With a drummer/producer for a dad and a backing vocalist mum, MXXWLL's passion for music grew organically. Growing up around studios, having heard a lot of different music, his taste is understandably varied. After listening to The Beatles, reggae and Aussie rock-pop as a child, there were two albums that would always play on long journeys in the car when he was a teenager: Alicia Keys’ ‘Songs In A Minor’ and Jill Scott's ‘Who is Jill Scott? Words And Sounds Vol. 1’... "Definite vibes, cheers mum and dad”, he laughs.
In terms of inspirations, “every artist or song I've heard has influenced me one way or another. Even if it's some shit I don't like, it influences me to turn it off and make something I like more.” Artists he does like, though, include Kashif, J Dilla, OutKast, Return To Forever, D'Angelo, D-Train, Battlecat and Thundercat – “there’s a definite ‘cat’ trend starting here," the multi-instrumentalist jokes, having just supported Snakehips before their headline show at Electric Brixton in London.
- - -
- - -
A few weeks before the gig, the long-haired Sydney native - who has been described as putting the G-Funk into the 21st century - put out his debut album, ‘Beats Vol 1’. Though the title sounds ambiguous, the idea behind it was actually pretty simple. "I think one day I looked at my 'unfinished beats' folder... and then realised that there was no 'finished beats' folder," he recalls, having then compiled his favourites and started "putting together a body of work."
Created in the home studio at his parents' place in Sydney, one thing that spurred MXXWLL on was the anticipation of his fans to hear new music. "Every time I uploaded a new jam video on Facebook there'd always be dudes commenting 'this guy never releases anything'... After a while this ignited some Tarantino revenge type shit in me where i just decided I will do whatever I have to do to prove these dudes wrong," he jokes.
By a stroke of luck, some of MXXWLL's favourite musicians were in town around the same time he started work on the album. Silas 'SodTp' was in Sydney on tour with my dude William Singe... Will had the flu hella bad so Si ended up staying at my place for like a week making a bunch of music (including 'JAMS' featuring SodTp)."
A week later, Justin Bieber's touring guitarist Julian Michael was in town: "I noticed we followed each other on Instagram, so I hit him up like ‘you probs don't have a lot of time, but do you wanna come through to Asquith and lay some guitar on these joints?" A few hours later the dude rocks up at my place and puts down about 50 insane takes of guitar...’ (including 'Swish').”
MXXWLL's effortlessly chilled out, funk-infused synth-led hip-hop instrumentals - perfect for fans of Karma Kid, Bondax and Snakehips - have attracted support from some pretty massive names in the music industry: DJ Jazzy Jeff and Snoop Dogg. "When Jeff hit me up I was pretty turnt with some friends back in Sydney... and then this Twitter notification comes through from him like "What’s good bro... huge fan!" then asking me to be a part of Playlist Retreat 2016... I pretty much choked on the rum and coke I was sipping on," MXXWLL recalls.
Having his music heard and commended by Snoop was even more surreal. "One day my girlfriend woke me up saying ‘So I think Snoop just said something on your post’... I'm like ‘yeah, sure thing mate, Snoop Dogg’, sarcasm in full effect. I looked at my phone and low and behold there was actually a comment saying ‘That shit banging!’”
It's no surprise, then, that MXXWLL is hailed as one of the leaders of hip-hop’s next generation. Rather than being daunted by the hype, he's taking it all in his stride and building on the excitement. "That's actually mad bizarre to hear," MXXWLL considers, "but as long as the music makes me happy (and maybe someone else) that's all that matters to me."
- - -
- - -
Words: Ben Jolley MXXWLL plays The Jazz Cafe in Camden Town, London, as part of Night Thing, on November 3rd. Visit http://thejazzcafelondon.com/event/mxxwll for tickets.
Join us on Vero, as we get under the skin of global cultural happenings. Follow Clash Magazine as we skip merrily between clubs, concerts, interviews and photo shoots. Get backstage sneak peeks and a true view into our world as the fun and games unfold.