From becoming a Dad, to playing headline shows in every corner of Australia, the last couple of years have been life-changing for JK-47.
JK-47, AKA Jacob Paulson, is a proud Minjungbal man of the Bundjalung Nation, whose music has absolutely blown up since releasing his breakthrough single The Recipe in 2020.
A few months later, the rapper was crowned Triple J’s Unearthed Artist of the Year. But for Jacob, becoming a first-time father was the greatest accomplishment of 2020.
We caught up with JK-47 to find out how he’s juggling his new life, ahead of an incredible showcase of First Nations artists at the Ngana Birrung festival this weekend as part of Parramatta Nights.
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HAPPY: How’s your day been, man?
JK-47: It’s been good, bruh. Just recording at the moment. Having a break.
HAPPY: Has the tour been going smoothly so far?
JK-47: Yeah bruh. You know, just happy to be back at it again.
HAPPY: Yeah, I can imagine. Did you end up playing many live stream shows over the last couple of years?
JK-47: Yeah, I played a couple here and there. So that was good.
HAPPY: It’s been a huge couple of years for you, so was there a massive jump between crowd sizes when you were allowed to play live again? Or did you get a chance to play a few shows during the pandemic anyway?
JK-47: I got a chance to play a few, you know. We’re just hitting the big crowds now, but in a way, I like it being an intimate experience. Getting closer with the crowd and being connected like that. Yeah, I like that. So I’m keen for it to get big, but not keen at the same time.
HAPPY: Are there any moments that have stuck out most in amongst the whirlwind?
JK-47: Well, when I dropped the album, I had a baby… like my baby was born in June of 2020, and I dropped the album in September 2020. So even though I’ve been doing this music and doing these shows, my main focus is just being a father and husband at home, like trying to nail that and get that right. Because coming from a background where, you know, parents weren’t all goods, I’ve always wanted to be a father, and be a father the right way more than I’ve wanted to do anything else. So, just trying to do that right first and foremost, and then pretty much just encapsulating and repping that in my music.
HAPPY: Yeah, yeah. I wanted to ask how your son has influenced your music. Has he changed the way that you write?
JK-47: Yeah man, 100%. Big influence, man. You know, sometimes, we can’t help but to be role models. It’s not like we can stop that, but we can find a way to block that out. Like, ‘oh, yeah, I’m not trying to hear that talk about me being a role model.’ You know, I’m just trying to do this and just trying to do me. But when you’re a father, you just can’t escape that. You can’t run away from that. So no matter how hard I try, I can’t escape the fact that I have to do the right thing because someone is looking up to me, you know? But, you can’t escape that fact in general.
That’s how the world works. We watch people lay down the pathway to follow them, and you either follow that, or you break away and do your own thing, you know? But that’s not how we’re raised to be. We’re raised to follow this rule, and do this and do that. We’re not really taught to embrace that creative side. Unless you, yourself want to be creative and you don’t care what anyone says or thinks about your music, or about your art… So yeah, man, he has had a big influence on how I write and how I kind of walk with my music and, you know, it’s going to be that same yarn for a while to come. I guess we can only go up from here and where we’re at, I feel like it’s very fulfilling.
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Even if I’m not at the top of the ladder yet, I’m at the top of my game in my books. In my eyes, I’m the best I’ve ever been, and that’s all that matters> I’m not really trying to compete with anybody else. I’m just trying to be the best me that I can be for my son, and for my family, and for my community and fans and everyone else as well. I’m trying to be a good influence on everybody.
HAPPY: You’re also playing the Ngana Birrung festival at Parramatta this Sunday. That’s going to be an incredible event. What part of the festival are you most excited about?
JK-47: Just linking, you know, linking with the Mob. Miiesha, Briggs… keen to meet them and see them perform live.
HAPPY: Have you met them before?
JK-47: Nah I don’t think I’ve met them before. I’ve had an interview with Briggs, but I haven’t met him in person. So keen to just get into it and meet these fellas, meet the Mob and yeah, just perform again.
HAPPY: Do you know if you’ll get a chance to experience their performances as part of the crowd?
JK-47: I always try to do that. You just don’t really experience it the same from any other place because venues usually set up a place where you can watch from but I always like getting in the crowd, bruh. You get to experience it properly that way.
HAPPY: So is this the first festival that you’ve played with a line-up of all First Nation artists?
JK-47: Nah, I played one at the Sydney Opera House, Barrabuwari… it was Gadigal language for ‘tomorrow’. So, I had that experience playing with Kobie Dee, Becca Hatch, and Barkaa and just witnessing them do their thing. And yeah, it was really great to see them as an Indigenous person, you know, because any Indigenous artist is just trying to find their identity, not just through music but through whatever they choose to do, whether it’s dance or a different type of art, like art on the canvas, any way they get to be creative.
They have to find their identity, you know, and watching fellow Indigenous artists doing their thing, and being sure of who they are, in the same profession that I’m in… it’s really inspiring and motivating and it fills me with joy, seeing different Mob do their thing in a different way, but in the same way to me. It’s beautiful.
HAPPY: Yeah, nice. And going back a couple of years, you featured on Sunday Roast with Nerve, and part of that track is Nerve rapping his Subway order. But we never got to hear yours. So what’s your Subway go to?
JK-47: I just get a pizza sub, man. I just keep it easy. I just keep it chill, you know? I don’t eat all the salads. I like red onion and I like capsicum. I like spinach, carrots, what else? I think that’s it. Salt and pepper, a bit of ranch and a bit of barbecue I guess.
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HAPPY: Good combo?
JK-47: Yeah, but I haven’t gone in a while bro, so, like, that’s just the last one that I ate.
HAPPY: Yeah, I haven’t had one in ages either.
JK-47: I think I can make it better at home, to be honest. Subway refused me entry one time, so I’ve been off them a bit *laughs*.
HAPPY: Oh, really?
JK-47: Yeah, because I didn’t have a mask, so that’s all sweet. But I haven’t been back since.
HAPPY: Well, that’s all I’ve got for you, man. Thanks so much for jumping on the call.
JK-47: That’s alright, I appreciate your time too, bruh.
HAPPY: No worries at all.
JK-47: Alright then, I’ll talk to you soon.
HAPPY: See you later, man. Thank you.
You can listen to more from JK-47 below, and find out more info about Ngana Birrung festival here.
Interview by Lochie Schuster.