With his first recorded single gracing our ears back in 1999 with underground hip-hop sensation, Skinnyman, London-based rapper Mystro (aka MysDiggi) was amongst the wave of socially conscious emcees brought to the forefront of the British urban scene at the turn of the century. Over the years, he has toured and worked with a selection of Australia's finest, including Hilltop Hoods and Bliss n Eso. Mystro upholds a strong, positive impression of the Aussie hip-hop scene, and was the first international rapper to record an entire album exclusively featuring all Australian and New Zealand artists on his 2006 release Diggi Down Unda. Mystro is set to drop his forthcoming album ‘Mystrogen Deluxe’ on April 20th of this year, taking us to a whole new level with hard-hitting features from Homeboy Sandman, Maya Blue and Mystro's alter-ego, Dave The Spade.
We chat to Mystro about his take on the growth of the Aussie hip-hop scene, what we can expect from Mystrogen Deluxe, and how he got involved with Stones Throw's own Homeboy Sandman. Ayla Dhyani writes.
You’re about to drop ‘Mystrogen Deluxe.’ What can we expect from the album?
You can expect a mind altering experience when you journey through this 28 track LP, with production and features from the likes of Homeboy Sandman, Mr Thing, Mark de Clive-Lowe, Junior Reid, fLako, Dirty Dike, Show N Prove plus a bunch more. It’s a deluxe version of my first ever LP. A lot of heart and soul was put into this, so I’m very proud of it and definitely feel that there’s something for everybody on there. So expect the usual creativity in terms of word-play and concepts as well as every side of me you may or may not have heard so far, whether it be the comedy, the wild stuff or the thought-provoking/social-commentary side of things. I did my best to cram everything I’m about into my debut and so with the opportunity of making a bumper-pack or deluxe. I got a chance to add even more ideas I’d been working on. ‘Mystrogen’ is a drug made to stimulate your mind, body and soul. So I hope it does exactly that to the listener.
Can you give us any insight behind the origin of the title?
Yeah, me and my brother Jargon used to mess around with each other’s names and as soon as that came up I said "I’m gonna make sure that’s my first album's title." Since I was young, doing stupid stuff in the streets, I always felt that music was the one thing that could take me away mentally from where I was, more so than any drug. So I wanted to make sure the album went with that concept as it was perfect for that title as well. Mystrogen, it’s like oxygen except you need it a whole lot more.
Your recent single, ‘What I Want’ features New York’s own Homeboy Sandman. Tell us how you got involved with the Stones Throw crew.
I met Homeboy Sandman via a mutual friend from New Zealand who hooked us up via email as Sand was on his way over to do some gigs in UK. Low and behold the person touring him was also booking gigs for me over here so we met up, played each other stuff we were working on and stayed in touch from there. He originally wanted to be on ‘You Ain’t Right’ off the LP but that was already done and I needed a second verse for ‘What I Want.’ So he came to my spot, heard what I had done, went downstairs, did his verse then came back up and laced his verse in no time. A true artist and brother so I feel blessed to say we’re fighting the same fight.
You’ve worked with Sam Dutch, founder of Sydney-based label, Grindin’ in the past. How did you originally get in with the Australian crowd?
Yeah I met Sam via DJ Shortee Blitz in London. We hung out and had a good time, so when the opportunity came about that he could get a rapper from the UK over to tour Australia, I was happy to make the voyage. I got to work with a few cats out there and from then I was going out there every year, sometimes twice a year touring, recording and doing workshops. Always loved Australia and everyone always treated me like a native. So the experience has been another great blessing on this journey.
Having worked with Hilltop Hoods and Bliss N Eso, what are your thoughts on the Aussie hip-hop scene?
It’s strong, man! I’ve seen it grow from mainly being about the US stuff then onto the UK talent but now the home-grown scene has gone on to bigger and better things. I think making moves to the festival circuit has been a good look for the scene, as that’s a market that was hardly tapped into during the early 2000’s, but now look at what’s happening. Just goes to show that hip-hop isn’t just for the streets and tower blocks.
Any planned trips to the southern hemisphere any time soon?
I haven’t made any but would definitely be up for a return once I can meet the right promoter who’s able to make it work.
You’ve been in the game for a fair while now, how do you feel the UK hip-hop scene has progressed over the years?
Well, the main progression from what I’ve seen, is making the transition over to the digital world. When I was coming up we were still selling vinyl and CD’s more than anything else. Even though the Internet was about, it was no way as developed as it is now. So I think a lot of the cats who are still putting out music, found it slightly harder to make that change and learn how to market themselves via social media. Whereas now everybody seems to have learnt how to make it work and those who haven’t are finding it to be a struggle letting the world know what their up to. Another is the fact that a lot of us have taken things into our own hands and are now releasing material frequently on an independent level as opposed to relying on major labels or a chosen few facilitators for the right resources. People are still funny about UK hip-hop, because it’s not screaming for commercial acceptance but every now and then something will pop up that has the country watching, ready to claim it. So we’re in a really good place now and hopefully it keeps progressing.
Who would you say has musically influenced you the most?
Honestly that’s a hard one to answer because I do my best to draw inspiration from everything around me so that I’m never limited to relying on just one aspect of life for guidance. But I’d have to say it’s Mamma Mys who’s influenced me the most. She ain’t a musician or anything, but the hard work she put in throughout her life has been a massive inspiration and making her proud has always been a goal for me so I’d have to go with that.
Any other projects on the horizon?
What stimulates your soul?
Entertaining you Mutha Luvaz!
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