To outsiders, rap and hip-hop have a certain reputation, one based on egotistical tough guy attitudes, the glorification of crime and explicit lyrics featuring descriptions of violence, sex and drugs.
But anyone who has followed the journey of much-loved Aussie rapper 360, aka Matt Colwell, over the past decade knows there is much more to the man than that.
Colwell’s rapping oscillates between the absurd and comedic (punching the doctor who delivered him for “touchin’ my mum”) and the raw and heartfelt (his song Child, an ode to his family).
Like many rappers, Colwell uses his own experiences to fuel his lyrics, from the highs of stardom and the resultant revelry and wealth to the lows of addiction, depression and isolation.
“(My lyrics) just show all sides of my personality, I guess,” he said.
“I’m very much a deep thinker, and a lot of what I make musically is drawn from my personal experience and a lot of dark shit I go through but I also like taking the piss a lot and joking around.”
Colwell shot to stardom in 2011 with the release of his second album Falling & Flying and its fourth single, Boys like You, which peaked at number three on the charts.
Back in 2014, Colwell made waves when he spoke out against racism in Australia on ABC’s Q & A, with a specific reference to seeing drunk racists verbally abusing people while draped in the Australian flag.
While he received praise from many quarters for saying he didn’t want racists at his shows, he also copped plenty of backlash, including threats of violence.
Colwell said in recent years he’s adopted a “post and ghost” strategy to avoid such online negativity and the potential effects on his mental health.
“Receiving crazy-ass backlash, with people really sort of coming for you and stuff like that, is not something that I’ve dealt with well in the past,” he said.
“It’s something that really kind of shook me up. I didn’t realise how much it was going to affect me.
“I think the best thing for me is, if I’m going to be saying some stuff that is quite inflammatory or making a stand about things, I’ve got to not look at how people react.
“I could read 20 really positive, lovely comments and the one that I’ll take in will be the one negative one that says something really personal or really savage to me. Then that will start playing in my head… and it’s just not good.”
Colwell returned to touring in June 2023 for the first time in six years with a triumphant run of sold-out performances.
He now follows that up in November with his Back To Life regional tour, consisting of 12 east coast shows.
The return to live performing has posed its own challenges for Colville, who said he wasn’t sure if people would even turn up to the June dates.
“It sold out in the end, but there were some cobwebs to shake off, a lot of nerves,” he said.
“I had a lot of confidence issues. The first three shows I noticed myself really being quite self-conscious on stage with how I moved
“I didn’t know what to do with my hands, stuff like that, so I’ve been working on just trying to relax and feel the music rather than see myself through other people’s eyes.”
Colwell will come to Geelong for the third show of the Back To Life tour, saying his set here would have something for everyone.
“I love (Geelong), I absolutely love it,” he said.
“We used to play the Nash, it used to attract some amazing people, it was just wild.
“This time I’ll be doing all the classics and crowd favourites, all the new songs I’ve released this year, and a bunch of unheard songs too. So there’s a whole mixed bag for everyone.”
360 is at Lamby’s Tavern on Monday, November 6 (Melbourne Cup Eve).