by Sameera Pillai and Alex Molchanoff
By taking on the ‘skip-hop’ culture of Aussie rap, Lanstan went viral, now he talks to us about his inspiration and merging music styles in the digital age.
‘Holden Commie got it locked down’, ‘Call up my boy he’s a tradie’ and ‘Going on a Maccas run’ are some ‘Australianisms’ that seem as far from rap lyrics as possible. But that’s exactly how new age Australian emcee Lanstan wants it to be.
From Sydney’s northern beaches, hails Paul Smith, better known by his stage name Lanstan, whose music video broke the internet, because of its creative integration of ‘trap culture’ with Aussie slang.
“I thought I’d make a melodic trap style song and I’d make it about the most Australian thing I could, which at the time a lot of my friends were making memes about this idea of ‘Garn Servo’ because it’s slang for going to the petrol station.”
Australian rap is not new to the music scene with Hilltop Hoods, Bliss N’ Eso, Illy and 360 achieving international acclaim for their work.
It has been grounded in lyricism which has historically dominated our perception of rap music. Lanstan is of the opinion that rap needs to move past its history.
“I think Australian hip hop historically in the underground scene has been all about lyrics and all about who can come with the best flows and the best bars.”
“I appreciate that but it’s more about trying to be something a bit different. Australian rap has well and truly covered hip-hop in that way,” he said.
For music aficionados, hip-hop is diverging into a duality between traditional Australian ‘hip-hop’ and an international trend of mumble rap or ‘trap’ music.
‘Trap’, or ‘mumble’ rap is a subgenre of hip-hop and although many have been ‘mumbling’ none have been as distinctively ‘Aussie’ as Lanstan.
Lanstan and collaborator Miles Marmalade started work on ‘The Aussie tape’, an EP inspired by their motivation to create an “Australian wave” of trap music.
“When I started making music for myself and not just featuring on someone else’s song, I really wanted to do it in a way that I thought could represent Australian culture,” said the hip-hop artist, talking about his hit music video, ‘Garn Servo’, his first release as an independent artist in late 2017.
So, can blending Australian culture accelerate trap music’s growth in Australia?
“I think it will grow naturally anyway. But that was why we did it.”
“I really wanted to show people how trap can exist in the Australian music scene and how it can be done tastefully and how our culture is something to be celebrated through music in any format,” he said.
Trap has exploded internationally in the past few years with songs such as Desiigner’s ‘Panda,’ Migos and Lil Uzi Vert’s ‘Bad and Boujee’, and Cardi B’s ‘Bodak Yellow’ forcing the genre into the mainstream.
So, why has success not followed for Australian artists with this new form of trap music?
“I think people’s problem is that they’re worried trap is the next development of hip hop and they’re scared of that. But in my mind, it’s almost a different genre entirely.”
Lanstan says the trap music scene in Australia, isn’t at the “core” of the music industry, as it predominantly is in America and Europe.
“I think if you look into the scene, you’ll see that it is exploding in Australia, but it just hasn’t reached that peak yet.”
“And I know a lot of people in the industry that are on the cusp of their run as it were, where they’re about to break out and this will explode in the next year,” he said.
That explosion has been kick-started by successful Australian artists like Kwame, Sampa the Great and Remi gaining traction through songs that lean heavily on trap’s hard baseline and 808s.
Throughout our interview it’s clear that words come easily to this rising star and he speaks eloquently to some of the challenges that face his genre of music in Australia as well as the impact of his own upbringing on his music.
“Hip-hop was always my genre when I was about eight years old, I think I heard ‘Lose Yourself’ by Eminem and was instantly hooked,” Lanstan said.
He said his current interest in music is a fusion of different genres.
“I had a weird in between phase during my early teens where I was really influenced by Indie Rock, psychedelic rock, and then they kind of fuse now to the point that the music I’m most interested in, has trap hip hop elements like heavy 808 and drums.”
Along with those musical influences is a clear connection to the world around him. Miles Marmalade regularly features in videos with sporting jerseys and there is inspiration taken from other facets of life in their music.
“I love soccer, and I love horse racing; we spoke about Phar Lap in ‘Garn Servo’ and Jack Brabham the famous Australian racing driver and that’s really something that adds a lot in amusical sense.”
He says having an “escape” from music is essential in order to avoid “hitting a block”.
“If I’m not going anywhere with something I’m writing, the best thing is to forget about it, sometimes that’s listening to other music that I love or just going away.”
“I play a lot of guitar too as a bit of a release and a lot of good ideas come out of that,” he said.
It’s clear that Lanstan isn’t your typical up and coming rapper, he was educated at Brookvale’s Manly Selective Campus, and as such there is real thought in his responses, along with an underlying passion for the genre that he thinks can be furthered in a close collaboration with visual producers.
“Video and visual content is the future of social media. And so, our song, like Garn Servo was doing quite well before the video.”
“I think it had 20,000 plays on Spotify when the video came out. But the second the video came out within 10 minutes; I refresh my phone and I had about a hundred notifications.”
“It just takes it to a new level because people can sort of engage with it and lay a whole further dimension,” he said.
Lanstan’s interaction with fans through social media has been another prominent feature in his rise, with frequent posts, stories and messages to fans from all over the world.
“I feel like because of this facade of social media, everyone seems to believe that it’s just about the quantity of the followers and not about the quality.”
“And that’s so incorrect because at the end of the day when you actually do a show and you talk to people and they really connect with your music, that means so much more.”
But with the good interactions on social media comes the bad; and as an up and coming artist he’s become accustomed to facing criticism.
“Any hate, any love is always just going to push the video further forward. I do respect their opinion and I do understand that people are never going to like certain sounds and certain styles.”
“But if anything, if a song is polarizing, you’re doing something right.”