australia and it hasn’t fully been represented. It is being represented by awesome artists like Remny and Baro, and these new cats that are representing the cool shit coming out of the city, but there’s not enough yet to show that side.
Do you think the Hip-hop environment in Australia is ready for it?
I guess their ready for it now. There are a ridiculous amount of rappers coming to Australia now compared to two years ago. As soon as Kendrick came, every new act that was relevant started coming to Australia. Now, the people are really digging hip-hop compared to how they used to be - they’re selling out shows. I doubt that would of happened as much five to ten years ago. I think the Australian people are really ready for it. I’m liking that people are looking into Australia right now, it’s becoming more of an international platform.
Is there a particular thing, whether it be a theme or subject, that you can always go to for inspiration?
I can always go back and think of anything to do with consciousness, spirituality, dimensions, just anything radical. Anything metaphysical gets me inspired and interested because it’s all about what we can’t see with our senses so we have to make up a lot of things and our own ways to describe it; to try to find our own meanings to things and I guess in its own way that helps a lot with writing.
Because you have so many different artistic alleyways, do you think they’re all metaphysical, for you to try and convey your message - or is it through one medium?
I don’t think I use the mediums separately. Obviously with DJing and Video Production I use them a bit more commercially so I can pay the bills - but creatively, I’d say every time I feel less creative in one medium I can bounce around to another one. I’d like to learn more mediums in the future as well, just to keep that going because then you’re always doing something creative while you’re blocked in that avenue.
Would going to another medium exert a different kind of influence?
Definitely, I do my videos differently to the way I be making my music.
[In what way?]
Well, music is just like writing a story.
It’s different with video because I’ll shoot stuff randomly and then try and put it together. That’s one technique of trying to shoot something and usually it doesn’t end up like the way it started with video, it’s a whole different work flow. But with music, I’ll write something and the only thing that might change will be the beat and the performance to it but the meaning is still the same by the end. The good thing is that they are different workflows, that way when I exhaust one, I can just go right to the other and do something completely different in a different way, which is a good thing about them being different means for my creative release.
Do you think that ties in with your consciousness as a muse?
Looking back on who you were as a musician compared to now, can you understand how you progressed as a musician?
I definitely understand the progression. What happened was, when I was a 17year old I made a couple of tracks and I had my first show and it was supporting Bone Thugs & Harmony at The Espy. The crowd at the show wasn’t really vibing because the music I was playing was more new age and they were more of an old hip-hop crowd. It didn’t really work out. As a seventeen year old it didn’t really help my confidence at all. So I stopped and in that time I worked a lot on video then got into DJing when I was 18. So for two years I didn’t make music at all... I focused mainly on working with other artists and helping them.
How do you view confidence? What do you view as barriers (being an artist in Australia)?
I guess its like being an artist any where. When you make music if you think it’s amazing, it might be the most amazing thing, but you’re not going to get it to the people that want to hear it if you’re just doing it by yourself. That’s how it feels right now. I guess you’ve got to put way more effort in putting out your music and trying to do the PR yourself. You need to really understand that it’s not just the music that’s going to get you there. You need to really invest in all of the creative aspects of music now because people have short attention spans, you need to drop a video. Make them interested in seeing who you are visually.
As well as professional barriers in that field, what do you think are your personal barriers?
Ironically I dropped a single called ‘Ain’t No [stopping me]’. I don’t feel like I have barriers anymore. Right now, I don’t feel like there are any barriers.
Do you think all of your experiences, in the entertainment industry at large, have helped with that?
Yeah, big time. There are heaps of lessons I’ve learnt, especially doing free work to get anywhere, it makes sense. There’s a lot of hardships involved.
Also, going back home [Ethiopia] has helped a lot when you’re seeing how hard everybody works.
I love the fusion of melodies in ‘Ain’t No’. How did ESESE get to that point? Was it each member putting in their influence?
That was the third version of ‘Ain’t No’. We made the first one which was hella dark. The beat was grimy. Then that tweaked a little bit and then there was a moment where Phillip had a session with Matt and Bazz and they completely flipped the beat with my vocals still in it. I came over the next day and it was completely changed and once we had the band (it wasn’t a full band then, just a hand full of friends helping each other out) we jammed on the second version which was when all the instruments came together. At the end we just jammed and there were parts where the horn players came together and it was just a perfect vibe. We owe a lot to Dan Hugh who’s the guy that mixed the track, he really cleaned it up. The goal that we were going for after we made those two tracks was a juxtaposition, where we put classic genres with just hip-hop that’s not sampled. Just band music with rap, that’s what we were going for in the EP. The EP is called Juxtaposition. We tried to make it have quite a far range.
When’s Juxtaposition being released?
No official date yet but there’s going to be another single release before we drop the EP .
What do you think is necessary for a good collaboration?
Being in the same headspace. As long as there are two people in the same headspace, you can collaborate on anything. If someone is in a clattered and chaotic mood and somebody else is hella calm, they’re going to be hearing two different things if they’re going to be making a song together. If there are two people in the same headspace making music together they’re going to be in sync, it’s like having chemistry. Even if I’ve just met somebody and we’ve started working together, you can already figure out their headspace.
Would headspace be a permanent or temporary thing?
It’s definitely temporary, nothing is permanent.
Have you learnt more from the collaborations that you worked well with or from the ones that you did not work well with?
I haven’t collaborated that much besides from working with the band. Whichever collaboration I’ve done I’ve been pretty happy with because everyone that I’ve worked with has been a friend. Or, if we plan on collaborating, we end up being friends before the collaboration, coincidentally. What I know has all been from good collaborations.
Does inspiration come to you or do you inspire yourself?
It definitely comes to me but who’s to say that that’s not inspiring me? It’s my choice to pick up on that thing to make me feel inspired as well.
So, who inspires you right now?
Chance the Rapper, Kanye, Hudson James, Bill Evens Trio, and Kendrick Lamar.
Are there similarities in the people that inspire you now to the people who have inspired you in the past?
Yes. The artists that I like to listen to now make music in order to raise the publics frequencies.
[What do you mean by frequencies?]
Just opening your mind. What they’re putting out is just helping people in general. It’s either opening your mind about a situation that’s been happening in our society. They’re opening your mind to a lot of social issues and also giving positive messages.
Do you aspire to be like them or take from them?
Take from them, for sure. I don’t aspire to be like anybody, like every other artists we’ve seen. I definitely would like to meet these people on equal terms. I feel like we’re all equal, I feel like I’m on their level maybe not musically yet, but they’re just my inspirations.
How much respect for yourself as an artist do you think you need?
200%. You need a lot of respect for yourself.
In general, whether you’re an artist or not, you need to have a lot of respect for yourself or you’re not going to do what 100% you want to do. You’re not going to be on the path that you want to be on because at the end of the day you’re the only one that knows what you want so you need to respect that and always have that in mind with whatever you do; in order to be happy with whatever comes out of the final product of what you’re trying to create with anything, really.
Do you think humility or being humble should play a major aspect?
Yes. You should be humble because you’re not better then anybody else. It doesn’t matter how much of a superstar you are, you need to be humble, you have no right to be too cocky, it’s just not a good trait.
You just dropped the ‘Ain’t No’ single and video out of nowhere. How much of the ‘unexpected’ factor attributes to the reception you get?
I think it plays a big part because a lot of people didn’t expect me to come out and make music. People that know me know me for videos and DJing and I basically wiped out that I was ever a rapper. I think it helps, it’s definitely good.
Do you think you’re more Mind, Body, or Soul?
Soul. Soul for sure.
[What makes you believe that?].
I think my soul drives me and then my mind is my best friend... and my body’s just skinny. I’m too unfit to say ‘body’.
How important do you think studying is (within an art form and outside it)?
I think you should always be trying to figure out something about something. It doesn’t have to be in school. I left high school. I think it’s always good to be learning something and I feel like we should always be learning something although, we can be distracted really easily. Once in a while go watch an alien documentary or do something random, it’s still learning but it’s new information, it’s always good to have new information. I think it’s important that we specifically learn about ourselves and that in it’s own way is studying.
What stimulates your soul?
Good food, family, and art: in all mediums.
Artists in ESESE:
Hudson James Jr - Singer/Producer/Plays various instruments
Hancoq - Rapper/Videographer/Editor
Phillip Karajev - Saxophone/ Violin/ Keys/ Guitar/ Bass
Jake O'brien - Trumpet
Andrew Bayliss - Latin Percussion/ Bass/ Guitar
Robbie James - Flute/ Alto Saxophone/ Clarinet/ Producer
Nathaniel Sametz - Trombone
Sam O'brien - Singer
Mitch Graunke - Keys / Guitar / Producer
Francious D'argent - Female vocalist
Ty - DJ
Jarz - DJ / Graphic Designer / Photographer / Producer / Woodblock
Watch the Video here: http://prevoir.com.au/content/esese-ft-hancoq-aint-no/