Rapper Lucky Luke digs up truth in Mount Isa

The artwork for Lucky Luke's album, Whichway.
Monday, June 8, 2015

Whichway
Lucky Luke
Released March 24, 2015
www.facebook.com/currymurri13

The artwork for Lucky Luke's debut album shows him holding Mount Isa's infamous lead smelter like a didgeridoo. It's as if he's taking it back for his people.

"The photo, as you say, is almost like I am reclaiming the smelter," says the rapper, who is from the Waanyi, Mitakoodi, Ringa Ringa, Kalkadoon and Warumungu tribal groups.

"Well, I have long discussed with my family and friends that when our country has been raped and depleted of its rich resources, then the fly-in, fly-outs will go back to the cities, the property values will go lower, the job prospects will become fewer and this area won’t attract workers any more. But my people will still be here - not because it is a 'lifestyle choice', but because we are connected with this land."

On March 10, exactly two weeks before Lucky Luke's album, Whichway, was released, Prime Minister Tony Abbott backed the planned closure of remote Indigenous communities, saying the government could not afford to subsidise the "lifestyle choices" of Aboriginal people to remain on their tribal homelands. Yet research published by think-tank The Australia Institute shows the government subsidised the mining industry by $17.6 billion over six years, from 2008 to 2014. By far, the biggest recipient was Queensland - home to Mount Isa's poison-belching smelter.

On the album's song "1 Day", which has been picked up by radio stations nationwide, Lucky Luke raps:

Imagine if this country was untouched
Imagine if the first fleet never came, bruz
Imagine if the world turned to us to take care of the land
Imagine if this country was run by a brother man
Imagine living in a world without material possessions
Imagine school giving kids cultural lessons
Imagine if we had no need for prison
And didn't have to worry about pollution when you go fishing

"I was trying to paint a picture of a better tomorrow," says the emcee. "If we put land care before profit, we would clean this country up for a better future for the next generations to come, because we are the original custodians of this land with 40,000-plus years’ experience."


Lucky Luke: "If we put land care before profit, we would clean this country up for a better future."

Lucky Luke's people, the Kalkadoon, waged one of Australia's most successful guerrilla wars in a fight for their lands. It ended with the slaughter of more than 200 tribe members at Battle Mountain in 1884. Thirty-nine years later, white prospector John Campbell Miles passed through the area and "stumbled upon" one of the world's richest deposits of copper, silver and zinc. Like many so-called "pioneers" who "opened up" the outback, he was being led by an Aboriginal guide. Yet the impression given is that he got lucky.

Lucky Luke got his auspicious name after he was born Joseph Luke Dargan, 120 kilometres from Mount Isa.

"I was delivered by the reverend Doctor Harvey Sutton on the 13th of April, 1979, in Cloncurry," he says. "It was a Black Friday and it was Good Friday. My grandmother, Annie Davis, later said we don’t have to be suspicious of Black Friday any more as something lucky happened to us, something good to celebrate. They were lucky to have me.

"I originally had 25 songs for the album and I liked them all and wanted them all in there. But eventually I chose 13 because I was born on the 13th and it is my lucky number."

Lucky Luke's tiny birth town of Cloncurry also has a lucky number: 53.1 is the number of degrees celsius its temperature was recorded as hitting in 1889, instantly searing it into the map as the hottest place in Australia. By 2007, its extreme sunshine had it earmarked to become Australia's first town run entirely from solar power. Five years later, the Queensland government scrapped the solar plan, "to achieve savings for the state’s taxpayers". Instead, the state began pushing an alternative to the area's heavily subsidised and declining mining industry - uranium.

The road from Cloncurry passes the uranium mining ghost town of Mary Kathleen before hitting Mount Isa, a city whose industrial-strength thirst was until recently draining the drought-hit Moondarra lake to dangerous levels.

When Lucky Luke was asked to "rap the weather" for the ABC's Triple J radio, he referenced the drying lake and a python that was filmed eating a crocodile on its exposed shores.

Welcome to Mount Isa
The ISA
4825 the Queensland state
Head out bush to see the
croc-eating snake
On the shores of the
Moondarra lake
We had four years of drought
But we still great
Never a dry moment
When you're hanging with mates

Lucky Luke "raps the weather" for the ABC's Triple J radio.

Showing the gulf between Australia's outback and most Australians - nine out of 10 live in urban areas - the show's hosts baulked at the line about the snake, suggesting the story might be a "hoax".

Lucky Luke laughs at the memory. "They thought I was making it up," he says.

Just as surreal, yet brutally real, as the croc-eating python is the story of the local Indigenous people rubbing python fat into their children's skin, darkening it to stop the government removing them as "half-castes".

As Lucky Luke relates on his song "Send Me To My Grave", his grandfather's parents rubbed python fat into his grandfather's skin, but that didn't stop him being taken away. The song plays out with all the cinematic scope and drama of the outback:

Send me to my grave
I don't wanna be here no more
Send me to my grave
When the light's out, I'm out the door
Yes, yes, yes
I'm not getting beat any more
I got a big mean woman

I need to leave this mission land
Understand Murri's got a plan
Snuck out the dormitory and I ran
Fast as I can, I don't understand
Why they took me off my land
I miss my clan
So I'm heading due south
Take a left at the river's mouth
No food so I'm fresh out, sweating, feeling hurt
Being light-skinned is a curse
If they catch me first the beating's getting worse
So I hide my tracks in the red dirt

I'm going home to the place of my birth
Rainbow Serpent keep me safe on this earth
Let me see my family first
Dying of this thirst
It's getting worse
Hear 'em coming, gotta hide
Don't make a noise as they ride by
Slowly cry, wipe the tears from my eyes
Run the other way
Guided by the stars in the night sky
If I go back, send me to my grave
I won't learn to behave
As a domesticated slave

Running real fast
I can feel my heart beating in my chest
No time to rest
I got a tracker on my trail
So I keep on pushing
In my mind I know I can't fail
Gotta make it to my final destination
I'm feeling hungry so I'm stealing food from the Calton Hills station
Went in the kitchen, got caught by the camp cook
I'm going back to the dormitories
'Bye, country' as I had my last look
I started crying as the shackles shook
Another file 'Abo absconded' in the police letterbook
The bullyman said, 'Hey boy, don't you sook
The missionaries will teach you how to read and write and cook
You Abos don't know what's good for you
Somewhere to sleep, a clean bed and food.'
As he tugged on the chain, he ordered me to move
I stood my ground with the point to prove
The battle of my life I can't lose


Lucky Luke: "Lots of people were caught up in massacres back in the day."

"'Send Me to My Grave' was based on my grandad's story," says the rapper. "But I know from other stories in my family and friends it could be any number of other Aboriginal people's story. I wanted to dramatise just one incident - an incident that ended in being taken back to the mission, when in reality that would have been a lucky break as lots of people were caught up in massacres back in the day."

One of the few heritage-listed sites around Mount Isa is the "hanging tree" at Moonah Creek, from which 15 Aboriginal people are said to have been hanged. It's an all-too common story.

"Send Me to My Grave" ends with a sample from the stolen generation movie Rabbit Proof Fence. Over the song's fading beats, Kenneth Branagh - playing Auber Octavius Neville - says:

Notice, if you will, the half-caste child, and there are ever increasing numbers of them. Now, what is to happen to them? Are we to allow the creation of an unwanted third race? Should the coloureds be encouraged to go back to the Black or should they be advanced to white status and be absorbed in the white population? Now, time and again I’m asked by some white man, ‘If I marry this coloured person will our children be Black?’, and as Chief Protector of Aborigines it is my responsibility to accept or reject those marriages. Here is the answer: three generations — half-blood grandmother, quadroon daughter, octoroon grandson. Now, as you can see in the third generation, or third cross, no trace of native origin is apparent. The continuing infiltration of white blood finally stamps out the black colour. The Aboriginal has simply been bred out.

On the late Bob Randall's iconic stolen generation song, "Brown Skin Baby", Lucky Luke's award-winning aunt, Auriel Andrew, sang one half of the lilting duet. Lucky Luke was honoured to get her on his album.

"I am very proud of the song ‘Tomorrow’s Another Day’ with Aunty Auriel Andrew," he says. "She travelled to Mount Isa and we talked and showed her my music."

His uncle had misgivings, but Lucky Luke's mother cited another Aboriginal country music legend, Archie Roach, doing a powerful collaboration with rapper Mau Power.

"What was funny about the meeting is that Uncle Barry’s attitude was so against rap," says Lucky Luke. "Mum kept saying to them how Aunty Auriel cannot let Uncle Archie Roach do a rap song and outdo her and how she has to keep up with the times. I paid for Aunty Auriel’s studio time in Newcastle to record her chorus. After the
song was completed, I got a call one day from her to tell me that when she and Uncle Barry go for a drive they put the song on and sing along and even rap along to my part. I thought that would be very funny, seeing Uncle Barry rapping. I also thought if I have converted Uncle Barry, the song must be pretty good. Aunty Auriel is one of the first Aboriginal women recording artists. The family is so proud of her. James Angus was blown away with her voice when he mastered the song."

Angus, the album's producer, was equally taken by Lucky Luke. Asked about making the record, he says: "We had a lot of fun adding sound effects and vocal samples to the songs to make them fuller. I loved how he wanted to take each song further than just vocals and instrumentals. You don't see that kind of dedication in many local artists. Lucky Luke is such an authentic person and that comes across in his music. You can definitely attribute this to the success of the project."

Angus was also taken aback by the quality of a song called "Limelight Remix" on the album. It was composed by Lucky Luke's cousin, Charlene Chermside, who makes music under the moniker Sista Girl On The Beat.

Lucky Luke says: "James commented what a high-quality beat it was and assumed that I had bought it from some big-time producer for lots of money. When I told him that my cousin made it and leased it to me and lives in Brisbane, he was shocked that he had not heard of her."

Asked about the track, Sista Girl On The Beat says: "The thing I like about Lucky Luke is he is so real - I can really relate to his lyrics - he raps about our culture and our land and our struggles as Indigenous people. If you ask me, he is the best rapper in Australia."


Lucky Luke: "Mum is my sounding board to the far left, giving me cultural advice, oral history advice."

That strength of feeling was no doubt reinforced by the album's track "Tiddas", Lucky Luke's tribute to strong Indigenous women. It goes some way to rectifying Mount Isa's sexist image, which hit the headlines when its former mayor, John Moloney, won a Gold Ernie Award for sexism by saying: "Beauty-disadvantaged women should proceed to Mount Isa where women are outnumbered five to one. A woman can come here and transfer themselves with love and devotion in marriage from an ugly duckling to a beautiful swan. It can have a complete transformation for a woman."

On "Tiddas", Lucky Luke raps:

Doesn't matter if you're hot or not
What really matters is the size of your heart

I was raised by a queen
Yeah the rock of my life
Always there for me to give me solid advice for my troubles and my woes
When I was a teenager she bought me the flashy clothes, the nikes and the polos
the fresh new kickz
But mum went without
Put the family in front of her, no doubt
In my mind, that's a definition of a queen
An unselfish act, only getting gratification
when she sees her kids excel and get that education
And if you fail, she's patiently waiting
to put you right back on track
Yeah, your mum's got your back
It's the reason who we are, the person we've become
Everything I have, it's all because my mum
taught me to navigate the storms of my life and treat everyone with respect
Never judge a book by its cover
I am what I am because of my mother

"My mum and Joe Mackay, aka Joe Ave, are my executive producers," says the rapper. "Joe Ave is also my manager - he supports me and guides me based on his 10 years of experience in the Aussie Hip-Hop industry. I appreciate the solid advice I get from Joe - I know he has my back - I certainly have a lot of respect for the man. All of my songs on my album were chosen with the nod of Joe and mum. I tend to listen to both Joe and mum and I come up with an in-between compromise as to the idea and feeling I am after. At the end of the day, I write what I want, choose what I want and have the final say. Mum is my sounding board to the far left, giving me cultural advice, oral history advice."

She also influenced the quality of the music on the album, convincing Lucky Luke to pay for properly licensed beats.

"She encouraged me to write what she called a one-hit wonder and would always say, 'Who cares if you never write another one, you had a hit'," he says. "I paid for all the beats to protect my interest, just in case I did get a one-hit wonder."

It was a wise move, given the unexpected nationwide airplay and sales the album has achieved. Lucky Luke recalls the first time it was played on radio, on Triple J.

"I got a phone call from my friend to say I was on the radio and that he drove up my street playing it loud, hoping I was standing out the front," he says. "We couldn’t get the radio going, so we missed it - but my friend later posted a video of my first time being on the radio. Some of my favourite reactions to the album have been watching the stats climb daily."

The rapper was so taken aback by the success of the album that, after a couple of months of watching its figures clock up, he put it online for free download, saying: "I'm not greedy."

Lucky Luke put his strong-selling album online for free download, saying: "I'm not greedy."

Lucky Luke knows he is lucky. He's reminded of the fact constantly in his work at a shelter which provides culturally appropriate sobering up services for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. One hostel in town for Indigenous travellers takes its name from Kabalulumana, the Aboriginal guide who led prospector John Campbell Miles to the area's rich resources. The place Lucky Luke works in is called the Jimaylya Topsy Harry shelter, pairing the Kalkadoon word "jimaylya", meaning "pink waterlily", and the name of late Kalkadoon elder Grannie Topsy Harry.

"My inspiration to write comes from my life and work experiences, plus how I was brought up by my mother to always advocate for my people," says the rapper. "She would always say: 'Never look down on anyone and if you see someone in the gutter give them a helping hand, as one day you might need a helping hand.'

"I have worked in a number of different challenging positions, such as working with young children with disorders, young adults facing the court systems, alcoholic homeless people and young adults in care and control, plus care and protection. I have worked with youths and now see them coming in the adult system as homeless because the family unit has been broken down and I think I need to advocate for them because I see these problems daily. What I have learnt is that our people are in crisis."

It's a crisis that will only get worse after Abbott cut $534 million from services for Aboriginal people. Many of Mount Isa's mainstream services came about only through the work of a unionist who was the antithesis of Abbott. Pat Mackie, who led his fellow miners on a 32-week strike in 1964, was dressing like a rapper a decade before rap was invented. His Boston Red Sox cap earned him the name "Red Cap" and fitted the media's suggestions he was a foreign Communist. The former Member for Mt Isa, Tony McGrady, says Mackie helped make Mount Isa a better place.

"The conditions that people enjoy in Mount Isa today, good housing, the fact that you have a credit union, a health society and other facilities all came about because of the '64 dispute," says McGrady.


Lucky Luke: "The concept of the album is for people to pick a song they most relate to."

However in reality, says Lucky Luke, the Aboriginal people were by the 1980s still living in very poor conditions, with overcrowding on the Yallambee Reserve set up on the bed of the Leichhardt River. By 1988, brick housing was being built on the reserve with labour coming from the Aboriginal people. Today, families living in the reserve wait on the housing list to relieve the overcrowding problem that still exists in the cottages. Aboriginal people's life expectancy is still 10.6 years lower than that of the non-Indigenous population for men and 9.5 years for women.

On "Hey Dad", Lucky Luke raps about the death of his father.

"He had an accident in Mt Isa Mines and hurt his back," he says. "After his operation and his back was healed, he went back to the railway to work. He was a binge drinker and one night he was out on the town at the Switches disco and on his way home he had words to the bouncers of the nightclub to stop harassing a woman he was with. They assaulted him and broke his leg. He ended up in the Townsville hospital and a blood clot went to his heart and gave him a heart attack. He recovered from surgery but then had another massive heart attack which ended his life. I was devastated as I was just starting to build my relationship again with him."

On "Hey Dad", he raps:

Dad, where you gone?
Dad, don't fight mom
Dad, when you gonna come home?
Questions of a 12-year-old
Eight long years, my heart turned cold
Engulfed with anger
Infused with a steel mould
Couldn't believe the news
That the police told
Joseph Ronald Dargan
admitted to hospital
Due to a serious assault
Family calling saying it's not good, he won't last
Booked into surgery for triple bypass

"I followed the court case until the end, but he did not get any justice for what happened to him," says Lucky Luke. "I was very bitter about that and wanted to lash out at the cultural group that did it, but through my mum’s guidance, I let it go."

His mum's guidance can be seen in everything Lucky Luke does, from his day job, to his music, to the artwork for his album showing him holding Mount Isa's stack like a didgeridoo.

"My mum and I had some very heated debates as to the album cover artwork and choice of photo," he says. "I had my friend, Norman Hadley, do a photo shoot for me. At the last moment when we were in the alleyway, I looked up and saw the stack and asked him to shoot the photo. It was the last photo of the shoot. Mum chose the photo and originally suggested to put markings on it like a didgeridoo or spear. I didn’t like the idea and went against it, but gave in to the choice of photo."

In the photo, Lucky Luke is doing the "whichway pose".

"This ancient pose is one foot up on the knee while one arm is stretched out with the hand doing different gestures," he says. "The head position focuses on looking out into the distance. This pose has been photographed and posted on social media by our people in many different locations around the world.


Lucky Luke: "When it came to choosing a name for my album, Whichway won hands down."

"When it came to choosing a name for my album, Whichway won hands down. I chose the album title because I wanted to pose a question to my listeners. To provoke thought around, 'Which way in life are you going?' The concept of the album is for people to pick a song they most relate to and that tells them where they are in their life.

"The phrase 'whichway' is not really used by mainstream Australians. It is sometimes used like a greeting when us Murri people see each other. For example, one might say 'whichway' using a body signal like a back nod of the head and a hand signal indicating to the other person have they got any money. In their response, the other person might signal back with a lateral hand movement turning the palms up, indicating that they have no money. The first person might say ‘whichway’ again and the second person might nod the head back and point the lip in a direction indicating he is going in a particular direction. I observed when growing up that this saying can have lots of different meanings. The saying has further evolved into today’s ‘whichway pose’."

Aboriginal people have photographed themselves doing the pose at the Sydney Opera House, on beaches, clifftops, even in front of police cars. But Lucky Luke is the most famous to do it in front of Mount Isa's smelter.

Under the smelter, Mount Isa's literally groundbreaking mining technology was funded in part by taxpayers, with research from the government's Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation. The stack can be seen from up to 40 kilometres away, looming large over the lives of the city's taxpayers. But Mount Isa's mining technology has touched lives far wider, its patents being used in mines worldwide.

Lucky Luke says when his aunt showed her young children his album's artwork, they sensed the danger.

"My sister-in-law, Tara, showed my niece and nephew the photo and told them: 'Look at Uncle Luke, tearing down the stack.' My niece, Leilani, who is four, replied: 'No, he can’t touch that volcano, because it's hot.'

"Volcano was her word for the name of the Mount Isa stack."

Catch Lucky Luke's first live performance on June 11, 2015 at the Mount Isa Civic Centre as a support act for Seth Sentry's Strange New Past Tour. Read the full interview transcript below.

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FULL INTERVIEW TRANSCRIPT

You rap about your mum in 'Tiddas' and your dad in 'Hey Dad'. Tell us about your parents, who they were, what they did, and what your childhood was like.

I was told that on the day my parents learned they were having another child they walked out of Doctor Harvey Sutton’s surgery and across the road to the park to let my brother play. My dad said to my mum: 'Well, if I had some money I would buy you a drink to celebrate the good news.' He looked down and he saw a $2 note lying in the drain. He smiled at his good fortune and picked it up. He went to the bio café and bought a milkshake to share and to celebrate the good news. I was delivered by the reverend Doctor Harvey Sutton on the 13th of April, 1979, in Cloncurry. It was a Black Friday and it was Good Friday. My grandmother, Annie Davis, later said we don’t have to be suspicious of Black Friday any more as something lucky happened to us, something good to celebrate. They were lucky to have me. My grandfather, Joseph Dargan, wouldn’t hand over the birth registration papers until my parents agreed to name me after him. I almost didn’t get the name Luke as he didn’t want me to have a middle name, but my dad gave it to me. In the early years, my father worked as a labourer on the railway and we were in transit between Mount Isa and Townsville. By the time I was one, my father was the fettler ganger based at Malbon and my mum was the station mistress. Dad later was encouraged to take up the ganger position for a relay gang and we lived in a little caravan along the side of the railway line. But my fond memories are of Hughenden, because my grandparents, Arthur and Annie Davis, lived there. In 1985 we moved to Townsville and mum had a few odd jobs before she enrolled in James Cook University to do a diploma of teaching in early childhood education. She finished that and decided to stay and complete her degree in primary education. During our time in Townsville, we didn’t have much money - we would buy clothes and toys from the second-hand store sometimes. I remember my older cousin had all the new toys, clothes and shoes. My mum always dressed us in leather shoes, but after being made fun of by my cousin, we wouldn’t wear them. Hard lessons were learnt when my cousin and his older mates would play football against my brother and myself as a few hard beatings were dealt out as well. Older kids who lived down the road would fight us on our way home. My brother came home a number of times with a black eye. My parents were not in agreement as to how we should respond. My mother wanted a peaceful solution, so my dad went to talk to the parents because, besides the fighting, they were stealing our toys off us. When he came home, my dad told Ivan: 'If you come home with a black eye again you will get a hiding from me.' A clear signal for us to fight back. A few days later the boys got stuck into Ivan again, so he went all out and flattened the boys, so my mum was called to the office and informed that Ivan was a bully. Mum had complained to the school a number of times about Ivan being bashed, but nothing was ever done, so when she was told Ivan was a bully, she replied: 'My husband will be pleased.' With that, she walked out. From there my brother and I started to toughen up. In 1989, my mother graduated from James Cook University and won a preschool teacher’s position with Queensland Education, so we moved to Mount Isa in 1990. I was in year six and my brother was in year seven. The first day of school was very exciting because, unlike Heatley, the majority of the school population were Aboriginal. Two weeks in, we were picked on by several kids regularly and Ivan and I began fighting - it carried through to high school. But one day our parents took us for a barbecue and we later found out that the people we were fighting were our family. My dad started working from a very early age and worked all of his life, except for when he left our family and went to live with another woman in Cloncurry. He had an accident in Mt Isa Mines and hurt his back. After his operation and his back was healed, he went back to the railway to work. He was a binge drinker and one night he was out on the town at the Switches disco and on his way home he had words to the bouncers of the nightclub to stop harassing a woman he was with. They assaulted him and broke his leg. He ended up in the Townsville hospital and a blood clot went to his heart and gave him a heart attack. He recovered from surgery but then had another massive heart attack which ended his life. I was devastated as I was just starting to build my relationship again with him. I followed the court case until the end, but he did not get any justice for what happened to him. I was very bitter about that and wanted to lash out at the cultural group that did it, but through my mum’s guidance, I let it go. I loved my dad - he was a fun person to be with, while my mum did the discipline. I always felt safe around him. He loved music and played all kinds of music that gave me my base of history for music and events happening in the world. He never hit us, but threatened us when we would play up. When alcohol is added to the mix, my dad became argumentative - often for no reason, something would set him off and he did threaten my mum a number of times and we did witness a few fights. But I think emotional domestic violence was what my mum suffered from most, because she would never know when he was coming home or what mood he might be in. When my dad left our family, I lost interest in my school work and would never put any effort into it. I am sorry now as I might have had a higher-paying job. I am proud of my mum and I wanted to write something about her, as she did do it tough as a single mother. She taught us to have respect for women, but I never realised emotional abuse is domestic violence that men need to think of as well. I wanted to say I appreciate the sacrifice she made for me as when you are a teenager you are pretty self-centred. Teenagers can be very selfish sometimes - I know I was - and I wanted everything to keep up with my friends. I was chosen to go to America for basketball, but when my mum said she couldn’t match the kind of spending money my other friends were taking, I didn’t want to go. Looking back later, I realised how silly and childish that was, as I might have been spotted and had a very successful basketball career. Even now sometimes I forget myself and expect my mum to be the person she was 20 years ago. It is hard to see someone like her work all her life flat out, but now, turning 61, it is hard to realise and accept my mum is getting old and cannot be the powerhouse of the family. She is always pushing me and planting ideas for me to think over. She always says it is good when I don’t agree with everything, as it puts my own spin on things and makes the idea my own. I appreciate that about her, but - boy - she can be annoying. I call it nagging - ha ha - but, hey, mums are like that. I love it when my brother tells her he is a grown man and don’t tell him what to do, but she always comes back with the answer: 'You will always be my business and I will always tell you what to do whether you like it or not till the day I die.' If our mum didn’t have our back, I don’t know how my brother and I would have got through things as she didn’t just support us financially. When my mum went to James Cook University she entered the AITEP program and Greg Millar and Noel Loos along with others write a book called “Succeeding against the odds”. In the book they printed a poem my mum wrote when she was doing an expressive arts subject. The poem reflects some of her views then that most likely influenced my views and now I feel like I have succeeded against the odds in getting my messages out there on a scale that I never thought I would. Rap is about telling the true stories I am just so privileged to get a positive message out there. Success is defined in some cultures in the music industry by how much money you make but I think it is good to think I have succeeded in other ways in my eyes and my family eyes.

For All the World to See

I see their writing on the wall,
figures standing silent, proud and tall.
Portraying their lives of an ancient time,
Living through the centuries like the echoes of a chime.

And still those sound waves reach out/
Caressing me without a doubt.
For I will pass those stories on,
And so those traditions live on and on.

Our media today, like the writing on the wall,
Will reach out and touch us one and all,
Echoes of time, spreading far and wide,
Telling the story we’re not about to hide.

The story of our people, our struggle, our land,
A claim for every last grain of sand.
This is the writing on the wall.
Read it! Read it, one and all.

Please tell us about the phrase "whichway", which is not really used by mainstream Australia, and why you chose it as the album's title.

So when it came to choosing a name for my album, Whichway won hands down. I chose the album title because I wanted to pose a question to my listeners. To provoke thought around, 'Which way in life are you going?' Even if you are my age it is never too late to work on the direction of your life - it might be just for health reasons. In my experience and how my parents used this phrase 'whichway', I understand it is sometimes used like a greeting when us Murri people see each other. For example, one might say 'whichway' using a body signal like a back nod of the head and a hand signal indicating to the other person have they got any money. In their response, the other person might signal back with a lateral hand movement turning the palms up, indicating that they have no money. The first person might say ‘whichway’ again and the second person might nod the head back and point the lip in a direction indicating he is going in a particular direction. I observed when growing up that this saying can have lots of different meanings. The saying has further evolved into today’s ‘whichway pose’ - this ancient pose has gathered popularity on today’s social media networks. The pose is one foot up on the knee while one arm is stretched out with the hand doing different gestures. The head position focuses on looking out into the distance. This pose has been photographed and posted on social media by our people in many different locations around the world. However, I do agree that the phrase 'whichway' is not really used by mainstream Australians. For people who have had friendships with Aboriginal people, or who have lived in close contact or socialised in schools with them, the phrase may have rubbed off. I originally liked the phrase and I thought an album cover with a crossroads would send a clear signal that I was at a crossroads in my life and unsure which way I was going to go. I put in a search in Google Earth to find a crossroads. I found one on the old May Downs Station Road outside of Mount Isa. However, I was not happy with the photo shoot of myself holding a microphone stand doing the 'whichway' pose. The crossroads was not distinct and there was no sign.

You've said the concept of the album is for people to pick a song they most relate to and that tells them where they are in their life. That's quite a mature and profound concept - how has it worked out when you've asked people to name their favourite song?

The concept of the album is for people to pick a song they most relate to and that tells them where they are in their life. For example, if your favourite song is ‘Sky’s The limit’ featuring Joe Ave, it indicates to me that you understand goal setting, you know how to achieve your goals even if it is a little step at a time, because you believe anything is possible. It also indicates to me you are not easily led by peer pressure and are determined to make positive changes in your life. Your comment that this concept is 'quite mature and profound’ made me laugh because I am 36 years old, hence calling myself an old fella. I have had lots of different life experiences that have shaped my world view to that of someone that has lived a sheltered life. I have received some very heartfelt inbox messages on my Lucky Luke fan page when I have asked them to choose their favourite song and say why. A listener who lived in the same street as me growing up said: 'The Sky’s The Limit song, I really relate to that song as a person. That’s why it’s my fav song.' I replied: 'All the songs on the album are set up to see which way in life you are going, bro. For example, you relate to Sky’s The Limit because you have or are in the process to achieve a goal and you have a can-do attitude to do anything.' He replied: 'Exactly - I listen closely to your lyrics.' I am happy with this response, because if my music can give a young person motivation to achieve a positive goal, then I think it shows the success of the concept of the album, because the real currency is helping people. On the flip side, if they did relate to the song ‘Don’t Fck Wit Me’, they may awaken and identify. 'Hey that's me. What am I doing with myself? I don’t want to be this person.' Nothing good comes from fighting - win, lose or draw. The awakening might be how I can get out of the cycle of violence. Personally, I realised it is hard to walk away and not fight, but it is the best thing to do. When I was young, I was fighting for all the wrong reasons and didn’t think of the conquences of my actions and how it can affect other people in my life. My mum is my executive producer because she is my sounding board to the far left, giving me cultural advice, oral history advice. Her support with editing my lyrics to make sure the semantics are correct for the idea I want to get across is greatly appreciated, because it is hard to convince me to change a lyric that I have already written and become attached to. For example, in my new album, ‘Searching For The Son’ I wanted to talk about ice, because it is a current issue that I want to draw attention to, but mum was saying that I had already rapped about that issue and that the song was such a positive song that the line about ice draws the attention away from the positive message and focuses on the negative. She said it made more sense to let my listeners guess what the issue was and quoted Bob Dylan and how people still analyse his lyrics and debate what they might mean. My other executive producer/manager, Joe Ave, supports me and guides me based on his 10 years of experience in the Aussie Hip-Hop industry. All of my songs on my album were chosen with the nod of Joe and mum. Joe also helped me edit the song Sky’s The Limit. Joe also advises me if the beat is not right or the pronouncing of the words is not articulated in the Australian accent. I am aware I do have a problem with my pronouncing, because it sounds Americanised. I am working towards trying to correct this. Joe was also instrumental in helping me cull the songs back that went into the album, ensuring that they fit with the concept of the album, because I originally had 25 songs and I liked them all and wanted them all in there. But eventually I chose 13 because I was born on the 13th and it is my lucky number.

The album's artwork is almost like you reclaiming the smelter - tell us about that.

My mum and I had some very heated debates as to the album cover artwork and choice of photo. Joe did the graphics for my album and I had my friend, Norman Hadley, do a photo shoot for me. At the last moment when we were in the alleyway, I looked up and saw the stack and asked him to shoot the photo. It was the last photo of the shoot. Mum chose the photo and originally suggested to put markings on it like a didgeridoo or spear. I didn’t like the idea and went against it, but gave in to the choice of photo. My sister-in-law, Tara, showed my niece and nephew the photo and told them: 'Look at Uncle Luke, tearing down the stack.' My niece, Leilani, who is four, replied; 'No, he can’t touch that volcano, because it's hot.' Volcano was her word for the name of the Mount Isa stack. My mum suggested the graffiti up the side of the wall and Joe Ave originally put the name of the album up near the stack to represent the smoke, but you couldn't see it, so Joe had to put it on the road in the alleyway. The photo, as you say, is almost like I am reclaiming the smelter. Well, I have long discussed with my family and friends that when our country has been raped and depleted of its rich resources, then the fly-in, fly-outs will go back to the cities, the property values will go lower, the job prospects will become fewer and this area won’t attract workers any more, but my people will still be here - not because it is a 'lifestyle choice', but because we are connected with this land.

What inspired the track 'Don't Fuck Wit Me'?

What inspired the track 'Don't Fuck Wit Me' was coming through a long history of fighting when I was young. When I grew up and realised I was fighting for all the wrong reasons, I came up with my philosophy, 'Don’t touch me, don’t touch my family, you can say anything you like.' The song was designed as a warning to anyone that this is what literally happens in an Aboriginal community - family is going to come together to fight you.

I believe you do youth work? Tell us about your work and what you've learned from doing it.

My inspiration to write comes from my life and work experiences, plus how I was brought up by my mother to always advocate for my people. She would always say: 'Never look down on anyone and if you see someone in the gutter give them a helping hand, as one day you might need a helping hand.' I have worked in a number of different challenging positions, such as working with young children with disorders, young adults facing the court systems, alcoholic homeless people and young adults in care and control, plus care and protection. I have worked with youths and now see them coming in the adult system as homeless because the family unit has been broken down and I think I need to advocate for them because I see these problems daily. What I have learnt is that our people are in crisis.

"1 Day" samples the TV show First Contact. Tell us about your reaction and your family and friends' reaction to that show and your decision to include that sample.

The song '1 Day' also samples the TV show 'First Contact' because it shows how some Australian mainstream attitudes are stereotypical. My first reaction was anger, then it was funny that people believed some far-fetched stories. I eventually came to realise they didn’t know us. I put 'education is the key' in my song because once the people got to meet and know us, they began to empathise with our situation. On '1 Day' I rap 'Don't ask me...' about various things - language, prison, views on the judicial system and so on. I was feeling frustration and putting it out there, saying if you are going to judge me solely by my looks, I’m not going to waste my time explaining anything to you if you are already closed-minded. On '1 Day' I rap: 'Imagine not having to worry about pollution when you're going fishing.' I was trying to paint a picture of a better tomorrow. If we put land care before profit, we would clean this country up for a better future for the next generations to come, because we are the original custodians of this land with 40,000 plus years’ experience.

Tell us about the Iggy Azaelea diss track you did and why you did it.

I did the Iggy Azaelea diss track after I saw a YouTube clip interview of Iggy hosted by Sway. Sway asked about the Indigenous people of Australia and Iggy’s naive response angered me because as an
international star, she attracts a lot of attention and I thought, 'How dare does she speak on behalf of my people in such a disrespectful stereotypical view in front of the whole world, implying that the Australian government buys us all a house and we smash it, because it is in our culture to sleep under the stars?' I was a fan of her music and very proud of a female Australian artist making it big on the international stage. I wasn’t just trying to make a name for myself off a diss track - I really felt offended and wanted to express my emotions through my music. I now realise she is just an uneducated young person. Hopefully she will come to know the many multicultural Aboriginal groups that make up the complex identity and multiple cultures that make up the unique population of Australia.

"Send Me To My Grave" was based on your grandad's story, right? It could be many Aboriginal people's story though, couldn't it? Were you going for a universal feel? The music has a very US Deep South feel to it - is that what you were going for? Where is the music sample from? It also samples Kenneth Branagh playing AO Neville in Rabbit Proof Fence, right?

'Send Me to My Grave' was based on my grandad's story, but I know from other stories in my family and friends it could be any number of other Aboriginal people's story. I wanted to dramatise just one incident - an incident that ended in being taken back to the mission, when in reality that would have been a lucky break as lots of people were caught up in massacres back in the day. I never thought that the music I chose had a very US deep south feel to it at the time - it just felt right. But now, when I look back on it, I could see how some people could make that connection. The beat was made by Sinima Beats, an American company founded in New York. I wanted the sample of Kenneth Branagh playing in Rabbit Proof Fence because I wanted to draw attention to the hurts in our lives that are still in our living memory and affect our family to this day. We cannot move on yet, because we are still dealing with the after-effects of this treatment. Non-indigenous people need to understand and stop saying to us to move on. We will move on one day.

You got a lot of guests on the album, tell us about them.

The guests on the track are all friends and family, some of which I met through social media. Initially I was a fan of some of their music before I actually got to communicate with them. Once I made friends with them, I asked if they were interested in doing collaborations with me. I got a positive response. I am very proud of the song ‘Tomorrow’s Another Day’ with Aunty Auriel Andrew. She travelled to Mt Isa and we talked and showed her my music. What was funny about the meeting is that Uncle Barry’s attitude was so against rap. Mum kept saying to them how Aunty Auriel cannot let Uncle Archie Roach do a rap song and outdo her and how she has to keep up with the times. I paid for Aunty Auriel’s studio time in Newcastle to record her chorus. After the song was completed, I got a call one day from her to tell me that when she and Uncle Barry go for a drive they put the song on and sing along and even rap along to my part. I thought that would be very funny, seeing Uncle Barry rapping. I also thought if I have converted Uncle Barry, the song must be pretty good. Aunty Auriel is one of the first Aboriginal women recording artists. The family is so proud of her. James Angus was blown away with her voice when he mastered the song.

The guests on the track "1 Mob" are pretty underground artists. Did you deliberately choose names that were not so well known?

I started a page called ‘Indigenous Hip Hop & RnB collaborations’ because I thought it would be great for other Indigenous artists to network in the one place. Then I asked my friends and cousins to help manage the page. One of the administrators suggested that all the administrators of the page should do a song together as an example to show the members of the page how it’s done. I chose the beat for ‘1 Mob’ and did my verse first and passed it on to the next person. We were all underground artists and proud of it. I wanted to network with anyone who was interested. Being in a remote area, I didn’t have many local connections that I could work with. I knew Joseph Mackay, aka Joe Ave, professionally for about four years when he lived in Mt Isa as my boss. Then one day, I found out he was a rapper and I started sending him songs and asking him if he was interested in doing a collaboration with me. At this time, I had just started rapping and the quality and content of the songs that I sent him were not to his liking or interest. One night, I was searching for beats when I found 'Sky’s The Limit'. I jumped up and asked mum for a loan and she said: 'I want to hear it first.' I wrote the beat, wrote the song and recorded it in the early hours of the morning and sent it off to Joe Ave the next morning to see if he was interested. To my surprise, he said: 'Come around tomorrow.' We worked on a draft and it set the tone for my album - as in, I wanted to do a positive message theme for my album.

Sistagirl On The Beat does the music for "Limelight Remix" - tell us about her.

My mum is in the process of recording our family tree and she uses Facebook to make connections with family that have been taken away. One of our family members added me through my mum and said, 'Hey, my daughter produces rap beats', and told me to add her on Facebook. So really, Charlene Chermside, aka Sista Girl on the Beat, is one of my relations. The first contact was an exchange of each other’s music via Soundcloud links. We both liked each other’s music and I told her I was working on an album and was interested in some of her beats. Sista Girl was very generous and leased me five beats. So far, I have only used one of her beats for my 'Limelight Remix' track. What is interesting is, when I was recording the track 'Limelight Remix' in the studio, my producer, James Angus, commented what a high-quality beat it was and assumed that I had bought it from some big-time producer for lots of money. When I told him that my cousin made it and leased it to me and lives in Brisbane, he was shocked that he had not heard of her.

You say you paid for all the beats and you can certainly hear that in the production quality. A lot of rappers just rip beats. Did you deliberately want to reward the musicians for their work?

My mum always called my music 'rap crap', then one day I told her what RAP stood for, 'rhythm and poetry'. She encouraged me to write what she called a one-hit wonder and would always say, 'Who cares if you never write another one, you had a hit.' I paid for all the beats to protect my interest, just in case I did get a one-hit wonder. The quality of the production is due to the exceptional skills of James Angus of Meridam Music. I know lot of rappers just rip beats. I do it for my not-for-profit underground songs, but I believe when it comes to making money off that beat on my album, I deliberately wanted to reward the musicians for their work as I was worried about copyright and I also believe it is not the Australian way to profit off someone else’s hard work. I think producers need to be paid for their special high level of skills, because not everyone can produce a quality beat. I certainly appreciate and understand that, as I personally would like to be able to do that one day. My musical plans for the future include the release of my second album, called Searching For The Son. My first live performance will be on June 11, 2015 at the Mount Isa Civic Centre as a support act for Seth Sentry's Strange New Past Tour. There may be a few concerts coming up in the future. However, due to work commitments and my financial situation, I cannot confirm my presence. In the future, I plan to enrol in a course to further my musical knowledge specialising in all aspects of the music industry, such as the technical side of producing instrumentals, mixing and mastering, marketing and legal aspects of the industry. Basically, to further develop understanding, so I can produce a better quality to highlight and produce a unique sound to my music.

The album's been getting strong support, including play on Triple J Unearthed. What have been some of your favourite reactions to the album?

The first time I noticed my album getting some strong support was only a little over a week after being posted on Triple J Unearthed. I opened the Triple J Unearthed website and I noticed in the Indigenous link my picture and a review by Max Quinn under it. I thought something was wrong with my computer because I wasn’t logged in to my Unearthed profile. I inboxed my family and friends to check and was excited to hear back it was for real. I got an email from Dom Alessio, the host for ‘Home And Hosed’, to play my song on his show on the radio. I emailed and sent the track and, to my surprise, an hour later, my friend heard the introduction of a rapper from Cloncurry was about to be played and he inboxed me to ask if it was me. I then frantically tried to get the radio online, but couldn’t find a website. Next thing I know, I got a phone call from my friend to say I was on the radio and that he drove up my street playing it loud, hoping I was standing out the front. However, we couldn’t get the radio going, so we missed it - but my friend later posted a video of my first time being on the radio. Some of my favourite reactions to the album have been watching the stats climb daily, being interviewed by the ABC, the national Indij Hip-Hop Show, and local Mob FM Mount Isa - and of course, Triple J was awesome, to have a laugh about the croc-eating snake, as they thought I was making it up. My first ever radio interview was with Darwin’s Radio Larrakia with Michael Ah Mat. One of the surprising reactions was to see my song '1 Day' being analysed on a website called genius.com by blogger Lazer Man 5000. A special bonus was an inbox on my fan page by two teachers in Brisbane, asking to use my song in their teaching. They requested the lyrics as a teaching tool as a representation of people, culture and society through song and poetry with a particular focus on Indigenous history. The idea for the song ‘1 Day’ came easily to me. I had strong feelings about what I wanted the lyrics to say to people. At no time did I think it would be noticed and have the impact that it has received. Even now, for me it is hard to fathom, as I just went with the flow and wrote it and had recorded a draft within an hour. I was interviewed by the North West Star Mount Isa before my album was released. A few days after the interview I said to my mum if she had any change so I could go and buy the paper. I rushed home with it and quickly turned to the back of the newspaper where I knew they have write articles about music. I turned to mum and said: “No, nothing." The next night I got some silver again and headed to the corner shop and as I approached the paper stand my heart started pumping really fast as I could see my photo was right across the front page of the Star taking up half the page. I was in total shock and couldn’t wait to go home to show mum. (The North West Star Wednesday the 14th January, 2015, page 1). We always have a little joke between us about beating each other on to the front cover as once mum got on the front cover but it was only a little photo saying go to page such and such to see her article. It was so funny, the next morning one of my friends rocked up in his work truck to say congratulations. I really appreciate how the North West Star did the spread for me and I was so pleased that they did a follow up article to show I was getting some positive responses and that my album was released on track. Their articles were a real confidence boost for me as the interviewer unconsciously tapped along to my song one day. I thought to myself when someone does that the song must be OK and he quotes some of the words in his article. So it is like the North West Star first spotted one of the most popular tracks on my whichway album. Mat Ward my interviewer was surprised also to see my photo on the front cover. I hit into a big problem with the Mount Isa Pound wanting to put my dog down and I decided to fight the order and use the money I had saved to record my album. It was a stressful time trying to make a decision. One hand I would have had egg on my face saying I was recording my album and didn’t follow through with what the newspaper report said. Paying my pound fine would have put me back for months. Thanks to my cousin Trish she helped me out and another cousin Kylie and David for giving me accommodation in Brisbane while recording my album. I cannot thank enough for their generosity. I got to save my dog and record my album. This journey has been one amazing ride so far and I am ever so grateful to everyone who helped me along the way especially my Uncle Arthur Davis who is always there when I need a helping hand.

JAMES ANGUS ON PRODUCING LUCKY LUKE'S ALBUM:

Working with him was a pleasure. The songs were 95% written before they were brought to me. We spent 5 days together recording the album in Brisbane at my studio and then I mixed and mastered the album the following week while Luke was back in Mt Isa. We communicated via phone and email. We had a lot of fun adding sound effects and vocal samples to the songs to make them fuller. I loved how he wanted to take each song further than just vocals and instrumentals. You don't see that kind of dedication in many local artists. It was also great to have the ear of Joe Ave to bounce ideas. I gravitated to the messages in his songs, especially One Day, Tidda and Send me to my Grave. Joseph (Lucky Luke) is such an authentic person and that comes across in his music. You can definitely attribute this to the success of the project. It's great to see a great artist and most importantly great person succeed. I look forward to working on the next one!

SISTA GIRL ON THE BEAT ON MAKING 'LIMELIGHT REMIX':

That beat was made in my mother's garage. My brother helped me put that deadly beat together. We knew straight away that we'd produced a banger, then I put it up on Soundcloud and my cuz Lucky Luke asked me if he could buy the beat, so I was like, 'Yeah, of course.' I'm so glad he did too... The thing I like about Lucky Luke is he is so real - I can really relate to his lyrics - he raps about our culture and our land and our struggles as Indigenous people... His rhymes are always on point too. If you ask me, he is the best rapper in Australia.

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