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:: Spotlight :: Interview with N’FA

By: Saeed Saeed

It has been a good long while since we heard anything from N’fa. After his band, 1200 Techniques decided to take an ‘indefinite hiatus’, DJ Peril lead Suburban Intellect into the higher echelons of the ARIA charts and Kemstar kept busy working on other projects. All the while N’fa remained mysteriously quiet, not releasing any new material and not even appearing at his usual haunts on Brunswick Street. Just before we could file a Missing Persons Report on him N’fa resurfaced late last year as a solo artist releasing ‘Left Right Left (Universal King)’ through iTunes Australia. The track was an anthemic call to arms that worked on the same groovy template that 1200 Techniques perfected and at the same time introduced an introspective and rawer sounding N’fa to the masses. It was the perfect introduction, for it acted as an effective musical bridge from where he was to where he wants to take us now.

So where the hell has N’fa been and more importantly, how has he been? “I’ve been good. I’ve been learning a lot about myself in the last couple of years. I was pondering questions about who I am and doing lots of writing and thanks to this album, I actually dug up things about myself that I hadn’t really faced before”.

Throughout the interview N’fa speaks of the process of creating his album as a form of journey where he is continually ‘finding’ and ‘reaching’ for things. From beats to work with to a deeper and more meaningful understanding of himself and where he stands in the scheme of things as an Australian and as an Australian hip hop artist.

His journey began a few years back when N’fa went to the UK to see his family. It was there through a series of chance encounters that he hooked up with little known producers and started working with some new material, till “strangely and really organically this album came together”. N’fa stresses throughout the interview that his album wasn’t part of a grand design, but in fact it came about as a natural by product of him going through a musical and personal quest.

A memorable part of this experience had N’fa working with one of his heroes, Roots Manuva. Even this pairing up happened naturally through mutual acquaintances and without any of the egos or external influences that characterizes a majority of musical collaborations. It was in fact Roots Manuva himself who suggested that they should both work together, on his birthday nonetheless. “We hung out and he was like ‘I was just thinking, I really enjoyed your album man. Can I make a beat for you tomorrow?’ and I said ‘What?…F**k yeah!”

The song that was born as a result of this collaboration was “Like My Style”, a slinky groove that is set to keep the dance floors hot and sweaty with its insanely catchy and dirty keyboard riff. The song details a hot blooded female as she seduces N’fa to an adventurous evening in the bedroom. Not your most original content matter but N’fa stresses that the track serves a specific purpose, which is to detail human weaknesses. “No matter how spiritual people try to be, something is a vice to them whether its women, in some cases it’s a drug habit, it might be gambling… I try to surface that within trying to write these kinds of songs. It’s a cool track, but there’s a point to it”.

This issue of contrast is a recurrent musical and lyrical theme throughout his album ‘Cause An Effect’. All the tracks are simmered in tension and there is a continual battle between light and shade, anger and catharsis. When asked to elaborate on this N’fa states that this struggle comes from a deeper, more personal place. “It’s a lot often like how I am, the guy with a smile on his face with his hands clenched in his pockets just trying to stay calm all the time. A lot of the societies I’ve grown up in made me a lil bit like that”.

It is here that N’fa gets nakedly personal as he detailed his personal struggles such as the racism that he received through out his childhood on the account of him being the son of an interracial couple (his father being from Sierra Leone and his mother, a white Australian). He also points out that due to the rise of Australian patriotism, the Aussie hip hop community is suffering as a result with artists being summarily branded as ‘not real’ for not rapping with an Aussie accent and for generally not being ‘really really Aussie”.

N’fa espouses that there is a middle ground within the Australian hip hop community and the greater Australian society as a whole that must be acknowledged. The reason being that it is “the ground that so many of us are on”. When asked whether it is from this personal and painful place that N’fa found the inspiration for such Australian hip hop landmarks such as ‘Fork in the Road’ and ‘Karma’, N’fa agrees and he hints that he is only starting to be aware of it now. “It has been a constant on going side, now that I finally managed to grab the reigns in this piece that I’m writing, I understand where I’m trying to go with it”.

With a deeper understanding of himself and his muse, not to mention a brilliant debut album that has just been unleashed to the public, N’fa may just have many more people joining him on his continuing journey up that middle road.

Cause An Effect is out now through Inertia Recordings

Watch for him as part of the Block Party tour currently happening across Australia.