The Tongue - Shirley You Can't Be Serious
Friday, 28 September 2007
He may be a hardened battle MC, but The Tongue is now evolving into a credible recording artist. He’s following last year’s Bad Education EP on Elefant Traks - his “second family” - with a full album, Shock and Awe.
The freestyler reveals a surprising musicality on his debut. Nevertheless, for all his command of the mic, The Tongue, aka Xannon Shirley, is no didactic MC. “I’m not sure if I see myself as a ‘teacher’ so much as an entertainer who has something to say,” he asserts. ”I feel that on Shock and Awe I’m showing people that I can write a good song.
“I’m more than just a dude who can spit 16 bars. There’s strings on the album, I got reggae beats on there, singers, live saxophone - it’s good music.
“MCs in this country need to start thinking of themselves as ‘musicians’. We’re in the music business. I think a lot of dudes out there are just trying to make a name for themselves and expand their egos rather than making a serious attempt at putting out classic songs. It’s a bad look!”
Indeed, the triple j favourite has worked with an eclectic cast, from the producer Braintax to local rapper Ozi Batla to the US Dudley Perkins and Georgia Anne Muldrow. “I’ve been a big fan of Dudley Perkins for ages, but I never thought I’d be able to get him on a track. However, when I heard he was going to be touring Australia, I decided it might be worth hitting him up. I got his e-mail address and wrote him a letter explaining who I was and what I was trying to do. He and Georgia recorded their vocals in California but, luckily, we got to hang out when he came to Sydney - boy, we smoked a lot of weed!”
Needless to say, Shirley agrees that Shock and Awe was an educational experience for himself. ”I learnt a lot more about post-production because I helped mix the record. It’s a vital part of the music-making process. You gotta learn how to follow through.”
In presenting an LP, The Tongue has signalled his intention to pull back from the battle circuit. But, when quizzed on the issue of retirement, he’s noncommittal. “I get asked that question a lot, but I’m actually still battling. I took on Anecdote about three months ago. The judges called it a tie and we split the prize money. To be honest, I’m just more excited about packing out shows and selling records - that can lead places, whereas battling is a one-way street.”
Shirley is a man of many talents. He’s acted. Xannon even performed in the show Wonka! A Live Cinema Remix, which, after a fantastic season in Sydney, was accepted into the 2006 Melbourne Comedy Festival. Above all, The Tongue is a maverick. He’s been known to rap ‘in character’ as the blind MC Sympathy, a swimmer (Ian Thought), a dickhead (literally!), and Osama Been Rappin’. “I used to wear costumes when I battled, but that was only to fight off boredom,” he explains. “I still act a bit. I had a small part in a mini-series called Hammer Bay, which will be showing on MTV later this year.
“Acting is good fun, and I enjoy it, but music is my number one focus. Nothing compares to it...”
WHO: The Tongue
WHAT: Shock and Awe through Inertia / Plays Gaelic Club
WHEN: Out now / Friday 12 October