Award-winning musician, rapper and producer of Wik and Solomon Islander heritage, Ziggy Ramo has shared his sophomore album, Sugar Coated Lies. Following on from his groundbreaking debut Black Thoughts, the record offers personal insight and reflections on intergenerational trauma, whilst focusing on Australian South Sea Islanders and lived experiences.
Having begun writing the album after relocating to Sydney in 2017, Ramo stalled work on the songs to focus on Black Thoughts. The musician then re-visited those early demos late last year following his work on Stan's original series, Black Snow. Inspired by the stories shared on-screen and a phone call from his brother about the collection of songs, Ramo began working on finishing the record with the intention to share it on January 26, a polarising date amongst Australians. "I don’t put music out to further my career, I put out art that I hope speaks to people. I picked this date to demonstrate that every day is Invasion Day until we deal with what is going on beneath the surface of this fabricated country" the musician shares.
With each track serving as a journal entry, Ramo dissects the deep-rooted transmission and impact of the oppression and trauma of his cultural heritage, further exploring his own mental health, forging a career and personal relationships. Opening with Pretty Ugly, the musician ponders how to heal and look forward to the future amidst the sphere of toxic masculinity and self-hate. Ramo sets the tone for the intimate body of work that is to follow, offering introspective and relatable lyricism that continues to prove his force as a formidable songwriter.
He documents the toll of chasing his dreams on Stressed Out, and the wavering thought of giving up. However, the track also serves as an inspiring moment to stick to your path and believe in yourself and focus on your craft instead on the surrounding noise of success. The albums title track features Alice Skye and shuns the patch-work cover stories placed upon the history of Indigenous cultures. "Dance around the truth like a tango, tryna unchain it like I'm Django" he sings, touching on the emotional weight of descending from enslaved people.
Textural soundscapes unfurl throughout the record, expertly shown in Love Sick which opens with dulcet guitar chords and Ramo's mesmerising vocals before erupting into maximalist production heralded by the musicians darting performance. Blak Man Swimming is a confident cut that asserts his place as one of the countries leading hip-hop artists. His effortless lyrical flow and performance simmers above production that calls back to the golden era of hip-hop. Each considered choice builds an engaging sonic realm that swells around Ramo's powerful lyricism and creates a luring listening experience.
Done To You is a letter to a former lover apologising for the behaviour that led to their demise, where Never delves deeper into the back and forth nature of a relationship led by Ramo's melodic flow and booming beats. The bubbling Live It Up finds the musician searching for love atop bombastic beats and surging production, providing the albums more commercial track. Ramo has stated the songs present on the album takes "the trauma of coming from slaves and sugar coated it in pop/hip hop so that these untold stories could go far and wide. It’s not only sugarcoating in theory, but also in practice."
Ramo finds a new self-confidence and comfort on Present, finding solace within a relationship and a healthier mental state, before coming full circle on the albums closing track, Better. "Brick by brick to build me up, day by day I know it all gets better" Jantine sings on the songs chorus, offering a sense of peace and comfort in the fact that through seeking help and personal growth we can build ourselves up to a place of self-appreciation and break the hold of our own trauma. Sugar Coated Lies is an extremely successful and nuanced presentation of an artist sharing his own experiences in a way that is more accessible, yet still holds the weight of a life impacted by past generations.
"On the surface, this album is made up of journal entries, starting and ending with my hospitalization after being on suicide watch. Beneath that lies heavy intergenerational trauma that has sunk its hooks into my every thought and action. I had to go through a lot of therapy to deal with the all-encompassing weight of this intergeneration trauma, and putting it in an album became incredibly therapeutic."
Sugar Coated Lies is out now!