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Phrase, born Harley Webster in 1981, discovered that hip-hop was cool when his parents confiscated all his tapes after hearing one of the Body Count cassettes he kept under his bed. As a teenager, Phrase was living the life of the typical white Australian homeboy, graffiti and drugs and rap battles on the train tracks. Two wakeup calls changed his life. One came when former footballer Jim Stynes came to speak at his school about the Reach Youth program and their Dream Factory, helping young people build confidence and set goals for themselves. The other came when he was hospitalized, dangerously underweight from a diet high in amphetamines and low in actual food.
Realizing he needed to change his life pretty drastically if he didn't want to end up a statistic, Phrase began entering the Revolver MC battles, and he improved with each competition. He joined the Reach Youth program and eventually began working for them part-time, running his own self-esteem, motivation, and confidence-building courses at a community center. At the same time he met R&B singer Daniel Merriweather and hip-hop producer Jan Skubiszewski, later famous as J-Skub of Jackson Jackson, both of whom agreed to help him produce his first album. In an unexpected coup, that album, Talk with Force, was picked up by Universal Music in 2005 for national distribution, and overnight Phrase went from an unknown to a name in the steadily growing Australian hip-hop scene. He began performing guest appearances for other artists including Mystro and Jade MacRae (who he was dating), as well as appearing on ex-convict Chopper Reed's controversial Interview with a Madman.
In 2007 he returned to the studio with J-Skub to record his second album. What was supposed to be six weeks of recording stretched into six months when he listened back to the first five songs and realized that they were rehashing the same purist boom-bap that, while popular in Australia, they'd done before. They scrapped the lot and started over, aiming at a more rock- and pop-influenced sound. The first such song, "Face It," featuring Ian Kenny from metal band Karnivool, was released as a single and used to promote the Australian launch of Halo 3. It was left off the final album, 2009's Clockwork, which instead featured guest appearances by Kram from alt-rock band Spiderbait, pop singer Wendy Matthews, and Phrase's old friends in Jackson Jackson.