He has spoken at TEDx, worked with some of the biggest names in hip hop and dropped some of the freshest beats in Aussie hip hop today. But who is L-FRESH The LION? Here is your essential introduction…
I hear there’s an interesting story behind “The LION” part of your name?
The LION was a name given to me at birth. It was handed down to me by my ancestors. See, at birth, all Sikh females are given the middle name Kaur which translates to princess or royalty, and all males are given the name Singh, which translates to lion. So it was only natural that I kept it as part of my identity as a MC.
Being from the western/southern fringes of Sydney, what sort of music did you grow up listening to? Who were your biggest influences?
I didn’t listen to a lot of music growing up, though the music I was exposed to came from a wide range of genres. My family exposed to me a lot of music from Panjab and from India in general. There were always classic songs and anthems being played at family gatherings and birthdays etc. Then my friends at school would expose me to a range of Western music, from pop to r&b and soul to Hip Hop.
My biggest influence artistically from a Hip Hop point of view from the beginning was definitely Tupac Shakur. The more I delved into the world of Hip Hop, the more I learnt about the culture itself. I then started to pick up a lot more and consequently grew as an artist.
You’re still so young – when did you start getting into hip hop? Did spoken word come first or later?
I started getting into Hip Hop in my early teens. It was introduced to me by mates who would pass me burnt copies of their favourite albums. I then became curious and started searching for new music on the internet. Hip Hop resonated so strongly with me.
At some point, I decided to write my own songs. I don’t remember the first moment that spurred the feeling to want to do so, but I do remember falling in love with the process of writing and recording a song. I just kept on going after that.
Spoken word came years after. That was introduced to me by a Hip Hop pioneer in the Australia scene named Morganics. He invited me and my crew (at the time) to perform at a spoken word gig headlined by Omar Musa. I’ve since become mates with Omar and have gone on to do quite a few spoken word gigs. I love the intimacy of a poetry gig. People really listen to the lyrics.
You’ve shared the stage with some huge acts – who was the most memorable? Did any of them give you any advice?
Man, there are SO many memorable moments. I’ll share 3 of the most memorable.
The first 2 happened during the Nas tour in 2009. Chali 2na, MC Supernatural and DJ Qbert were also on that tour. I felt so privileged to be able to bounce with such Hip Hop royalty.
For most of the tour, as the unknown support act, my team and I were very rarely allowed backstage unless we were due to go on to perform. Only at the Sydney show were we able to hang out backstage and watch the other artists perform from side of stage. I really enjoy watching a gig side of stage. I learn so much from that angle. I get to see the audience’s response to the artist and I get to see how the artist interacts with their team during the performance.
Anyway, first memorable moment: DJ Qbert was the first international performer to go on after me. During his set, MC Supernatural was watching from side of stage, in complete awe of Qbert and his skills. Then when MC Supernatural was performing, Chali 2na was watching side of stage, and he was blown away by Supernat’s freestyle abilities. Then when Chali 2na was performing, Qbert was watching from side of stage in full appreciation of what Chali was doing. THEN when Nas was performing, all of them watched from side of stage during moments of the set and were in reverence of how dope Nas’ set was.
For me, that was amazing! It was amazing to see that appreciation between the artists for one another. It let me know that they were all students also; they were also learning from the other artists and continuing to grow their games.
Second memorable moment: on the same tour, watching Nas from side of stage at Sydney, the last show of the tour, was an affirmation moment for me. I stood there and vowed to be in that position again one day. It was at that moment that I knew this is where I needed to be and this is what I needed to do: to rock stages and to rock mics. I’ll never forget that feeling.
Third memorable moment: during my most recent tour with Talib Kweli and Dead Prez, I got to hang out quite a bit with Sticman from Dead Prez backstage after the Sydney show. We spoke for a while about a whole bunch of different topics, including our song writing processes and how we piece together our music. I learnt a lot from that conversation and I really appreciated the humility of Sticman and his wife Afya. They didn’t have to do that. They didn’t have to sit there and engage in conversation. It was definitely a memorable moment.
You’ve also completed a Bachelor of Arts and Law double degree at uni. How did you find time to perform/write/record music?! Any plans for the degrees?
It was really about time management and finding a good balance. Music was my outlet and my passion. It kept me energised. So outside of studies, it really kept me focused and driven.
I think I use my degrees every day. More than anything else, study at university provides you with skills that you can use every day. They’ll continue to come in handy for the rest of my life in more ways than one.
Tell me about ‘One’?
One is the name of my debut album. It’s my official introduction to the world as an artist. It is soulful, positive, uplifting and conscious Hip Hop. At the same time, it’ll make you move. Nobody else in the country has created Hip Hop like this.
And you’re taking a full live band on this tour?
Definitely. I love playing with my band. So I’m always looking for opportunities to take them on the road with me. They’ll be playing with me in Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne and Adelaide. In Perth I’ll be playing alongside my DJ, MK-1.
Who would you ultimately like to work with?
My wish list is quite long haha. I’ll name 3 artists who I’d love to work with: Common, Damian Marley, and The Roots.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
Rocking stages and rocking mics, haha! I hope to be in a position where music acts as my passport to take me to place all over the globe, connecting with people; sharing my music and my stories and constantly learning and growing as an artist and as an individual.
Any plans for regional, national or international tours in the foreseeable future?
Yes! I am doing a national album tour during April/May. I’ll be performing shows in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth. All dates and ticketing details are on my website, www.L-FRESH.com.
L-Fresh The LION will be performing around Australia from Friday 25 April – see his web site for more info and tickets. Check out Faithful, the second single from forthcoming album One, here: