FOCUS: Local Healers

Notts hip-hop duo, Local Healers serve up candid and cerebral beats on new EP, Paintings on the Wall. Spurred by the legends of the past and the inequalities of the present, half of the visionary duo, Ty Healy, talked political consciousness and the Golden era of hip-hop with The Mic’s Matt Andrews.

Among other ramblings, the first words spoken on Local Healers’ latest album, Paintings on the Wall, “Do you value art?” This is an apt introduction not only to an album that considers deeply the importance of artistic expression – hip-hop more specifically – but to the rap duo that wrote it. Local Healers are gifted lyricists and, within this, maintain a profound consciousness of language and the history of its manipulation in hip-hop. In attempting to articulate personal experiences, the launch from land that this is, the rappers land somewhere close to the likes of MF Doom and Loyle Carner, the prior, as is true of other hip-hop greats – particularly those from the Golden 90s – holds an intense influence over the composition and intention of their music.

Local Healers are tied to such a Golden era of hip-hop not only in terms of sound and sensibility but also in terms of their perception of the purpose of their music. Ty Healy, half of the Local Healers genetic make-up, reflects on what he notes as the importance of the didactic aspects of music, whether they are achieved consciously or not: “A lot of what I know comes from music. When I was young, my mum was a big Public Enemy fan so, without realizing it, I got exposed to a lot of ideas surrounding black greatness and resisting authority – at the time I just liked how it sounded. Hip-hop is really good at introducing its listeners to certain ideas in this way – Louis Farrakhan for example – these things are camouflaged in the beats. We want to do a similar thing through our music where people like how the track sounds but are also able to access an understanding of what we’re saying politically, socially, and in terms of general consciousness and awareness.”

“Contemporary hip hop feels like it’s in this microwave era where everything’s produced so quickly so it can be sold.”

It’s this sense of didactic responsibility that Local Healers are particularly good at harnessing – the clue’s in the name. Paintings on the Wall, when approached with this in mind, essentially becomes an exhibition on the importance of what we take from honest art and it begs the question, “what happens when the art is compromised? When it is dishonest?” Again, the duo’s inclination to inherit the stylistic qualities of 90s hip-hop rather than those of the contemporary scene is tied closely to their awareness of the role of artistic authenticity not only in music but in culture more generally.

Ty reflects, “One thing I was quite proud of us for doing in the album was bringing back the third verse. Contemporary hip hop feels like it’s in this microwave era where everything’s produced so quickly so it can be sold. Popular music doesn’t seem to take its time anymore.” In discussing, as Ty puts it, the “microwave era”, there is a poignant unwillingness to conform to it – “art is not a machine-thing” he says. If nothing else, Paintings on the Wall is an ode to that Golden era of hip-hop in which honesty was worshipped, and it serves as evidence for the power of music when it becomes an extension of the self and the experiences of that self.

Moving forwards, the Nottingham-based duo, often working closely now with Louis Cypher and Antwerp-based producer, Faux Sala, look to continue writing and releasing music in spite of everything – “Covid is scary, but we need to remember that there was a world before this lockdown business. The music has to keep happening. This is Local Healers’ third release in the last year – we’re trying to restore that sense of life that comes from music, restore some faith.”

Written by: Matthew Andrews

Edited by: Olivia Stock

Featured and article images courtesy of Local Healers via Facebook.