With another year come and gone full of great releases, we take a quick look back at the year for hip-hop down under in Australia. It proved to be an exceptionally strong one and perhaps the year that hip hop from Australia truly broke out to significant mainstream recognition internationally. Below are ten of the biggest film clips from ten artists who left their mark on hip hop from Australia in 2019.
Legendary Hip-Hop trio Digable Planets make their way down to Australia and New Zealand for the very time next month for a string of highly anticipated shows.
Consisting of Butter Fly, Ladybug Mecca, and Doodlebug, Digable Planets are of course most notable for the two classic albums they released in the 90s – the successful crossover debut Reachin’ (A New Refutation of Time and Space) in early 1993 on Pendulum/Elektra Records and Blowout Comb in late 1994. Their heavily jazz inspired debut album was initially self-produced in-house by Butter Fly clocking in just shy of an hour. It featured no guest appearances and their debut single “Rebirth of Slick (Cool Like Dat)” released in late 1992 would go on to win a Grammy Award in 1994 for Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group.
Both the album and lead single charted well internationally, and both went Gold in America. The group went on a hiatus the year after, with all going on to work on various projects individually.
Digable Planets followed up their successful debut with the critically acclaimed yet ultimately not as commercially successful “Blowout Comb”. The release featured notable appearances from the late Guru of Gang Starr, Jeru The Damaja and DJ Jazzy Joyce amongst significant original music credits. While the album both the singles from the album “9th Wonder (Blackitolism)” and “Dial 7 (Axioms of Creamy Spies)” failed to attract widespread mainstream success at the time, the release has go on to be a widely considered classic and seminal mid-90s album which captured a certain vibe of Brooklyn at the time.
The group reformed in 2005 and released the compilation album Beyond the Spectrum: The Creamy Spy Chronicles, a remastered best-of album largely with the notable addition of two new tracks and remixes. Creative differences led to a break in late 2012 for the group, before again reforming in 2015 and embarking on a series of tours and releasing a live album in 2017. Now 25 years since the release of Blowout Comb, Australian and New Zealand fans have the opportunity to witness the Digable Planets experience live and direct with a full band as they take in Sydney, Melbourne, Perth and Auckland just before Christmas.
Let’s Get Free is the now-classic debut studio album by NYC hip-hop duo, dead prez consisting of stic.man and M-1 that was released on Loud Records on March 14, 2000, after an extended rollout. Critically and commercially acclaimed upon its release, Let’s Get Free was widely called a return to politically conscious rap not seen on the level since Public Enemy’s string of classic albums in the late 80s and early 90s. The album featured not only substantial self-production but also significant production credits to Lord Jamar of Brand Nubian, Hedrush and a young pre-Roc-A-Fella Records Kanye West amongst a string of memorable socially conscious political vocal samples from the likes of Chairman Omali Yeshitela, Huey P. Newton amongst others.
Navigating the theoretical space commonly referenced as somewhere between N.W.A. and P.E., dead prez’s breakthrough song was their second single “Hip Hop” off this debut album released a year earlier in March 1999. Their mixture of conscious lyrics with an infectious hook resulted in a bonafide hip-hop classic that helped this single crack the Top 50 and the album peaking at Number 23. Mixing militant pan-African Nationalism, commentary on music’s over-commercialization with socialist narratives offered through a technically very well-delivered manner proved to be a recipe that people worldwide could appreciate. Their passion and knowledge of social issues mixed in a sonically pleasing manner is no mean feat to do and has led them to have such a lasting legacy today.
Being toured down under by Australia’s all-time pre-eminent hip hop promoter in Slingshot Touring & Events in conjunction with Century Entertainment, Australian fans can expect legendary dead prez shows live and direct to celebrate 20 years since the release of their iconic debut album. Announced all ready to play the Metro Theatre in Sydney venue with local talents Lil Spacely and Genesis Owusu, dead prez continues to build their legacy internationally to a diverse and generational fanbase. They continue to show and prove why it’s bigger than hip-hop.
For the previous ten years, THE AUSSIE BBQ event has been bringing the cream of new Australian music to new international and American audiences, with this year’s free marque showcase event to be held at SummerStage in NYC for the very first time. Among the acts this year include the Zimbabwean-born Tkay Maidza (worked with Killer Mike of Run The Jewels, Duckwrth, French super-producer Martin Solveig), rap duo A. B. Original (first US show) as well as production duo Hermitude and will be the first time this signature event is held in NYC since 2015.
The electric Tkay Maidza was born in Zimbabwe before moving to Australia with her family when she was 5-years- old. Living throughout Western Australian and South Australia before settling in Adelaide, she graduated from high school two years early at 16 and like a young Ice Cube, studied architecture at university before concentrating full-time on music.
Tkay Maidza story is an intriguing one and one that demonstrates just how much she has achieved already and most certainly has a very bright future ahead of her. She recently scored a BET Awards nomination for Best New International Act, catapulting the 23-year-old further onto the world stage and capping off an impressive and rapid rise over the last couple of years. Tkay was the second Australian to be nominated for a BET award after Iggy Azalea, and received a hearty glowing endorsement from a then stranger in Killer Mike last year during a lecture at MIT, in reference to Tkay being the female rapper that Americans should know about instead of Iggy.
A. B. Original sound has been described as rough and tough around the edges, deliberately brash and aggressive somewhat in the spirit of N.W.A. and Westside Connection, providing a much needed honest account of race relations in Australia today as well as delving into Australia’s dark colonial past through a traditional sound away from the fashion of today. The ironic title of the album, Reclaim Australia, strikes a strong accord locally in Australia as there is a small, misinformed group protesting immigration to Australia also called Reclaim Australia (a group fearful that “their” country is being taken away from them which is satirical, to say the least when understanding British colonialization history of Indigenous Australia).
A.B. Original provide a very much needed refreshing, traditional hip hop sound in Australia that has largely been missing from recent years within a more commercially geared hip hop market of today. Their live show with DJ Total Eclipse of The X-Ecutioners has taken the all-around package to another level nationwide.
Head on down to Central Park this Saturday to catch a glimpse of what hip hop from Australia has to offer from 2 pm.
Seventeen-year-old rapper Lil Mosey has announced a tour of Australia and New Zealand to finish off his extensive Northsbest World Tour, which will continue to spread across America before venturing back to Canada and then off to Europe.
It represents a whirlwind nine months since his major breakthrough of his single “Noticed” directed by Cole Bennet on Lyrical Lemonade. Lil Mosey made his initial breakthrough in November 2016 in his home town of Seattle as a then 14-year old and releasing his first music to significant success via Soundcloud and YouTube, quickly amassing tens of millions of plays.
He has since released his debut 11-track studio album “Northsbest” last October on Interscope Records featuring Memphis’s BlocBoy JB and features the hit singles “Noticed” and “Yoppa” – both produced by Royce David. The album which charted strongly in America as well as widely throughout Europe acted as a follow up to his 2017 mixtape NorthsBest. Lil Mosey has toured with the likes of Smooky MarGielaa, Lil Tjay, Juice Wrld, YBN Cordae and Smokepurpp as well as the festival circuit.
aahh: You released your debut solo album South Side Story back in 2017, but you have been an integral part of the scene in this country for over a decade now. Why was the decision made to wait until you did to release a solo album?
Nter: I wanted to wait for the right time to release the South Side Story, to the point were I thought it was some of my best work. I didn’t want to just drop an album with tracks that meant nothing. Every song on South Side Story tells a story and has meaning. The beat and production definitely has to talk to me before I can start to work.
aahh: Your raps reflect life in Hurstville and the experiences you’ve faced throughout not only your childhood but also the life as you live it now. How important to you is it to reflect your life stories throughout your music and how do you feel about those who just do it to promote an image that may not accurately represent their lives?
Nter: Hurstville isn’t so much a ghetto but a really rough and bad neighbourhood. It was the environment we grew up in. The situations we faced as kids and the things we went through and did just to move forward… its important to tell that story. You can’t just make this sort of shit up. If you haven’t been in that environment it’s easy to tell, people just need to keep it real…
aahh: You’ve been touted as one of the innovators in the local scene especially when it comes to Gutta rap. Where did you draw your influences from when you first started out with the crew Sydney Serchaz. Can you also tell us a bit about that crew and how it came to be formed?
Nter: I drew a lot of influences out of what was really going on and what was really being done on our part back then. Rapping about selling drugs wasn’t a huge thing in the Sydney game. Forty was always on that hustle and he was one of the first but Sydney Serchaz told the story of the searcher, the hustler and the thieves story from where it was happening it also highlighted the struggle.
Sydney Serchaz was like a family to me with Skeamo being my brother and Sky-High teaching me a lot of what I know today. At first it was just them two then I came along and from there we just ran with it. Doing some of Sydneys first gutter rap shows and then taking it to a new level.
aahh: As with many rappers in the scene, there seems to be a constant juggle between making music and balancing out all the other responsibilities people face in life such as family and or other work commitments. How do you find dealing with that kind of thing?
Nter: In this day and age you have to work. Music isn’t going to pay the bills unless you’re Kerser or ChillinIT no matter how many views or likes you’re getting. Let’s be real all that shit means nothing, at the end of the day I work. I’ve had the side hustle but I can’t pay bills from a jail cell. I manage both as well as I can but if it came to be, it would be my job because its a pay check each and every week.
ahhh: You rep Trap Runners, how did this crew come about? Is there still a Trap Runners album in the works and what can you tell us about that project?
Nter: Yeh, Trap Runners is what it is now. Myself, Merks and one of the other boys, Jake came up with the idea. It started just as a little group, we first called it THE REAL but changed a few things and then we just started repping Trap Runners. The boys were off doing their thing and I was doing my music so we came together under that banner and now we’re the number one group in the underground..real…but yeah we are working on an album for later this year.
aahh: You’ve steadily been releasing new music including the tracks Legacy, and Wrong Turns which dropped just the other day. This is apart from all the tracks you’ve been featuring on with Sesk and also Merks. Are you currently working on a new album or mixtape?
Nter: Yeah, I try to keep constant music dropping every month or so. Just not too much because then its just overplayed or boring. At the moment I am just looking around for beats for an album. It’s not 100% certain but I’m slowly working on it. I am also working on a mixtape, but it will be a gutter tape
ahhh: Will you be working with Sam Mason on your next project. You’ve both worked closely together over the years including on your debut South Side Story?
Nter: Yer Sam Mason will most problem produce most of the beats, but I will be using some other producers. We’ve actually been boys since rugrat days.
ahhh: What’s the biggest change you’ve witnessed throughout the local scene over the past 10 years?
Nter: The biggest change is that everyone is rapping now but there is no content to their music. No one is telling a story. It’s all who is the best fighter or who gets the best clothes. It’s fun all that but to tell the story of someone real and to stop show boating with shit that isn’t yours in ya clips… you should be able to free the realness.
ahhh: What do you think about rap beef and how people approach it in Australia. We rarely see diss tracks, yet there’s always an undercurrent of beef that occurs throughout the scene. Do you have any thoughts on that and what has your experiences been with that?
Nter: This rap beef isn’t real at all. It is easy to get on Instagram and talk shit or throw subliminal’s in tracks, but how you gonna handle it when its sitting on ya door step or you’re out in public and some one pulls up on ya… if you haven’t got the heart to carry on with it just go about your business. I try keep outta all that shit these days. I’m too old to be beefing on social media with pensioners.
Half man, half machine: Macshane is a rap anomaly. Born and bred in the Perth hills, he exploded onto the Perth music scene out of nowhere in 2015, and quickly rose to prominence as an MC and force not to be reckoned with. Now, he’s set to make his mark on 2019 with the release of his long-awaited debut EP, The Macshane EP.
Drawing on influences from all corners of hip-hop and electronic music to deliver intricate wordplay, complex flows and a unique perspective on concepts and themes, Macshane explores all of this and more on his debut EP. In 2018, Macshane released three singles further highlighting his innate skills not just as an MC but as a lyrical wordsmith as well, capitalising on his collaborative friendship with producer Unkle Ricky to create genre-defying tracks that see the two working in perfect harmony, with the pair “bouncing drums and melodies back and forth until we found a vibe.”
Straight off the back of his most recent single, ‘I Said’, which was described by Macshane as a “declaration of intent, a call to arms and an assertion of self in three minutes of fury,” Macshane is doubling down with the release of his long-awaited debut. Describing it as “nothing less than a journey from conception to writing and recording,” he went onto say he felt “lucky to finally tap a highly talented musical medium to unleash my thoughts, struggles and self realisations.” “I finally learnt to speak my mind and make music for myself as opposed to appeasing a trend or particular sound. Therefore I was unapologetic in dealing with themes such as self doubt, relationships, and ultimately the battle between who I think I am and what others think of me.” Solidifying his reputation as one of the country’s finest rappers, Macshane delivers a consistent body of work that isn’t afraid to dig deep into his own mind as well as society at large. Not shying away from trying new things and subverting preconceived notions of rap and hip hop in Australia, Macshane lays it all out on the table across seven tracks that each showcase a different element of his artistic identity.
With four singles already out in the world and three previously unheard new tracks, The Macshane EP highlights a rapper truly stepping into his own as an artist, and serves as not only the end of one chapter but the start of another – this really is just the beginning for Macshane.
Cardi B is set to take off to Australia and New Zealand for the first time for a string of festival shows on either side of New Year’s Eve. With the Migos recently canceling their related Australian festival tour appearances earlier this month, Cardi B now herself headlines the Origin Fields out west in Perth, Australia with Denzel Curry, Smokepurpp, AJ Tracey and Khalid also on the bill. Cardi then heads to Sydney for her sold-out New Year’s Day Festival headline, continuing her whirlwind tour.
Cardi B then heads down to New Zealand for the very first time to headline the both 20,000+ sold-out North and South Bay Dreams festival shows the very next day – proving New Zealand has a very strong appetite for large hip hop festivals.
Nicki Minaj and Rae Sremmurd are set to headline the massive 7-date FOMO Festival Tour which takes in all major capital cities across Australia and New Zealand by BBE early in the new year. Leading an all-star lineup including also Amine (replacing Lil Pump) and Mura Masa, FOMO is the first major summer festival of 2019 in Australia and promises to draw in massive festival crowds throughout with some shows already sold out. With further sideshows announced, major Hip-Hop festivals seem to be back in action down in Australia to stay after a couple of years in more recent times of relative absence.
This year’s FOMO festival builds off the back of a wildly successful festival run for FOMO previously, aided by a stellar line up of SZA, Post Malone, RL Grime, Kaytranada and Zhu amongst others back in early 2018. Their 2017 bill included Desiigner, Metro Boomin, GoldLink, Flosstradamus, JME (UK) while their first festival bill in 2016 had Skepta (UK), RL Grime, Boys Noize, Jamie xx and the award-winning Australian rapper Tkay Maidza taking to the stage. With both Nicki and Rae Sremmurd making their way to Australia this time, 2019 promises to be the biggest one yet.
Few names if any hold the legacy in Australia for the stamp of quality that Unkut Recordings does. Since its founding in 1997 by Rob Nat of Unkut.com and Trem of Lyrical Commission, it has developed into the epitome of its tagline – quality over quantity. While the broad fan base may at times be hanging for a new Unkut release, once it is delivered it has always proven to be raw dope. Held with the utmost respect by all, somewhat your favorite rappers most respected label, it has been responsible for not only arguably the greatest group album release ever but also several classic solo releases that are timeless classics.
The Unkut Recordings story was born out of Rob Nat’s fledgling Unkut Productions in 1996 and became formalized the year after in the lead up to the debut Sheer Talent EP from Trem. The excellent 4-track 12” release was followed up with the year after in 1999 with Trem’s Amateurs and served to cement both Trem’s and Unkut’s position as in a then still-developing Hip-Hop landscape in Australia at the time.
The following year saw Rob Nat release A Night On The Tiles, proving to be his most substantial solo release and now a highly sort after classic nationally. The label’s close working relationship to Melbourne’s legendary Nuffsaid Recordings provided them with a quality stamp of approval even before the music was played at a time when relationships were about quality control over industry favors. Coupled with significant notable features, live shows, radio appearances, crushing open mics and the sorts, Unkut forged their own path when there really was none and created their own brand.
A couple of years hiatus until the next release resulted in December 2002’s The Stage Is Set by Lyrical Commission. A super-group of sorts, the new group saw the bringing together of Melbourne’s two leading solo emcees in Brad Strut and Trem with Bob Balans (of The Formulators duo previously with Rob Nat) plus arguably Australia’s greatest ever hip-hop DJ in DJ J-Red. The result of these four coming together was what many consider as the greatest hip hop album ever to be released from Australia.
Going from strength to strength, Unkut put out Terntable Jediz classic August 2004 album All Out War before following up the next year with Lyrical Commission’s highly anticipated next chapter with their “Murderous Metaphors” 2005 EP. This release was internationally notable for containing features from Brooklyn’s Q-Unique (of The Arsonists) and Celph Titled of The Demigodz, along with the overall quality again proving to be much more than a good release hip hop from Australia, but of such quality as a great Hip-Hop release full stop. This would in retrospect prove to be a key feature of the Unkut story, that they were bringing Hip-Hop in all its aspects to the fullest quality that could hang on any stage worldwide.
The next release would be Brad Strut’s long-awaited sophomore LP Legend: Official that dropped in June 2007. The first track for this classic solo release was the three-minute heater diss-track “Monopoly” produced by Prowla and aimed largely at Obese Records, widely regarded as the best diss track from Australia Ala Ice Cube’s “No Vaseline.”
This 16-track release from Strut was a classic from start to finish, featuring Philadelphia’s Outerspace and Brooklyn’s late and great Sean Price (RIP) of Boot Camp Clik / Random Axe and a wealth of the usual Unkut suspects. Following the reissue release of Strut’s classic 2001 debut album The Authentic LP, Brad Strut released the substantial double-disc The Fallout Shelter EP, which featured a Remix disc from a somewhat who’s who of Australian producers.
Following this, all eyes turned to the most highly anticipated Hip-Hop release in Australia ever in Trem’s debut full solo album in 2011’s For The Term Of His Natural Life and it even exceeded the lofty expectations surrounding it by all. The 18-track release is the solo release of the last decade from Australia and featured DJ Revolution, long-time collaborator Q-Unique and a who’s who of Hip-Hop legends from Australia. The award-winning accompanying visuals completed the entire roll-out, with the video filmography team of FULL CLIP showcasing why they are widely considered as the best in the business down under.
Following a string of monumental releases in a rapidly changing musical landscape, Unkut Recordings seemingly took a bit of a break until the signing of Brisbane group Kings Konekted. K-Double proceeded to drop the Hip-Hop album of the year in 2015 in their debut LP on Unkut Recordings in Value Of Adaption. Superbly crafted from start to finish, the release was arguably the most polished product to have been released from Australasia since Trem’s 2011 debut solo album.
Fans of Unkut Recordings can look forward to new releases coming from the Kings Konekted camp, L-Flows and possibly more in the short-term. The wait is always worth it, so get familiar with Unkut Recordings extensive back catalog in the meantime to hear some of the best music Australia has offered over the last two decades. Quality over Quantity.