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Acclaim Allstars Card Bliss n Eso

Bliss n Eso are veterans in the game. For 20 years now, they’ve continued to explore new sounds and infuse their bars with growing wisdom. Meeting in high-school, the American-born Bliss and Sydney native Eso used hip-hop as a way to connect as friends, rapping only as a hobby. Little did they know, they’d become pioneers in the Australian rap scene, paving the way for a hip hop evolution in our country. Even with all that said, these fellas still aren’t done.

Their 2020 single ‘Lighthouse’ with Jake Isaac snagged the duo a finalist slot for our Acclaim All-Stars M.V.P. award, and rightfully so. The song is spacious, introspective, and represents another experimentation of sounds in what has become a sonic mountain range of a discography. This new summit differs from the likes of hits like ‘The Sea is Rising and ‘Moments’ but still maintains the signature flavour of their cult-favourite debut album Flowers in The Pavement. This type of longevity is rarified air.

To celebrate their finalist slot, we hit up Bliss n Eso to talk about new music, their evolution over the years, and the state of Australian hip hop in 2020.

Acclaim Allstars 2020

You guys are certified veterans, but I want to take it back to the start real quick. When did you know music was the goal?
BLISS: For me, I fell in love with hip hop music in American listening to the radio and I used to beat-box. I remember coming over to Australia as a kid and meeting Eso at school and I just remember it more as something I used to do with my mate. We would just rap and mimic other artists and make up our own shit—I don’t know, it never felt like it was going to be this career—at first, it was just fun and it kind of built off that.

ESO: My home life always had music playing, there was always Motown music playing—my dad took me to see The Commodores and The Temptations at the Sydney Entertainment Centre, mate and I loved music. So, when I found hip hop through artists like Public Enemy and Ice Cube I fell in love. I fell in love with the feeling, the aggression, the freedom of speech. It felt like this untamed art form—and like Bliss said, it wasn’t like “This is what we want to do as our career” it was just what we loved doing. I remember at the end of year 11 we had to pick our year 12 subjects of what we were going to be for the rest of our lives and I remember looking at a poster of Method Man and Redman and just thinking “How could their lives be bad?’ They write the music, that’s fun. They record the music, that’s fun. They make film clips, that’s fun. They do shows for all these people, that’s fun. That’s when I thought that life is it!

Who are some of the artists you listened to growing up that really made you want to pursue this as a career?
BLISS: It’s gotta be the classics for me—N.W.A, Ice Cube—The gangsta rap stuff was really big for me as a youth.

ESO: Yep. I would also say once Bliss and Myself found OutKast, that was a huge turning point because here were these guys from the South—Southern music wasn’t popping at the time, they were getting booed at The Source awards. So they were they underdogs coming up and it was two dudes, just like us. Didn’t we make a song called ‘Fresh Linen’?

BLISS: Yes we did.

ESO: We thought that was cool because OutKast would say something like that like “That’s some fresh linen, that song is fresh linen” so OutKast definitely inspired us when we were young.

Do you remember what the first song you ever recorded was?
Yep, ‘Stop The War’.

ESO: And the chorus went “Yeah stop the war, yeah stop the war, yeah stop the war, yeah stop the war, yeah stop the war, yeah stop the war, yeah stop the war,” That’s it mate, on repeat. [Laughs]

BLISS: It was positive though man! Straight up.

Flash forward to now, you guys have been in the scene for two decades. How do you think you’ve grown musically and personally from Flowers In The Pavement to now?
ESO: I think we all personally have evolved and I think the way we make music evolves every time we do an album. If were to go into the studio every time we made an album and just tried to do the same stuff we’d get bored, the fans would get bored. So, we always try to go into the studio and create something new and if we’re having fun in the studio, the listener has fun too.

Your recent single ‘Lighthouse’ with Jake Isaac touches on some introspective lyrics and has a very atmospheric sound. Could you walk us through the process behind creating that song?BLISS: It actually uses a sample from a group called Set Mo and I remember hearing the original song that they did and hearing this hook and going “Aw that’s money”. One way or another, we got in touch with them and we were like “Yo, do you mind if we flipped up your song and made something new with it?” and they were like “Hell yeah”. So we got the parts and worked with our producers and made into something totally new and fresh utilising their hook and we ended up writing a hook with Theif, who is on our song ‘Dopamine’ and I remember wondering how I was going to approach it and then life happened and I found a way to personally work in what it meant for me.

ESO: I actually sat writing the verse on the beach, staring at a real lighthouse. I Imagine my verse like a Shakespearean play. It’s more kind of abstract and broad for the world to kind of feel like we do get in those times. It’s cliche but you are the light at the end of the tunnel, you don’t need a searchlight to help you get in, help yourself get in, turn on the headlights baby.

There used to be the notion of rap being a young man’s game, but acts like Jay Z, Styles P, and you guys have defied that with how consistent you’ve stayed for so long. What do you think has lead to such longevity in your creative process?
ESO: It’s weird because it’s like we never saw a start, and you never see an end. It’s not like we thought “This is what we want to do and this is gotta be like that”—we just went into it loving it and we’re going to go out loving it too.

BLISS: Yep and it evolves with your life, I keep finding more cool ways to be able to adapt who I am as a person and bring it into my art. It’s a beautiful bloody thing and there’s no age limit on it, fucking hell—music is a timeless thing.

ESO: Go and look up Pete and Bas—two 80-year-old men dropping knowledge.

With this longevity, you’ve also continued through the changing music landscape, from CDs to iTunes to streaming services. How do you continuously adapt?
BLISS: The music is the music and it’s just different means for people to absorb the music, we evolve with the times. It’s interesting we’ve gone through a big part of history in terms of the technology changing. We started out recording on bloody cassette tapes—not that we put our albums out that way but that was our first means of recording. All the way through CDs, MP3 players, to downloads through iTunes and then eventually the streaming model. We have had to adapt as artists, we all have, the whole music industry has really.

ESO: But our music never really adapted to the scene or what the current trend was. That’s why there’s longevity because we’ve always held substance in our message.

You guys are pioneers in the Australian rap game, and we’re seeing a huge surge in new talent the last couple of years. What do you think is the most exciting thing about the local scene right now?

BLISS: Man, there’s some real cool rappers coming out. I like how there are a lot of different styles coming out. It’s just cool to see the next generation coming though, you know.

Who are some Australian hip hop acts impressing you lately?
BLISS: I like JK47, my man Lisi, Kings from NZ.

ESO: Nerve, the Triple One boys, Chillinit. People are out there doing their thing mate.

Just lastly, what’s next for Bliss & Eso?
Shiiiit, we’re about to release a new motherfucking album very very soon. We’ve got new music on the way, it’s the best music we’ve ever made. It is just feeling great, big things on the way.

ESO: Gigantic. Stand back.

Follow BLISS N ESO here for more.

Words: Henry Owens
 Chris Loutfy