Words by Keane Fletcher
It's new music Friday folks, and the bangers keep coming! Next up, Melbourne based rapper and hip-hop artist Laila E who's latest single 'Man Down' is a cathartic and hard hitting exploration on the nature of toxic relationships.
After an auspicious start to her career ('I wrote my first rap when I was 15 for an English assignment in highschool...it was the first time I ever received an A in English, [though] I did get a minus for swearing) it wasn't until late last year that she released her very first single 'Grey Street' a thought-provoking and emotionally-challenging look at the homelessness crisis. And now, we have a new track, the equally bracing 'Man Down' which turns its laser-eyed focus towards toxic relationships and the cyclical nature of trauma. Says Laila E:
It is a reflection of my own behaviour during moments in which I lack self love, exploring the root cause of those behaviours and what I go through to overcome it. It has been a difficult and repetitive cycle, hence the line 'that's the sound of another man down'.
No stranger to singing about emotionally complex topics, Laila E is part of the new wave of Australian hip-hop artists who are championing the use of music as a way to process difficult emotions. 'Stigma can be debilitating for anyone and relatability in art is a huge aid for that,' she says. 'The stories may sound serious but the music itself is very fun, uplifting and great to dance to!'
With the release of her debut EP just around the corner (Dec 21st) we sat down with Laila E to talk all things music, inspo, and how music has helped her cope with her own difficult experiences. Check it out below!
1- First of all, where are you currently based?
I am currently based in Melbourne Australia
2- Tell us a bit about your journey to becoming an artist? How did you first get started?
I wrote my first rap when I was 15 for an English assignment in highschool. We were asked to do some form of poetry and read it to the class, it was the first time I ever received an A in English, although I have to mention I did get a minus for swearing. The rap took me a few minutes to write and was such an awesome experience that I have been writing ever since. Due to many relapses into psychosis and depression, It has taken me almost 20 years to build the confidence to take myself seriously as an artist and release my work, but from what I have experienced and survived during that time I feel it has been worth the wait.
3- How would you describe your sound? Who are your musical influences?
My biggest influences of all time have been the Beastie Boys, however artists like Salt and Pepa, Cypress Hill and Faithless have been deeply inspiring and influential in my rap style and flow. My singing voice came to be after doing Ayahuasca in the Amazon Jungle in 2012, coincidentally the same people featured on the 92' Deep Forest album that was also one of the greatest musical influences of my childhood. My vocals have been notably compared to the Deep Forest sound which I find incredibly magical and also very flattering.
4- Tell us a bit about your latest single ‘Man Down’? How did the idea come about? Is there a specific story that inspired it?
'Man Down' was written in 2020 after experiencing codependency, rejection and toxicity in relationships. It is a reflection of my own behaviour during moments in which I lack self love, exploring the root cause of those behaviours and what I go through to overcome it. It has been a difficult and repetitive cycle, hence the line 'that's the sound of another man down'.
5- Your music deals with a lot of hard hitting subjects like homelessness and mental health; in what ways do you think music can be a useful tool for helping people deal with difficult situations and emotions?
Music has saved my life (from suicide) on more than one occasion and has changed my life for the better deeply and consistently. Stigma can be debilitating for anyone and relatability in art is a huge aid for that. I feel there are so many people out there with a similar story to me who may have never had their story told and there are so many people out there who do not feel they have a voice. Music is by far the most beautiful way to relieve these burdens as you get to dance and sing along using your own voice, which is super fun and so empowering :)
6- Obviously the last two years have been pretty precarious for artists. How has the pandemic affected your creativity? And how have you managed to keep yourself sane?
To be honest I went straight into a psych ward two months into the first lockdown in 2020. I had been studying music production full time, managing a restaurant more than full time and as mentioned earlier, struggling with codependency. With everything going on I started drinking and smoking weed again and shit spiralled real fast. During that time I did manage to write 'Grey Street' and 'Man Down' and once I came out of hospital I proceeded to put together and write my EP and soon to be recorded album. Although I did NOT manage to keep my sanity intact, haha, I definitely found the pandemic to be the most productive and musically creative time of my life thus far.
7- If you could change one thing about the music industry what would it be?
I feel the music industry gets stuck in trends and everything often ends up sounding the same or the musical stories are all too similar. I'm a big believer in creating from inspiration but I also do not want to create things just because they are popular or based on what everyone is listening to. I think some of the Australian radio music curators could be a bit more intuitive and to create room for more diverse sounds and narratives.
8- And finally, your debut EP drops in just a few weeks on December 21st. What can we hope to expect?
The EP is titled Mad Awakenings and follows the spiritual and self reflective aspects that come with mental illness. There are many shamanic elements throughout each track and as well as some non musical narrative tracks, including a sample recording of a phone call from a time when I had escaped from a psych ward in Brisbane in 2016. 'Man Down' being the lead track, other tracks speak of the experience of losing one's mind, the battle and death of the ego mind and the healing of a life long challenging relationship with one of my siblings. The stories may sound serious but the music itself is very fun, uplifting and great to dance to :)
Thanks for stopping by Hipland!