Gibrillah is one of the many up-and-comers hailing from West Sydney. He’s a part of Bodega Collective, an independent crew home to the likes of Kwame and Raj Mahal. Gibrillah’s style is hard to pin down, because he switches so easily. His first single ‘Sobriety’ was a soulful, self-reflective anthem, and he followed this up with ‘High Life Livin’, a bellowing banger about desiring that lucrative lifestyle. He explores emotions we all feel— confidence, hunger, sadness, vulnerability, but in a fresh way. And now with his new Raj Mahal and Phil Fresh assisted single ‘Beamer’, he shows us a new side of his craft.
I hit Gibrillah via email to chat about the new single and how it came together, the future of Australian hip-hop, Bodega Collective, and how he’s keen to work with Thandi Phoenix.
Hey Gibrillah. First off, can you tell us what role music has played in your life so far, and why you wanted to pursue it as a career?
Music has always been a big part [of] growing up. It has helped me find myself and become the man I am today! It has given me an opportunity to spread my voice and express my story.
You grew up in Western Sydney, which seems to be a hotspot for Australian rap right now. What was it like being raised there, and what do you think it is about the area that produces so much talent?
There is so much culture and diversity out here! It’s so easy to be influenced by different aspects and people. I love to pick the vibe from different people and expand on that. The dope thing now is that everyone is coming together and moving as one. Western Sydney has always had a lot, but when everyone comes together it’s real special. It puts the whole scene and area on notice. It’s a very beautiful thing.
Who are some of the artists that played an important role in your love for music?
Mick Jenkins, Tupac, Chnox XL, and Denzel Curry. I am also a very big fan of the soul and poetry side of things. My favourites are Ari Lennox, Earl, H.E.R. and of course the queen Erykah Badu.
I love the honesty you display in your single ‘Sobriety’. Is it hard putting yourself out there through your music, or does it just come naturally?
It comes organically. Everything comes from within my surroundings and life. I love to tell stories of my life either from what I’ve seen and experienced. I don’t talk about cars or girls. None of that materialistic shit. It’s very natural and true to me.
But then you have ‘High Life Livin’, which is a full-throttle banger. Can you take us through the difference in your headspace when making turn-up tracks, opposed to personal tracks?
Like I said I’m a storyteller, everything is personal. But I’ve always said that I view myself as a diverse rapper and someone who can do a bit of everything. So that’s what I want to show through my music. I don’t want to be boxed in as a rapper. ‘High Life Livin’ is a story of where I want to be. I don’t have all these things but this is what I want, I WANT THE HIGH LIFE LIVIN’! That’s where it came from, it’s still showing versatility but it’s still me!
Now we have ‘Beamer’ with Raj Mahal and Phil Fresh. Can you tell us how that track came together?
Domba and Relly were making a track, and they asked me to jump on and lay a verse. But I wasn’t really vibing it and couldn’t pick the beat. So I had Domba make some adjustments to the beat. After that I wrote a quick verse, and Raj came from the other room [and] started vibing with it. Je quickly laid [down] his verse. I came back the next day and Nikos had chucked some keys on it. Then Phil came through and dropped a slick hook. Everything just fell into place.
You’re a part of Bodega Collective, which seems to be producing some of the best in the Australian scene right now. Why do you think this is?
We got so many different flavours. I don’t even want to group them as rappers. They’re artists and different things happening and coming together. We also move as one, which is why we got such a strong team. You can’t help but take notice. There is still a lot of hard work to go but we are making the right moves and we will get there in the end. There are a lot of good things coming out.
You’re at the forefront of a new sound and movement within Australian hip-hop. Where do you see the scene going next? Does anything need to change?
If we be true to ourselves then this shit will be global! You got America who’s already up, UK very close and Australia is next! We just gotta’ keep hustling and moving. There are big things coming for Aus.
Who are some local artists we should check out right now?
Raj Mahal, Lauren, Kymie, Domba, Korky Buchek, Kwame, Mozaick Records, Phil Fresh, Mel Bailey, OneFour, Elijah Yo, Free Souls, and Big Skeez. I fucks with Skeez heavy, you need to make a comeback. Also Thandi Phoenix, I’d love to do a track with her.
Lastly, what else do you have planned for 2019?
Honestly I’m just gonna’ keep my head down and be in the studio working on as much music as I can. I’ve got a few more singles up my sleeve and they are going to be bigger and better than the last. Keep your eyes peeled for the team!