Two years ago, Australian rapper 360 could walk into any pub in his own country for a quiet drink. Not any more.
The tall, heavily tattooed artist is already hard to miss. But he’s become a national star since his sophomore album, “Falling & Flying”, exploded Down Under on its release in September 2011.
With a third album in the works, the Melbourne artist is spreading his wings and looking abroad. The rapper -- real name Matthew Colwell -- is returning for a dream date at Lollapalooza this August.
Rap, hip hop and urban music is a global genre dominated by American artists. Very few international rappers have had a cross-border impact, and fewer still have made a dent in the U.S. -- Dizzie Rascal, Tinie Tempah and Roots Manuva are among the scant few. 360 is confident a breakthrough is on the way, and it just might be an Australian to do it.
“I don’t think it’s a matter of if it will happen, but when it will happen for someone from Australia to blow up over there,” he tells Billboard.
360 is part of a thriving community of homegrown Aussie hip hop acts, a circle which includes the chart-toppers the Hilltop Hoods, Bliss N Eso and Drapht. Bliss N Eso have made multiple excursions into north America.
“When Eminem came out it was a fresh thing to America -- a white rapper who was big. But at first glance it looked like a gimmick,” notes 360. “When people dug deeper, you realized the dude was as talented as fuck. I think it’ll be a similar situation where an Aussie rapper will come out. It’ll (initially) be a gimmick because it’s an Aussie rapper, but then they’ll realize the guy can actually make music. That’s a goal.”
Progress to the big stage in the U.S. is a long, hard slog. And there’s playing to “crowds that are fucking tiny compared to Australia,” he explains. 360 got the nod for Lollapalooza after impressing with a string of dates last year at SxSW. He was confronted with a major hurdle when the PA blew during one of his Austin performances; he finished with the help of a beat-boxer from the audience.
360 laughs about it all. “It’s a difficult experience, because you have to go back to before it all took off (in your career) and there’s about 25 people and for that to happen mid-set. Fuck!”
The past 36 months have been anything but difficult for 360. He led Australian record industry’s flagship 2012 ARIA Awards with six nominations (winning breakthrough artist and producer of the year), he’s won multiple Jagermeister Independent Music Awards and in 2011 was named broadcaster Channel V’s publicly voted “Oz Artist” of 2011. His second album is multi-platinum certified and spent more than 50 successive weeks on the ARIA sales chart, while his hit songs “Child” and “Boys Like You” (featuring Gossling) are platinum certified. On Monday night, 360 won breakthrough songwriter of the year at the APRA Awards in his hometown.
American audiences could get first taste of some new 360 tunes. He’s currently at work on a third album with a who’s who of Australian artists lining up. Silverchair’s Daniel Johns, the Living End’s Chris Cheney, rappers Pez and Seth Sentry, soul singer Daniel Merriweather, and Julian Hamilton from electronic music duo The Presets are on board. And British rapper Example is a chance to collaborate.
“It’s coming along great. It’s been insane,” notes 360. “I’ve been working with some of my favorite artists in the country, people I never thought I'd work with.” He singles out his work with Daniel Johns, who split with Silverchair in May 2011. “People will notice a big shift in his music from back in the day to now. His voice has changed so much," he says of Johns. "He’s so good, it’s intimidating.”
Plans are to have a new 360 single out at radio before the end of the year.
And what should Lollapalooza ticket holders expect from 360? “It could be (a crowd of) over 20,000. So we’re just going to get up there and smash it,” he says. “We’ll hit them with some bangers, some hard beats, get them dancing, and get them moshing.”