Coalition Crew - Freedom Coalition
Brisbane trio and Obese Records family members Coalition Crew have just released their sophomore album Known Unknowns. Encompassing a variety of subject matter, the record will stand as a pivotal step in the group’s career. 3D’s Matt Unicomb sits down with MC Yuin Huzami (You And Whose Army).
Coalition Crew are far from a typical hip hop outfit. The three-piece, consisting of MC Yuin Huzami, producer Toxic Al and DJ Nikk C, have been at the forefront of Brisbane’s rap collective, quietly moving leftfield, organic hip hop forward and infusing a much needed proactive political voice into the city’s musical output. Having released their much respected debut in 2005, the trio have since garnered a reputation as one of Australia’s most forward thinking, socially aware, and musically competent hip hop acts, complimented with a myriad of high profile support slots and interstate crossings. Known Unknowns sees Coalition Crew close one door, and open another. Years of dedication, frustration and anger have been pressed to plastic, impeccably packaged, and is now available; this is Coalition Crew.
Known Unknowns may not be the first hip hop record to encourage the political action, but it may just be Coalition Crew who promote activism with such a degree of class. Production, intricate instrumentation, killer guest spots and Yuin Huzami’s venomous raps are at a level rarely seen in this country, and further enforce Known Unknowns significance in the current hip hop climate. Albums with the pivotal soulful edginess of The Herd’s An Elephant Never Forgets, TZU’s Position Correction, and Muph & Plutonic’s … And Then Tomorrow Came spring to mind, with Coalition Crew’s latest offering more than holding its own. “It was finished late last year,” Yuin says of the group’s second full-length. It was finished so late that it wasn’t a good time to put it out. It gave us the time to hook the deal up with Obese and finalise everything without a huge rush. We spent a lot of time on this to make sure that there’s nothing on there that we’re not happy with. There’s not really much filler. Anything that wasn’t up to it got eliminated over those years. We’ve kept every track that has something going on in its own right. They’re all different.”
Doing things differently in almost every aspect of music production is something that Coalition Crew, whether intentionally or not, happily have under control. Clad in an adventurous and insightful casing, Known Unknowns features a standard of cover art hardly encountered in Australian music. A glossy, colourful cardboard exterior and conceptual imagery encloses Known Unknowns, making the release all the more impressive. “It’s a distortion of figures, and of how the media can skew people’s views,” the Queensland-based MC clarifies thoughtfully. “We’ve continued on with the graph and pie chart, the back cover shows a scene with mountains and grass, but the graph attached shows that it is the world through economists’ eyes. It’s how the media is tricking us. A little bit of propaganda, and a few skewed statistics. It’s a generally a warped view on things.”
Interestingly, Known Unknowns is a double-CD release. Each disc, Known and Unknowns respectively, attend to two different Coalition Crew frames of mind, each distinctively dissimilar, and each with its own agenda. Disc one, the Knowns collection, runs through jovial party tracks, candid jabs at the scene and thoughtful narratives, while disc two, the Unknowns disc, is home to Yuin’s unconcealed political dissection and agenda. The decision to split the content was an easy one. “Some of it is really party orientated, or is about this or that, and then the other half is a lot more political, and darker,” Yuin states about the subject matter. “We didn’t want the album to be a rollercoaster ride, even though it would’ve been heaps cheaper just to do one disc. We also didn’t want to put out the clear jewel case, four-page booklet thing that looks as though you’ve put as little money into it as possible. In this day and age, where people are downloading shit, or not buying it as much, we wanted to reward people for making the purchase. Obese have been really cool; it has been awesome. They’ve been totally cool with us doing what we’d like.”
Sporting an eloquent blatancy seldom found in contemporary music, Yuin Huzami’s character shines through the often thick political overheads like few others have. Paired with Toxic Al’s funky drum loops and infectious bass licks, Yuin’s values become more than just hip hop; they become a faction. Ironically, perhaps the most lyrically potent and enthusiastic track, Backlash, is not regarding government politics, but politics in the music industry. Toxical Al joins Yuin in the booth for the first time, and spits magic. “He’s [Toxic Al] obviously got some good stuff to say about issues in the music industry,” the MC reports excitedly. “Brisbane is such a fuckin’ rock city. Hip hop is massive in Australia now, but there’s still that thing about sampling; people still pay out on it, even if you’ve totally reinterpreted it yourself. Yet people can entirely rip off an act’s whole sound. They may not have taken an exact recording of it, but they’ve based their sound on a band that are too old for teenagers of today to be that aware of. If you’re older than 25, you’ve probably seen these things go through a few times. You just don’t usually hear anything that new or original on the radio.”
WHO: Coalition Crew
WHAT: Known Unknowns through Obese Records
WHEN: Out now