What’s more important in the rap game, production or flow? Kirklandd weighs in on the shifting state of Aussie hip hop

Since the early sounds of Kirklandd hit our airwaves we’ve been lapping them up one blazing tune at a time. Blending smooth verses straight from hip hop’s golden age with contemporary influences far and wide, the young Canberra MC has never been constrained by the walls of genre – much preferring to break them down.

His latest single RISE is proof enough; a machine gun rap track complimented by fierce drums and out-of-this-world vocals. Before he takes the track on tour, we sat down for a quick chat with the man himself.


Boasting some of the best production in the game and spitting more fire than a bunsen burner, Kirklandd has been tearing apart the hip hop scene since he uttered his first rhyme.

HAPPY: Congrats on the release of RISE, what have the initial reactions been like?

DANIEL: It’s been really encouraging to see people respond to the alternative style of the track. We aimed to create a soundscape that was climactic yet uplifting with RISE, and each of the live instruments in the mix blend together to create the soulful undertones – combining those keys with Mondecreen’s vocals was a match made in heaven. It all made for a sound I don’t think people were quite ready for.

HAPPY: When did you start working on the track?

DANIEL: I first started work on RISE with Cam Bluff last October. We put together some chorus and verse demos shortly after, and we’ve been constantly tweaking the mix since. We’ve actually taken more time with RISE than any other project, and I think that’s made for a really balanced impact with the production.

HAPPY: How did the collaborators Tigerilla, Mondecreen and Cam influence the production?

DANIEL: Initially, Cam and I started with those pounding drum rolls that give it that climactic, marching tone. We then moulded the beat around Cam’s grand piano chords, which drive the uplifting feel of the track in the hook sections, and it was over these chords that Tigerilla first put the chorus in that multi-layered direction.

We played with a demo that was anthemic and choir-sounding, and from there it was a matter of finding the perfect voice to deliver it. Six months later I linked up with George from Mondecreen, and he took the idea and brought it to where it is now. He absolutely killed it. And he plays sax. Like damn.

HAPPY: What’s the song about?

DANIEL: RISE is a pretty introspective narrative – it delves into the influence of hip hop on myself when I was younger, and how this clashed with my Christian upbringing. The verses explore a mental battle for self, one where your passion pulls you away from the way you were raised. It’s also an avid confrontation of the current state of hip hop, and the concept is lead by the lyrical intricacy and metaphors that I feel embody authentic hip hop, and draws away from the more material side of the genre.

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HAPPY: The verses are pretty vicious – would you have been able to pull that off last year?

DANIEL: It’s pretty funny you say that! When I first recorded the demo, I wrote the second verse in an hour and got way ahead of myself when it came to recording it. I could barely get halfway through delivering the bars I wrote. I’ve since practiced it rigorously for our shows, and I’m happy to say I’ve got it down a bit better. It’s fun writing such crazy flows until you remember you’re actually going to be the one delivering them, but it worked!

HAPPY: What’s the live reception of RISE been like?

DANIEL: RISE is my absolute favourite song to perform, and somehow it’s always the track that resonates most with the crowds we perform it to. I perform the verses with minimal movement and more precision in my delivery so that the focus is more on the lyrics, and there’s a kind of slow burning build as the track progresses. We top it off with a live sax and drum solo simultaneously at the end. It’s insane fun.

HAPPY: Is this the sound you’ve always been striving for with your past releases?

DANIEL: I think I’ve been working towards something as alternative as RISE for some time now, but I didn’t want to release it until people were more accustomed with my sound. If you compare RISE to WE ON, you’ll find one is very upbeat and easily listening and the other is more personal and uplifting.

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There’s a bridge between the two with VISIONS, and I feel like we’re challenging the sound of each track with every release. But now we’ve captured the sound that RISE embodies, and my ambition is to channel a completely different sound with our next release… something pretty special is on the way.

HAPPY: Seems like Aussie hip-hop is having it’s healthiest year in a while. What are your thoughts on the scene right now?

DANIEL: The scene is BOOMING YO. For me the most exciting part is seeing hip hop artists push boundaries with their production more and more. It’s funny now that I judge rappers more on their production than their actual rhymes, because I feel that shows your diversity as an artist and your ability to expand the reach of the genre, especially to those who aren’t avid hip hop heads from the get go. That’s sort of the aim with our live set: to unify those completely foreign to rap with those who are going to pick up on the most implicit reference to an early Big Pun record.

HAPPY: What are you most looking forward to about touring the single?

DANIEL: Giving people an experience in hip hop they simply haven’t had. It’s a huge call, but the music in our set is so diverse from track-to-track that it’s honestly how we feel. The set develops from EDM numbers into soul, André 3000 freestyles and eventually into RISE as the closing track. It’s also the first people are going to see of our live drum set, which I could not be more excited for – my drummer Josh uses a funky jazz kit, and it elevates tracks like WE ON to a whole new level live.

HAPPY: What’s coming up in 2017?

DANIEL: While I can’t give away too much, you can definitely expect my debut project. After these shows wrap up I’ll be back in the studio with Cam to finish up the EP, and we have some seriously exciting things in store. That project will build on the genre-pushing sound of RISE, but each track will have its own identity. There will be something for everyone from every corner of genre… except country, I draw the line there.

Kirklandd’s tour kicks off this week in Sydney. Grab all the details you need for his RISE tour below: