Bliss n Eso
Bliss n Eso performing at Freshfest 2009
|Origin||Sydney, New South Wales, Australia|
|Genres||Australian hip hop|
Bliss n Eso are an Australian hip hop trio based in Sydney, and were originally known as Bliss n' Esoterik for their debut EP The Arrival. Bliss n Eso are currently signed to Melbourne record label Illusive Sounds, and are managed and booked by label co-founders Adam Jankie and Matt Gudinski. Bliss n Eso have released six studio albums which include three number 1 debuts on the ARIA Charts. They have also won two ARIA Award for Best Urban Release for their 2008 album Flying Colours and for Best Music Video for their 2017 single "Moments". Eso, under the alias Esoterik, released an album entitled "My Astral Plane" in May 2018.
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The trio consists of American MC Bliss (Jonathan Notley), Australian MC Eso (Max MacKinnon), and DJ Izm (Tarik Ejjamai) who is Arab, of Moroccan heritage. Notley moved to Australia in 1992 when he was thirteen and met MacKinnon while attending Glenaeon Rudolf Steiner School in Sydney.
"When I got to Australia, I met Eso (MacKinnon) and he was the only guy at my school into hip-hop. It was so scarce you'd be lucky to find a hip-hop record in a store let alone a whole section." - Jonathan "Bliss" Notley
"Back then hip hop was basically non-existent; there was no urban or hip-hop section in the CD stores. You'd be lucky to find a couple of albums like a Public Enemy album or something if you went to the CD stores. So I guess that's one of the reasons why Max, who's Eso, and I kinda bonded at high school, I think, because he was really the only other guy in the school who was into hip-hop." - Jonathan "Bliss" Notley
MacKinnon later moved to Mosman High School in New South Wales, where he met Ejjamai. The group initially went by the name of Bliss n Esoterikizm, but that proved to be too much of a mouthful for most people, and thus was shortened.
In 2000 they issued their first release, the EP The Arrival, under the name Bliss n Esoterikizm, which was followed by a mixtape CD. They released their debut album, Flowers in the Pavement, on Obese Records in 2004. Bliss n Eso were the winners in the Hip Hop category at the 2003 Music Oz Awards and nominees for Artist of the Year in 2004.
The group then switched labels to Illusive Sounds and released their second official album, Day of the Dog, on 4 March 2006. The album features production from Bliss, Weapon X, Suffa, and MC Motley, among others. It also features guest spots from British emcees MC Motley and Mystro, as well as fellow Sydney MC, Hyjak.Day of the Dog debuted at #45 on the ARIA Albums Chart, making it the first Australian hip-hop release to debut in the top 50. The group undertook a national tour in March and April of that year to support the album.Day of the Dog was then entirely remixed by Gold Coast producer M-Phazes and released later that year as Day of the Dog: Phazed Out. The album was nominated for Best Urban Release at the 2007 ARIA Awards; the award was won by the Hilltop Hoods for The Hard Road: Restrung.
The group's third single, "Then Till Now", produced by Weapon X, contains elements from the same Renee Geyer song used by Hilltop Hoods on their track "Riding Under One Banner". It received airplay on Triple J,rage and Video Hits. "Mad Tight", their fourth single, was played on radio stations Triple J,3RRR,PBS, and FBi. The music video was shown on rage.
In 2007, Bliss n Eso played shows in the northwest of North America, including a performance at the Whistler 2007 Telus World Ski and Snowboard Festival.
"We did a small run of the northwest states, around Portland area and then went up to Whistler in Canada and we did a sold out show in Whistler, which was unreal, to go all the way across the world and have a whole bunch of Aussies screaming at you" - Jonathan Notley
In October 2007 they released the first single of their album, "Bullet and a Target", featuring the Connections Zulu Choir (a 21 piece choir from South Africa). The song was recorded at Jimmy Barnes' home studio in Sydney and reached #43 on the ARIA Singles Chart. The track features a remixed version of Citizen Cope's song by the same title. 100% of all profits from the sales of the song goes to The Oaktree Foundation, Australia's only youth-run international aid and development organisation.
Following up on their collaboration with the choir, Bliss n Eso embarked on a journey in June 2007 with MTV and the Oaktree Foundation to some of the poorest regions in South Africa to complete the track and shoot the video clip for "Bullet and a Target". Bliss n Eso also shot a documentary with Evermore, produced by MTV, aimed at creating awareness about the challenges faced by developing communities in Africa. The film clip and 30 minute documentary aired exclusively on MTV and received attention from the media and the public. The group was nominated for the 'Good Karma Award' for these efforts at the 2008 MTV Video Music Awards.
The group's third album, Flying Colours, was released on 26 April 2008, coinciding with a national tour by the group, along with True Live, Funkoars and The Winnie Coopers. The album debuted a week later at #10 on the Australian ARIA Albums Chart, and it remained in the ARIA Top 100 for the following 12 weeks. The album was nominated for a J Award in August 2008, and was also nominated for an ARIA award for Best Urban Release.
In August 2008 Bliss n Eso performed at the Splendour in the Grass festival and at the Trackside Festival in Canberra. In September they went on the road for their most successful national tour to date, with sell out performances across the country, concluding with a sold out homecoming show at the Enmore Theatre in Sydney to a capacity crowd of 2500 patrons. They were scheduled to tour Canada at the end of the year and planned to re-release Flying Colours in early 2009, with a bonus DVD. The DVD was to contain a live performance from at The Metro Theatre in Sydney.
Bliss n Eso appeared for the first time in a Triple J Hottest 100 with three entries in the 2008 countdown; "Eye of the Storm" at number 40, "The Sea is Rising" at number 61 and "Woodstock 2008" at number 94. "Happy in My Hoody" failed to make the Hottest 100 but did come in at number 136.
In 2009 the success of Bliss n Eso continued with their Flying Colours album, which remained in the official ARIA charts for over a year. They also performed at the Sound Relief concert in front of 82,000 people at Melbourne's MCG on 14 March 2009. They were the only hip-hop act to perform at the concert, which raised over 8 million dollars for Victoria's bushfire victims.
In April 2009 Bliss n Eso announced a major city Australian tour which included two shows at Melbourne's iconic Festival Hall as well as the largest venues they had played to date across the country. Their first show at Festival Hall sold out in four days, making it the fastest selling Australian hip hop show of all time, selling to a capacity of 5,100 patrons.
On 26 April 2009, Bliss n Eso became the first Australian hip hop act to perform on Rove, where they performed "Woodstock 2008" and "The Sea is Rising" to a live television audience broadcast nationally on the Ten Network.
In May 2009 Bliss n Eso received two APRA award nominations in the category, 'Best Urban Works' for "The Sea is Rising" and "Woodstock 2008". On 14 June "Flying Colours" became only the second Australian hip hop album to be certified gold, after being in the ARIA Charts for 58 weeks. The group's song "Field of Dreams" was included on EA Sports boxing video game Fight Night Round 4.
"Basically, EA Australia can submit one track that's Australian for an international game. There hadn't been an Australian track on a release for a while actually and the 'Fight Night' opportunity came about and EA Australia really liked "Field of Dreams" and thought it worked well with the theme of the game, so they put it forward to the International EA and it got accepted! The fact that it's out there and a million people are going to be playing this thing - it's obviously a big game and the fact that our song's on there, we're stoked. It's pretty awesome, man!" - Jonathan Notley
Bliss n Eso released their live album Flying Colours Live in June 2009 to coincide with another national tour of Australia. The album features a bonus track, "On Tour", which received significant airplay from Triple J. The album also includes a DVD, featuring their MTV nominated documentary, 'Out of Africa, and the group's live performance at Sydney's Metro Theatre. Following their national tour they planned to work on their fourth studio album, with producers M-Phazes and Hattori Hanzo.
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On 17 May 2010, Bliss n Eso released "Down by the River", the first single off their fourth studio album, Running on Air. The single premiered on Triple J's "2010" new music show with Richard Kingsmill the night before. "Down by the River" was the fourth most added track to Australian radio on the weekend of 14 May, which included across the board airplay on Triple J nationally, Nova FM, Hot30 and many other community and commercial radio networks. In July 2010, Bliss n Eso released a free track called "Golden Years", also from Running on Air. Following the release of the single the band embarked on the "Down by the River" tour of Australia with sold out shows in major cities across the country.
On 30 July 2010 Bliss n Eso released their fourth studio album, Running on Air. The album went straight to number one on the Australian iTunes album chart within minutes of its release. Triple J and Nova FM both featured several tracks from the album in the leadup to its release. The album garnered near perfect reviews across the board, with some even stating that "it may be the genre's finest release" (Time Off).
On 8 August 2010 Bliss n Eso's fourth studio album, Running on Air, debuted on the Australian ARIA charts at number one. It was the first album to knock Eminem off the top spot in six weeks and received significant acclaim for this feat. Bliss n Eso also had two albums and three singles in the Urban charts during this week. Less than two weeks after its release, Running on Air was certified Gold in Australia, with sales in excess of 35,000. Shortly afterwards, Bliss n Eso embarked their sold-out 'Down by the River' Australian tour, and before long the trio had their first platinum album in Running on Air. The album went on to receive multiple awards nominations, including the Triple J Album of the Year award, Channel V Australian Artist of the Year award, Independent Music Award, multiple APRA Awards and two ARIA awards.
In late August, Bliss n Eso announced they would be heading back to America. The band teamed up with the legendary Kottonmouth Kings for a 26 date run across the USA. This was the band's second US tour. Bliss n Eso have also played and been announced for various Australian summer festivals, including The Big Day Out, Fat as Butter, Southbound, Full Noise, Another World, Time Out, and Groovin the Moo Festival.
In March 2011 Bliss n Eso were invited to play the highly acclaimed SXSW music conference in Austin, Texas. The band also went on to play headline shows in LA, Las Vegas and New York before heading back to Australia and embarking on what would be a record breaking Australian Tour.
The 'Running on Air' tour comprised 14 sold out shows across Australia in front of 60,000 people and cemented itself as the highest selling local hip-hop tour of all time. The shows were filmed for a DVD which was set to be released on 20 July 2012.
In March 2012, Bliss n Eso were once again invited to perform at the SXSW music conference in Austin. Directly after the music conference finished the band embarked on their first ever headline tour of the US and Canada. Playing 22 shows across the West Coast of both countries in under a month, the band cemented themselves a position in the international hip-hop scene.
In late 2012, Bliss n Eso ventured back into the studio to work on their fifth studio album, Circus in the Sky. Recorded across Australia and Los Angeles, it is the band's most eclectic and progressive album to date. It features guest appearances and collaborations with some of the most celebrated names in hip-hop music, including the legendary Nas and a roll call of Australian rap royalty in 360, Pez, Seth Sentry and Drapht, as well as American recording artist Ceekay Jones and the multi-platinum production duo The Makerz. Circus in the Sky became become one of the year's biggest sensations in Australian music, debuting at Number 1 on the ARIA Album Chart, and trailing only Daft Punk in total album sales in Australia for 2013.
In March 2014 Circus in the Sky continued to maintain a strong chart position and was certified Platinum. Throughout April and May the trio embarked on their biggest national tour to date. The 'Circus Under the Stars' tour would become the biggest local hip-hop tour of all time. The two-month outdoor tour saw the band play 16 shows across Australia with attendances of up to 8,000 people.
In late 2016, Bliss n Eso announced that their new album, "Off the Grid" would be released on 10 March 2017. The album will contain the two singles released by Bliss n Eso earlier in 2016: "Dopamine" and "Friend Like You". On 27 March the tracklist for Off the Grid was released, featuring collaborations with Dizzy Wright, Watsky, Mario, Gavin James, and Lee Fields among others. One day later, on 28 March, the single "Moments" was released, along with their tour announcement.
On 23 January 2017, Johann Ofner, a professional stunt double was shot in the chest and killed during The Dreamers production of the music video for "Friend Like You" at the Brooklyn Standard, a bar in Eagle Lane, Brisbane, Australia. After the incident, the group announced that "Off The Grid"s release date would be moved to 28 April.
Statement from the band: "We continue to express our support and condolences to the family and friends of those so deeply affected by this sad event and appreciate your ongoing understanding in this incredibly difficult time." 
Statement regarding the circumstances of the death: "Johann was tragically fatally injured when a prop gun was discharged as part of filming a scene in Bliss n Eso's video clip. The gun was loaded with blanks, not live ammunition. The exact cause of Johann's fatal injury is still to be confirmed but, as the gun was loaded with blanks, not live ammunition, the cause was not a bullet or live round."
|Year||Album details||Peak chart positions||Certifications|
|2004||Flowers in the Pavement
|2006||Day of the Dog
|2010||Running on Air
|2013||Circus in the Sky
|2017||Off the Grid
|"--" denotes releases that did not chart|
|2006||"Up Jumped the Boogie"||56||—||—||Day of the Dog|
|"Party at My Place" (featuring Motley)||—||—||—|
|"Then Till Now"||—||—||—|
|2007||"Coppin' It Sweet/Blazin'"||—||—||—|
|"Bullet and a Target" (featuring Connections Zulu Choir)||43||—||—||Flying Colours|
|"The Sea is Rising" (featuring John Butler Trio)||80||61||
|2009||"Eye of the Storm"||—||40||—|
|"Field of Dreams"||—||—||—|
|"On Tour"||76||109||—||Flying Colours Live|
|2010||"Down by the River"||45||41||
||Running On Air|
|2013||"House of Dreams"||45||94||
||Circus in the Sky|
|"Home Is Where The Heart Is"||31||135||—|
|"Reservoir Dogs" (featuring Seth Sentry, 360, Pez and Drapht)||96||123||—|
|"Act Your Age"||31||67||
|"My Life" (featuring Ceekay Jones)||26||167||
|2014||"I Am Somebody" (featuring Nas)||80||—|
|2016||"Dopamine" (featuring Thief)||38||86||
||Off the Grid|
|"Friend Like You" (featuring Lee Fields)||85||—|
|2017||"Moments" (featuring Gavin James)||25||53||
|"Believe" (featuring Mario)||—||—|
|"--" denotes releases that did not chart or receive certification.|