Words by Maxine Johns
Hip-hop has come an incredibly long way in Australia, and wouldn’t be where it is today without the trailblazers of the breakthrough years, who put forth the hard yards and paved the way for the community to survive and thrive as well as it has.
Paying homage to artists such as 1200 Techniques, Hilltop Hoods, Bliss N Esso, Bias B, Urthboy, 360, Kerser, MC Trey, Maya Jupiter, Tzu, Seth Sentry and many more who kicked down the door and made the world take notice of Australia’s hip-hop industry, the following list of artists are a definitive representation of how the local community is evolving, celebrating its diversity and putting Australian hip-hop on the global map.
These artists represent their culture, their creativity and above all else, their undeniable talent, showcasing just how broad and diverse Australia’s hip-hop industry really is. Original, driven, innovative and socially aware, these artists are indeed game changers in our hip-hop community!
BRIGGS – Shepparton, VIC
Adam Briggs, aka Briggs, is an Australian rapper, comedy writer and actor. He is an Indigenous Australian of the Yorta Yorta people with his tribe name tattooed on his forearms, proudly representing for his culture through every song he makes. He has released one EP, Homemade Bombs, and two albums, The Blacklist and Sheplife. His stellar single And The Children Came Back was a standout release for 2015, elevating Briggs to national hero status. He has amassed a loyal following of hip-hop fans, not just akin to his unapologetic and honest style of rap, but as supporters of his active stance against racial injustice and cultural indifference when it comes to matters of Indigenous issue and inequality in the music community. Apart from his music, Briggs also joined television series Black Comedy as a writer and actor for the second season in 2016.
L-FRESH THE LION – Sydney, NSW
When you first meet L-FRESH the LION, you see a man walking proudly in representation of his traditional Punjab Indian heritage, as he rocks out on stage with the pride in his long beard and turban. L-FRESH is an artist who is sans ego, focusing on creating music with a message and paying respect to those that paved the way to make his journey possible. Like the socially aware hip-hop sages that serve as inspiration to his current wordplay, it is safe to say that L-FRSH The LION can hold court with the likes of Common, Talib Kweli, Chuck D and Mos Def when it comes to rapping for a reason. A big call, some would say, but when you have the great KRS-1 stating that L-FRESH “IS hip-hop,” the ante is upped and the game is changed. L-FRESH has released an album called One and appeared on several singles with local rappers including Hau, Remi and Omar Musa. He is an artist that represents all that is real and true in our community, and is determined to hold Australia in the highest hip-hop light.
LEE MONRO & ELLO C – Sydney, NSW
Indulging in an exciting collaboration project called Lee Monro x Ello C, the pair are creating a new wave of hip-hop in Sydney, with a growing following, from their two mixtapes Overtime and Overtime 1.5, as well as their live performances. Monro has been active, relative and true to form throughout his journey, which began in the early 2000s as part of Figgkid, stepping up to the mantle as one of our most impressive rappers at the time. Now, in 2016, he is yet to waver as an artist unafraid to spit it like it is. Enter Ello C, the young up and comer from Sydney’s West, of Filipino heritage, who has broken new ground as one of the most lyrically on-point rappers today. With an appreciation for hip-hop beyond his years and solo work that encouraged him to release his No Name Fame mixtape, Ello quickly gained major internet buzz. Strong on their own but indestructible together, the grouping of these two lyrical geniuses will always be one of the best hands the hip-hop gods have played. Honest, raw and real, Lee Monro & Ello C wave the flag for Australian rap holding on to its core values of authenticity, integrity and originality.
BLAQ CARRIE – Brisbane, QLD
Every once in a while, an artist comes along who just knocks the breath out of you. They are powerful, confident, passionate and fearless in their pursuit of creating hip-hop their way, in a style which not only appeals to you personally, but resonates with your spirit on a greater level. One such artist is female hip-hop artist Blaq Carrie, the Harare-born, Brisbane-based femcee whose style and flow is raising the bar within the independent Australian community. For an artist who is still finding her footing in the ever evolving hip-hop landscape, Blaq Carrie has released a banging EP, Best Wishes, along with an impressive discography on her SoundCloud page, proving she is an artist that possesses a keen sense of storytelling with purpose.
B-WISE – Sydney, NSW
B Wise is an African-Australian hip-hop artist whose infectious single, Prince Akeem, an upbeat colourful track named after Eddie Murphy’s character in Coming To America and produced by Raph Lauren of Jackie Onassis/The Meeting Tree, offers a glimpse into the creative narrative of this uber talented Sydney emcee. B Wise, aka James Iheakanwa, is the son of a country girl from Stockinbingal, NSW and a dad from Nigeria, who spent his early years between Sydney and rural NSW before his family settled in the city’s South West. As a product of childhood bullying and racism, Wise drew on the strong sense of African pride instilled in him by his parents and uses it as the main drive in his music today. His first single, Like You, captured the attention of mainstream music media like Rolling Stone and Acclaim, who shone a light on the vocal stylings of this enigmatic emcee. Working on his first full length album featuring production credits from Nic Martin (360), Raph Lauren, Momo (Diafrix), Pro/Gram (Bliss n Eso, Hau) and Colourd Noyz, B Wise is making his position known as Australia’s Prince of hip-hop!
KEV HANNIBAL – Sydney, NSW
Watching Kev Hannibal on stage, in the moment where all an artist needs is one mic, you can really see, hear and feel the passion in his music. It’s a performance that grips the audience and delivers the heat – not bad for a young man from the hard knock roots of Southside Jamaica Queens, a suburb in New York synonymous for its pride, passion and servitude to the hip-hop legacy. Before creating a new life in Sydney’s Western suburbs, Hannibal’s childhood was plagued with family tragedy, providing the foundations for enough life experience to write a book on. Using rhymes and a mic as personal therapy, his tracks are empowering and educative. His lyrical skill is unsurpassed, with a talent for beguiling storytelling and in your face delivery, Kev Hannibal is real. His recent single, Colour of Your Skin is enjoying local and international radio love, and his multifaceted talents range from songwriting, production and acting, with Hannibal featuring in films as well as musical releases, continuously pushing the barriers of his hip-hop artistry.
DIAFRIX – Footscray, VIC
Momo and Azmarino make up Diafrix, a dynamic duo out of Footscray, Melbourne. Having formed back in 2001, the pair have supported everyone from Bliss n Eso to Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, and their single Running was adopted as the official theme for the Western Sydney Bulldogs Football Team in 2013. Both artists hail from Melbourne, with Momo originally born in the Comoros Islands and Azmarino in Eritrea. Representing for the culture through their music, their sound has been referred to as “anthemic” for the multicultural areas they grew up in. With musical influences ranging from Nas to Bob Marley to Fat Freddy’s Drop, three solid albums and a a spitfire new single,The Sign, Diafrix are a creative force to be reckoned with.
STAN BRAVO – Sydney, NSW
Stan Bravo is no stranger to this rap game. With over a decade in the industry, he’s experienced the highs and lows that hip-hop can offer, been to the show, and bought the t-shirt in a manner of speaking. Considered a well-versed veteran in the game, Harlemite Stanley Campbell aka Stan Bravo has continued to do what comes naturally, spitting forth handcrafted rhymes that leave his contenders in the dust. As an APRA Award winning songwriter, he has featured on numerous singles with Jeremy Gregory, Ricki Lee and J Wess, released a highly successful and official mixtape compilation Blazin’ Vols 1, 2, 3 & 4 with DJ’s Nino Brown & DJ Samrai and plenty more. With a newly minted album just released last December, Bravo continues to rep for Sydney’s Western suburbs, never forgetting his Harlem NYC roots!
KWEEN G – Sydney, NSW
This Ugandan born, Sydney raised Queen is no stranger to struggle and knows that to get what you want in this life, you have to settle for nothing less than the best of yourself. As the only daughter in a family of three boys, Kween G grew up listening to the hip-hop that her brothers played, including Tupac, Biggie Smalls, Nas and Rah Digga, soon foraying into the frays herself, cultivating one of the illest femcees to have ever come out of Australia. With more than just emcee on her resume, Kween G is an award-winning dramatic producer who has studied at NIDA and beyond. Her single Speak Up is as powerful, raw and fearless as she is:
HAU LATUKEFU – Canberra, ACT
For this Queanbeyan, ACT, born and bred musician, his Tongan heritage is at the forefront of all he creates. Having already built up a widely praised discography from his Koolism years, his solo career kicked off in grand style with the nationally lauded success of 2014 mixtape Football, Feasts & Funerals. As the Hau steam train continues, he gives us his current single Kill I Am, an edgy, abstract and catchy hit that is off his upcoming debut album The No End Theory, due for release in late May. Regardless of where this hip-hop journey takes him, Hau is always humble, authentic and true to himself and his craft. Never one to take himself too seriously, Hau is as real as it gets when it comes to his insight, knowledge, passion and respect for hip-hop and its culture!
JERIET DWIGHT – Sydney, NSW
Jeriet Dwight is a force to be reckoned with. Jeriet, or JD, is a South Sydney hip-hop artist breaking new ground since the release of his debut single All Falls Down in mid 2015. JD has been chasing his dream of hip-hop infamy since his teen years, when hip-hop became the soundtrack to his life. Raised in Austria for most of his young life before moving to Australia, JD is fast becoming the name on everybody’s lips. All Falls Down was produced by famed Australian hip-hop producer Cam Bluff (Illy, Hilltop Hoods.) The single gained major traction across hip-hop and urban radio shows across the nation, and with Triple J giving Dwight the Unearthed Artist blessing earlier last year, on top of electronic collaborations with Hermitude and Flume, things are definitely looking up for this super talented songwriter and rapper.
REMI KOLAWOLE – Melbourne, VIC
Melbourne’s Remi Kolawole is a definitive groundbreaker. Born in Australia, Remi’s mother is from Tasmania and his father from Nigeria. His message encompasses racism, partying, social justice and urban dislocation, a collective representation of all parts of his heritage. As the recipient of the Australian Music Prize for his album Raw X Infinity in 2014, Remi is the first hip-hop artist ever to win the country’s premier music prize, putting him in a league all his own. Remi carries with him the pride of finally achieving hip-hop recognition on an industry-wide basis in the Australian music community. The beauty about a socially and politically aware artist like Remi is that his hip-hop is of a purpose, and his reach is that of those hear hip hop and not just listen to it. His unique vocals and raw appeal has gained him major international success and respect from artists such as Danny Brown, Vic Mensa, De La Soul and Joey Bada$$, and his live performance skills, alongside producer/beatmaster Sensible J, are second to none.
MIRRAH – Sydney, NSW
Mirrah encapsulates the very essence of what it means to be multi-faceted and multi-talented. She calls Australia her adoptive home, and is proud of her multi-cultural background and beginnings. Yet, this humble but fiercely passionate rapper, performer, writer, radio personality, mentor and humanitarian holds her ground on an international stage that has seen her perform alongside some of hip-hop’s most iconic names. Mirrah is a woman whose mission in life is to create music and a dialogue that stretches beyond society’s definition, to inspire urban youth all over the world to seek their own path through music and to be an original in all she does. Last year she dropped the powerful single Wassup, and is gearing up to drop an EP this year under Green Room Studios. Touring as hype woman and cherished member of L-FRESH The Lion’s band, Mirrah is a quintessential artist, focused on not only empowering fellow women in hip-hop, but on creating music that is positive in sound, delivery and message, ensuring the youth of our community have strong female role models to look up to in this industry.
SAMPA THE GREAT – Sydney, NSW
A poet, singer and songwriter, pint-sized Sampa the Great was born in Zambia and grew up in Botswana before relocating to Sydney. Last year saw her release The Great Mixtape to critical acclaim, showing off a stunningly conposed marriage of jazz, neo-soul and hip-hop. Having opened for artists including Hiatus Kaiyote, Thundercat and Little Simz, it’s only a matter of time before Sampa takes on the world. One of the most lyrically proficient, rhythmically talented rappers Australia has ever seen, she can float between Lauryn Hill-esque sensuality and Angel Haze-esque aggression in a matter of moments. Known for putting on some of the most energetic, lively and quite simply, fun live performances in the country – either with a DJ or a full band including backup singers and multiple percussionists – there is absolutely no doubt that she will go on to become one of the most well-known and revered artists in Australia and beyond.
GILL BATES – Brisbane, QLD
African-Australian electro/hip-hop artist Gill Bates may be a relative newbie on the scene, but he’s already touring nationally, with an ever-growing fanbase that continues to break new numbers on the daily. Born in Sudan, Gill lived in Sydney’s Parramatta before relocating to Brisbane with his family in 2004. Life has been nothing but surreal since first emerging onto the Australian music scene in early 2015, when he received major industry attention and public love for first single She Knows featuring Allday, second release Don’t Mind, and his recent single release Diamonds & Gold. Definitely one to watch, Gill Bates is unassuming and not about the hype, rather focusing on creating music that people can vibe to and sharing with the world his message through music.
OMAR MUSA – Canberra, ACT
Omar Musa is a rapper, author and poet from Queanbeyan, ACT. For this Malaysian-Australian rapper, his artistry is more than just hip-hop fame and glory, he is an artist of purpose and reason. With two solo records, spawning singles Dead Centre and the recently released Laksa, plus an album with international duo MoneyKat, Musa has gone on to share stages with acts such as Dead Prez, Pharoahe Monch, Gil Scott-Heron, Horrorshow, Thundamentals and Daniel Merriweather to name a few. He has appeared on ABC’s Q&A and received a standing ovation for his performance at TEDx at the Sydney Opera House. On top of that, his debut novel Here Come the Dogs was longlisted for the Miles Franklin Award, and he was named one of Sydney Morning Herald’s Best Young Writers in 2015. Musa is an artist pushing the envelope for hip-hop in Australia to be a vehicle of positivity, social change and awareness on a global scale, and by sharing his message through spoken and written word, is fast becoming one of the nations most lauded creatives.