Stories create infinite ties with the reader. Be they tragic, comical or simply dramatic, stories are ways to tie in the reader and let...

Helen Earth: A storyteller of hip-hop

Stories create infinite ties with the reader. Be they tragic, comical or simply dramatic, stories are ways to tie in the reader and let him feel himself in another person's shoes, experiencing their struggles, feelings and problems. 

Helen Earth is a hip-hop musician from Brisbane (Australia) whose style can be introspective with a feral sincerity. Helen Earth's discography is composed so far of 3 LP'S, Hell Hath No Fury, Hell is other people and the latest Gehenna. Her writing skills are aligned with a free, smooth and fluid flow that embellish beats that are inventive and sometimes quite adventurous. 

- You use rap music as a powerful vessel to express your mind and thoughts, be they straightforward or riddled with introspective leanings. How do you recall your first contact with rap music? 
My first contact with hip hop was when I was a kid, I caught the clip for Public Enemy’s 911 is a joke. I think separately I was a fan of hip hop, and writing. When I was in my early teens those interests merged into writing raps. It evolved over time and continues to do so. 

- In your 2 albums you have amassed a huge number of collaborators and it works quite fantastic. How was it to work with other musicians and how did the different inputs flow together? 
When it comes to collaborations, I don’t like to be dictated or dictate. So my preference is always more of a cypher braggadocio steez (aside from Blind Eyes). Gehenna Is thematic though, it has a theory that runs through it, and Insideus and Sinks followed that well when I explained it to them. But I do explain things quite poorly, so I think there was a natural intuitive understanding of what I was doing. In regard to the producers I collaborate with they’re quite happy to just let me do what I need to do. 

- Your latest album is called Gehenna which holds meaning in several religions. Did you intend to allude to any of them or use the word more as a symbolic state of being or place? 
Both. I’m quite happy to let others interpret however they like; art is subjective. But my goal with this album was to exploit tropes that were and are both historically and presently used to exploit and other. Intertextually, I alluded to a lot of mythos and I categorise religion under that term too. At the time that I wrote it, I think a symbolic state of my mental place is also evidenced. 

- In Hell Hath No Fury, the diversity, eclecticism and somewhat daring arrangement of the sample and beats, reminded us of an Australian rap ensemble called Curse Ov Dialect. They are as melodic as they are adventurous in exploring and blending different sounds. How important is the experimental side in your composition process? 
I haven’t heard of them before, but I will definitely look into them. I think the point is that I am quite an emotional and moody writer. I will write whatever I feel like writing. People fixate on certain styles, and their own preferences. But at the end of the day, this Is my outlet. People are naturally experimental, whether conscious or not. I have a writing background. So, I experiment and exploit language, but it comes naturally. It’s not like I sit down and deliberately declare to myself that today I’m going to do this style, or this tone. I just let it out. 

- Writing is an art that is quite important to you. Do you have any authors or works that have influenced/inspired you in your writing? 
Yes. I love Herman Hesse. I first read him when I was 17, I even took a trip to Canberra to see his handwriting in person. Handwriting is an intimate thing, writing is an intimate thing with ourselves, with others. Toni Morrison, Maggie Nelson. I love dystopian fiction, I love how it gets you fucked up when you’re reading. It is my drug of choice. The Orchid Nursery by Louise Katz is heart breaking, amazing, well weaved. She did a superb job at exploiting mythos, which is my idea of subversive literature. I really cannot recommend that book enough. 

- Your music is strongly imbibed with a strong sense of empowerment and self-reliance; how do you feel or see women’s role on a genre such as Hip-Hop? 
I guess I don’t. The connotation attached to the np ‘women’s role’ doesn’t’ sit well with me. There are no gender-based roles here. Hip hop is all about skill. It’s universal. It’s reciprocal. You’re either an artist, or your mates are liars. 

- Gehenna has a very intense lyrical side but Blind Eyes was a highlight for us. We may be wrong, but it felt to us as a strong and deep mosaic of childhood abuse. Could you or can you elaborate a bit more about the track? 
It is. But I think that’s a track that speaks for itself. Additionally, my experience isn’t the only one on that track. I can’t speak on that other experience, that guest verse is not my story to tell. I think this is something that will be discussed in my music over time and that’s really the only way I can discuss it. 

- Hip-Hop is one of the music genres that is intimately related to poetry and spoken word. What themes are you more inclined to approach? 
Spoken word. Slam poetry. If you can’t turn your voice into a beat through your delivery, and structure… You’re not well rounded to me. In depth knowledge and understanding occurs with that kind of knowledge, I don’t think that’s something that can be explicitly taught either. I love Anis Mojgani’s For Those Who Can Still Ride in Airplanes for the First Time. Goose bumps. 

- In the theme “Gehenna” it sounds like it has an Aesop Rock sample. What’s the story? 
It does! Not much story there, but I have been a fan of his since my early teens. 

- Besides your music, what values or “truths” do you most praise? 
Integrity above all else. 
Thank you for the thoughtful and considered questions. It was really refreshing.

Text and Interview: Cláudia Zafre
Band: Helen Earth