When it comes to spitting bars, Wombat is one of the most skilled in the country. On the set of 16 Bars back in late October, I had the opportunity to sit down with the Tasmanian MC and find out what makes him tick. When Wombat raps, he spits lyrics at a machine-gun pace, with an intensity that doesn’t seem to fade when he’s off the mic and just chilling. He’s an intense dude in his mannerisms, telling me he’s suffered from anxiety since he was young, but from our brief time together, I can tell he’s a genuinely nice person, obsessed with the craft of rap and the Australian scene in particular. He speaks almost as fast as he raps and has a tendency to name a million artists he’s a fan of at any opportunity, a quality I don’t think we see enough of in hip-hop.
When I sit down with Wombat, he’s feeling on top of the world, having just recorded a cypher and spent the day hanging out with his Australian rap peers. “Big link ups today bro—got some free clothes, got to do the cypher, and do the interview all in one day it’s fuckin’ sick. Then I get to go home to me girlfriend and me family so I’m feelin’ good. Fuckin’ oath.”
So let’s take it back to the beginning hey—what kind of dude were you in high school?
I was a very kind of introverted person, you know what I mean? I was very shy, I still am a bit. I’ve got bad anxiety, as a lot of fuckin’ people do and shit. I had a big friendship group though, we just used to run amuck and get suspended all the time for smoking and wagging and shit.
And when did you start rapping, in high school?
Yeah, in high school but I wasn’t really taking it seriously back then, it was just me and larrikin mates at parties getting drunk and freestyling and shit. It was back when Kerser and stuff came out, it just exploded. I was like 12 listening to Kerser and being like, “Fuck this is hectic bro.” I started writing seriously in about 2014 [and] dropped my first official track in 2015. I was inspired by cats like Kerser, Alex Jones, [and] Devlin from the UK. 2pac a hundred million percent, best rapper ever. Biggie Smalls to a certain extent.
Did you come up watching a lot of Grime cyphers and UK radio sets too?
Yeah bro, I’d say back in 2011 I found grime, like proper grime. Before that I was just listening to Devlin and jacking his beats and rapping over them and shit, you know what I mean? Just being like fuck yeah I didn’t know what the fuck grime was until I saw his Fire In The Booth and he was talking about grime and Sharky Major. Then I went back and discovered this whole new world of music, so yeah, I’ve been into grime for a long time bro, like a good seven or eight years.
So coming up, was there a scene for rap in Tasmania?
Yeah, there’s always been a scene in Tassie man, shout outs to people like Greeley, Dunn-D, Gargoyle—rest in peace—Billy Bunks, and Tornts. They all ended up moving to Melbourne and helping start up Broken Tooth Entertaiment, one of the best rap labels in the fuckin’ country [and they] are Tasmanian rappers, you know what I mean? Then you’ve got guys like Greeley and Dunn-D who have been holding it down for years in the battle scene so yeah, there’s always been a healthy scene down there. Then it’s really started taking off the last few years with this THC TV movement, the Tasmanian Hip Hop Collective. There’s more people rapping in Tassie than there ever has been.
Who are your people there, who is in the crew you roll with when you’re in Tassie?
Shout outs to Flylacine, shout outs to Rapswun. That’s pretty much about it at the moment, we’re keeping a small circle. Rapswun is my older brother and Flylacine is like a little brother to me, he’s just my best mate. We’ve been rapping together for years, they’re both dope as fuck, they just haven’t dropped much music. We’re going to build our own studio down in Tassie because there aren’t a lot of opportunities there to record and shit, that’s why I’ve got to come over to the mainland and all that shit, there’s a much bigger scene there.
So are you planning to stay down there, that’s home base?
100%. I was considering [moving] to Sydney for a bit, but I wanna build an empire from Tasmania, you know what I mean? Put on for my state. Rep the ’Norchy, 7010.
How did you first link up with Chillinit?
Just over Facebook man, because me and Nerve had been killing it with the grime, we dropped an EP and were doing shows and that, he just inboxed us both and asked us to come and play this show with him in Sydney and it was funny because I was a fan of him back in the day, maybe five or six years before that. He was around the time of Kerser, 2011 and shit. He was rapping back then, I already knew who the fuck he was so I was like, “Brah I’ve been listening to you for ages, I’m keen to do this show bro.” We got there and just clicked straight away. I was meant to just come and do the show and go home but I ended up staying there for like a week and smoking bongs with him flat out. We’re like opposites but we just click, you know?
So what’s your relationship like now that you’re both doing big numbers and touring and everything?
Really good man, we’re kind of doing our own thing at the moment but it always comes full circle. I’ve got him on my upcoming EP, we’ve got shows planned and shit like that.
Do you think you guys have driven each other to want more and to go harder?
100%. I can’t really speak on his behalf—I’m sure I have for him—but a hundred million per cent he’s pushed me to go harder bro. I want to keep it real with you man, I’m not really sure I should say this in an interview, but I fucking overdosed and nearly died at the end of last year, I was in hospital and shit for a few days, it was fucked up man. Chill was meant to come to Tassie that day and he was messaging all my friends being like, “What the fuck, why isn’t he writing back?” and they told him I was in hospital and why. So Chillinit was like “You little fucking dickhead, I’m taking you on tour, I’m getting you out of that environment, come on tour with me for three months and we’ll get you healthy and get you sorted”, so he’s not only helped me in a writing sense but in a life sense, you know what I mean? He’s a brother for life.
What about streaming, you’re doing crazy numbers now. Has that made you think about the business side more or are you more focused on the music?
I’m starting to think more about the business side because I know I need management and shit, I’m a bit of a loose cannon man.
You need space to be the artist a bit?
Yeah, exactly. I like to focus on the music side more. Chillinit is very business minded, he can do that shit you know. He was booking shows for us and all of this shit. I’m not that kind of person at all, I’m a lazy motherfucker that just likes to rap and spit bars and shit.
How have you seen the Australian rap scene evolve in the last couple of years?
In the last couple of years I think the scene has exploded, there’s a lot more variety. It’s not just super basic boom-bap hip-hop, which is super dope and I fuck with that hard. There’s also grime, trap, and drill now, there’s so many different scenes now. You’ve got people like OneFour, the islanders are coming up and they are blowing the fuck up. You’ve got cats like me, Nerve, and Alex Jones who are doing the grime thing. Then there’s people still doin’ the old school, there’s just so many pockets, man. It’s like how grime blew up in the UK however many years ago, that’s how I see the Australian scene right now, it’s just a steady incline. It’s very exciting.
Who are some of the MCs who have been impressing you in Australia lately?
I really fuck with Jye Simpson man, he’s a really dope artist from Melbourne. Posseshot from Melbourne like Kharnivor and Mr. Muscles have been around for a bit but they’re dons man, I really fuck with their shit. Kharnivor is probably one of the best beat producers in the country and he can rap his ass off and Mr. Muscles is just a steezy motherfucker bro. In terms of not Australian stuff I pretty much just listen to Slaughterhouse you know; Royce Da 5’9”, Joe Budden, Joell Ortiz, Kxng Crooked and that. Super duper lyrical miracle shit, you know what I mean?
What’s the craziest city for you to perform in?
Adelaide. But Tassie shows are always sick cos it’s hometown shit. Perth goes crazy too.
What do you want to start doing more and less of in your life?
Less talk, more action.
What advice would you give to a young kid out there who wants to give rapping a go?
I would say just build your team. Get the right people around you first, who are going to back you and help you along the way. You don’t need to just start dropping heaps of songs off the bat, just take your time and get your team set up first.
Last thing man—I know you’re with the shits when it comes to Dragon Ball Z. I gotta ask who your favourite character is?
I fucked with kid Gohan when he beat up Cell but he kinda sucked after the time jump. Goku is obviously the don so it’s a tie between those two. I fuck with Freiza though as a villain, he’s one of the best villains.
Any other anime we should check out?
Yeah everyone thinks anime is all action and fighting but that’s a misconception. Death Note goes hard because it’s all psychological. Attack On Titan goes hard as fuck too and One Piece, that’s my favourite, I grew up watching that shit. Luffy is like an inspiration. Coming back to that earlier question, he’s fully assembled his team. He’s got his right hand man, like I’ve got Flylacine. He’s got his chef, his crew you know. It’s all about building your team.
Check out Wombat’s new track ‘Swine Flu’ above and keep it locked to 16 Bars for his episode dropping this Thursday.