Like music? Like books? Then you'll probably like Graphic's new album, Raw Intelligence

Graphic in an image from the ebook.

Raw Intelligence
Released May 26, 2015
Buy it on iTunes

Perth rapper Graphic has rewritten the rule books with his new album, Raw Intelligence. The emcee, who reads Green Left Weekly, took the unusual approach of releasing the strong, high-quality album as an interactive ebook containing its mp3s, lyrics and links to further reading. GLW's Mat Ward spoke to him.


Tell us about the lyric from “Take Aim”:

So why do the States want control of Caracas?
It ain't for their maracas, leather goods and alpacas

The “States” refers to the United States of America and Caracas is the capital of Venezuela. It is a reference to US foreign policy throughout South America for generations and in this particular example, Venezuela is a socialist-led country that the States used to have in their pocket until the late Hugo Chavez gained power. Venezuela since then has not simply given in to demands from the US and instead has nationalised the large oil industry it has to fund health, education and social programs. The US continues to try to undermine the government - including an attempted coup - of Venezuela and regain control of its resources. Why do they want control of Venezuela? It's not because of the items mentioned in the lyric - it's oil, and possibly cheap labour.

"Take Aim" also samples journalist John Pilger at the end. Tell us why you chose that sample.

The sample is from John Pilger's documentary The War You Don't See. He is referring to clear and transparent reporting of truth during war and how the media is used to convince us, who are tucked up nice and safe watching these events unfold, that our governments have made the right decision. The chorus links to the sample in that we are being fed false information and we, as a voting public of a country that participates in these wars, need to “aim” the truth back at Australia's political parties.

You're obviously a big fan of books, and at the end of the song, you're pictured with the book New Rulers Of The World by John Pilger. Tell us why you chose that book. 

The books that are shown throughout the project act as references for the reader. Each one is linked to the theme of the track and has inspired the lyrics. I cannot recommend John Pilger's work enough. His long resume of books and documentaries speak for themselves. Anyone who has not read or seen any of his work needs to. Hopefully some people who are keen on the music will be educated through his work.

On "Five Eyes" you rap:

Database collection recorded your phone code
We’re followed and hounded via stone ghost
All for protection or all for control
What are you suggest’n, just do as I’m told?

Ironic, isn't it, that the people reading your ebook and listening to it on their electronic device will have been recorded doing so?

Firstly, this concept of uniting music with lyrics and then with links to information about the topic and recommended readings is the main driver here. As we speak, Apple are the only ones who through iBooks, can support and read an enhanced ebook format. So it is the only way to have the project delivered this way. This was always the goal of the project - to have the music, lyrics and information in one. In terms of the lyric, it's exactly that - a question. Sure, there is monitoring occurring, but what is its purpose? All for protection of us as citizens? Or to control citizens? My lyrics and sharing of information that is publicly available poses no threat and I personally don't care as I don't do anything illegal. Wouldn't it be a good thing if ASIO started to see a lot of people listening and reading this project? Then they could inform the government that there are a lot of voters who don't believe our shit any more. The more we make our knowledge known, the more they can't keep playing the public for fools. The sample at the end is intended to highlight that there is a history of modern civilisation that does not reach the curriculum of our schools. We are only taught what is required in order for us to maintain the current system. Any understanding of this more secret history requires time and effort, which many don't have as they are too busy fuelling their everyday lives with work and soulless quests for fulfillment.

At the end of the song, you're pictured with the book Axis Of Deceit by Andrew Wilkie. Tell us why you chose that book.

Andrew Wilkie is a former intelligence officer and his book reveals why he left the Office of National Assessments in protest at their operations. He has since gone on to a successful political career representing the Green Party and currently as an independent in the seat of Denison in Tasmania. This book is recommended reading for those who like the track and its content.

On "Mercy" you rap:

We’re doomed if we choose noth’n consume too much
Fed it with credit balloons and lump sums.

Tell us about that.

My belief is if we in the First World countries choose to do nothing, we as a planet are doomed. The continuous search for more money, more profit, continuous growth in national economies will drive us to extinction. We in the first world consume too much. I remember hearing a crazy statistic in high school that Australians throw out enough food each year to feed the population of New Zealand each year - staggering when put in that context. Our lust for new clothes, cars, jewellery... consumerism is fed by working longer hours, accessing credit from financial institutions, then having to work more to pay it off with interest. The balloon refers to the economic bubble - an eventual pop will come. It also refers to balloon-type payments that have to be made on items such as cars. After paying each week for a few years, you still have to cough up a lot of cash in a lump sum when the time comes.

On "Boom State" you rap about the mining boom. What changes have you seen in Perth leading up to the height of the boom and now its demise?

Just as we enter the downturn, our state is already declaring massive budget deficits. What the fuck? How is that possible after years of boom? Where's the coin, Colin? [West Australian premier Colin Barnett.] I have just put down the newspaper after reading about male unemployment in the state being at a level not seen in many years, not including those who are not active in seeking employment. As we speak, the iron ore price is falling and the Chinese stock market is in a bit of bother. Fortescue Metals Group have made some big layoffs. The real effects are yet to come from the bigger companies.

We're at "tax time" now at the end of the financial year. Tell us about your "tax time"-referencing lyric in "Boom State":

If you're making stacks imagine your boss
And if you're a boss imagine those on top
And if you're at the top imagine the value of
The portfolios of those who hold majority stock
They’re in the pockets of those you picked on a voting slip
That’s why come tax time they don’t owe shit

I was gobsmacked at how much “assistance” big, billion-dollar-profiting companies receive from Australian taxpayers. Electricity subsidies, tax concessions and tax haven (Singapore, Cayman Islands) bank accounts exist. You need to check out the track “Burn A Debt” for more on that scandal.

You also add:

Now if tax dollars are used to prop an industry
Why not renewable create jobs instantly
Sustainable, retrain the brain is adaptable
Capable sun, waves natural

Tell us about that.

If tax dollars are used to prop up these industries, why can't we focus this “assistance” on creating sustainable energy and sustainable employment? The answer is we can, but who has the intestinal fortitude to do it? None of the major parties will do it until the voting public demand it. If more voters can become informed, they can make better judgements when casting their vote. We have the power to vote them in or out. Therefore, we have the power to decide what happens in this country and - on a bigger collective scale - the planet.

Explain the "Boom State" lyric:

Shots fired on sight it’s too late
Shots fired day and night the boom state

This is a link between shot firing on mine sites before extracting the mineral and the shot firing between political groups and the protesting public and organisations. Mine sites tend to work around the clock day and night and the cycle continues in the boom state between opposing factions.

At the end of the song, you're pictured with the book Scorcher by Clive Hamilton. Tell us why you chose that book.

This book provides a lot of data and statistics about the “assistance” given to big polluting industries and also gives details on potential sustainable options that are available to the country right now! Clive Hamilton, check check him out!

Tell us about your "Hands Off" lyric:

My shrine would be a million wind turbines
Underwater temples catch the power of tides
Light always shines as mirrors reflect
Towards solar towers perfectly aligned

There are many religions in the world and many have shrines and important places to worship. My perspective is a mix of ancient civilisations and modern day energy needs. Many ancient civilisations worshipped the elements and had gods associated with them. They lived with the earth, they felt a spiritual connection with it and the universe. Many ancient civilisations believed they were one part of the entire life force interdependent on other forces, not dominating and conquering as our more modern forefathers have behaved. I too believe that we should in a sense worship the sun, wind and water as they provide so much for other life forms to survive. How I would display my respect for these forces, the earth and the universe in general as well as harnessing their energy is by having practical/useful shrines in the form of wind farms, tidal energy and solar towers.

What inspired your spoken word track "Picture This"?

“Picture This” is a clever tale first told to me by my father. It is meant to slow you down and reflect on our fast-paced, consumer-led lives and to try to bring some perspective back into what we are really trying to achieve on this planet, what the important parts of our life are and how we should pursue activities that truly make us happy over the long term instead of short-term highs.

Tell us about the "Bombs Rain" lyric:

They survive the ride and arrive barely float’n
Many times close to capsize and dying in the ocean
Hope’n for a fresh start their own weight to pull
But we turn them away say’n FUCK OFF WE’RE FULL

The overwhelming majority of boat people who have attempted to reach Australia and are in detention are genuine refugees. This is a fact supported by bodies such as the UN and Amnesty International. They are not looking for a free ride when they get here. They want to live, not just exist or die at the hands of war, many of which our foreign policies have attributed to. They hold strong universal values such as earning your way through work and effort. Look at the contributions made to this country by Italian and Greek migration, the Asian and Indian communities. Clear, positive effects have resulted from allowing people to enter Australia. Unfortunately, due to media manipulation, governments have used this humanitarian issue as a political one to scare and win voters. As a result, we have some misguided people driving around with stickers on their cars saying “Fuck off, we're full” without fully understanding the circumstances that have brought them to this point in their lives.

Tell us about the sample at the end of "Bombs Rain": "You wouldn't find our leaders are afraid of Australians. More likely, they know how they can manipulate them."

The sample at the end of the song is former WA premier and federal minister Carmen Lawrence, with all her years of political experience, explaining how politicians look to manipulate the voting public instead of listening to it.

On "Get Go" you reference Bolivia making its clocks go anti-clockwise:

Change your direction like a Bolivian time piece
Speak what you find when ya ridin’ down the side street

It's a pretty quirky story. Why did you include that?

People can check the link [in the ebook] to educate themselves on this. The government of Bolivia, led by Evo Morales and his MAS party, have also brought about a socialist change to their country, similar to Venezuela and Cuba. The government focus is on the people and in countries like this, the most disadvantaged from previous generations of exploitation are the majority. True fact - the government reversed the direction of the public clock in the capital of La Paz as a symbolic gesture representing a change in thinking. There is no need to conform to international demands - we can be a self-determining country to the point where we will display the element of time how we want. Also, when travelling or in your own neck of the woods the real stories are in the side streets, the conversations with real local people, not the flashy areas designed to draw your attention. La Paz has many cool side streets, from its black magic witches' markets, to balaclava-wearing shoe shiners and traditionally-dressed Indian women carrying their goods home or to shop fronts. Real people, real lives.

On "Get Go", you rap:

Lasting impression like atomic blast
Radioactive Maralinga grass

And at the end of the song, you're holding the book Maralinga by Frank Walker. Tell us about it.

Again, not mentioned in most school books is the fact that atomic bombs have been tested here in Australia and more hidden is what actually happened in places like Emu Point and Maralinga. Atomic blasts are said to never leave the minds of anyone who has witnessed one, including many service men and women from the British and Australian defence forces. As well as the destructive nature of the blasts, it leaves a lasting impression for all the wrong reasons. One of the test sites was Maralinga. The area, after much scandal and buck passing, has clearly contributed to many deaths, illnesses and birth defects. The area is logically not safe, although it has been passed as cleaned by government bodies. The book provides jaw-dropping accounts of what happened and what the government did and, more importantly, did not do about it. Brilliant research by author Frank Walker.

Where's the sample from at the start of "Loaded Question": "We keep arming these little countries, then we go and blow the shit out of them"?

That sample is from the late, great comedian and social commentator Bill Hicks. He was referring to the Desert Storm Iraq war, how the US “assisted” Iraq against Iran in the 1980s through provision of weapons and intelligence and only a few years later was attacking them, but more importantly “blow the shit” out of innocent civilians.

On "Burn A Debt" you rap:

Burn a debt and let the people breathe

It could have almost been the soundtrack to the recent Greek referendum, couldn't it?

Absolutely. The previous Greek government made some bad choices that the people will soon pay for. There are many countries that have been in worse situations than Greece and the people have suffered for many generations. Their governments are corrupt and are kept in power by First World powers who are then given access to natural resources and cheap labour. While all this is happening, we, the people in the First World, are then asked to donate to agencies who are trying to provide aid to these people. It's a cycle that has spun for a long time. Again, the power lies with the voting public of First World countries. I break it down like this: The poor people of the world - Third World and developing countries - are ready for change. They want change. They want a slice of what we, the low class/middle class of First World countries, have. The low/middle class spend all their time trying to get more of what they already have. Those who are the true upper class of First World countries - not millionaires, but billionaires - require both the poor and the low/middle class to stay where they are, to maintain their balance of power.

The album's production is immaculate. Tell us about Rob Shaker and why you chose him as the album's producer.

I have known Rob for many years, both living in Perth and heavily into the Hip-Hop culture of the city. We have worked together on previous tracks, but this is the first time together on a whole album. He is a beast on the boards and I can't thank him enough for his efforts. He is a very professional operator and - as we are both older and, hopefully, wiser these days - we worked efficiently and in a serious manner as a project of this nature deserves.

Read about more political albums here.

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