A Weekend In The Gardens returns this November with three massive days of entertainment, with Illy headlining the Saturday night show along with a stacked lineup of Thundamentals, Spit Syndicate, and Birdz.

Ahead of the big event, we asked Birdz to interview Illy about his recent success, his long road, and… his law degree – heck it all out below.

Congrats on all of your success so far, must feel like it’s been a crazy journey for you and your team. What would you say has been the toughest challenge you’ve had to face coming up?

It’s definitely been hard to believe. I’m still aware that there’s been so much to cheer for in my music career, and try my best to not take things, and especially my team, for granted.

The biggest challenge for me is overcoming myself, which is the biggest hurdle every album. Being your own biggest critic is vital, which is a good thing since as an artist it’s pretty much guaranteed, but you also have to be able to cut through all that noise. I thought it would get easier as I went on, but it’s actually the opposite.

What’s your earliest memory of being inspired to become a professional rapper/artist?

I can’t remember an exact moment. Years before I started writing rap, I would write melodies and lyrics, I guess like pop songs. I was like, a small kid with no idea what I was doing. But I won a basketball trophy, and on the under side I wrote a promise to myself that the music thing would happen. I actually just remembered that for the first time in years. I’ll have to check and see if it’s still there when I next see my parents.

I read somewhere that you have a law degree? What area of law, and would you say it’s helped you as an artist?

That’s true. I didn’t specialise in a specific area though.

I was a disaster in high school, and thankfully my year 12 results had no bearing on me getting into the course. But the learning curve was so extreme. And I guess that’s the thing I took away most from my degree – it taught me discipline which I had never really had up to that point. I can’t ever see myself practicing law, but it taught me valuable life skills.

You recently signed a dope producer and artist by the name of Kuren to your label ONETWO records. It’s been mad to see him winning over the past year or so. As a label CEO, what are the main things you look for in a artist?

Talent and work ethic. All our artists share those traits.

Recently on FB you addressed the shooting in Las Vegas, making reference to John Howard’s position on gun control here in Australia. Would you say Howard’s legacy as PM continues to influence Australia today, and if so, how?

I don’t like John Howard. I view his time as leader as a negative one in our history. But anyone arguing he didn’t have a positive effect on the way Australia deals with guns is tripping.

Huge congrats on your six ARIA noms, that’s a crazy achievement. It’s looking like a big year for hip hop, with A.B. Original also scoring six noms. How do you think you’ll fare on the night?

Who knows?! It’s always hard to tell because of the way winners are chosen. There’s a lot of great releases in categories I’m nominated in, and to be honest I’m not too fussed, I’ve had a fantastic year since two degrees was released.

The Two Degrees tour looked hectic. It was cool to see that you got Ziggy on the WA leg with the whole squad repping the ‘Justice For Elijah’ T’s on stage. How did the shirts come about and what was the response like at the WA shows?

You’d have to ask Ziggy to get his take on how they came about. I love that dude, I love what he stands for, and I wanted to show my support for our brother, our friend and something he believes in deeply, and a belief I share. I wore my shirt on stage, and the response on the night in Kalgoorlie was mainly positive.

What are you most looking forward to at the AWITG show?

Playing a festival in Melbourne! In warm weather! With a gang of friends I’ve known for years! It’s going to be really dope.

A Weekend In The Gardens happens November 17-19 in the Royal Botanic Gardens, with tickets on sale now.