In Defence Of Australian Hip-Hop

When you think about Aussie Hip-Hop, what do you think of?

Is it the accent, the slang, the bright, melodic pop hooks? Maybe it’s as innocent as the first time you heard Hilltop Hoods’ The Nosebleed Section?

For many people the first thought is, “Yuck. Why would I listen to Australian hip-hop? It’s so lame.

But the truth is – and this is a truth that many have begun to pick up on across the past couple years – that hip-hop in Australia is absolutely in its golden age. It’s diversifying and evolving at an incredibly rapid rate, with more and more talented artists emerging every year; stages, venues and whole arenas are selling out, artists are crossing to mainstream and international attention, independent labels are continuously growing and the crossing between genres has never been more fruitful and interesting. It’s a really exciting time for hip-hop artists, as well as the surrounding music and media industries, because it feels like the veil is finally lifting; not only is it diversifying musically, lyrically and stylistically, but fans of exclusively US hip-hop are beginning to realise just how high quality the local stuff can be too.

There’s a lot of stigma surrounding hip-hop from Australia, and that stigma is unique to Australia. There’s a myriad stereotypes and stigmas attached to US hip-hop; those outside the rap world often believe it all just glorifies sex, drugs, violence and money, and as such, all other kinds of hip-hop are pooled together and criticised, or looked down upon. Australian hip-hop, conversely, has almost no relation to that world. The majority of people who criticise Australian hip-hop do so on the grounds of certain, distinct melodes, repetitive themes, and yes, as much as we don’t like to admit it, a lot of people just don’t like Australian accents in rap.

Hip-hop has never been as marketable or as popular here as it has been overseas. Indeed, the US and Canada often struggle to accept hip-hop from other countries, like the UK (grime is growing now, but it’s taken more than a decade and co-signs from Kanye and Drake) or Australia. Australians have often felt the same way, purposefully avoiding anything from their own backyard.

The last couple years have seen a remarkable turnaround in that regard. Today is a really, really exciting time for Australian hip-hop. There’s an ever-expanding, complex tapestry of rappers, musicians, beat boxers, DJs, and producers, along with labels, promoters, publications and radio stations who are here to share it with the world.

You’ve got artists incorporating jazz, soul, R&B and electronic elements into their tracks; you’ve got incredibly dense, intricate, poetic lyricism; phenomenal rapping dexterity with the speed and agility to rival any US counterpart. Most importantly, you’ve got a massive array of sounds that can fit no mould.

More and more often, we receive feedback from those both within and outside of the music industry, who are quickly discovering that Aussie hip-hop ain’t all that bad. Just this week, one Howl & Echoes writer noted, “I’ve realised I’m guilty of falling behind on Australian hip-hop… But Charlie [Threads]’s new mixtape has reignited that love I have for exploring new local rappers.”

So what next? How can we make the world re-discover local hip-hop? How can we work to remove any stigmas that, whether based in truth or not, have led so many to cast all Aussie rap aside for no real reason?

Apart from simply playing the music wherever you can, to whomever wants to listen, a lot of the time it’s up to the industry itself to let the world know. Companies, events and labels like Sensible Antixx, House of Beige, Emerald Hip Hop Sessions, Back to the Future on Kiss FM and more are paving the way and pushing these artists into the spotlight. They aim to break down any stigma and stereotypes in Australian hip-hop, creating platforms which allow these artists to showcase who they are and the music they make, without the need for exploitative artist development or a need to change or fit a mould.

The artists too, have a responsibility – one that they’re living up to time and time again – to show Australia that we’ve got so much to offer, and that they don’t need to put on fake American accents or produce fake gangsta rap to make it work.

Australian hip-hop, and the industry surrounding it, is in its heyday – and it’s high time that the surrounding communities listen up and take notice.

We recently put together an introduction to Australian hip-hop playlist, and we’ve now updated it with a whole lot more.

Listen below and let the music do the talking. We’ll keep updating it, so feel free to subscribe.

Words By Lauren Ziegler & Ant Attridge 

Playlist By Lauren Ziegler, Ant Attridge & Michelle Grace Hunder

Image: Michelle Grace Hunder