Features

Foreign Heights: With our powers combined

To call the combination of MC Trey, Maya Jupiter and DJ Nick Toth an ‘Aussie hip-hop supergroup’ is quickly becoming passé – before their self-titled debut album even hits the streets. But with their combined experience and exposure in the Australian scene, that’s exactly what Foreign Heights are: Trey has been performing for nearly a decade, Maya is enjoyed plenty of extra exposure through her role as host of Triple J’s Monday night Hip Hop Show and Nick Toth is one of Australia’s most respected hip hop DJs.

Before they even launch their debut album later this month, a lot of people are going to know who Foreign Heights are. This was obviously going to impact how they were perceived by existing fans and potential new enthusiasts, but did they think about it much before going into the project? Not really, according to Trey. “We were motivated by wanting to work with people whose music we liked,” she claims. “We started things in 2003 before some of our other individual projects were off the ground. At the time we were just three individual artists joining up together, so it just ended up turning out that way.”

Whether or not they gave it much thought when they were first pulling Foreign Heights together, it seems they are all very conscious of this ‘supergroup’ perception taking away from the project. “When you start to think about that stuff, it can take away from making good music. Because of our own individual careers, we knew there would be more ‘interest’ and more of a chance of people saying negative things about the project. But we mainly just kept the focus on making the music as good as it can get.”

The relationship between Maya and Trey is a strong one, stretching back to the late 90’s – they’ve run music workshops together in Sydney for young women, guested regularly in each other’s live performances and even toured internationally together. It was a forgone conclusion they would eventually start writing music together, and the next step was getting Nick Toth onboard to help out with production and musical ideas. The trio started talking about it as early as 2003, but with their respective busy schedules it was always going to be a mammoth task getting them all together in the same room. In fact, Trey claims it took a good couple of years to get the debut album in the can.

“It wasn’t easy, I tell you,” says Trey. “When I’m doing my solo stuff it takes around a year, but if you’re working with three different schedules it takes a lot longer. And then of course you’ve got the guests and other producers on the album, trying to get things done when you’re on the other side of the world. But eventually it came through.”

With their debut album due for release in late January and a number of high-profile gigs coming up, including the Big Day Out tour and support for Lupe Fiasco, Foreign Heights are well placed to take advantage of the explosion in popularity of local hip hop. Trey has been there to watch it all going down, and she says it never fails to surprise her how much of a changing audience is being drawn to Australian produce.

“Everytime I go to a hip hop gig I always look at the audience to see what type of people are coming, and it surprises me every time because it seems to be changing a lot. There’s a lot more people who are interest to see what Australian hip hop is all about.”

And to all the local groups who have busted through and are riding the wave all the way to the top, Trey gives a big thumbs up. “I think it’s great,” she says. “A lot of Australian hip hop artists have been doing stuff for so long, and it’s so good to see them get up there and do these massive shows. Groups like Def Wish Cast, one of the first Aussie hip hop crews I looked up to when I was starting up, it’s so good to see them still out there and putting out albums, getting good shows and being received so well.”

“It’s only gonna help the new generation of MCs because the older ones have worked so hard to get Australian hip hop sound,” she says.

Foreign Heights’ self titled debut album is out now on Grindin’, distributed by MRA. They’ll be touring the country in March to support its release.