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Urthboy - Signal to Noise

Author: Cyclone
Monday, 6 August 2007

The busiest man in Aussie hip hop, Urthboy, talks to 3D's Cyclone about the joys of multi-tasking.
Urthboy, aka Tim Levinson, is a man of many parts. He's an MC. He's the lynchpin of The Herd. And he oversees the thriving hip hop indie Elefant Traks. Now, with The Herd on hiatus, he's touring behind The Signal, his second solo outing.
Given that Levinson is so hands-on at Elefant Traks, how does he do it-

"Everybody has an aspect of juggling in their lifestyle," he says nonchalantly. "I certainly don't compare myself to people who work 80 hour weeks and have crazy, stressful careers that do their heads in and wear them down, because I do something which is quite fun - I make music and work on it."

That aside, Levinson admits to experiencing "frustration" as a label manager. He is less naive about music than before. And, not being able to indulge himself exclusively as an artiste, he's responsible for others, often receiving "crappy calls" at all hours when things go awry. Still, forgetting the drama, Urthboy loves his job - and he's devoted to hip hop. "It doesn't take away the magic," he says. "It just makes me more realistic about what we do."

Strangely, Levinson didn't grow up in an urban milieu, but in the serene Blue Mountains. He discovered hip hop tuning into the SBS program MC TV.
Urthboy last ventured out with 2004's Distant Sense Of Random Menace. For The Signal he's roped in friends like TZU's Count Bounce, Hermitude's Elgusto, Muph and Mia Dyson, with the first single We Get Around.

With The Signal in stores, Urthboy is already anticipating his next project - The Herd's follow-up to The Sun Never Sets. They plan to issue it in 2008. "We actually have just spent the last month working on a record up on the Central Coast," he says. "That's been a really great process. We have everyone on board - which is pretty hard for an eight-person band. It's excellent... Ozi Batla does the Astronomy Class thing and I do my solo thing and Unkle Ho does his. We've just got short attention spans and have to constantly work on stuff."

Australian hip hop appears to be buoyant in 2007, yet Levinson is disinclined to talk of an 'explosion'. Instead he emphasises the importance of Australia's hip hop, hindered by the rock-centric industry at home, reaching an international market. "Australian hip hop - and the tremendous success story of it - is a facade.

"There are some amazing successes - and those successes have definitely opened up the door for many younger artists, which is essential - but it is misleading to think that many artists are really doing anything other than cottage industry stuff.

"People will say, 'Oh, wow, isn't Aussie hip hop blowing up-' Then you look at the playlists of all the radio stations - and you'd have to be on some serious drugs to look at those statistics and come away with any conclusion other than that it's still very small. It's just in relation to maybe 10 years ago that it's big."

WHO: Urthboy
WHAT: The Signal out through Elefant Trax / Inertia
WHEN: Out now