By: Matt Innes
In 1997, Sleek The Elite left an indelible mark on the world of hip hop at large when he released the venomous ‘Sleekism’, a debut album that was as skilfully crafted and produced as it was controversial.
Some 18 years on and with just one release to his name, Sleek remains an iconic cult legend in the intricately-woven fabric of Australian music culture. “I’m overwhelmed by some people’s response,” he says. “I’ll get the odd person saying ‘Sleekism’s classic’ and it was one of the first albums they bought or fell in love with.”
Now, Sleek is positioning himself for a glorious return to music, collaborating with national and international artists, as well as hooking back up with long-time friend and producer, DJ Soup to work on material for a new album.
“For the past year and a half I’ve been working with a guy named Faz down in Sydney,” he explains. “He got me on to an album by a rapper called Anonamix; I did a track on that with him and a couple of other rappers including Demunz and Disturbia.
“Then more recently, I’ve been in contact with DJ Soup – in the old days it was Sleek The Elite and DJ soup … except for the one song on ‘Sleekism’, [DJ] Soup produced the whole album musically. We were an engine that we fired off each other, so we’ve caught up recently and we got some stuff in the pipeline.”
After receiving initially positive airplay on Triple J, ‘Sleekism’ was quickly pulled from rotation after it caused offence among some of the station’s announcers and listeners. This only flamed Sleek’s rising popularity as an in-your-face MC from the bad blocks of Sydney, which made him a valuable, albeit volatile, commodity at the time.
“You’re talking about a bloke who had no direction other than following his heart,’ Sleek recounts, “most record labels at that time, they didn’t want to know me; more than a dark horse, I was like the Devil to them,” he laughs.
Beyond his work in music, Sleek is well-known for his comedic performances in TV show, ‘Fat Pizza’ which, apart from being undeniably pee-your-pants hilarious, succinctly explores the socio-economic cross-section of modern multiculturalism in Australian society. In his role as a foul-mouthed, anti-authoritarian MC, Sleek cemented his folk hero status for evermore, finding fans in the most unlikely people.
“On an Ansett flight I had a gay flight attendant come up to me and tell me he loved watching ‘Fat Pizza’ with his parents who lived in Mossman. It’s a kind of stuck up white-collar suburb in Sydney and it was totally unexpected … I still don’t know why I appealed to and was able to crossover to a lot of other genres, without crossing over.”
This, along with his spitfire delivery of razor sharp rhymes bred of pure frenetic energy, made Sleek a household name as the angry-man of Aussie hip hop with tracks like ‘Release The Frustration’ and ‘Child Of The Cedar’. Nearly two decades later and Sleek says time has done nothing to mellow his artistic fury.
“Actually my raw emotion is ten-fold now,” he says. “I feel my lyrics have evolved to reflect the person I am and what I’ve been through, and unfortunately I had to manage a lot of anger in the past years, but fortunately I’ve had the ability to do it through lyrics.
“No-one got hurt, except myself [sic] occasionally, and things could have gone down another way. I’ve held tight to the pen, and at the time of shit hitting the fan sometimes writing’s the last thing on your mind; but once the smoke clears and everything settles and you’ve just got the scarring and the hurt and emotion to deal with, I found it was like refined fossil fuel in terms of a way to fuel my ability to write lyrics.”
Driven by a burning desire to cast of the shackles of misfortune and forge his own future as captain of his destiny, Sleek is excited for the release of his new album. “This is stuff people haven’t heard yet for the greater part; no-one’s heard this new ‘Sleekism’ that’s come out of a ring of fire.
“I had to battle my demons and I beat them, at least I feel I beat them and I learned enough to know that there’s always something around the corner … it’s been a journey and I’m looking forward to the next chapter.”
Stay tuned to Madcap Records for release date.
Find out more about Sleek The Elite here.