A better beat-builder and producer than M-PHAZES is nigh on impossible to find in the Australian hip-hop scene. The man himself would probably take issue with that but his record is pretty damning of any other opinion. Would you gather that from speaking to him? No, not really.
“What’s next for you?” I ask. “I’m actually trying to get some tracks with De La Soul,” M-Phazes replies, his tone more in keeping with going to the bank than collaborating with living legends. “Like, I’ve worked with Talib Kweli and Pharoahe Monch and I guess they’re sort of on the same peer group level… so to get a track with them would, y’know, I guess be one of my dreams.” You have to have your feet firmly on some really awesome ground to say something like that so casually.
And he does. Not only did M-Phazes earn an ARIA last year for his debut solo effort, Good Gracious, but his skill as a producer has been sought out by some of the best artists in American hip-hop. Now he’s released a new collaborative effort with Emilio Rojas under the name ‘Phaze One’ and is supporting one of the biggest hip-hop groups of all time (Wu-Tang Clan) on their Australian tour. Luckily for us, Phaze has decided to swing by Canberra on the way and spin a DJ set, professing a desire to “get my DJ reputation up a bit, y’know?”
For more than one reason, this promises to be worth the price of admission. As a creator of thematic experience, Phaze is phenomenal. “I grew up on American stuff,” he explains when I question his ethos. “I grew up on albums with a lot of skits, more produced albums like De La Soul, A Tribe Called Quest... things like that inspired me. It’s catching the imagination. I feel like the more depth you add, the more a person can get lost in the song, which is a really cool feeling when you close your eyes and imagine being where that person is.”
When asked for specifics, he summarises modestly. “I’m just playing some good music. With DJ sets, it’s more just having a rocking party. Playing stuff that I’d love to hear in a club, but also adding my own twist. I try and surprise the crowd, play things they might not usually hear but also play things they might want from an M-Phazes show.”
By the way, if you’re not sold yet, DJ Quik, Frank Ocean (of OFWGKTA), The Weeknd and Beastie Boys are currently heading Phazes’ personal playlist, and his current and future projects include DJing for Illy and collaborating with Kimbra, Josh from Miami Horror and Daniel Merriweather. It’s no surprise Phaze claims to have no time to kill and if the man insists on working, you may as well enjoy the fruits of his labour.
M-Phazes takes the Transit stage with Buick, Jemist and more on Saturday August 20. Free before 9pm, $10 on the door after.