N'fa Jones

N’fa Jones / More Than Just Techniques

Words by xtothap1

It’s been a long and winding road is an overused cliché, but for N’fa it is infinitely apt, besides that I’ve already typed it. As an artist he has seen dizzying heights, aria awards, tracks dominating radio airwaves and huge festival slots. Some ten years on he is about to embark on a new solo journey, he’s stepped into the modern world, things like crowd sourcing to make music and pushing his sounds on a digital platform, but the ethos underneath remains the same as it has ever been.

You have been around forever in the Australian music scene, for those who may not know, or for those new to hip hop in Australia give us a breakdown of your musical history. 

Well, yeah I guess I’ve been around a while. I was always into music since I was a kid, thought I’d grow up to be some great jazz musician or something wild eyed. However writing rhymes and freestyling became a passion and song writing was an escape and a creative outlet. I moved from Perth to Melbourne out of high school, and MC’d anywhere the dope funk bands would play, I met Peril, and we slowly started jamming over some of his beats. Eventually 1200 Techniques would be born, and go on to winning the first ARIA by a Hip Hop outfit, and kick in doors all around the country building a foundation upon which great acts like Hilltop Hoods would build skyscrapers.. It’s a pity 1200’s didn’t continue, but that’s a part of life. I’ve been travelling a lot the past years, collaborating with various producers and MC’s local and far abroad, releasing music and gigging all over. Now I’m back in Oz with an album that was mostly created here, and excited about future endeavors with my crew House Of Beige. It’s also been great catching up with the 1200’s fellas too.

When you were a part of 1200 techniques the crew was one of the biggest things musically in the country, and that it seems will always define how people view you as an artist. How do you look back on that time with the group, what you were able to achieve and perhaps more importantly how does it affect the way you make music now? 

1200’s was a very important period in my life, I don’t know if I totally realized it at the time, but it’s something I’m always asked about, and appreciate. I think I was a little lost after we disbanded, though It doesn’t affect how I make music now, except that I’ve always felt comfortable flipping styles when in the creative process. I obviously never wanna do anything wack, not after such solid records with the guys, but I never compare what I’m doing now, to what I did then, that would be unhealthy.

I remember reading hate on the crew when you were blowing up, what people seemed to forget was Peril had been around hip hop in Australia forever, you too had been making music for a long time, yet they were treating you as some made for a label group, how did that make you feel as an artist? Did you feel as a group or personally you had a point to prove? 

Honestly, I hated and felt pity for everyone in the scene who felt that way about us, it was very hard for me, especially being such and open, and caring kid. We even got dissed for having live drums, guitar and percussion in our show, and I got dissed for singing rootsy hooks like Karma. However, once we stopped, everyone took that template and did it! It was a shock, like a stab in the back. That’s the only real regret I have about 1200’s stopping – not being around to continue kicking ass. We didn’t have a point to prove, we just were who we were, and the music was authentic and real.. We signed to a tiny indie label and got decent distro, nothing like how it is in the game today. I still feel like I’m pushing forward, It’s just so much harder to get heard above all the noise.

Around this time you also came out with what may have been one of Australia’s first open diss tracks, taking aim at f grade basketball player J Wess, how do you look back on that track now and what prompted it at a time when he was making quite a lot of mainstream noise himself?

As banging and heavy as that track is and despite how much love I’ve received for it, I actually wish it had never happened. A few good people got hurt in that process, and such negativity only brings more of it. That being said, one should always stand their ground, and after his verbal attack on my crew, I really had no option but to lyrically bang back, especially in a time when battles were a major part of the game. Again though, I still wish it hadn’t had to happen, maybe I’m the only one who hurt.

On to your music since the group, you have done a fair bit of solo work, a bunch of EPs and a long player, talk us through how the process is different working by yourself instead of with a crew. Do you find the process easier when you’re totally in control, or harder as you have nobody to bounce ideas off? How do you rate your solo work as opposed to group releases?

It’s been a lot more relaxed working by myself. 1200’s process was kind of intense for me back then, would be different now as I’m a different person, I just like to be creative on inspiring music, I don’t write product, I create art for myself, I then release it. Perhaps if I thought it though more to create a “brand” I would do things differently and be less spontaneous. If 1200’s had never existed, I still would have been here in some form. Maybe a roots/world hip hop project or something, or I might have met Sensible J earlier, but I still would have been around. Just maybe no ARIA, or maybe more, haha, who knows. None of my work is solo though. It’s always collaborative. It’s not designed to be compared to anything. Its designed to be listened to, enjoyed, and absorbed.

One of the things that has always stood out to me is the respect you have within the Australian hip hop community, respected heads always have only good things to say about you. Is it something you wear proudly the respect of say M-Phazes, or Drapht or a Hau? Further to that how have you found contributing to music with these guys over the years?

Well, I respect the peeps right back. Respect happens when you’re open, and not trying to prove anything. Everyone is important. I just try to be me, my parents son, my siblings brother, I dunno what else to be. Contributing to music with these guys has been a natural and cool thing, If I can’t dig your vibe as a person, I can’t write music with you, It’s pretty simple, and this creates an organic flow toward good songs and great friendships

You are on the road at the moment I believe with the new single Money Better Come, tell us a bit about the track, who’s involved, and if it’s a precursor to a new album and the sound we can expect from it.

Money Better Come was written almost by accident after bumping into Styalz Fuego at the shops..He had a melody idea and the basis of the beat. The lyrics came to my head right away so I demo’d them on the spot. My vocal is the demo, I didn’t intend on having the track for my album. Yet it was made at an important time in my life, and being an honest song, I felt it had its place amongst the journey ofBLACK + WHITE NOISE in the scope of dark and light. This is a lighter sounding song, with a darker resonance of needing money for my new family, and the stress I felt about it. Billy Hoyle did a hot re-edit of it which sonically matched the album a little more, and so I’ve been using the two versions to get the song out there and enjoyed by many.

Finally you’ve been making and releasing music in Australia for 12 + years now, what keeps you active, what drives you and what is there left for you to achieve? 

I’ve tried to stop writing music a couple times, but I found myself literally becoming ill. I felt better as soon as I wrote music again. In the beginning, thanks to my brother getting me into it, music was my councilor and channel for my anger and fear. That vessel became a life boat for me and many listeners who related to my inner thoughts with songs like KarmaCause An Effect was a step to seeing what I could do as an individual without 1200s or my older brother. The drive over the last few years has been insanity, and needing music to keep me centered through some dark times. Now that I’m releasing BLACK + WHITE NOISE, any solo music I create will now be pure art from here on in and who knows, I might actually build a movement again. #ProudArtNotProduct