Over the last 12 months or so, Melbourne-based MC Mantra has been accumulating respect and acclaim in the minds of many, emerging as one of Australiaâ€™s most talented hip hop artists.
Despite this, it is apparent Mantra humbly digests the widespread kudos with a grain of salt. â€œObviously when someone I admire is saying something, like they think Iâ€™m one of the best in the country, itâ€™s something I try to take in my stride but itâ€™s hard not to feel very proud. Itâ€™s not something Iâ€™m conscious of when Iâ€™m writing my music, but it is very encouraging to hear that from people who are respected in the scene.
â€œAt the same time, there is always room for improvement. If I didnâ€™t keep pushing myself, I wouldnâ€™t be producing the kind of music that gets me that tag.â€
The very people singing Mantraâ€™s praises will be eagerly awaiting his debut album, â€˜Power Of The Spokenâ€™, due for release later this week. If his recent track, â€˜The Freak Showâ€™, on M-Phazesâ€™s album is anything to go by, â€˜Power Of The Spokenâ€™ is going to be a powerful display. Mantra describes the processes that have led to his debut solo release.
â€œIâ€™ve wanted to do it for about five years now, ever since I first started recording and performing seriously. Iâ€™ve had a few attempts before this to get a solo project happening but this is the first one where Iâ€™ve had a chance to devote all my time to it. I guess altogether, this album probably took me about a year. I was still juggling it with Illzilla and other weekly commitments in Melbourne, but all my free time last year was devoted to working on â€˜Power Of The Spokenâ€™.â€
When it came to producers to work with on this debut foray, Mantra took a relatively nonchalant approach to collecting beats.
â€œI just worked with a group of producers I really trusted. So I wouldnâ€™t necessarily go to producers with a specific idea in mind, but basically if I heard something I felt I could use to a good advantage, I grabbed it. I didnâ€™t really have any prerequisites, as long as it was banging and I felt it was compatible with my style, that was pretty much all I needed.â€
Mantra has also taken a level-headed approach to taking â€˜Power Of The Spokenâ€™ to the live circuit. For many, this album will probably be the first substantial introduction to Mantra as an artist, despite the work he has done with Illzilla and Equills. He describes how a timely offer from Elefant Traksâ€™ Urthboy allowed him to spread his name potentially a lot further than completing a headline tour.
â€œAbout a month after the album drops, Iâ€™ll be joining Urthboy on his national tour; weâ€™ll be doing 17 dates. This worked perfectly for me because that was around the time I had hoped to be touring the album anyway. When Urthboy offered me the slot, it was too good to refuse really. I love Urthboy and he has a bigger fanbase than I do. That means Iâ€™m going to get to a bunch of places I probably wouldnâ€™t have been able to otherwise.â€
This introduction to the Melbourne MC will be by way of a fairly overt concept for an album. Mantra explains how despite a gamut of thematic vibrancy, the focus of the album is not always necessarily the broadcasting of a message, more the capacity to do so.
â€œThe reason I called the album â€˜Power Of The Spokenâ€™ was because my name, Mantra, relates to the power of the spoken word; a mantra is an idea, word or phrase that you repeat to try and summon a power or belief in something. Another reason I named the album such is because there are a lot of lyrical influences on there and I go to a lot of different places with it theme-wise. The main focus of the album is the words and their vocalisation. Thatâ€™s one of the reasons I rap, I believe very strongly in the power of the spoken word.â€
Mantraâ€™s debut album, â€˜Power Of The Spokenâ€™, is out March 26 through Obese Records. Catch him on tour with Urthboy at the Great Northern April 29, Step Inn April 30 and Never Land Bar May 1.