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Tim Levinson, better known by the stage name Urthboy, is an Australian hip-hop MC and producer from New South Wales. He is widely known for his solo music under the moniker Urthboy, as a founding member of the hip-hop group The Herd, and for co-founding and managing the Elefant Traks record label. Levinson has released five solo albums: Distant Sense of Random Menace (2004), The Signal (2007), Spitshine (2009), Smokey's Haunt (2012) and The Past Beats Inside Me Like a Second Heartbeat (2016); as well as five studio albums with The Herd.
|Birth name||Tim Levinson|
|Also known as||Urthboy|
|Associated acts||The Herd|
With origins in Wentworth Falls, a town in the Blue Mountains area of New South Wales, Levinson's interest in music began at an early age, when he was exposed to a broad range of musical styles, many of which were introduced to him by his older brother, Matthew. The Run DMC album Tougher Than Leather was the first influential hip-hop record for Levinson, who sought escape in music to cope with a difficult domestic situation—Levinson's father left the family home due to domestic violence and alcohol use when Levinson was nine-years-old.
In mid-2013, Levinson explained that, during his early adolescence, he would join friends from Wentworth Falls to engage in petty criminal activities, such as stealing cars, graffiti and shoplifting. The group of teenagers eventually came into contact with law enforcement and dispensing of juvenile detention sentences by magistrates was one of the more serious consequences. However, Levinson further explained, "Those graffiti artists and crims were the sharpest thinkers and quickest responders to nerve-wracking situations". Inspired by the music of Run DMC, Levinson began writing his own rhymes while still attending high school in Wentworth Falls.
In 1998, Levinson co-formed Explanetary in Wentworth Falls with local friends Realistix, Elgusto and Luke Dubs, who played keys and drums respectively, while Levinson delivered the vocals. The band also included Realistix on vocals and production, No Mumbles (a.k.a. Nugs) on vocals, Aja Stuart on bass and DJ Alf. Explanetary released the In on the Deal EP through Elefant Traks in July 2001. The EP was one of the label's first releases, but was the band's only recording before the act disbanded. Despite the end of Explanetary, many subsequent collaborations have occurred, including "Fallen Giants", from 2005's Tales of the Drift.
By the time he completed high school, Levinson relocated to New South Wales' capital city, Sydney. While in his new environment, Levinson proceeded to form the Australian hip-hop band The Herd, alongside eight other artists, while Elgusto and Luke Dubs formed Hermitude and later joined the Elefant Traks label. Levinson also developed his solo hip-hop production and MC work, created under his moniker in the Herd, "Urthboy".
Alongside Kenny Sabir, Levinson is one of the key co-founding members of The Herd, an Australian hip hop outfit from Sydney, and is one of the group's two MCs—the other is Shannon Kennedy, who uses the moniker "Ozi Batla". Unusual for a hip-hop group, the Herd consists of a full live band as well as MCs: in addition to Levinson and Kennedy, Unkle Ho (beats), Sabir/Traksewt (accordion, clarinet and beats), Sulo (beats and guitar), Byron/Toe-Fu (guitar), Dale/Rok Poshtya (bass), and singer Jane Tyrrell complete the line-up. Their songs often feature politically oriented lyrics.
Distant Sense of Random Menace (2005)Edit
In 2004, Levinson released his first Urthboy solo album, Distant Sense of Random Menace. The album was a success and featured songs such as "Come Around" and "No Rider". Urthboy toured the album nationally with Elgusto as DJ and Ozi Batla as co-MC. The music video for "No Rider", directed by Broken Yellow, won the Sunscreen Music Video Award at the Festival of the Sun Music Festival (FOTSUN) in 2005.
The Signal (2007)Edit
After the success of his debut album, Urthboy headed into the studio in 2007 to record his sophomore release, The Signal, with Pip Norman/Count Bounce (TZU) and Elgusto (Hermitude). The album was released in July 2007 to much critical praise and cemented Urthboy's place in the growing Australian hip-hop scene.
The first single, "We Get Around", was hailed as "a classic" by Rolling Stone and reached No. 25 on Triple J's Hottest 100 for 2007. The album received two AIR Charts Award nominations, a Triple J J Award nomination (Triple J's Album of the Year award) and was shortlisted in the prestigious Australian Music Prize (Best Album 2007).
Significantly, the album was licensed to Motivo Records, joining the select few Australian hip-hop records that have been licensed overseas, and was released in late 2007. Urthboy toured Malaysia and Japan in 2008 before resuming work with The Herd in Australia.
In August 2009, Urthboy's released his third solo album, Spitshine. The first single from the album, "Hellsong", was the most downloaded track on Australian radio station Triple J that year. The music video for "Hellsong" was directed by Broken Yellow and consisted of an animation composed of more than 7000 hand-drawn images that were animated in Sydney, Christchurch, London, Hungary and Oslo.
The release of Spitshine was followed by two popular tours in 2009 and 2010, involving crowds of over 20,000 people. Once again, Urthboy was shortlisted for the Australian Music Prize—at the time, he was one of the only artists to ever be nominated twice. In 2010, Urthboy embarked on his first European tour, which included the prominent hip-hop festivals Splash, in Germany, and the Open-Air Festival in Switzerland. The tour also included club shows in Germany with Brother Ali and his first sold-out headline show in London.
Spitshine received the Australian Independent Record (AIR) Award in 2010 for "Best Independent Hip Hop/Urban Album". Norman/Count Bounce, who had collaborated with Levinson on the album, accepted the award at the awards ceremony.
Smokey's Haunt (2012)Edit
Levinson's fourth album under the Urthboy moniker, released on the Elefant Traks label, was made available to the public on 12 October 2012. Produced by fellow Australian hip hop colleagues, Count Bounce (TZU) and Hermitude, the album was selected as a "Feature Album" on Triple J. Musical artists Jimblah, Solo and Alex Burnett (Sparkadia) feature as guests on the album: Jimblah and Solo appear on a song entitled "On Your Shoulders" (Jimblah also appears on the song "Glimpses"), and Burnett features on the song "The Big Sleep". Smokey's Haunt achieved a number 14 debut position on the Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA) Album Chart.
In late February 2013, a national Australian tour in support of the fourth Urthboy album was confirmed, and a live band, featuring drums and keyboard(s)/piano(s), was also announced. Tyrell was also named as a member of the touring group, while the support acts were identified as Jimblah and One Sixth, the latter an artist from Melbourne, Australia.
In 2013 Urthboy was announced as the national support for Paul Kelly's 'Spring & Fall' Tour—the announcement followed multiple previous collaborations, including Urthboy's 2008 cover of "From Little Things Big Things Grow", and a combined cover of the Hunters and Collectors song "Tears of Joy" in early 2013. Then, in early December 2013, Levinson was announced as the support artist for the late December 2013 Australian tour by the Roots.
On 22 July 2014, Levinson posted a video clip in which he announces the "Make Me A Mixtape" concept. Based on the mixtape cassette tapes that were popular during the 1980s, Levinson created a live performance in collaboration with other artists based on the themes that would sometimes guide the creation of mixtapes; for example, a mixtape would be given to a friend who was travelling overseas. The first Make Me A Mixtape show is based on the theme of Levinson's first overseas trip to Southeast Asia and will consist rap, remix, song and spoken word. Performances are scheduled for both the Brisbane and Melbourne Festivals, with Patience Hodgson (The Grates), Rival MC (Impossible Odds and Black Arm Band) and Bobby Flynn announced as collaborators for the Brisbane show.
The Past Beats Inside Of Me Like A Second Heartbeat(2016) is Urthboy's 5th studio album, released on 4 March 2016.
In 1998, Levinson co-founded Elefant Traks, an Australian hip hop record label based in Sydney, Australia. The label is distributed by Inertia Distribution and Levinson is responsible for the management of the label since taking over the role from Sabir in 2003. Sabi explained in 2011:
I was getting a bit sick of the admin side of it. Initially I did it to release our own music, and then I realised I wasn't actually writing any music [because of looking after the label]. So Tim was really keen to get more involved, so I trained him up in the business stuff and he's been going great guns since.
Elefant Traks was started in 1998 to create a mix-tape as a going-away present for a friend of the artists. They then released a compilation album, Cursive Writing, followed by Food to Eat Music By, also a compilation. Elefant Traks have since signed numerous artists and groups, and have produced over 50 releases.
The GetUp MobEdit
In 2008, as a part of The GetUp Mob, organised by the advocacy group GetUp!, Levinson released an Urthboy version of "From Little Things Big Things Grow", a song originally released by Kev Carmody and Kelly in 1993. Levinson's version featured elements of the apology to the Stolen Generations, made by Kevin Rudd, Australia's Prime Minister at the time, on 13 February 2008, as well as excerpts of the Redfern Speech, made by former Prime Minister Paul Keating on 10 December 1992.
The song featured Levinson, Carmody and Kelly, Tyrrell and Kennedy, Missy Higgins, Mia Dyson, Radical Son, Dan Sultan, and Joel Wenitong. It peaked at number 4 on the ARIA singles chart, number 2 on both the Australian Chart and the Digital Track Chart, and raised almost A$100,000 for Indigenous health and education programs.
Australian refugee policyEdit
In response to the 2013 Abbott Government's refugee policy, titled "Operation Sovereign Borders", whereby asylum seekers arriving by boat are turned back by naval officers and an offshore processing centre—built on Manus Island, Papua New Guinea in 2001—was reopened for offshore processing of asylum seekers, Levinson released a protest song in early March 2014. In the week following the completion of the song, a 23-year-old Iranian national, Reza Berati, was killed at the processing centre. Levinson explained to the media:
I’d been writing a song about the extreme mismatch of our navy facing off against asylum seekers in ramshackle boats. The official silence and militaristic language. The paranoid obsession Australia has with asylum seekers. The billions we spend so we can turn our back. Then Manus Island happened and it clarified the purpose of the song, giving us a tragic consequence to a hopeless situation. Somewhere along the way we mangled our perception of success to be measured by how many boats have landed. This is hysteria. So many miles from the myth of the ‘fair go’.
Called "Don't Let It Go", the song was released with an accompanying online music video, directed by Australian filmmaker Dan Ilic, on 6 March 2014. The video uses news footage edited with footage of Levinson rapping with a set of headphones on his head, taking music from the song "Let It Go" by fellow Elefant Traks artist Sietta. Following the release of the material, Levinson stated: "We are talking about quite a popular policy, so a lot of these artists are worried about the bottom line and what their audience are going to think about them. A lot of the time there is this fear of standing up, and I wanted this song to be part of a call to get out there and speak more … We need artists to come out there and break ranks and stop the double speak."
Levinson posted a photograph of himself and daughter Jetta Joanie marching in a Sydney protest against the Gaza bombings of mid-2014 on 3 August 2014. Levinson wrote: "Jetta representing for Palestine in Sydney today".
In addition to the nomination of three of his four solo albums for the industry-polled Australian Music Prize, Levinson's album The Signal was nominated for the 2007 AIR (Australian Independent Record Labels Association) Charts Awards and the 2007 J Award, with Spitshine winning the AIR Award for Best Hip Hop Album in 2010. In 2013, during Levinson's tour with Paul Kelly, the latter referred to Smokey's Haunt as "a beauty" and further explained, "It's a real coming-of-age hip-hop record. He talks about getting older; there's lots of thinking about mortality. I think this is interesting territory for Tim, and for hip-hop in general."
- Distant Sense of Random Menace – Elefant Traks (9 August 2004)
- The Signal – Elefant Traks (14 July 2007) Aus. No. 65
- Spitshine – Elefant Traks (28 August 2009) Aus. No. 54
- Smokey's Haunt – Elefant Traks (12 October 2012) Aus. No. 14
- The Past Beats Inside Me Like a Second Heartbeat – Elefant Traks (4 March 2016) Aus No. 7
- "Come Around" (2004)
- "No Rider" (2004)
- "We Get Around" (2007)
- "Hellsong" (2009)
- "Ready to Go" (2009)
- "Shruggin'" feat. Jane Tyrrell (2009)
- "Naive Bravado" feat. Daniel Merriweather (2012)
- "Knee Length Socks" (2012)
- "Someone Else's House" feat. Josh Pyke (2014)
- "1100 Hours (The Comment Section)" (2015)
- "765 Hours (W.A.R.)" feat. Ciecmate and Jayteehazard (2015)
- "Long Loud Hours" feat. Bertie Blackman (2015) Aus No. 95
- "Nambucca Boy" (2015)
- "Second Heartbeat" (2016)
- "Crushing Hard" (2016)
- In for the Deal – Elefant Traks (July 2001)
- The Herd – Elefant Traks (2001)
- An Elefant Never Forgets – Elefant Traks (2003)
- The Sun Never Sets – Elefant Traks (2005)
- Summerland – Elefant Traks (2008)
- Future Shade – Elefant Traks (2011)
- Culture of Kings – Volume 2 – Obese Records (2002) (song: "Unify")
- Straight From The Art – Warner Bros. Records (2003) (song: "The Path")
- Trampled – The Elephant Traks Remix Album – Elefant Traks (2006) (songs: "No Disclaimer", "Keep It Relevant", "Take My Hand", "The Last Chance", "Apocalypta", "Can't Breathe", "The Metres Gain", "I Was Only 19")
- Elefant Traks 10th Anniversary Party DVD – Elefant Traks (2009)
- "Beastly" by Upshot (Upshot (2003) Obese Records)
- "Alleys To Valleys" by Hermitude (Alleys to Valleys (2003) Elefant Traks)
- "About To Break" by Upshot (Make It Happen (2004) Creative Vibes)
- "Outlander" by Chasm (Chasm (2004) Awakenings/Inertia Recordings)
- "Shoot From The Hip" by Unkle Ho (Roads to Roma (2005) Elefant/Inertia)
- "Fallen Giants" by Hermitude (Tales of the Drift (2005) Elefant/Inertia)
- "The Wash" by Jase (Beat Hedz Volume 1 (2006) Obese Records)
- "Goin on Tour" by Muph & Plutonic (Silence the Sirens (2006) Obese Records)
- "Done The Sums" by Astronomy Class (Exit Strategy (2006) Elefant Traks)
- "No Matter What Man" by Chasm (Beyond The Beat Tape (2008) Obese Records)
- "Commercial Radio" by The Last Kinection (Nutches (2008) BlackChili Productions)
- "Your Call" by Hermitude (Threads (2008) Elefant Traks)
- "Right Words" by The Tongue (Alternative Energy (2010) Elefant Traks)
- "Doctor's Orders" by Horrorshow (King Amongst Many) (2013) Elefant Traks
- "Dead Em" by Mantra (Speaking Volumes) (2011) Obese Records
- "Revolutionary" by Lil Sickle ("Revolution & Rhymes") (2018) Lil Sickle Inc.
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- "Broken Yellow Music Videos". Archived from the original on 21 June 2008. Retrieved 30 April 2008.
- "Sunscreen 2005 finalists". Sunscreen. Retrieved 30 April 2008.
- 2007 AIR Chart Award nominees
- Australian Music Prize website
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- Greg Moskovitch (9 March 2014). "Listen: Urthboy – 'Don't Let It Go'". Music Feeds. Music Feeds. Retrieved 16 March 2014.
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- The ARIA Report, Issue 908
- The ARIA Report, Issue 1021
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