We chat to B Wise about the collaborative process, tackling identity through the medium of hip-hop, and reflecting on his career so far.
With the release of his sophomore album, B Wise has solidified himself as one of Australia's most prominent hip-hop figures. The record acts as a landmark moment, not just for his career, but for South-West Sydney, for kids of migrant backgrounds and for many people who have previously felt displaced by Australia's music scene. 'jamie' is a deeply personal and honest record that sees B Wise wear his identity wholeheartedly on his sleeve. There's no hiding, no ego or pandering on this record, B Wise reveals all about the ups and downs of life, processing trauma, coming to terms with healing, and his positioning as an artist.
While 'jamie' is his most personal work to date, it also features a star studded lineup of collaborators. From producers, UNO Stereo, Mansus, Juvé, Mansus, i.amsolo and Aywy, to vocal contributions from the likes of ONEFOUR, Manu Crooks, Kojey Radical, Becca Hatch, JessB, Manu Crooks, BLESSED, Milan Ring and Sampa The Great. Each feature is significant, tackling each track with a sense of ownership, a sense of care, utilising it as a platform to support and enhance the 'jamie' narrative.
On the creation of 'jamie', B Wise stated, “From start to finish this project shows every element to my personality. It feels like a re-introduction and a new chapter in my journey. I set out to also bring together and celebrate community, which I think we executed. Sonically anyone listening will hear the growth and I’m just personally proud of what we put together with the obstacles 2020 and 2021 put in front of us. But it ain’t about that, the music on here is the escape. With love, jamie the record is everything that I hoped it would be and more. It belongs to the people now.”
To dive deeper into the project, we chat to B Wise about the collaborative process, tackling identity through the medium of hip-hop, and reflecting on his career so far.
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Growing up in South West Sydney. How important was hip-hop and its surrounding genres to you and your community? Who were those key figures that stood out for you when you were younger?
It was of course huge. Straight away I think of those traditional figures, Tupac, Nas, Dogg Pound, Death Row, Snoop Dogg. I grew up on those kind of guys. As I got into my teens we started looking at The Game, Kendrick Lamar’s and that generation. Kendrick Lamar is definitely one of my biggest influences. Growing up in South West Sydney, there’s a lot going on around you. There’s just different temperatures all around you. When I first heard, Good Kid, Maad City, I related to that kind of a person. I was a creative person just surviving through a tough adolescence. There was so much going on around me I learnt how to function in different environments. Rap music was what it was, it was the best way to relate to what was going on outside of my house.
Even though you’re stripping back the layers on this record, naming it ‘jamie’ it’s also interesting because I think this project also reflects your artist name, B-Wise. Do you feel like ‘jamie’ manifests your overall goal as an artist, to spread wisdom to others through your personal experience?
B Wise is how I came into the game, it was my identity, as a rapper and of course the wisdom element of things. ‘Jamie’ is more introducing who I am and bringing the audience in closer. It allows people to identify with me on that more personal level. I’m not just a rapper, I’m a human being, I’m an artist. I just want people to be grounded with me. Being grounded is something that I learnt after my first album. My head was spinning, I was going through all these different emotions getting into the music industry, everyone wants a piece and you’re here and you’re there, you’re never home. I needed to slow down and recapture what I was about. Being able to capture all that through the layers, textures and sonics, it’s a reflection on how I’m feeling right now, and re-centering. The best way to do it is to really know more about me in depth. There’s so much I want to say that’s impossible to do on one album, it’s the tip of the iceberg of things I want to let you know, and from the sonic perspective it’s the best collection I’ve put together.
People always talk about second album syndrome being a real thing. Was it a challenging time personally, between ‘Area Famous’ and establishing the idea for ‘jamie’?
‘Area Famous’ was my life up until that point. It was my first project, I had no idea what was right or wrong. Me and my manager were learning together on the job. Prior to that all I had done were mixtapes and EPs. We walked away with a really strong response to the album, and people hadn’t heard of a concept like ‘Area Famous’ before. Between now and then, I feel way more seasoned in terms of artistry and recording. We recorded the first album in a makeshift studio without soundproofing, this time we had abit more budget aha. We definitely leveled up with the process.
From an overall look at the project, there are a lot of general contributors. From production, to feature work. What’s the one thing that these artists have in common?
They’re all just amazing talented artists and they all should be 10x bigger than they already are. That comes down to our climate and environment in Australia in the way we see music like theres. We can’t be ignored right now as hip-hop inspired artists in Australia. We’re here, waving the flag for Australian music. Rap music is the number one genre in the world, so what we are doing here is super important. They’re all amazing in their own right. They all have something different. Everyone gelled so perfectly, regardless of any identity, it was all about connection and community. I’m simply in awe. That’s why on the tracklisting it says ‘with’ and not ‘featured’ because it was truly a collaborative process. Even though it’s my face on the project, its as much as it is there as it is mine, everyone took ownership of the process.
One of the most special things about the album is that even though you're telling stories of your background and you're integrating that background into the story, this is still a fundamentally Australian story. This is what Australia is, it's a diverse and incredible melting pot of so many traditions and cultures.
That’s exactly what I wanted people to see. I just wanted it to be relatable for people. That’s why I brought it to that surface level. It’s my story, it’s a personal story, but its a story of one of many young Australian kids can relate to. Children of first generation migrants and all types of people, this is our story. That’s also why it wasn’t just rapping, we were out here singing, we’re doing melodies, we’re trying to show the expression in all types of ways. We can’t be pocketed in a corner anymore. The kids are really speaking right now in terms of what is popular in Australia. They’re the ones pushing the dial and for the first time in a long time, a lot of new youth and kids are proud of repping artists from this region.
On that, we’ll chat Black Visionary. It’s the most important song on the record for me. Did that track come before the concept of ‘jamie’ was born, or did that trigger it?
That came before the concept for the album. We were still figuring out what the project was. When we had the collection of all the songs, and then be able to sit back and reflect on the curation of these songs and what they were saying was I able to realise that. I was in a room upstairs in an Air BNB in the Blue Mountains, working on “Who” with i.am.solo, and I could already hear the early stages of the production for Black Visionary. I walked in on UNO Stereo, Blessed, Milan Ring. I walked in and got instantly in a groove. There was something reminiscent in the beat that felt like a 2Pac record. That’s where the reference in it came. We chipped away at it and went into the kitchen to make dinner, and Blessed kept working on it and he was going in on the hook. He was just screaming the hook, and I had to go back in. Before we know it we went back and forth with his idea and the track was born.
I was actually initially going to call the song just ‘Visionary’, because I didn’t want to alienate people in the audience. At the end of the day I said fuck that, it’s what I’m trying to say and its exaclty who I am. We are here flying the flag, we still here. 10 years ago I was jumping trains and evading transit officers, and now we are really rocking Balenciaga.
Ezinna, my favourite track and I think a lot of peoples favourite track off the album. What makes it the perfect conclusion for ‘jamie’ for you?
Ezinna is the celebration. I’ve never spoken in my dad’s native tongue, Igbo, and I did that on the record. I was able to celebrate my heritage properly on the song too. I’m quite diverse I play around with a lot of different sounds, I think ‘Ezinna’ because it’s so celebratory makes it the perfect closer. We struggled with where we were going to place it, because of how different it sounds to a lot of the music. Having Sampa the Great and Milan Ring as well, I didn’t want people to miss the record with those two together. When you hear the record in its entirety and feel the way it goes into Ezinna, it’s so uplifting. It made sense on the live front as well, I think it’s a perfect way to end a show.
You were one of the first people to utilise hip-hop in Australia with its traditional purpose, to represent stories of marginalised communities through a popular art form. Is one of your proudest achievements in your career seeing the flow on effect from that? Seeing a generation of artists of migrant backgrounds making banging rap/R&B tracks?
I don't want to take credit for a lot of things. If my story inspired any artists, or the Australian media or public, to pay more attention to what we are doing, by taking those early bullets, I’m proud of that. At the end of the day, I’m just super proud to be in the conversation, to be surrounded by my peers, to do what I do and keep feeling like I’m getting better and learning everyday. If I give anyone inspiration, and when I hear that, I feel the love, but I’m not looking for any credit. I just want to keep telling stories, uplift people, and provide for myself and my family. just
Words by Parry Tritsiniotis