FIRST IMPRESSIONS: Paul Stewart meets Nathan Lovett-Murray

Australian April 25, 2009
Author: Paul Stewart

AUSTRALIAN rules footballer Nathan Lovett-Murray has a grin fixed from ear to ear.

And no, it isn't because he's just manoeuvred a ball between the big sticks at the Melbourne Cricket Ground. The gangly Essendon player is standing beside the stage at a packed inner-city Melbourne nightclub, watching the young charges signed to his new music label, Payback Records, go through their paces.

Many may think that high-flying Melbourne forward Russell Robertson, with his new career playing covers on the Nine Network's The Footy Show, is the AFL's most successful member of the local music industry.Wrong. The crowded club and building excitement is testament to the fact that Lovett-Murray is surely the AFL'S music man of themoment.

With the launch of Payback Records' first release, Mixed Tape 1, the talented indigenous footballer is giving voice to some of the nation's most interesting new musical talent.Acts on his fledgling, self-funded hip-hop label include Tjimba and the Yung Warriors, Alter Egoz, Johnny Mac, Koori Boy, Young Philly, Meriki Hood, MC Antwon and DJ Deadly, who have all been given a much-needed vehicle to display their talents.

The 26-year-old is passionate about his venture. "It is 100percent Aboriginal-owned and has been designed to give our young indigenous people a voice through hip-hop music," he says. "We have started a movement, or revolution if you like, for our young Kooris to stand up and for their music to be heard. My generation loves hip hop, and we really needed our own label. So, I stepped in."

According to Lovett-Murray, hearing young hip-hoppers Tjimba and the Yung Warriors perform about 18 months ago was the catalyst. "When I first started working with Tjimba and his crew, I noticed there were a lot of talented young Koori artists who were not being represented for their unique musical styles," he says.

He hopes that through his management company and record label, "we can all work together to help each other to produce our music vision and then share it with the rest of theworld".The time is right, he says."Look at the Australian charts at the moment. Indigenous artists are to the fore, with acts like Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu and Jessica Mauboy on the top of the list, and up-and-comers like Dan Sultan coming through. "I would like to think Koori hip hop is the next big thing."It is clear Lovett-Murray sees huge potential in Tjimba Possum Burns. "Tjimba is a young man from the Yorta Yorta tribe and also a 'Unugu' Lavitja and Majuta man from the Northern Territory. I've known him since we went to school at Northlands in Melbourne together," Lovett-Murray says."

He has always been inspired to rap and represent his people. Before he started rapping, he played a lot of guitar and keyboard, then he got into composing."Dark clouds still proceed from the sky/ waiting for the sun but it never comes around. Young Kooris are all surrounded by negativity/ but still see the positive side when it comes to family," Tjimba raps on Imagine, his track on Mixed Tape 1.

The son of noted Koori guitarist Selwyn Burns and a clear crowd favourite at the recent launch, Tjimba once joined his father on stage, playing alongside world music legend and guitar hero Carlos Santana.

Watching the Payback Records artists on stage with their backward baseball caps and gold chains, it's impossible not to note the heavy influence of African-American rappers, and Lovett-Murray says he counts Tupac Shakur and 50Cent among his favourite musicians. However, these performers also use elements of indigenous culture in their verses and dance moves, giving the music a unique dynamic and exciting edge.

In Koori Boy, for instance, a song by Big Georgie B and his pals, the young hip hoppers use elements of traditional dance mixed with loud driving bass and beats.

And when pressed to name the song he loves most, Lovett-Murray names the country rock-flavoured Black Boy by Australian indigenous act Coloured Stone.

An uncomplicated country boy, Lovett-Murray began his football career playing for Heywood, the western Victorian town where he was born. "I went on to play with North Ballarat, had a try-out for Richmond, but ended up at Collingwood, where I played a few games for their reserves team and VFA affiliate Williamstown," he says.

After a stint in Darwin, playing for local club St Mary's, Lovett-Murray's life was changed by a call from indigenous football genius Michael Long, "offering me the scholarship established in his name at Essendon". He was happy and proud to take it up.

Lovett-Murray is now an established part of the Essendon team, often playing as a hard-running defender. He is part of the Essendon line-up for the team's Anzac Day match against Collingwood, a highlight in his football year.

Off the field, Lovett-Murray is active in more than just music. He's worked with Sports Health Check and has spent time talking to young inmates at the Parkville Juvenile Justice Centre. "The kids there are all very keen to talk sport," he says.

They also like to talk music, it seems.

"One of our new signings is a guy called MrMorgz who as we speak is serving time inside a juvenile detention centre. He's come up with a great album and has one song which has the potential to be a huge hit." The debut album, Life on the Run, is due out on Payback Records next month.

A player with a once fiery reputation, Lovett-Murray says he now uses music to help calm down before a game.

"I guess when I started (out) I was nervous and would get very pumped up before each game," he says. "I now concentrate on not (getting) overexcited. I listen to some music and stay quiet."

Lovett-Murray seems to have made a mark with his musical vision: Payback artists were recently chosen to appear alongside visiting US rapper Snoop Dogg. "Someone from Snoop's office heard us and so we were invited along. It was a great experience for our artists," he says. "Tjimba and the Yung Warriors also performed at a recent Anthony Mundine boxing title fight and at the Big Day Out music festival."

In a major boost, several Payback artists recently spent time in the studio writing and recording alongside members of famed American rap act the Outlawz, one-time backing band for legendary rapper Shakur.

Lovett-Murray used his own funds to pay the outfit to spend two weeks monitoring and recording with his artists.

"Yes, I used my own money because I didn't want to go to the Government or industry bodies for a handout. That way our artists have total control, and no one can tell us what to do.

"I've always loved music and would like to have a long association with the industry," he says. "I have to think about life after football."