Big Dave - The Raw Storyteller
MC Big Dave is certainly no stranger to controversy, and he’s about to lift the lid on it all with his Raw Stories series; 3D got the inside scoop from the man who lives by the ethos: what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.
With so many hard-hitting personal experiences to draw from, how do you prioritise when writing new material-
It depends on a few different things like how I’m feeling at the time and what sort of song I’m looking to come up with. My frame of mind influences what I write about a lot. For example if I’m pissed off my mind will probably wander off to a tale or an experience that has pissed me off in the past and I’ll write about that.
If I’m penning a song to get something off my chest or recording a free download then I go with what ever experience comes to mind and what ever interesting tales or current issue I think of when I’m writing the song.
It’s a different story though when I have a particular topic I have to cover, or a vibe or theme that’s required for a certain project or album, then I end up sitting down and going over my history trawling my mind and memory for something that fits.
Like you said I’ve got a lot of pretty hard hitting experiences to draw from so I’ve pretty much got a story or opinion for any occasion.
Raw Stories is a fantastic concept; was it important to you to make it episodic and tell it over time, rather than cram your story into one release-
Yeah, definitely mate.
Raw Stories is based on the last ten years of my life, it’s like an autobiography so I didn’t want to just force it out in one release and have some of the tales fade in to the background. I wanted to give a well-rounded version of my life experience and how it all went down, it’s been quite a roller coaster ride and so I think it is better illustrated telling it piece by piece.
Another reason I wanted to release it in chapters is because I think it is an innovative idea, something that’s different to the norm. Most of the time hip hop for some reason just seems to copy itself over and over again and nobody tries anything outside the mould.
I like to try and add new things to the music and culture that I love so I thought this was a mad idea, all stories are told in chapters when in a written form so why can’t a music release be the same, know what I mean-
Chapter One features some heavy hitting collaborations; for such a personal release, was it difficult selecting artists you felt comfortable with in helping you tell your story-
When I sat down with my stacks of lyrics and memories to put together the first chapter I listened to a ton of beats to find the ones that matched my stories. From those beats I selected which artists I was comfortable having involved in the project.That aspect of creating this release took some time.
Domingo must have sent me over a hundred beats before I finally found the right one for the track that we did together. I had always admired Domingo’s work with Big Pun who was one of my favourite artists as a kid so I knew he could create the vibe that I was after and eventually he did.
Originally I planned to only work with producers on this album because like you said it’s a personal release so I didn’t really want other MCs on it.
Well that was until I got the opportunity to work with EDI Mean after meeting him last time Outlawz were out here on tour. We recorded a song called Talk Is Cheap which is also produced by EDI.
Tupac and The Outlawz were huge influences on me as a kid so I added our song Talk Is Cheap to the first chapter and that is the only track that features a guest MC.
As far as working with John Payne goes that was something that came about through sheer luck. I opened up my email inbox one day and found an email from JP and he let me know he was showing his support for my label and for myself as an artist. Since that day JP has become somewhat of a mentor to me and KP Rekordz offering advice and stuff to us when we need it.
When it came time to master the first album chapter the budget for us was pretty small so I decided to ask JP if would be interested in mastering the project for a cheap rate. At first asking JP seemed like a bit of a long shot, I mean he was a co founder of Death Row Records and mastered things like Snoop Dogg and Dr Dre’s early Death Row releases but I thought it couldn’t hurt to ask.
He turned around and straight up mastered the whole CD free of charge and for that I have eternal respect for the man, not just because of who he is in the industry but as a person too. There aren’t many established names in the industry that help up coming artists out just because they respect what they are doing.
You’re giving back to the world in more ways than just music, with your work helping improve prison conditions and lowering re-offence rates; is that just as important to you as the music-
I’m the type of guy that has to be involved with things I feel passionately about, I can’t just be a bystander it’s not in my nature. I love my hip hop so I am immersed in it and the same goes with my work improving prison conditions in this country. During my time inside I saw first hand screws abusing the power they are given and it had a big effect on me.
One experience I had was being locked in a cell one day and touched up by a group of ‘roid munching screws pretty much for no reason. I felt utterly helpless and just like most of the boys inside I was made to feel like I wasn’t worth two cents.
People are given a jail sentence to be separated from society until they have served there time and that is all. Time is the punishment, physical and mental abuse is not part of the bargain. The boys inside are often deprived of visits, contact with loved ones and even basic things like showers and food. We are supposed to live in a humane society or we are at least supposed to try and work toward building a humane society. If we have screws committing the same crimes on inmates that the inmates are serving time for then that makes our whole system hypocritical.
I believe that if we can stamp out this abuse of power and we can begin to actually try and rehabilitate and educate the boys while they are inside then we can lower re-offence rates and that is a positive thing for the whole community. Without a transparent prison system this goal can’t be reached especially with the current mentality of a lot of the NSW corrective services staff.
With our prisons filled to capacity and more and more people finding themselves inside for petty offences a change has to be made in today’s society and I feel like I should do what I can to help bring about that change.
You set-up a website Kokyprik.com, intended as a voice for your label as well as Australian prison inmates; did you anticipate its success, and can you tell us a little more about the idea behind it-
When the site was first being built it was originally just going to be a site for my label to showcase its music and place for me to share my opinions and experiences. It really worked wonders in helping our music to get out there in to the community over the last 18 months.
Its has become an online home for us to express ourselves and to do or say what ever we like with out the burden of censorship. These days it gets in excess of 3,000 weekly visits. During the planning phase for the site I had a few mates who were being treated very poorly while in jail and there wasn’t really anything they could do about it so I decided to create an aspect to the site that would give them a place to be heard by the greater community.
When an inmate is being treated poorly or he feels like he just wants the outside world to know he is still alive and kicking he can write us a letter and we post it on the site. The actual project is called “Behind The Walls”.
At first I planned to just direct some Australian media to the Behind The Walls section of kokyprik.com in the hope that they would let Australia know what was happening to the boys while they served there time.
I had also hoped it would help the boys to feel like they were still connected to the community and would show them they still had a voice in the outside world. It worked really well and the project has exceeded our expectations and brought a lot of attention to the wrong doings of corrective services.
We have received praise from Justice Action, the Australian prison reform group, we have surfaced abuse letters from “Supermax” that are now with the United Nations and even old Chopper Read has made an appearance on the site through a video interview. The whole project has been a runaway success.
You have to love the internet these days, don’t you; the website has been a key aspect in the success of both our music and our community projects.
If there’s one piece of advice you’d offer as a result of your experiences, what would it be-
Don’t let anyone break you down! The world is filled with people who will want to crush your spirit and destroy your hopes and dreams but no matter what happens to you during your life if you never give up and you can summon the will to fight on then eventually you will win.
For those who haven’t seen you live, what can we expect from your Project X slots-
Very loud aggressive hip hop! Nah, just kidding. Me and my DJ Grantwho will be doing sets featuring songs from my new release Raw Stories Chapter One.
They can expect to hear some storytelling rhymes, some upbeat-ish crazy stuff and the odd DJs joint. Then they can probably expect to see me shoulder to shoulder with them, beer in hand catching the project X set myself.