Venturing through hip hop with Nix & Pat Psyfa

Australian hip-hop duo Nix & Pat Psyfa are making big moves. The emcees, hailing from the Gold Coast (Pat Psyfa) and Canberra (Nix) respectively, dropped their debut project, the ‘Venture Capital EP,’ this year. The EP, produced entirely by Sydney’s own P.R, features guest appearances from big names including Oddisee, Fashawn, Oliver Daysoul and more. The duo tap into the essence of a soulful sound reminiscent of Little Brother or mid 2000’s Kanye, with their own twist. 

We chat to Nix and Pat Psyfa about origins, influences, their EP and more. Victor McMillan writes.

Both of you met in Canberra and came together based on similar musical tastes and influences, who are some of the influences that you both share?

Nix: When Pat and I first met, I think our influences were pretty similar which is probably half the reason it was so easy for us to get on the same page and make music together. We were listening to the same sort of soul-jazz-funk-inspired boom-bap style of hip-hop. As far as I am aware, some of the influences we both share off the top of my head include Big L, Nas, Wu-Tang, Little Brother, Outkast and Elzhi. Aussie artists worth mentioning include Lyrical Commission and Crate Cartel. It's interesting though because these days I think both Pat and I still have similar and growing tastes but it ain't just that boom-bap shit anymore.

Pat: I think we do share a lot of similarities in music and it made it really easy to bounce off each other for ideas. The beat selection process with P.R was quite smooth because of that. As well as the artists Nix mentioned, there are a few others I can think of that we connected on when we were first hanging out. Blu is one of them, I’m a big fan of his album ‘Below the Heavens’ with Exile. We’ve also had quite a few freestyle sessions spitting bars off the dome over DJ Premier production. I remember banging Non-Phixion in the car - we listened to a lot of mid-late 90’s and early 2000’s New York shit hanging out after work (where we originally met). Oddisee is another artist we were both fans of before meeting, so it was a real honour to work with him on our EP.

The Venture Capital EP was produced entirely by Sydney based producer P.R, how did you guys and P.R first link up?

Nix: I had heard of P.R back in year 8 or so since we both grew up in the same area of Sydney. This was when we had both started getting into music. It wasn't until a few years later that I realised he was really putting in work on the boards. After meeting Pat, we were talking about potential producers to source beats from and mentioned he had previously copped some beats of P.R previously. I think it wasn't long after that, we decided to re-approach P.R for some beats. We all just kind of got along and it all fell into place from there. We made a few trips down to Sydney to talk music with P.R and just continued to keep the lines of communication open online. P.R's work ethic is as impressive as his beats so we are blessed to have had him be a part of the EP.

Pat: I bought a beat off P.R after a friend showed me his work online, this was a while before we first started working on Venture Capital. Nix and I had already been in talks over putting together a joint EP and we were brainstorming ideas for producers to work with. We wanted to go with a sample-based producer because that’s style of instrumental that we both dig, I guess. We also wanted to create an overarching ‘feel’ for the EP, so the plan was to go with one producer rather than sourcing beats from different beat makers. I threw P.R’s name in the mix and after going through a few beats he sent me in the past, we decided to give him a call. P.R sent through a few beats which we sorted through, then we went to Sydney to meet up with him at the studio to go through a few more beats down the track. We ended up trimming it right down to 6 tracks as we progressed through the project. The dude is an absolute beast on the boards, and his solo releases are all high quality projects. I recommend artists in the Sydney area to hit him up - he’s great to work with and will without a doubt help you take your sound to the next level! 

The EP features some impressive guest appearances from the likes of Oddisee, Fashawn and Oliver Daysoul, how did these collaborations come about and how does it feel to be rhyming alongside them on a track?

Nix: I couldn’t be happier with how the EP tracks which feature guest appearances turned out. With regards to the Oddisee's feature on 'Difference', well, I was made aware that he was going to be touring Australia back in 2012, so I reached out to his management and enquired about getting him on a track. Oddisee and his management were digging our music so we discussed business and agreed to do a track together. 

When Oddisee and Olivier were actually in Canberra for their tour, I was one of the support acts, and also helped drive them around and look after them a bit during their stay (shout outs to Jem). It was a great opportunity to get to know them on a more personal level and I learnt a lot from chatting to them both (over some delicious meats from Smoque). During that time, I told Olivier about the track we were doing with Oddisee and asked if he would be keen to jump on it. We flicked it over to Olivier about a week later and not long after he flicked it back his beautiful vocals along with Oddisee's amazing verse. 

The Fashawn track came about in a similar way in that I enquired through his management about a feature verse. In a nutshell, Fashawn was feeling the music so we worked out a deal and the result is what you now hear on 'Basics'. He absolutely killed us both on that joint haha.

It feels pretty amazing to rhyme alongside artists like Oddisee and Fashawn. Pat and I respect them a great deal and are big fans of their music so it's an honour and a privilege, really. Big ups to all the people who contributed and played a part in putting 'Venture Capital' together. We could not have done it without you all.

Pat: I think we can both say that we were real hype when we first got those tracks back from Fashawn, Oddisee and Olivier. They delivered some quality work, and it's also just a great feeling to have songs out there for people to listen to with artists that I was listening to when I was still in school.  When I went down to Canberra and jumped on stage with Nix during his set opening for Oddisee and Olivier, I got the chance to chat with them over some wings (shouts to Smoque). Oddisee is a big inspiration to me as an independent artist in the game, so that was a great opportunity. As for the Fashawn track, we were quite lucky that it all fell into place before he signed his deal with Nas’ label, Mass Appeal Records. It has been amazing to see him grow as an artist following his journey in music as well. We were fortunate to have DeeJay Element from Brown Bag All Stars and Discourse from Crate Cartel come through with some ill cuts too! The soulful vocals from Nicola Maree and Ehwhenkeem also helped us in a major way toward creating the soundscape that your hear in Venture Capital. I couldn’t be happier with everybody’s contributions to the EP! 

Your music has a very soulful sound, is this a conscious effort on your part or more of a by-product of the type of music you are influenced by?

Pat: I don’t think we consciously made an effort to go for a soulful sound when we were putting this together - it was definitely more of a by-product of music we’re both influenced by. P.R makes a lot of jazzy, soulful hip hop music… so yeah, I guess we did consciously make an effort in the sense that we sought him out as the producer. But at the end of the day, we just picked beats that we both liked, came up with topics, wrote verses, and the end product is what it is. The hip hop soundscape is changing and evolving all the time, and I think that if we did an EP now, the sound would be quite different. But in saying that, we did want to go for that classic, ‘timeless’ feel, and you can never go wrong with good old sample-based, raw, organic hip hop - that’s where it all started from.

Nix: I think at the time when we started piecing this EP together, we were listening to a lot of that type of music so maybe it was just a by-product. I never really thought about it like that because at the time, I thought it was the only type of music I wanted to make which means that it came together very naturally and organically. P.R is on that jazz-hop steez so we I guess we already had a vibe in mind, and he was able to perfectly translate that into six beats which really resonated with us. 

The prolific US comic artist Jim Mahfood provided the artwork for the EP, are you both big comic book fans?

Pat: I won’t front, I was never deep into comic books, but I’m into a lot of cartoons and animation. Nix introduced me to Jim’s work, and had cover art done by Jim on his first project. We didn’t want to go with a corny picture of us posing on the cover of our EP, so we were looking for visual artists to do work from the get go. I was blown away by what he did for our release! It was mind-boggling to see us drawn up in cartoon form! 

Nix: I've been a pretty massive comic book fan since I was a kid. As a kid, I was into all the popular Marvel-based comics like X-Men and Spiderman. It wasn't until my late teens that I started branching out more, I stumbled across Jim Mahfood's work, and instantly became a fan. In 2012, I was fortunate enough to have Jim do the cover art for my first release 'The Nixtape'. For this release, I hit him up again, and after agreeing on the business side of things, he blessed us with an amazing EP cover. Jim's style is so uniquely his, and I feel honoured to have had him handle the cover art for 'Venture Capital'.  

What’s next for Nix and Pat Psyfa?

Nix: I know Pat's got a bunch of solo and other material in the chamber that's begging to be released. As for me, I am taking a bit of a break from doing live shows, and focusing on my solo EP titled 'Good Gravy' which is produced entirely by J57 and features Murs and more. Who knows if it will ever see the light of day though (laughs).

Pat: I’ve actually got a stack of verses and solo tracks that I’ve written over the years, as well as beats to work with… I just need to sit down and sift through it, figure out what to use and what to scrap. There’s more than a couple EPs worth of music there though, I reckon. I’m also working on a joint release with my good friend, Gold Coast rapper Christian James - we’ve formed a duo called Eastern Trapdoor, and the production is handled 100% by us. None of these projects have release dates yet, but I’m aiming to drop something before the end of the year. Nix and I have a few shows coming up next month in Canberra, including our Venture Capital launch at Transit Bar on Friday 17 June, and we’re planning a few more shows outside of Canberra too so people can hear it live.

What Stimulates Your Soul?

Pat: The good things in life. I’d start with music, hip hop, art, the beauty of our planet. Family, traveling, the experiences of life, sharing good food with good friends. The Canberra Raiders. Did I say music already? Connecting with people over music, bush doofs. Good weed. Living free and freeing my mind. But I think music is the key stimulant for my soul.

Nix: My family and friends. Good music. New experiences. Delicious foods. Meditation. Exercise. The Toronto Raptors making a deep playoff run this year. The ups and downs of life.