Hip hop’s largesse has long been the stuff of legend.
The genre’s explosive commercial success saw to that, producing a generation of performers who were too young, too inexperienced to know how to handle immense wealth and fame. Cue a myriad of spoofs, sketches and character pastiches which probed every inch of the hip hop universe.
But somehow an Australian comedian has managed to find a fresh approach. Chris Lilley found fame with ‘We Can be Heroes: Finding The Australian Of The Year’ and ‘Summer Heights High’ but it’s his new series ‘Angry Boys’ which has found the largest level of international acclaim.
“The whole concept of the series is that I was these twins from out in the country in South Australia, these twin teenage boys who have their heroes up on their wall and they want to invite their heroes to the farm” the comedian explains. “That was the premise of the series. I needed to create these hero / legendary characters and I thought, well they’re obviously going to be into hip hop music”.
Cue S.Mouse. An inspired comedy creation, the rapper has become infamous with his cringe-inducing tracks and over the top antics. A world away from a comedy style based on his own life and surroundings, Chris Lilley admits that the hip hop star was a difficult character to perfect. “It was probably the most challenging character I’ve ever done” he explains. “As far as research goes there’s so much out there, it’s such a massive popular culture phenomenon. I watched a lot of documentaries about young rappers, but I didn’t want to base it purely on one specific person, it was a combination of things. Looking at all sorts of people. It was probably the one area where I had so much access to information because it’s such a thing at the moment. I wanted him to be a unique character as well, because it’s boring if he was just this standard thing that we’ve seen before”.
While each of Lilley’s creations do in some way involve music, this is the first time that the Australian has fully ventured into hip hop. Becoming a viral hit online, tracks such as ‘Smack My Elbow’ as nigh on perfect dissections of certain real life performers (who we will shy away from naming). “I’ve been really interested in that type of music – as I’m interested in a lot of types of music – but that was particularly fascinating” he says. “So I had an ear for it, I was used to listening to it. It was definitely quite challenging, because I recorded all of S.Mouse’s songs at home in my studio which I’ve got set up here – which is just like a laptop and a couple of speakers”.
Recorded at home, the S.Mouse material displays a remarkable sense of ingenuity – a mischievous sensibility reflected in the recording process itself. “For the all the stuff that S.Mouse does at home I thought I should do at home myself. So I did that by literally pressing record then running to the corner of the room and then running back. It was 100% on my own, which is good because you could be up all hours of the night and just do it whenever you feel like it”.
For Lilley, making the music believable was paramount in mind. “Absolutely yeah. That’s kind of the style of the comedy of the whole thing – it’s trying to replicate reality because that’s funny enough without going too over the top” he says. “I wanted it to sound believably rubbish, but not too good – it had to be in the range of what was achievable to him. It ended up being that the songs he wrote at home were the most memorable – people who were fans of the character, those were the ones they really connected with”.
Collected together for a new soundtrack album, S.Mouse’ output has gathered a popularity ironically denied to him in the show. Handing his material over the guest producers, Lilley has even commissioned a series of remixes based on his original creations. “When it was on air I started to set up the SoundCloud page to do my little remixes and stuff” the comedian explains. “Then other people started doing things and sending them to me. We released the soundtrack on iTunes, because it’s not really enough to warrant a physical release. Then all these remixes started happening, from all over the world – there’s some UK ones on there as well”.
With the series now over, fans are left to mourn the fact that there will only ever be a finite amount of S.Mouse material. That is, unless Chris Lilley decides to resurrect the character for a new series, something which he admits could happen in the future. “I love the idea of bringing characters back and it’s really hard at the end of a series to let them go” the comedian explains. “Of all the characters that I want to lay to rest and ones that I want to bring back I think S.Mouse is in the like to bring back category. He’s a lot of hard work because it’s just tricky creating that whole environment. He has to appear like he’s living in LA and the cast around him are really tricky to find. Then the make up is like two hours every morning. It’s like, huge. That’s really draining when you’re doing it. I wanted to do something really challenging in this series, I wanted to take it to another level - it was worth it”.
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‘Angry Boys: Official Soundtrack’ is out now.