Christian James on the Come Up /// Ground Up

Inked-up rapper from the Gold Coast, Christian James aka Boi Blue is possibly one of the best kept secrets in Australian Hip Hop. He has locked down dope collaborations with SwizZz, Madchild and Bizzare (d12), so it won’t be long before the secret is out! Farley Ward caught up with the hard working up comer to pick his brains following the release of his latest mix tape ‘How To Tie A Noose 2‘.

Hey Christian!  Thanks for the chance to interview you today!

Thank you!  I’ve had a little bit of practice now.  I did an interview with Radio Metro last week.  The dude only had one microphone so we had to share this mic and our faces were up really close.  Weird!  He had two microphones but the other one was broken.  They played a couple of my songs which was cool.

That is cool that you are starting to get a bit of love from the radio.

It was cool hey.  Radio metro used to play my music a few years ago when I was making shit that wasn’t so hectic and dark.  There were two songs they were playing back then, they kept playing them pretty much weekly.  I kept having my mates messaging me all the time saying, ‘Hey, you’re on Radio Metro right now!’  My friend Cody sent our music into them, just as a stab in the dark – and they loved it!

So I hear you started out drumming.  Were you in a band?

When I was fifteen I was playing in rock bands and shit.  Started playing drums when I was about fourteen or fifteen.  And I pretty much joined a band as soon as I could hold a beat.  I did that until I was about eighteen or something, when I moved up to Queensland from Sydney.

So you grew up in Sydney?

I grew up in Sydney yeah.

So you mentioned Cody before, did you two make music together?

Yeah. I was off work because I was injured, I was on work cover and all that.  Cody was injured too, he hurt himself skateboarding. We were sitting at my place writing music and all that.  We were always writing rock music and acoustic stuff.  Then we thought we would try and make some hip hop shit because we always listened to hip hop.  I had a MacBook.  And so we just started making hip hop songs and kept going with it.

So I think the first video I saw you guys in was ‘Greener on the Other Side’.

Oh yeah, we had a fair bit of shit before that.  Cody and I used to go by the name, Code Blue.  That was our band or artist name if you will.  Cody was doing a lot of singing and I was rapping.  I was making beats and he was making beats as well.

We made a Code Blue album called Ink of My Life, and that was the first album I ever wrote from start to finish.  Cody and I made all the beats, wrote all the lyrics.  It had nobody else’s input.   Everything was original.  We printed them, some crazy number like one or two thousand copies of these CD’s.  And we walked through all the shopping centres in the Gold Coast, like Pac Fair, Robina Town Centre and all that.  We got kicked out of all of them, but we got away with it for about an hour in each, just walking around handing out CD’s.  They were full legit, like proper printed CD’s, in hard cases, flick cover.  We spent a lot of on like the artwork and shit and got a whole stack printed.  And it worked, it worked heaps well.  We had heaps of people adding us on Facebook and loving our music.

So when did you start doing solo stuff?

We just kind of branched off from there also doing our own shit.  Cody was calling himself Codeine Green on the Code Blue songs and I started calling myself Boi Blue.  We didn’t separate but Cody started doing his own stuff and I started making my own individual music and that’s sort of how all that came about.  We started out making hip hop as Code Blue which we originally thought would be more like a band kind of thing, and that developed into us becoming more solo artists.

So you make all your own beats.  Did you teach yourself how to do that?

Yeah, I’ve been writing music since I was about fourteen.  I’ve always been able to play guitar a little bit, drums was my main instrument, but I’ve always played a little bit of guitar.  And I understood how to play bass and all that.  So I was always piecing songs together on my computer but never took it seriously.  It was just something I did for fun.  And then when me and Cody started making these songs.  I just took what I already knew about making music!  Making a drum beat or a hip hop beat was too easy for me.  You know, your high hats are there, bass drums there, snares there.  All it is sitting there and placing it or playing it with your fingers on the keyboard.  That’s just as easy as playing a drum kit.  So putting a beat down wasn’t an issue.  Then like I said, I could already play guitar and bass a little bit.  Not good enough to play in a band or anything, but enough that I could do some tracking and record little sections at a time so I could make a full beat or a full song.  And I just stopped doing rock shit and turned it into hip hop beats.  You know, use big bass drums and claps for snares, synth bases instead of actually playing bases.  I can play a base on a keyboard instead of a base guitar, so that makes life a lot easier.

Listening to your music, it’s obvious that you still have a bit of a rock influence going on there?

Definitely.  There is no way I couldn’t have a rock influence.  I listen to just as much rock as I do hip hop.  I listen to a lot of heavy metal, a lot of old rock.  Like I still listen to Metallica and Pearl Jam, Nirvana, Faith No More.

You are also a member of Street Cred Crew.  I get the feeling that you boys are old high school friends, but you obviously aren’t if you grew up in Sydney.  Tell us about Street Cred.

Looking back, none of us have really known each other all that long.  We all met up here on the Gold Coast.  We kind of met through rapping, you know.  Most of us were already rapping, and one dude had a clothing business and it was called Street Cred Clothing.  It was run by Hoops who is now one of my good friends.  He was still getting the business off the ground, it was still real new and he was working on getting it into the stores and stuff.  He got a copy of our CD, the one Cody and I were giving away in the shopping centres.  He ended up emailing us and asking if we would wear his clothes in our film clips and on stage and all that, if he gave us a box of new gear.  We checked out his clothes and we were like, ‘Yeah man this is dope!’  We ended up hanging out with him heaps.  I was drinking back then, I don’t really drink now, so we were hanging out and having drinks.  When we went to his house for the first time, he knew all the words to our shit.  He’s just that type of dude, he listens to music and you know, learns the words all the time.  I said to him for ages, “You should just start rapping man, you already know how to do it, you just make your own words up.”  So he got into rapping and started rapping along with us.  We decided to ditch the clothing and  make Street Cred the name of our crew.  So there is myself, Baden Knight, Pat Psyfa, Codeine Green and Hoops.  We all have really individual styles, so when we blend them together, that’s what the Street Cred Crew sound is.  We hit those heavy kind of trap beats, the real boom bap, the real heavy hitting beats.  All of us seem to hit that double time style pretty well, so that’s the kind of thing we have gone with.

You all work really well together.  And your sounds are all very different so each of you kind of stands out.

Yeah, you can tell all the rappers apart.  No two rappers really sound the same in Street Cred Crew.   That’s something that works in our favour, we have a unique sound.

Every time you land a solo support gig you seem to bring your Street Cred Crew members on stage with you.  Do they go with you to every show?

Every show I do, I pull them on stage.  If any of my mates are there from Street Cred Crew, I’ll find a song I’ve done with them.  You’ll never see me get up on stage and do a show where it’s just me, unless I’m the only person there.  And that’s vice versa, you know.  I’ve been to gigs with Bado (Baden Knight), and he has done his own show and he will put on songs that I’m on, even songs that are on my CD’s or whatever, to get us both on stage.  We just kind of play it by ear.  We can’t all make it every time to the show but if we are all there, Street Cred songs will definitely be played!  Every time.

You been getting some decent support gigs!  I saw you supported Swollen Members last year, I know you have Necro coming up.  How do you land these gigs?

Any rapper that I think I’d be a good support act for, I am always hitting up whoever I can to try and get on that gig.  I find out who’s running the show.  I’m constantly emailing people.  There are some promotion companies that don’t get back to me at all.  And there’s some that I now talk to and associate with, who help me out when they can.  Then there are some that will put me on and then ignore me.  I suppose that’s just how it is.  Any act that rolls through that I want to support, I always put my hand up. It’s just whether I actually get it.  I reckon I’d get about 35% of the gigs I apply for.

You seem so busy.  You have a job, plus you’re making beats, writing lyrics, doing gigs.  Where do you find the time?

I don’t know.  I just don’t stop really.  I stop when I sleep.  I don’t sleep a lot.  I spend a lot of time writing.  And making beats.  I don’t know.  I think I’m ADHD to be honest.  I can’t just sit there.  I don’t even watch television.  I have one but I  don’t think I have even turned it on for over a year.  I’ll sit here and listen to an album before I turn the TV on.  And even then, I get half way through the album and I’ll get inspired and be like fuck this, I’m going to make my own beat.  I’m always doing something, I can’t sit still.  I guess that’s how you know that you like doing something.

Your latest mixtape is called How To Tie A Noose 2.  You have collaborated with some big names on this mixtape. How did these collabs come about?

Well it’s actually the third collaboration I have done with SwizZz from Funk Volume.  I’ve been in contact with him for two or three years now.  He pretty much said to me whenever I want a collab to hit him up.  So I pretty much hit him every time I make a new mixtape or album.  You’ll pretty much always hear SwizZz on my albums.

I supported Madchild last year when he played in Brisbane.   And I joined Battle Axe Warriors over a year ago now.  The opportunity came up to collaborate, all I had to do was email his manager.  Obviously I paid for it.  He’s a working artist, a recording artist, so that’s what they do, that’s how they get paid.  But I got a massive discount for being a Battle Axe Warrior.  The awesome thing about Madchild too is he sent me his whole recording session, bounced down into audio files.  So I basically had the last say on how his audio sounded.  I produced Madchild’s vocals from start to finish.  Whereas SwizZz, he is a good producer and he makes his own beats too.  So he produces his own voice and mixes it down, ready to go.  Then he sends it to me.  So all I really do is fuck with the volume.  But Madchild sent me his raw, so his fuck ups were in there and everything.

Must give you a sense of relief to hear a high calibre artist such as Madchild still fuck up?

Yeah its cool to see how each rapper puts their shit together.  Not many rappers will record their verse from start to finish without dropping in another take.  Madchild is very talented the way he puts it all together, its actually really artistic, like putting a puzzle together.

The other big name collab was Bizarre from D12.  I’ve been listening to D12 since I was hell young.  I remember getting into trouble off my Mum and Dad when I was a kid for playing it way too loud.  I had the Devils Night album, I never turned it off.  I still know that album as soon as it starts playing.  If I hear a song off that album on the radio or in a playlist, I always expect the next song from the album to come on.  But yeah I just emailed Bizarre.  He’s been making his own music and doing his own tours and stuff.  So I was like fuck it!  I emailed his manager, and said I have been a big fan for a long time and sent him a copy of the song that I wanted him on.  I told him about the theme behind the song and all that and why I wanted Bizarre on it.  I said I would pay X amount of dollars to get him on a song.  They replied within a matter of hours, saying they love the song, let’s do it!

Where can we see you play next?

I am doing a gig with LGEEZ on June 19 at Players Showgirls in Surfers!

Awesome to chat with you today!  Best of luck with everything!

Thanks homie!