STRICTLY DT Seattle superphonic

Strictly DT
Strictly DT celebrates the launch of his mixtape Leave a Message this Saturday, November 11, at the Fremantle Arts Centre. The Seattle born and raised MC is now happy to call Fremantle home and after releasing a series of projects at Mojos, has teamed up with local hip hop/ jazz eight-piece Premiss to bring his newest work to life, with support from Hyclass, Nina Rose and DJ Tek. With a career that’s included support for legends like Mos Def, Common and Briggs, Strictly DT has made a name for himself for channeling conscious hip hop, and the power of positivity in his craft. MICHAEL HOLLICK talked to him ahead the release and got his thoughts on commercial rap, the elements of hip hop and the scene in Perth.

So, before we start, I believe I’ve called you away from your other gig; Tiler the Creator?

(Laughs) Yeah, yeah, it is true. I’ve just started my own tiling business and I wanted to keep it consistent with the other thing I do. It’s cool if people get it, but if they don’t, it’s all good (laughs).

How do you define your hip hop style?

I have been thinking a lot about this over the last year. Alternative hip hop as well as conscious hip hop and positive hip hop.

Are genres important to hip hop?

They are in a way. I think it is, particularly at the moment in hip hop. You’ve got all these sub-genres, from underground boom-bap to commercial trap and because we’re not labeling them anything, we’re just putting it all under the umbrella of hip hop. It’s confusing.

So for those new to the term, explain “conscious” hip hop…

The conscious has been a part of the hip hop from the get go, it comes from the very beginnings of hip hop, it’s one of the five elements. I think we’re up to nine elements now, but back in the beginning, like when the term hip hop was being coined, those five elements were the foundation; b-boying/b-girling, DJing, MCing, graffiti and knowledge/conscious.

And are those elements on Leave a Message?

Definitely. On Leave a Message, I wanted to return to the foundations. Like I bought in a b-boy to represent that side and I concentrated on my message. I wanted something that leaves a deeper message than the typical messages you find on hip hop tracks that we currently have. It’s kind of lustful where we love it for two weeks or a month and then discard it.

What was that process like for you?

When I was recording this mixtape, it started becoming very personal with myself, I started becoming very vulnerable to some of these messages that I wanted to leave behind, and on top of that, it was very personal with my life and things that were happening to me. But it kind of all came together. The finishing touches were adding the samples from other inspirational artists (featured between each track on the mixtape), like basically leaving a stamp, a message, that they want you to be the best version of yourself.

Therefore, you would like to distance yourself from commercial hip hop?

Yeah because nowadays I don’t think commercial hip hop fully expresses what it is that hip-hop was made from or the purpose of why it was born. Now it is a very profitable market. That’s why I think we are very confused about what we want in our music. Like, I just heard a song about top ramen noodles, and I don’t know how that relates to hip hop in any sense of the manner. Hip hop used to be about peace, love, unity and having fun. Hip hop is still an escape today, but it is often a negative escape. KRS One started the whole crack is whack thing, and now today we praise it.

Strictly DT
What do you think of the hip hop scene in Perth?

I love the way that Perth can relate in their own style, their struggles and their attributions to the city. Everyone is different, everyone is coming from a different scene, like for instance you can clearly tell the difference between a east coast rapper and a west coast rapper because that’s a different scene. When I first came to Perth, I wasn’t too fond of it as I hadn’t lived here. But when I started living here and seeing and understanding the struggles that they are going through, you know, which is totally different to people in America, I got an understanding to it. And I get it and I see why they write in this way to get out of it.

What Australian artists attract you?

There are cats that I listen to from Perth like Downsyde and POW! Negro. And Hi-Class, I really respect her as a MC. From the east, I rate Dialect. I put him up there with a lot of people, and Remi, and Seth Sentry, they are really dope artists. Also, Briggs & Trials.

Given that you’re originally from the US and now work in Australia, is a physical location important?

You need the local gathering kind of feel, though the Internet is great, particularly for artists like myself. If it wasn’t for the Internet I don’t think nearly as many people would know about me as currently do. Mojos has been a home for me, I’ve released my last two or three projects at Mojos, it’s probably been one of my favourite bars. It’s always been a goal for me to perform at the Fremantle Arts Centre as I’ve seen Lauryn Hill perform there and I was saying to myself that I would love to perform in this outdoor setting and now I get that opportunity and I’m very excited.

But we don’t have a hip hop club in Perth?

Oh, Perth has got it covered. I forgot to mention Rosemount, that’s been an amazing venue and hangout for me. There have been people that have tried that, and I respect them a lot, like Rob Shaker, he does some nights and the problem we have, I feel, is that either a) people are aggressive and they don’t know how to handle their drink and they get in fights, b) people who are not there for the music and are just there to tag up the bathrooms, and this is just from what I have seen through these nights, and c) I don’t know if it’s a big enough scene for it to be a weekly thing.

Would you like to return to the US?

I would love to do a show in my hometown, that’s a big goal for me. All in all as long as I can come back home, and do an intimate show you know, it doesn’t matter how many people show up, I want to put on a great show for my community.

If there was just one theme that you wanted listeners to walk away from it with, what would that be?

Think about what you are doing with your life. You can do whatever you like, so long as it’s a conscious effort and not a compulsive action. Conscious and compulsion, those are the two things we have to separate when we make decisions. Just seeing a different perspective. And what we think today may not be what we think tomorrow but as long as we keep ourselves open to receiving different messages, we’ll continue to grow.