Hailing from Queanbeyan in New South Wales, Omar Musa might be one of the most criminally underground rappers and writers in Australian hip-hop. He took out both the Australian and Indian Ocean Poetry Slams in 2008 and 2009 respectively, he has a novel to his name as well in the Miles Franklin longlisted Here Come The Dogs, for which the Sydney Morning Herald tagged him as one of their Young Novelists Of The Year back in 2014.
With so much credit and accolades given to his talents with the written and spoken word, you would expect it to translate lyrically into the world of hip-hop and it certainly does. Musa already has several records to his name: The Massive EP and his debut album World Goes To Pieces where those talents were showcased wonderfully, and on his latest Dead Centre EP released today they’ve shone through again.
Opening with Freedom, with disenfranchised lyrics and Musa allowing the listener an insight into his struggle to find his place in the world, guest vocalist Mataya singing the hook beautifully. Title track DEAD CENTRE ups the tempo a bit, a hard edge behind Musa’s voice that matches the aggressive backbeat as he flips haters the middle finger and positively swaggers over some icy production. The lyrical transition from comparing himself to “Dr. J playing in his tubesocks” one verse to slamming racial inequality the next rapping “White men get elected/while the brown boys get arrested” feels seamless.
LAK$A is a straight up banger, the hook of “this shit is hot” over bouncy trap production and Musa changing up his flow verse-to-verse with ease. The Fisherman Song is a jazzy blend of Eastern rhythms telling the harrowing story of a fisherman working as a slave for a cruel master. The Past Becomes You boasts a host of features, Israeli-Australian singer-songwriter Lior providing the vocals for the chorus, L-Fresh The Lion and fellow Queanbeyan Hau each providing a verse, their individual stories and insights into their unique cultures creating a wonderful tapestry and one of the EP’s most honest moments.
Sweet Soul features the haunting vocal talents of Brisbane songstress Kate Miller-Heidke as Musa narrates the story of a good kid’s struggle in the correctional system and a former drug addict’s climb back to a normal life. The song celebrates the overcoming of life’s obstacles and the “beauty in the everyday”. Curtain-closer The Razor’s Edge ends the EP hard, Musa taking a well-deserved bow with swagger, venom in his voice as he calls out Scott Morrison as “an uncompassionate national disgrace” and “a nation that’s too entitled at war with the new arrivals”.
Dead Centre is full of so much truth and raw honesty. It serves as an anthology of sorts, Musa looking back at the stories of his forebears as well as telling his own story and revealing an Australia seen through his eyes. The lyricism is from the top shelf, Dead Centre only affirming what we already knew about Musa as a world class penman. Backed by such killer production, Omar Musa’s is a story that needs to be heard.
Listen to Dead Centre below via Spotify:
Image: Emerging Writer’s Festival