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.
Hip-hop’s definitely reach around the world and back in the last four decades, birthing variations bound by culture. For South African-born, Australian-raised artist Bmike, studying the greats of the 90s and early 00s gave him the blueprint and the hustle to build a loyal fanbase.
After 13 million views on YouTube for his latest single “Anxiety,” Bmike has found himself thriving in a fanbase without the press and returning with his latest single, “No Fakes,” alongside Dax.
Born and raised in South Africa, reared by Australia and flexing his skills to American audiences. Bmike is displaying what has taken him across the world several times and partnered him with all audiences. His work has displayed storytelling, an understanding of culture, and being able to tap into the world while representing Black Heart Gang. Black Heart Gang is a theme that his music fits into while doubling as a platform for other artists.
Mike grew up in South Africa and studied The Source, using it as a blueprint for his own releases. His latest is “No Fakes,” detailing that he can do it on his own, without a machine and being the point guard of his own situation. The release partners him with Dax, providing a cinematic experience you can experience from a Netflix production.
You can see the video for the Tunna Beatz produced track below.
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.
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.
Founder of the YBN collective YBN Nahmir makes his way down to Australia and New Zealand next month for the very first time to play a string of headline shows after a whirlwind 18 months. Performing across Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and then Auckland represents another major international move for the still teenage superstar from Alabama who has already managed two Platinum-selling singles, as well as a Top 20 charting mixtape with fellow YBN core members YBN Almighty Jay and YBN Cordae.
Influenced by West Coast legends including E-40, Eazy-E, Tupac, and Bone Thugs N Harmony, YBN Nahmir come up was unique in that he largely developed the early stages of his music career through online video games and social media. Currently signed to Atlantic Records, YBN Nahmir has since collaborated with the likes of Yo Gotti, G-Eazy, Wiz Khalifa, G Herbo, Blac Youngsta, Wifisfuneral, Chris Brown, Gucci Mane, Machine Gun Kelly and Cuban Doll amongst many others.
Currently, on tour with the infamous Bhad Bhabie throughout America before heading down for his Australasian tour, YBN Nahmir then turns back home to America and has a Canadian tour already scheduled for later this year. Eager to prove he is more than just a one or two hit wonder.
Award-winning, Grammy-nominated rapper Travis Scott has announced that his Astroworld: Wish You Were Here tour will make its way down to Australia in November for five shows across Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne with Interscope Records labelmate Sheck Wes and Virgil Abloh.
It has been a standout previous year for Travis Scott, earning his first Hot 100 number one single in one of the anthems of late 2018 in “Sicko Mode” featuring Drake as well as his 17-track Astroworld album also going number 1 in a dozen countries and top four in a further dozen. The hour-long release went platinum or better in numerous countries, performing particularly well in Australia and New Zealand in addition to America, Canada, and the UK. Australian fans don’t miss out on one of the biggest shows from one of hip hop true current superstar – watch below to see what you can expect live.
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.