Drapht: rapping respect and love

A STRING of awards, a growing legion of fans, hundreds of shows, a gold record and more - 2011 was an epic year for Perth emcee and hip-hop artist Drapht.

But behind the scenes the WA artist was questioning his music career and his disillusionment was so extreme that he was ready to leave it all behind.

"I wasn't happy. I won an ARIA, I had a double-platinum single, I had a gold record, I had an AIR award but at the end of the day I wasn't happy, and why was I putting myself through the wringer for other people's expectations which will just flip on you with the twist of a coin? It was a bit gruelling so literally after having this amazing year - where at face value people might have thought, shit, he's had an amazing year - I was like, I quit, I'm not doing this any more," Drapht said.

"I had the most successful year of my life that year, but it put me in a position where I really contemplated the worth of my music and all these sorts of things. A lot of people in this day and age with music in general, it's not that same creative expression, it's catering for a market. And I was guilty of that, and everyone in our industry is guilty of that, whether they say they are or not."

The wake-up call for the rapper, who has five albums under his belt, including the wildly successful The Life of Riley, was losing his enthusiasm for live shows. Amid a "crazy" run, including chalking up as many as 24 shows a month with drinks in hand for each show, Drapht realised he was relying on alcohol too much. In his own words, it led to "turmoil".

"I felt like I was depending on alcohol with my music a little too much. I needed four or five beers before I could go on stage and it was really detrimental to my health, there was no time for my body to heal," he said.

So he stopped drinking and his first sober show was a big one - Splendour In The Grass 2011.

"That was in front of 10,000 people so I was absolutely shitting myself. You think I'd be comfortable with it but I didn't even feel like I was there. It was pretty crazy but people said I had a good show. In June it'll be two years since I stopped drinking. It's that whole mentality that your body is your temple and you have to look after it or down the track it will lead to something detrimental, and you need to prepare for that. Have respect for yourself."

It's a mantra which has spread to other parts of his life - as a sufferer of an auto-immune disease, he's changed his diet and his whole outlook on life ("I wouldn't throw it down anyone else's throat but it's changed my life for the better"). So much so that he's opening a holistic cafe in his home town to cater for people with different diets. He's spent the past year focusing on the cafe and contemplating his music career.

Could he have walked away from music altogether? "Definitely, and my close friends and family knew that. They knew that I wasn't happy and this wasn't my lifestyle and I didn't want to be playing in front of these people that didn't even get my music or my lifestyle. They were there to get f - - ked up, basically, and it wasn't how I wanted to represent myself, and I really had to start contemplating putting myself back into music."

But the independent artist (he separated from Obese Records before releasing The Life of Riley) soon felt the pull back to the studio, which conveniently enough is in a bedroom of his house. Hearing beats from mate and fellow muso Ta-ku spawned some new songs, two of which Drapht has released free to fans.

"I recorded these two songs and I really dug them and I just started giving them away free purely for the fact that I didn't want to make money off them any more," he said.

"And that mentality that money is everything - I didn't want that to mould my package as an artist and take away the creative edge that I started with at the beginning, that passion," Drapht said.

Though he admitted "I'm really enjoying writing music and I don't know if I could ever stop writing music", Drapht isn't committing to another album yet.

All he cares about now is finding the love of music which he had in the first place.

"The first two records didn't even see the light of day with regards to radio and my mum's like, 'why do you keep doing this? You work a 10-hour day for your day job, you come home and you smash yourself on the computer and record all these songs, for what?' And I'm like, 'because I love it, this is what I'm doing and I'm so passionate about that'. Then it got to a point where it turned into my livelihood and I lost that because I lost the respect for it, I think."

Drapht plays at Bar On The Hill on March 15 with support from N’fa Jones and Seven and Mr Hill. Tickets at drapht.oztix.com.au. Hear Drapht’s new songs at soundcloud.com/drapht and deezer.com.