For many years, Australia was considered a land of rock music – where AC/DC guitar solos were coupled with vivid images of unforgiving outback landscapes and an endless stream of cheap beer.
And while Australians may still have a preference for head-banging and alcohol, the music scene is shooting in more trajectories than one can count. Several years ago, the likes of Flume, Hermitude and Ta-Ku put Australian electronica and beat-based music on a global stage, the ramifications of which are still being felt today. Now, it is the local hip-hop scene which is rising to the occasion.
Unlike the scenes in other parts of the world, the Australian hip-hop artists currently receiving attention are culturally diverse, socially aware and not limited by any pre-conceptions about what their music is supposed to sound like. The sounds are much more universal than many local rappers of yesteryear, making this a refreshing experience for Australians and international listeners alike. If your list of Australian emcees starts and finishes with Iggy Azalea, then it is high time you give some of these artists a spin:
SAMPA THE GREAT
She’s confident, calming and can easily be considered one of Australia’s most promising acts; Sampa The Great is someone who truly exceeds the implications of her name. Working with producer Godriguez, she touches on blues, jazz and soul and makes it sound effortless.
And in an era often dominated by EDM-esque bleeps and bloops, this is the sort of organic experience that might remind you why you fell in love with hip-hop in the first place. Honest music like Sampa’s won’t just get your feet tapping, but it will leave you wide-eyed in your most solitary moments.
With numerous videos on the ever-popular Astari YouTube channel, Triple One have collected more views than most of their local counterparts, but they remain criminally underrated in Australia. Their sound is hopelessly bleak, with paranormal hooks that delicately drizzle melody onto an otherwise rugged affair.
For those who like their tunes with darker overtones, Triple One sounds just as sinister as your teenage riff-heavy records, only they have plenty of bars to boot.
Manu Crooks has been raising eyebrows for a few years on the local rap scene, but he turned heads and snapped necks everywhere with his slew of 2016 singles, earning praise from the likes of The Fader, BBC Radio 1 and everywhere in between.
Taking influence from the bombastic elements of Southern hip-hop, Manu Crooks has broken past Australia’s current avalanche of trap replicas and has put his own woozy spin on the genre’s sounds with subtlety in all the right spots. And a recent, formidable pairing with producer Dopamine signals exciting bangers ahead.
One Day is a supergroup comprised of Horrorshow, Spit Syndicate, Jackie Onassis & Joyride – four acts who have spent the last decade moulding the country’s sonic landscape. Even though they hail from Australian hip-hop’s more ‘traditional’ corners, they’re never afraid to evolve with their contemporaries, all while exuding the slick confidence of seasoned Sydneysiders.
They also host the country’s biggest hip-hop block party, One Day Sundays, and they even hit the road with Drake on his debut tour down under in 2015. All four acts will release new projects in 2017, so keep your ears peeled.
Blessed is a side-project from local emcee Miracle, where he trades bars for auto-tuned crooning atop sprawling electronic soundscapes, ranging from nonchalant synths to a more drop-reliant format. The Kid Cudi influence is clear, and there are definite dashes of 808s & Heartbreak. And this is all the more surprising coming from a place like Australia.
Blessed is set to release an EP in 2017 while simultaneously leading the recently established WVS imprint, home to promising talents like Anfa Rose and Travy P.
By now, it feels like Remi has collected most of the awards and accolades that Australia has to offer, and his international presence is being strongly felt with appearances at SXSW, European headline tours and live collaborations with artists such as legendary Blur and Gorillaz frontman Damon Albarn.
Alongside beatmaker Sensible J, the duo are still riding high off the emotional rollercoaster that is their second album Divas & Demons, which features their frequent partner-in-crime and fellow crucial homegrown artist, Baro.
Draped in BAPE and more camo garments than a military compound, Cult Shotta’s brazen aesthetic is a lesson in maximalist streetwear. And it helps that they’ve got an equally loud catalogue to back it up.
While they definitely incorporate elements from trap, Cult Shotta’s work holds a zesty comical spin with nasal delivery and squawking ad-libs that are silly in the best way possible. Watching Cult Shotta bounce off the walls is liberating, and listening to them is unadulterated dancefloor fun.
Authenticity has always been paramount when it comes to hip-hop, and that’s something that Fortay champions with his unapologetic street raps, ones filled with brutal punchlines and pitch black humour.
He’s a leader of the West Sydney scene, one that’s often divorced from the rest of the country due to its more aggressive stance, and his international collaborators include Snoop Dogg, Kurupt and Bone Thugs-N-Harmony. His label, At Large, features other emcees from the region like Mitchos Da Menace and Drae Cliche.
While Sydney and Melbourne have become focal points for local hip-hop in recent years, many are tipping Brisbane to snatch the crown in the near future. The city’s impressive artists range from producers like Feki to post-Internet R&B enthusiasts like Leng Hock.
But Midas.Gold in particular is a talent holding heavy momentum as we head into 2017. Having moved from the United States to Australia at a young age, Midas.Gold delivers bass-heavy hip-hop that’ll stand tall on club dancefloors all across the globe, especially his recent single ‘Work It Out.’
SAVOUR THE RATIONS
Bubbling from the underbelly of Sydney’s party scene, Savour The Rations have taken over warehouses and clubs with their high-energy brand of rap, one whose DIY approach has found success alongside like-minded crews like Strxnger and Settings.
Consisting of producers, emcees and filmmakers who bring their vision to life, Savour The Rations offer their audiences a warped experience that overwhelms all the senses. Their emcee Kwame even impressed ASAP Ferg when he spat a rambunctious onstage freestyle during his last Australian tour.
In 2016, B Wise released his debut Semi Pro EP while sharing the stage with ScHoolboy Q, Vince Staples and Freddie Gibbs. Hailing from South-West Sydney, Wise has impressed with his introspective and reflective verses, but can still flex with your usual rap bravado should things take a more upbeat turn.
While he’s flying the flag for Australia’s latest wave of open-minded emcees, he also recently signed with Elefant Traks, the country’s premier longstanding hip-hop label.
Adelaide talent Tkay Maidza has already won hearts across the world with her endearing enthusiasm and unbeatable onstage dance moves.
In the process, she’s crafted electronic flavoured bangers with Atlanta legend Killer Mike and Euro house maestro Martin Solveig, with the latter resulting in ‘Do It Right’ – a song that practically demands to be included in every summer festival for the foreseeable future. With debut albumTKAY now under her belt, we can already see more cross-genre catchiness from Tkay’s camp.