Since he surfaced from the Blue Mountains almost a decade ago, Sydney-based MC Brendan “Tuka” Tuckerman has become a pillar of the Australian hip-hop scene, achieving success as both a solo artist and as one third of acclaimed outfit Thundamentals. Since his solo debut Will Rap for Tuka in 2010, Tuka has pushed the boundaries of Australian hip-hop further and further into unchartered territory. Abandoning the phenomenon of trying to sound Australian as possible, as if to legitimise their involvement in a quintessentially American genre, the rapper has focused on a creative exploration that is not confined by geographical limitations. In 2015, Tuka’s musical evolution becomes unflinchingly self-assured with his third solo release Life Death Time Eternal, an album that stands out amongst the uniformity that can, at times, plague ‘Oz hip-hop’.
Opening with a delicate piano progression and choral harmonies, title track L.D.T.E contemplates humanity’s thematic titans: life and death, spirituality, philosophy, and individualism. The cinematic vocal harmonies perfectly accompany Tuka’s musings, with their very mortal sound underlining the human reflections of this epic. The repetitive staccato piano, super simple bass structure and airy “oohs” of Right By You stabilise the swimming opener, as Tuka seamlessly alternates between a relaxed croon and melodious rapping. Lead single Tattoo offers simmering R&B punctuated by moody clicks and bottomless bass. The broody breakup track boils over with bittersweet sentiments, embodied by the artist’s interchanging vocal styles.
The trippy and gritty Nirvana sways between psychedelic fantasy and grounded reality. The lightness of a female choir is paired with deep, grungy percussion as the track ambles at the pace of a giant. My Star then indulges in elements of funk with grooving bass motifs, buoyant percussion and gleaming guitars. This funky tribute to his future child is at once light-hearted and sincere, curious and breathlessly positive about the future. Drum and bass seemingly rises up from 50 feet deep in State Of Mind, interrupting My Star’s dreamy enthusiasm. Its haunting synths perpetually build up to a frenzied climax, before retreating and resurfacing with even more ferocity. Super sexy slow jam You, on the other hand, could be the musical equivalent of a waterbed. While Life Death Time Eternal certainly explores the possibilities of innovative Australian hip-hop, Tuka also offers a digitised, undeniable rap beatdown. Belligerent and brash, Yeah Right is awash with audacity and attitude.
Life Death Time Eternal not only examines various universal and personal themes with fearless candour, it challenges the stereotypical sound of Australian hip-hop, and explores musical territory often outside the limitations that have been placed on the genre. Tuka confronts people’s perceptions of him as an artist, proving there is a multi-dimensionality to his music that is honest, self-expressive and confident.