It’s pretty amusing living a superhero-like existence, according to Aussie rap supreme Dialectrix [Ryan Leaf]. By day a tradie and by night one of the biggest players in Australian hip-hop, Leaf claims his workmates still have no idea it’s his tunes they’re dancing to on their daily smoko break.

I recently even wrote a song on the whole topic of living a life like a superhero,” he chuckles. “I still work at a labouring job, so it always spins me out when I’m at work and the tradies hear my song on Triple J. They’re singing along to it and dancing but they have no idea it’s me. I always secretly have a bit of a laugh because that way you get to see people’s honest reaction. Some people say that it’s shit, other people love it – whatever. It’s like Clark Kent jumping in the phone booth and being an ordinary person one minute then becoming the opposite the next. I much prefer it that way anyway, rather than having people know that’s your music and just getting off on your presence or something.”

It’s one reason Leaf likes to keep his alter ego a secret, sure. However, there is another reason that’s played a big part in his decision to keep his identity as Dialectrix in the dark around those who know him personally. “I think it partly has something to do with the reception that I got when I first started out rapping,” he admits. “In the beginning I didn’t always get a very hospitable response from people, especially those who didn’t like rap a long time ago. For years there was that attitude of getting treated like what you do is shit and your music is a take-off and it’s all crap. Even now I’m almost reluctant to say, ‘hey, that’s me!’ just in case I get the same reaction all over again, with people saying, ‘oh, really, that’s shit’. I’m still cautious of the whole attitude of, ‘you’re Australian, you shouldn’t be making rap music’. Of course, heaps has changed since I started out. Now Aussie hip-hop is huge, so that kind of reaction is quite rare now.”

It most certainly is. Considering the phenomenon that Australian hip-hop has become in the last decade thanks to pioneers like the Hilltop Hoods, Bliss N Eso and head honcho of Obese Records, Pegz. As a matter of fact, it’s solely thanks to Pegz that Leaf never threw in the towel during the darker times of his earlier career.

Every little bit of recognition and success that I have had, I believe that Obese and Pegz are wholly responsible for that,” states the rapper. “I was going to give up making music before they got in touch with me. I broke up with my old group [Down Under Beats] and I was doing some soul-searching. I felt like I couldn’t make the music that I wanted to make anymore without any backing from anyone, so I considered finding some niche and making some angry pop music, but I didn’t really want to, so I was going to just give up. Then Pegz gave me a call out of the blue.”

Since then, Dialectrix has gone on to release the aptly-titled 2008 album
Cycles Of Survival and last year’s Audio Projectile, all the while collaborating with the ever-growing list of Aussie hip-hop talents the likes of vocalist Jess Harlen and producer Plutonic. Perhaps second-closest to Leaf’s heart, however, is his collaboration with old mate and “life-saver” Pegz, as the Aussie hip-hop ‘supergroup’ Gully Platoon.

The scene is extremely tight-knit, it’s very close and it’s almost scary how everybody knows each other,” explains Leaf. “You’re either befriended or you’re hated by these people, and it always freaks me out how I never would have thought 10 years ago I would be signed to a label like Obese or have this kind of crew. It’s very easy to connect with a lot of people in this scene because most people have the right idea and good intentions. It’s the reason why you see so many collaborations among artists, because it’s so tight. For example, I’m probably going to have Jess Harlen on my next solo record, considering that I’ve done stuff for her next album. She’s friends with Plutonic so… It’s pretty back-and-forth like that.”

When it comes to his solo albums, Leaf compares each record to an audio version of a photo album. Each one being something of a “time-capsule” of the people he’s met along the way and the places he’s visited in his journey so far, albums represent a certain time and place in Leaf’s life.

The records pretty much sum up what I did that year, or who I met during that time,” he explains. “Actually, this is probably the first year that I haven’t had an album out, which is weird. I’ve just been really busy preparing myself for the shows I’ve got coming up with Pegz, my own solo shows interstate, I’ve got a whole bunch of collaborations with mates, I’m having a kid in June, I’m hoping to get my next solo album finished… Any spare time I’ve got is devoted to ticking off other people’s albums, but I’ve got roughly about five songs written for myself. My first album was pretty conventional in hip-hop terms, and my second album was very experimental, so the next album is going to be a combination of both. If you think of it as the first and second album having a kid, that’s what you get. Ideally, I’d also like to have a Gully Platoon release out this year or next year, but Pegz has his fifth solo album coming out and I’m thinking about my own, so we’re talking about it at least.”



DIALECTRIX is playing at the free and all-ages Sounds Loud Festival in Queens Park, Moonee Ponds on Saturday April 9 alongside Oh Mercy, John Steel Singers, Illy and more. For more information visit soundsloudfestival.com.