Rapaport talks National Tour, founding Big Village Records and 'Village Idiot'

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Multi-talented emcee, musician and producer Rapaport is heading on a national tour. Off the back of his new album ‘Village Idiot’, as well as a 16 show tour with the legendary Butterfingers, Rapaport is ready to showcase his new music around Australia. A key founding member of the staple Sydney collective and label Big Village Records as well as hip-hop education Institution School of Rap, Rapaport has been an integral part of the local music scene for many years. After numerous projects as a member of Loose Change, Rapaport has made his mark with his latest 'Village Idiot' album, showcasing his wide variety of skills over a selection of production featuring an excellent blend between samples and live instrumentation. We chat to Rapaport about his album, Big Village and much more. Victor McMillan writes

Your new album ‘Village Idiot’ is very open and honest, was that a conscious direction or did it develop naturally?

I think it’s something that I guess has been a part of what I do as an artist for as long as I’ve been writing but I guess with this album it’s been a bit more so. I did want to talk about things that were more personal to me in a way that maybe I hadn’t done so much on some of my other music. 

Before this album the last official release was the two albums I did with my group Loose Change and I think when you go from a group to working as a soloist you are more open to talk about personal things or at least that’s how I kinda felt 

I guess it gives you freedom in terms of subject matter as well…

Yeah exactly, I mean with 'Loose Change' we definitely touched on personal stuff but I think the focus was more on the sound and the groove whereas this project was really all on me. I really wanted to make the songs really meaningful to me and make sure I go really personal and more honest than I had been on other releases.

On the production side you were also able to put your own spin on it with the diversity of the sound on the album…

Yeah I worked with a bunch of different producers but a lot of the stuff I kind of collaborated with people, you know, even if I didn’t collaborate musically with producers I had a lot of say in how arrangements were done and that sort of thing. It was good to try and find my own sound which I guess turned out to be a lot of different sounds to develop my own sound.

You were a key part of the foundation of Big Village Records, what are your memories of how that all came together?

I was definitely one of the founders, it was initially an idea that I had which I brought all the others into and then we created it. It’s something that I was there from the very beginning. When it started it was really to build a platform for the groups that the members were in at the time, so it was my group Loose Change, there was the Daily Meds, True Vibe Nation, Tuka and Jeswon from Thundamentals that were interested in creating a platform for their solo music. It was kind of a confluence of different paths and the timing was working for myself, P. Smurf from the Daily Meds and True Vibe Nation. We had kind of been doing shows together for years, like if you look at all the all the big album launches or big gigs that any of us had done around 2008, 2009 there was normally one or two of the other artists on the support so we were already feeling like a collective or a crew. It just felt like the next step to start a record label when we all got to the stage where we were looking for other record labels to sign us basically but going ‘oh, hang on, there’s not that many out there’ so why don’t we just start our own. It’s probably pretty fair to say that most of the people on the label, including myself, didn’t really know what a record label was when it started so it was a steep learning curve.

What have been both the challenges and rewards of running Big Village?

Ah where do I start, there are a lot of challenges (laughs), and a lot of rewards but I guess the biggest challenge is the business side of it. Running a record label as a business in 2018, or even over the last few years, is difficult. It’s been a changing time for the music industry in which the traditional label business model is very difficult if not impossible to sustain a business. Traditionally a record label makes its income from the album sales whereas nowadays the album sales have diminished in terms of the profit streams for the artists so the whole business has changed. The hardest thing has been trying to maintain that and for a lot of record labels, as far as I understand, the label have had to switch into becoming something plus a record label, either a management plus record label or a booking agent plus record label or a range of different things to try to keep a profit stream.

I guess it has become less the profit making than the management and other merchandising, so yeah it’s really difficult so have a business model because of the changing times in the music industry. Another difficulty in starting a record label with other artists is that they are struggling to be artists themselves and them having to deal with the business side of it aswell. That’s been one of the most difficult things and I think that there aren’t really any quick fixes, it’s hard enough just being an artists and paying your rent, let alone being in the music industry.

I’d say the rewards are seeing artists grow and build fan bases and being part of the release of a project, seeing it progress from start to finish. I love being a part of it, from hearing demos to final mixes, then getting the album ready, pressing and then the album launch. I love being involved in the design aspect, I’m not a designer but I love being part of that and just helping an artist work to create a really good product, a piece of music and art that they can be proud of for years to come. 

The label not only features an emphasis on high quality music but also music which touches on and speaks out on social issues, why do you think that style is important in music today?

Yeah that’s kind of always been a part of what the label stands for so when it started with all the 13 artists it’s part of what brought us all together and unified us. A lot of different viewpoints but politically and socially we shared the same sort of views. I guess it stems from a belief that music should be a voice for change in society, and there a lot of change that needs changing (laughs). That goes back to what we all felt when we started and also the mindset of myself and P. Smurf who’s the other partner in the label at the moment, we’re both very passionate about using music and the artists that we work with as a way to create that change and to talk about things that people might not want to talk about but need to be talked about, to give a voice to other artists from different diverse cultures and backgrounds. 

You are also the founder of the hip-hop education organisation School of Rap, for those that don’t know, what does that entail?

So I started doing hip-hop workshops around 5-6 years ago and School or Rap is kind of an extension of that. Essentially it’s about creating programs to teach hip-hop to both young people and other people in the community, it’s using hip-hop to connect with different people or give people a voice that might not have a voice. We’ve done programs in high schools, in jails and community centres all around New South Wales. It’s a way to use hip-hop more than just making music to the level of connecting with people and it’s a great way to connect with people because the style of hip-hop is so direct. I’ve also found on a personal level that if you are passionate about something, the way I am about rapping that passion is a way to connect with people. So teenagers, at first they might look at you like oh you’re just some daggy 30 year old whose come into our school to talk about rapping but as soon as I start rapping or talk about it I regress in a way to that child like ‘Ah I love this’ and that’s kind of refreshing for teenagers in a school setting especially. It’s just a way of connecting with anyone, I’ve done workshops with CEOs, people in jail and kids that are 5 years old and sometimes doing the same thing but when people look at someone who is passionate and can convey that passion in a manner that people can connect and do themselves it can be very inspiring and also uplifting. It’s amazing to be able to share what I love with all sorts of people. 

What can the fans expect from your upcoming Village Idiot national tour?

I’m really excited to get on the road and do my shows, I do love performing. I’ve got a range of songs but I’m trying to bring them to life each in their own way as a way to create variety in the live shows so I’m trying to use the live instruments, I’ll be playing guitar, I’ll be doing some freestyles, I’ll be playing some beats and just really trying to express the songs on the album to the best of my ability in a live context and also have fun aswell and give off that same sort of energy when I perform and freestyle so it’s going to be cool to get out there. I’ve just done a whole bunch of shows with Butterfingers aswell, we did 16 shows over the last couple of months so I feel pretty good about the live show, having just done so many sets and it feels good to know that you know what you are doing with everything.