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Layla Interview: RAW LYRICAL POWER

Author: Andrew James
Thursday, October 6, 2005

The West Australian hip hop scene is notorious for its strength, bringing an inordinate amount of acts out to national acclaim, especially when you consider the relatively small population Perth and the surrounding area holds. From the Syllabolix crew that spawned Downsyde to DJ/producer Fdel, there's plenty of action happening in the west. One MC that's starting to make inroads over here is female spitter Layla. Widely considered the MC's MC by heads in the know, she dropped most recent album Heretik earlier this year, following it up with a tour. She may not have the same profile as Hilltop Hoods or the like, but she's got enough raw talent to ensure she goes far in this fickle hip hop game.

Catching Layla on the phone, it sounds like she's hanging right in the middle of a club. But as it turns out, it's just a family function. "It's actually my brother's 21st, so all the family's around. I'm checking out Roots Manuva later on tonight, so it should be a big one." Judging by the sounds of the party, her brother is getting one massive key-to-the-door ceremony.

Growing up in WA, Layla was first attracted to the darker, rawer end of the hip hop spectrum. From grime-hop of Gravediggaz through to the gangsta lean of NWA, it was the rawest of the raw that brought her into the fold. And this can often be found in her delivery - she's definitely not one to mince words. While this abrasive approach can unsettle some, it gives her the smarter reputation of one who calls a spade a spade - something to be proud of as an MC.

Although she's since moved on from her formative influences and found her own lyrical space, she doesn't forget where her roots lie - sure, MCs with lyrics that are derogatory towards women don't float her boat, but she's unfazed by them at the same time.

So how did she feel the response was to Heretik- Was she happy with it-

"Yeah, I think it went down well. But I'm really not feeling Heretik anymore. You have to remember that most of those songs were written years ago now. I feel like I've moved on creatively and while those songs are still part of who I am, I've moved on. It was dealing with growing up, the hard part of your life and I feel like I've moved on now."

She's working on some new material, some of which has just seen the light of day - a limited edition double-CD version of Heretik has just come out, which showcases some of the extra material that didn't make it on to the final product. Then there's new 12" The Fuss About Sluts, the name of which gives you enough of an idea of the lyrical content. But what about a follow up to Heretik-

"I'm working on some new material now, but not sure when it's gonna finally be released. We'll just have to add in some other flavours and see what we come up with."

How about the Perth scene- How's it going these days- "The Perth scene's good, there's a few club nights that keep things going. You have to remember that it's not the largest city in the world, so everyone knows everyone. Plus everyone works together for that reason - you have to!"

Although many are attracted to more than one element of hip hop culture, Layla has always been only interested in word play. Drawing on a few years of poetry, MCing came naturally to her, as you would expect. But it wasn't until she took a trip to London that she considered the rap game as an actual occupation.

She feels that Perth's relative remoteness from the rest of Australia leads to a more distinctive sound in their releases - a relative lack of influences leads to a more signature Perth sound.

What about her upcoming Melbourne gig- Is she looking forward to it- "Yeah, it's great to be a part of the Obese Block Party lineup. Obese really are like one big family, a lot of the crews are tight through the label. I heard about the last Block Party from Obese and it sounded mad. So yeah, I'm happy to