Western Sydney rapper CG Fez has been actively interested in music for a long time—like a really long time. Originally inspired by his older brother to experiment with a ukulele in primary school he taught himself Hotel California in lieu of the other three choices that were presented to him.
“Back then it was either Footy, being a tough cunt or music,” he tells me. Fez began forging his foundations as a rapper, in a room full of his older cousins. Initially trying to exchange words for admiration by keeping up in their freestyle sessions.
As our voices bounce off the blindingly white walls of an empty studio room. We’re reclined on two brown leather office chairs that make sporadic, unnerving clicking sounds and also recline WAY too far back—occasionally scaring both of us into that fake falling feeling that they used to wake up in inception or whatever. Our conversation got deep quickly, maybe it was those chairs and their ability to recline so far back? Maybe it was coming straight out of a 4-month lockdown in Sydney? Or maybe I’m trying too hard to be a wordy typing guy and you could just read the conversation.
So tell us a little bit about your artistry. How did music become an outlet for you?
I think I started back when I was in year 4, year 5. I picked up a guitar because my brother was in high school, and at that stage, it was footy or music, or you were a tough cunt. And my brother was saying every time that he went to school he was disappointed that he didn’t get a chance to learn, so tried to teach me and my brother Huz. Huz didn’t want to learn, so it was just me and I was like: “Fuck it.” I started playing I think properly by year 6, playing and singing ‘Hotel California’, like proper. And then from year 7 to 10 is when I learned the most about music, but rapping didn’t even start then.
So it was a different style of music at first?
Yeah. We touched on reggae, rock, country even. I was just singing and I enjoyed it a lot, but I didn’t really know how to express myself or what I wanted to speak about through my own voice. Through my words is where I found out how I could do that. So then I used to see my brother Butcher and my cousins rapping in their room and I thought, “Fuck, I want to give it a crack,” started freestyling and my cousins were like, “Whoa, shit.” It was so bad, but there were parts in there. I was so keen to just get that praise, and was like, “Fuck, that felt good.” So then after that, it turned into more of a competition to just be better than my brother. I remember the first rap that I properly wrote, that’s when me and Lekks (ONEFOUR) first linked up, at Street uni, and then he was like, “Bro, there’s something there.” And there’s me thinking, “What does this cunt know? So then eventually we started working together. I took time off of work and we both just sat in the studio for like two weeks straight. Literally just go in there, random word freestyles and instrumental freestyle. And that’s where I kicked off my rap career.
Right, you started at a similar time to Lekks from OneFour then?
Yeah. He was rapping before me but wasn’t rapping like long before me. So our progress and evolution was built together in a sense. We used to just make shit and show each other. We would battle rap 24/7. We used to sit there and watch videos of battle raps, and back then we didn’t have much, in regards to money or technology, so we would make our own fun through freestyling. So we used to link up, go to the park and make a game out of freestyling. We would see cars drive past, or look at street signs and other objects, and use them in the bars. So for each object you used, there would have to be a punchline and it would have to land on the 4th bar.
I see. So you made games to practice?
Yeah man, back then was pretty crazy. That’s what we invested our time into, and from there just moved forward and dealt with life, I guess, overcame obstacles, had kids, had families. Only recently did I just start getting back in touch with music two years ago, I think.
What do you think was the tipping point where you thought “Okay, I want to pursue this more?”
Genuinely, just seeing the boys, and seeing that they could put themselves on a track.
You mean ONEFOUR specifically?
Yeah, sorry. ONEFOUR specifically. Seeing the boys, do their thing, It’s awesome to see them wear their heart on their sleeves and be their true selves. And not just that, they’re getting proper recognition for it. Real respect. And it made me think to myself, “Man, this craft was really close to my heart, I was passionate.” And I started asking myself “why did I stop?” before I realized, I didn’t have the self-discipline or the motivation to believe in myself as much as I would’ve liked to, but things happen for a reason.
100% And now it’s you can make music as the most grown version of yourself.
So now you have a completely different perspective to offer because I think even though some of the soundscapes and instrumentals may be familiar to what people already recognize, the deeper layer of your content is quite different. Because it feels a lot more self-reflective.
Yeah. And I think that comes with its pros and cons as well. One of the biggest pros is getting to be you 24/7, that’s the biggest thing that I see about being real, and it’s hard because sometimes you can be uncomfortable in your own skin. It’s so tough, but I think that’s why as artists, it’s very important to keep in touch with yourself and your mental health because you start realizing you let a lot of these things affect your decisions, directly or in the future. At the end of the day, other people aren’t going to be there when you reach your destination. You get what I’m saying?
For sure, especially if you’re making decisions for others around you.
Yeah, for example when I see artists and I question how genuine they are. I don’t get upset at them because I know it’s tough. I know what it’s like to sit there and be unsure.
It’s interesting that COVID has helped a lot of conversation around mental health progress pretty quickly like I saw you posted a story about coming across a little stand-offish with someone before you realised they were trying to tell you that you dropped something. And how your emotion can sometimes not even be directed at a specific situation but can boil up from somewhere else.
Yeah, exactly. And I started realizing within my personal relationships for instance, that you could start pointing out traits in your partner, friends or family that you actually see in yourself. And these are things that I’m only recently learning, so none of it is concrete. I’m still learning, so my perspective can be molded with time. That’s what I mean when I see younger cats or artists coming out and doing their thing. That’s something that Hau (Latukefu) taught me, to just back whatever you do 100%. And as for my younger self, the music that I made then, that’s also true to who I was at that time.
Yeah and I guess expression is expression regardless
Exactly! And regardless of what people say or not, that’s me or who I was at the time. I think that’s something very important, to be true to yourself. We all lie here and there, whether it be a white lie or a bigger one. But I personally think the worst lie of all, is when you lie to yourself. I know people that for people who come from a similar background to me and that are raised in similar areas, it’s very hard to see these types of perspectives. That’s why I really want to talk about it because it’s beneficial and I think a lot of people are afraid to be themselves or are afraid to check in with themselves because what that might come off as, you know what I mean?
I think a lot of life is everyone trying not to get hurt, getting hurt, and then saying, “That’s never happening to me again.” Then becoming this version of themselves, that moves through life in a constant defence mechanism.
Yeah, exactly. And that’s the thing, it’s tough. And I’ll use a reference here, So for example, in a relationship, someone with a pure intention can still get hurt, right? And therefore that can turn that person into being hurt and not wanting to open and my experiences have taught me that if you’re the type of person that’s genuine, then stay that way. If you get hurt, then stay that way, because don’t lose the best of you because of somebody else’s actions.
You mentioned Street Uni a little earlier, tell me about that
Bro, that was sick, man. I felt like I made some relationships there and friendships that I won’t ever forget. For instance, shout out Esky like BRO. the lengths that guy goes to for the youth and community, is crazy. He has a heart of gold. Me and Lekks from Onefour did our first track in response to a diss and jumped in the studio, Esky recorded us that day. This was after-hours and this guy was taking time out of his own day, free of charge just to help us with our dream. He records us, he mixes it, bounces it out and me and Lekks take the next day. We even borrowed Esky’s camera and went to the back streets of Mount Druitt to shoot that video. And back then it did pretty freaking well.
Back then It was also only me and Lekks that wanted to push in that direction, so having someone like Esky and Randy as well, to teach us not just about the craft, but also the morals we needed to carry to be good artists at the same time. Those times, we were very young and easily molded and now looking back, I can see how kids can get onto a different path because of their environment and surroundings. That’s why I always sit there and I say, “Street Uni was a blessing.” It was awesome, bro, like that’s a chapter in my book that I’ll always look back on.
So there’s this topic that’s quite techy and everyone has their own opinion on which is: when we look at drill music and how the youth can ‘supposedly’ be influenced by that, do you ever see young artists making mistakes you perhaps could have where you think “Come on, do better?”
I think almost like if they are making a mistake, it is what it is, it’s a mistake. And mistakes, you can’t hold someone accountable for a mistake for the rest of their life. I think it’s important for people to make mistakes at the same time because that’s the best form of learning. if someone was to tell me, just like I was saying with my OG, he never forced me to make a decision, he gave me options. And if I were to choose the wrong one, then basically be like: “I told you so,”. That’s also where I’d learn though, whereas if he was to force the right way, I wouldn’t have learned why. When it comes to mistakes, the way I see it is, everyone makes them, and when you’re young you are easily influenced.
I’ve heard you speak a little bit before about being your own enemy and getting in your own way. What do you think were the sort of experiences that led to you feeling that way?
As we were talking about mistakes, we can be a bit harsh on ourselves as well. And when you think about it, no one can control our lives more than ourselves, so then our biggest obstacle is us also. Touching back on that, an example could be making a mistake, like not pulling through on my end of a bargain in a relationship and thinking, “Fuck, I’m not good enough.” Then once you put yourself in that mindset, you find it so hard to take it off and you just realize that you have to stop digging. When you find yourself in a hole, instead of trying to dig your way out, just stop digging.
So we’ve already touched on a lot of our vulnerabilities and learning, but to go in the opposite direction, what do you think made you build up your mental armour and think, “Yeah, I’m driving now, and this is what I’m doing”?
To be honest, it was only recently. I’ve always had little spurts of energy and of passion to drive and be like “I’m in control now”. But I’ve realized that a lot of the times when I said it, I didn’t back it with my actions, so it was useless. Recently I’ve sat and spent some time with myself for myself, and when you do that, you take away all the background noise and really start to focus on who you are, you learn so much. it’s really crazy, you can think about: your tendencies/traits, the type of person that you are and who you really want to be, instead of who you are when you are around other people. That’s one thing I learned like, “shit I’m doing a lot of shit that I don’t even want to do”, to make people happy or to please people, when in reality I should just be doing it for me.
How do you think all this growth has transferred to music? Do you think now that you’ve had these realizations, you’re hitting a different gear and tapping a different space?
In a sense, yeah. I guess when it comes to music, there’s no real structure for me. We get in there, create and come up with ideas or concepts. Most of the time it’s just writing until you can’t write anymore and then and only then, is where I see it. With lockdowns and whatnot easing off, I’ll just be focusing on getting myself straight and getting prepared to really take everything head-on. I’ve made a whole lot of plans to get back into the studio and work on concepts and projects. So yeah, I think that’s when we’ll really see the effect that it’s had.
In a lot of the music you’ve put out, I think a lot of the tracks have a certain emotion that’s at the forefront of the song. When you’re doing something as deep as 4:30, how do you sort of step into that emotion?
I guess first of all, having a safe space to record is very important. The team that you surround yourself with is very important to know that you’re not feeling judged or you’re not going to feel like any different for doing what you want to do. Secondly, I also think I’m very in touch with my emotional side, I’m a very emotional person. So to kind of step back into those memories or those thoughts of when I was writing the lyrics, it isn’t as hard. I guess the hardest part is afterwards, taking yourself back through those emotions trying to finish the songs, it can be very draining and very straining on your health. I think that’s the hardest part for sure, the healing because as an artist, I don’t know if we can properly heal a lot of the times unless we take steps after, which are things that I’m only starting to learn.
I think that’s very interesting because we live in a world where music is generally seen as a commodity and we don’t really, I guess, account for the artist being a person.
Yeah. And on that note with the emotional side of recording, my cousin Peachy said something to me that hit me really hard, and he was saying like, “An artist could be on his last legs. Like he could be going through bad depression, taking drugs, alcohol, but that could be when he’s painting his best portrait.” You know what I mean? And like the portrait itself can be valued, but the cost of what … this person’s losing their life. Hearing that made me think damn, some of the best tracks that I love come from when people are in the worst points in their life, because it’s relatable.
Do you ever think with music that’s so personal, there’s ever a point where you have to refine and opt not to put something out?
I hear that, I do get those feelings a lot, but then a lot of the times I feel like I owe it to the people that are following me on my journey. They’re tuning in and most of my core fan base is tuning in to hear either punchlines, raps, or my story. I think investment into my character itself is something that I owe to these people and to be true and speak my truth. Boundaries? I don’t know, man, you’ll hear with these next couple of tracks, hey.
On that note, what do you have coming up?
So we’re working on a project, it’s a very, very sensitive project. Fuck, we haven’t even named it yet, but we’ve spent a lot of time working on it and there’s a lot of me invested into it, and it’s not what people would normally expect from me as well. I guess in the sense of me being emotional, it is, but the way that I’m coming with this is really, really different. I’m super stoked man, like I cannot wait to get this shit done, wrapped up, and send it out because I feel like a lot of people will feel it.
And lastly, if you could describe your music as a landscape, what would that look like?
A horizon of the sea, you know what I mean? Because it is empty and when you listen to my music, you can hear my experiences and hopefully relate in your own way? Yeah, like my music is about me, but at the end of the day, everyone attaches themselves to whatever I’m talking about.