Album Walkthrough: Tuka breaks down the adventurous Nothing In Common But Us
On his third solo album, the Tuka takes everything you'd expect from the Thundamentals member, and throws it away for something new.
Tuka has come a long, long way since we first met him. Over the course of the last decade, the New South Wales musician has blossomed into someone at the upper echelon of Australian hip-hop, defining many of its biggest moments either as a solo musician - with records spread across 2012, 2015 and now 2020 - or as one-third of Thundamentals, the trio that's helped build Australian hip-hop to the point where some of its now-biggest stars are able to debut in the Billboard Charts and sell-out international shows, for example.
Over this time, Tuka's constant drive for forward-thinking creativeness has been the core of everything that he's ever done. In the beginning, he was someone synonymous with a next generation of Australian hip-hop that would surely be its most bountiful, helping carve a sound that would define a whole generation of homegrown rap music. As a solo musician - free from the expectations and perhaps limitations of the greater Thundamentals project - he continues to experiment with things outside of his comfort zone; each record he's put out showing how he's evolved, grown and matured not just as a musician at the forefront of an entire hip-hop scene, but as the person behind the project too.
However, despite the long-winding discography that sits underneath Tuka's name to-date, we don't think anything shows his evolution and craft better than his new record, today's arriving Nothing In Common But Us. It's a record that doesn't just feel like an encapsulation of the musician's career thus far, but also a tease of future paths to be travelled down; a closing of one chapter that summarises a distinct and somewhat turbulent period for the musician's life, but the opening of a new one at the same time, one that proves that there's plenty more to come.
In Nothing In Common But Us, this contrast is perhaps easiest shown through its aural blueprint. The 13-track duration of the record gives the musician plenty of time to move, highlighting sounds that you'd expect from the musician - ones that have been the backbone of his ever-present rise through hip-hop - alongside new ones, which really feel like teases of the future. Take a song like Trailer Trash, an explosive three-minutes of quick-pacing hip-hop that captures the rapper's lyricism and flow at a peak, and contrast it against a song like Wish I Knew, which sees him unite with The Presets' Julian Hamilton for a song that sits on the cusp of this rap-electronica pathway we really hope he further explores.
Go a little bit deeper, however, and you'll find suggestions of Tuka's personal growth too. It shows a character arc in the context of a relationship, with empowering moments that identify imperfections and low points only to build on them; Tuka being reflective of someone that's capable of processing flashes of his life in a musical lens, grapple with them through songwriting and storytelling, and emerge the other side on empowered by his learnings.
"[Nothing In Common But Us is] a story about when opposites attract, following a nonlinear character arc of a relationship. It personifies the relationship between two people as the same person, the relationship itself being the main character of the album," he explains to us. "It' basic theme is talking about integrating all our imperfections into our being and accepting who we are and owning who we are - even the darker shades you don't admit to yourself. Sometimes you need someone to come along and show you who you really are and you grow from that. You learn more about yourself than you do about them. The relationship (us) is a union of two parts (me and you) making a whole, for a fleeting moment in time."
It's a brilliant album that really continues Tuka's trajectory into forward-thinking, creative realms of hip-hop, and you can take a dive into it below alongside a track-by-track walkthrough from the man himself, who breaks down the album, its creation and its inner themes one track at a time.
My musical palate for this album in terms of genre was completely open, for this project I wasn’t too concerned with being a rapper, I wanted to flex on writing different styles of music. I tried to weave the concept of the album into the sonic landscape, making it as diverse as I could but still trying to get everything sitting in the same soup. I tried to get them to all have something in common, my vocal being on 90% of it helps but also using the same production techniques across the different genres within the album helped it feel more cohesive I feel. But let's be honest, it jumps around a lot haha.
How To Fly
"My mistakes are the reasons why I’m winning."
The opening song from the album. It’s loosely around the idea of "taking a dive" or "taking a loss or an “L” and seeing it as a win or a positive rather than negative. I’m asking people to switch there mind frame on why it’s important to lose sometimes. This can be seen in a lot of ways, from sacrificing something now for the greater good (delayed gratifications are often much more satisfying than merely indulging or being impulsive IMO) OR when things do go wrong trying to see your misfortunes as an opportunity for growth rather than failure.
Finding grace in loss, learning that our failings are just as much a part of us as the things we are proud of. I really believe the fear of failure holds us back, taking a dive can also mean taking a chance and through that journey, after the fuckery of learning from your mistakes, you may indeed learn how to fly.
Nothing Ever Happens In The Burbs (Interlude) feat. Anne Casey
“Nothing in common but us.”
In early 2019, I came across Irish-born Aussie poet Anne Casey - she performed as apart of a spoken word event in Glebe. I was taken by the poem and went on to name my entire album after one of the lines “Nothing in common but us”…
It's about a day in the life of a modern Australian suburban family. I guess I'm trying to highlight that even though people share different perspectives on things, it doesn't mean those perspectives can not live an thrive in harmony with one another. The finer things in life are often hidden in very small details, recognising that and celebrating the little things that we take for granted.
The album plays out the "life cycle of a relationship" per se, and this captures the kind of "golden moments” of what a healthy relationship could look like, or at least traditionally might look like. It’s a moment in time, times changes as we change, change is the only thing I rely on in life. The only thing I’m certain of is that everything will one day change, it’s enviable and it's a constant. The end of the song kind of spills into the beginning of the next song, I introduce a bush fire sample and also an ambulance to symbolise that change sonically.
January 1st is a snapshot of how I felt and what I was thinking about as we entered 2020. Obviously being in the middle of a nationwide fire emergency, it was a strange feeling trying to celebrate the new year. The ritual felt trivial to me this year, a shin-dig perhaps. Benign almost. Instead, I found myself withdrawing and reflecting on what was most important at that exact time & space in my life, the love I have for my those around me and the grief I have for people who were losing their homes as the celebrations were in full swing.
There was probably two lovers on Bondi beach going for it while in Mallacoota a whole family were on the beach praying that their life will still be there waiting for them the next day. Such a strange atmosphere yet symbolic of the world at large at the same time, made me realise how sheltered I am, how fortunate I am.
Wish I Knew
“You ain't around me enough."
First impressions are powerful things. This song is about falling for someone that you've only just met, it's a silly puppy love kind of song. "You ain't around me enough" is a laid back way of saying "get in my life". It's got a twin flame or a soul mate kind of vibe to it, I’m also playing with the idea of how "opposites attract" and for me, that plays into the title of the album.
”I did it my way.”
'Acceptance of oneself, take me as I am' kind-of track. I’m trying to celebrate my faults and differences. I wanted to flex my rapping ability on this one and wrote some pretty technical verses. I’m a very strong believer in self-expression and doing things your own way, taking your own path. Trailer Trash is about owning my shortcomings.
Click Bang feat. Sycco
“Your love is a loaded gun."
This one is about the "getting to know you" stage of a relationship. The penny drop moment when you realise someone isn't exactly who they say they are or perhaps you are just getting to know them a little better and discovering that, like you, they are not perfect. No ones is, yet we still hold expectation a lot of the time, we rarely accept things as how they are. In a lot of ways, it’s the "take a dive" moment of the album.
Fools Rush In
“I can’t help myself.”
This one is about rushing into something that you don't entirely understand. Not being in control of your own feelings and more or less surrendering to “us”. Getting "lost in the moment" and forgetting about consequences for the time being. Following your heart rather than your head. This represents the life of “us”. The golden era of the relationship what have you.
Wildness feat. Anne Casey
“All that had held you back.”
I wanted to write a beat that was a throwback to my heritage, a.k.a. the boom-bap era. Something dark and gritty. I asked Anne for some words that reflected the death of a relationship so we could keep the narrative going within the album.
Even the longest most healthy relationships will be torn apart by death. I believe that true self-analysis begins when we lose things not win them. We discover and accepts things when we understand loss, we gain so much when we lose things. Even the things we lose somehow hold and even gain value if you think about it. There is a very raw beauty in that. It’s hard to come to terms with but I stand by it. It’s what change brings as a gift, when you are robbed by life’s traps and pitfalls.
Sometimes it’s a very ruthless / wild energy you are trying to come to terms with. It can even expose an element of your personality that your not comfortable with or perhaps didn’t even know existed. Wildness represents the slow deterioration of a relationship, the sadness involved, the loss...It's a mood more than anything on this one, “the death of us”. It also reflects on and flags what the other person leaves behind when you stop seeing someone, that aspect of them that will live on in you somehow forever, if you truly love someone that will never leave you, the feeling will change but it will never be forgotten, the lessons were too valuable to forget.
Hard for me to explain, I think Anne’s poem does it better than I can… It’s a very stark contrast to Nothing Happens In The Burbs, I still feel like both poems have things in common.
“Once upon a time.”
The breakup song of the album. The "on again off again" section of breaking up with someone. The vulnerability one needs to endure while losing someone. It’s almost Wildness Part 2. Brutal sadness. The moment when you start processing your loss.
Fuck You Pay
The ruthless nature of independence and survival. Discovering you're full potential at all costs. The energy you need to summon after you’ve been knocked down. Not a love song per se, doesn’t quite sit in the album concept neatly but represents self-empowerment and the willingness to work towards your personal goals so I decided to include it.
"I’m just trying to give my love away.”
Missing someone, reflective of the past. The self-acceptance of being the black sheep. The feeling of isolation, searching for a connection. How you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make the drink, and why should they have to anyway?
In a lot of ways, this song is a plea for redemption as well.
Selling Me Out
“Your new boyfriends got the fattest neck I’ve ever seen.”
A tongue in cheek kind-of send-off to an extremely complex situation. It’s making light of a bad situation, teasing the whole relationship almost. Even when you have heaps in common or you “suit” someone that doesn’t mean that you will get along. It's kind of childish, but I liked the song so much I always knew it would be on the album.
You Don't Know
“You think you do but you don’t know.”
This is a note to self kind-of song. It’s a humbling song to remind me that the more you know, the less you know. Even after going through a massive transformation, you still have so much let in your life to learn. It symbolises the healing process. It’s about taking responsibility for yourself. Honouring your mistakes and learning from them. It’s my fav of the record. Enjoy xo
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