Ziggy Ramo has surprise released his second studio album, Sugar Coated Lies. The follow-up to 2020’s phenomenal Black Thoughts was previewed late last year with its Alice Skye-featuring title track.
The 13-track album sees the Wik and Solomon Islander rapper, musician and producer centre on the ways intergenerational trauma manifests, taking an introspective and personal look at the impacts of colonialism and institutional racism. In addition to Skye, the album features contributions from vonn, Ladi6 and Jantine.
Ziggy Ramo: Sugar Coated Lies
“On the surface, this album is made up of journal entries, starting and ending with my hospitalization after being on suicide watch,” Ramo said of Sugar Coated Lies in an accompanying statement.
“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.”
The album’s release date – 26th January, officially known as Australia Day but also referred to as Invasion Day or Survival Day – is deliberate, with Ramo explaining he picked it “to demonstrate that every day is Invasion Day until we deal with what is going on beneath the surface of this fabricated country.”
For the record’s artwork, Ramo worked with South Sea Islander artist Jasmine Togo-Brisby, who created a new skull made out of sugar – similar to her artwork Colonial Sugar – for its front cover.
In a longer statement, Ramo explained that he wrote Sugar Coated Lies in 2018 and 2019 after relocating from Perth to Sydney. He moved shortly after presenting at Brisbane’s BIGSOUND in 2017, where a label executive “asked me why I was so angry,” with the executive “confused by my showcase and further confused by my album Black Thoughts that I was shopping around.”
“I was unable to find anyone to help me get it out in the world. My thought process was that I needed to move from Perth to Sydney to figure out how to do it myself. I wasn’t able to find anyone at the time to help me distribute it, and at the time I still thought you needed a label,” Ramo said.
“I didn’t have many connections, but I didn’t want to sit on my hands so I started to teach myself how to produce. That’s how I ended up writing a lot of the demos for Sugar Coated Lies alone in my apartment.” These demos formed the foundation of the album.
“Once I had had some sessions with other writers and producers I got to work on finishing the record,” Ramo said. “Through that process I met Lewis Mitchell, and he agreed to come on board to mix, engineer and executive produce the record. I had intended on releasing it in 2020, but ended up shelving it after I had a gut feeling that with or without a label Black Thoughts urgently needed to be out in the world.”
Ziggy Ramo ft. Alice Skye – ‘Sugar Coated Lies’
Ramo’s focus eventually moved away from Sugar Coated Lies, and the album sat dormant on his computer until late last year, when he made his acting debut on the Stan Original series Black Snow. The experience – and a call from his brother saying he needed to put Sugar Coated Lies out into the world – prompted him to resume work on it with Mitchell, and they worked “day and night through November, December and January” to get it ready for release.
“What drew me to Black Snow was that it was exploring the Australian South Sea Islander experience in a very nuanced way. It was using the genre of murder mystery to help bring to light a darker untold story. This is exactly what I was trying to do in the writing process of Sugar Coated Lies,” Ramo said.
“I took 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. Black Thoughts was explicit and unmissable, whereas Sugar Coated Lies is insidious, and hidden; Australian South Sea Islanders are the forgotten people.
“My ancestor Kwailiu was stolen and brought to Far North Queensland. That is how my bloodlines crossed, Wik and Solomon Islander. Ramo is my Solomon Islander name, that’s why I carry it as my artist name, I wanted to bring attention to our community’s truth.
“Over 62,000 South Sea Islanders were enslaved in Australia to establish the sugar industry. A dark stain on our history that we have never meaningfully acknowledged. This is the reason I wanted people to be able to listen to Sugar Coated Lies and miss what is going on underneath the surface. I personified all my feelings about our history into relationship songs.”
Sugar Coated Lies is the first new music from Ramo since Black Thoughts was released, aside from a 2021 standalone single, ‘Little Things’. The song, featuring Paul Kelly, reworked Kelly’s 1991’s single ‘From Little Things, Big Things Grow’ and was released alongside a video in which Ramo performed the song atop the Sydney Opera House.