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:: Spotlight :: Israel - Overcoming obstacles in the determination to succeed

By: Carmine Pascuzzi

Melbourne artists Israel has emerged in the Australian R&B, hip-hop scene from many experiences in helping to develop several artists to the point of now releasing his solo album through Roadshow Music. Titled ‘Chapter One’, much hardship has been endured in the making of this record. The personal, heartfelt songs come as a result of Israel’s difficult upbringing. His early influences vary from his church-gospel followings to the belligerent hip-hop noises he felt when growing up. He has proved to himself that he is a capable talent, producing, writing and performing the music, and is a dazzling entertainer.

This talent has drawn him into working with Jade Macrae, Selwyn, J-Wess, 1200 Techniques and others, so much so that he has observed by overseas musicians as a future force. His determined character sees him build his name this year, with the strength in purpose that should make for bigger things in the coming years. I spoke to Israel as he reflects on his dramatic upbringing and subsequent growth as a person.

Tell us about your background?

Everyone has his or her story. I’m glad that I’ve got music to put mine out with. It’s not an uncommon tale. My family and I haven’t got along that well. My favourite music didn’t sit well with them. I liked hip-hop and R&B. My dad was a Pentecostal preacher – a traditional form. Music is good, no matter what religion you preach. He came from an old school background – anything other than gospel music is evil. I agree in some aspects where hip-hop doesn’t influence kids to do the right thing. Usually, it means drugs, sex, and out of the ordinary. I grew up listening to hip-hop and became a bit of a rebel. My family and I, therefore, never got along. My music never met their approval. For the rest of my teenage years I grew up living on my own. I had my own place at age seventeen, and it’s difficult to get work to pay rent and be settled. However, when I left home my relationship with my family improved. Sometimes, the separation does that. They wanted me back. Then we’d fight again. It went like that all the time. A year ago, I got kicked out for the final time. That was the worst because I used up all my money for music video. All my money was gone. If I had been kicked out a week earlier I would have said, “Forget about the video clip because I have to keep my money and survive.” I was living in my car for about six months. My friends helped me a little, allowing me to stay two weeks at a time. I recorded my album while I was living at friends’ places. It’s crazy, because even though I had my computer, I didn’t have a place to call home. I had to take my computer around with me. Another friend offered me accommodation at his place in Sydney to help me find a record deal. He introduced me to some people, amongst them was Roadshow Music. They liked it and I made sure not to tell them, at that stage, that I was homeless. I told them later. Over the past twelve months I have done a lot of production for other artists. That’s part of where my name is circulating as well, as a producer. It’s been a good ride since then.

What artists have influenced your work so far?

People like Snoop Dogg, Dr Dre, Jay-Z – singing all about sex. I was exposed to a lot when I was fourteen and fifteen years old. I was one of the kids growing up liking gangsta rap and R&B that talks about sex. Only over the last couple of years did I realise that this was doing damage to some of the kids I’d known. I want to try to be a role model now. Many kids have gone through bad times like me and there’s more under the surface. I’m just one of the kids that went through that way of life. A lot of people in music don’t know what stuff is going on in some places around Melbourne. They spend money on music and want to get out there and record stuff like I’m doing. There is a growing underground hip-hop scene. For example, there is an event called Groove – a dance, hip-hop night and they’re held at venues holding 1000 people but with about 2000 who go there. Kids sit and stand around this packed room. Groove is held every six months. There is lots of this music around. The movie ‘You Got Served’ has an example of what it’s like.

You’ve worked with talented people, one being Jade Macrae. Tell us about her?

She’s a great artist. I admire her and she carries herself well in any situation. She’s got the real potential to be an international star. I think she’d be awesome overseas.

Obviously, you must now feel that this is the time for you, as a musician, producer, and songwriter, to step out into the front line?

Yes, this is the right moment. I’ve had a couple of singles already released and still be doing other things, including working on Ricki-Lee’s album and with a couple of international people on her record. We did four songs on Jade’s album too. So I thought it’s good to get everything out – like a big wave coming through.

‘Chapter One’ tells some interesting images of a personal nature. It’s smoothly performed but very emotive in what you want to say…

Yes, this is just the start though. I’ve got much to say and hopefully this is just the beginning of many chapters.

One of the highlight tracks is ‘Work Da Middle’ which features Thara…

Thara is a great artist. She’ll be huge in the States. She’s already done stuff with some big names of hip-hop and it’s a good time for her at the moment.

I suppose your upbringing lends itself to greater motivation for you, even in setting up a record label…

I’ve had to do everything myself so I don’t approach music any differently. I don’t rely on others. It’s a hard thing to be able to give up control on certain things. The New Firm is my own record label. I can develop other artists on it and license it out to different labels. I’ve learned that you can shop things around. I’m a bit more clued up on that side of it. The production company is doing well – obtaining credits in writing, remixing, and production.

Has there been much overseas interest for you as yet?

Working with Thara has been good because there comes extra interest because she is breaking through. Hopefully, I can get a credit on Fabulous’s next album. He’s a big artist in the States. He has lots of tracks on different people’s albums (eg Jennifer Lopez, R.Kelly, and Amerie). Working with him will open up a lot of doors. His last album went Double Platinum in the States (2 million copies). I’m also looking at an Asian release for the Chapter One album, and possibly UK as well. The second album is the one I’d aim at the States.

What’s going through your mind as you prepare your next album?

I’ve already started writing for it and it’s indicating an awareness of what’s going on in the world. I want to convey messages – still with an Australian perspective. There are things like poverty to talk about. I would like to make a difference without preaching to the listeners. Kanye West recently released an album. His latest song is called ‘Diamonds from Sierra Leone’. He talks how the jewellery industry makes so much money from the hip-hop industry, and the struggle of how people go to great lengths to get those diamonds. Sierra Leone is where the diamond mines are. There are 10-year-old kids working to get the diamonds – the struggles involved and the lives it costs. Kanye can reach out to the masses to deliver this message.

What is your touring plan?

In November I am going to Asia, then the UK, before going to the USA to work on some new things. You have to keep busy and deliver new records. Look at Jay-Z. He has released seven albums between 1996 and 2004. That’s what it’s like these days.

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