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:: Spotlight :: Interview with D’Opus and Roshambo

By: Nina Bertok

If the Hilltop Hoods and Koolism opened up the floodgates, then D’Opus and Roshambo (known to their parents as Ross Garrett and Rowan Thomson) are taking Australian hip-hop to the next level. With a thick-as-a-brick EP [‘The Question’, 2004] behind them and some powerful mates in their corner, all ears have long been primed for what these Canberra lads would do on their debut album ‘The Switch’.

“The EP was kind of practice,” jokes Thomson. “Ross and I were still pretty much getting to know each other in terms of song-writing. He was getting to know his equipment and I was getting to know my capabilities, so the EP was kind of practice in that sense.” Not that their steady-growing fan-base would know it. Despite having ever only released an EP until this point, Thomson and Garrett have still managed to draw large crowds of dedicated rap fanatics across Canberra as the funk-infused hip-hoppers D’Opus and Roshambo. What’s more, the duo has shared various stages with the likes of giants such as Cut Chemist, Blackalicious, The Herd and Macromantics.
“A lot of hip-hop coming out of Australia in particular right now is pretty world-class. The Hilltop Hoods and Koolism have really opened up doors for people like us. As a genre it has come a long way especially in the last five years. It’s meant that people have started to realise that we can make really good music but now there is also a high standard and you really have to put in the effort. Internationally, I think the UK is a pretty accessible place for Australian music in general, along with Japan, but the US is a place that we would personally not target. There’s still a long way to go before Australian rap is embraced over there even though people are starting to learn about it.”

While Canberra isn’t exactly known as the hub of all things urban, Thomson claims there is a slowly but gradually mushrooming hip-hop scene made up of some of the best up-and-coming young rappers Australia is yet to see.
“It’s tight-knit in terms of its music community,” Thomson says. “It’s pretty small, yeah, but you can still get like 500 people to a Muph and Plutonic show or maybe more to a Bliss and Esso show or to a Koolism show. There are always plenty of people that will come out and support the show. We have never had a problem with getting people to come out and check out the music. But Canberra has a lot of artists that are doing really well and not just in hip-hop but in dance and other genres. The good thing is that because it’s so small there is no attitude.”

While Thomson cites Koolism among friends who helped D’Opus and Roshambo along the way, he also insists on the duo’s own DIY attitude as a major factor in the group’s success.
“We were lucky to have Koolism be so supportive of us since we started,” Thomson says. “We are actually surrounded by a lot of creative friends like our manager who does graphic design and our website, another one of our mates who is a great photographer and also a lot of venue owners that have been good to us. I work for a community radio station here with a hip-hop show and some bits and pieces and Ross is always making beats and working away in the studio, so even though you have to involve yourself with the right people in the right ways, there is a lot that is up to you.”

And they wouldn’t have it any other way. Thomson says that while he and his partner in rhyme don’t take themselves too seriously, they do strive for nothing less than credible beats that cater to the open-minded.
“We don’t want to make some inaccessible, wobbly, wanky music, we still want to make rap music,” Thomson laughs, “but Ross and I are not closed off. We are both into all sorts of different music and I believe it’s important to stay open to as many influences as possible. A lot of the music you hear… I just don’t really believe it. I mean, I don’t believe that person, it’s not convincing, they’re trying to create a particular sound because they think that’s what people want to hear. It’s like a mask or whatever. So it’s important to believe in your music and what you’re saying because people can see right through it. The same goes when you take yourself too seriously.” Thomson chuckles, “It’s not like we’re splitting an atom here.”

Okay, maybe not, but what Thomson and Garrett have done with their debut album ‘The Switch’ is make a record that suggest a respectable future may be on the cards for D’Opus and Roshambo.
“We just let things go along naturally,” Thomson explains. “With this record we really tried to put together a strong bunch of songs that would move from the beginning to the ending in a logically-sounding format. So it required a lot of creative thinking… but without trying to think too much. We wanted to have songs that reflected who we are and where we are coming from and where we see ourselves going. And we got to the stage where we had about 25 tunes all up. One thing we’ve learned with recording is that in the end you actually get quite attached to what you’ve created.”

Upcoming performances

Saturday, October 18
Cocktoberfest 3
Raising Funds for Prostate Cancer
Green Room, Canberra

Monday, November 3
Melbourne Cup Eve
with Muph & Plutonic, Urthboy, Drapht, DJ Mexi
Hi Fi Bar, Melbourne

Saturday November 22
with Living End, Gyroscope, Bliss N Eso, Muph & Plutonic, Bluejuice + more
Thoroughbred Park, Canberra Racecourse