In Defence of Aussie Rap

‘On Repeat – The Goings On In Aussie Music ‘ is just Bea spinning their wheels about the tunes they love and the culture they can’t escape. This month they talk about Aussie rap and why you should give it a chance.

All art has a purpose. It can be used for anything and everything. Art can be decorative, a form of liberation, reaffirmation, a get out of jail free card. People put it on their walls. Use it to laugh or cry or go back in time.

Personally, I use it to alienate all of my friends. They’ll come over, drink beers, talk shit, when all of a sudden they’ll get just loose enough to ask… Oi, whatcha got on vinyl?

Chillinit. It’s all Chillinit. Next thing they know I’m ten beers in and serenading them with One Breath One Take.

As a kid, Aussie rap was my bread and butter. My accent changed ever so slightly when I learned all the words to Jimmy Recard. The vowels used to come and go but now they hang like those ballsack ornaments on utes, loitering around my bottom lip. It sounds a bit dodgy, but really, there’s nothing wrong with it.

Aussie rap was inescapable. It shaped my view of the bustling Australiana my family always wanted this place to be. A culture that was continuously growing and determined to push through. It was the workers’ anthem. Rock was on Triple M — it was all my dad could tolerate — so hip-hop provided the blue-collar music for my generation. A reason to keep going. Granted, I was eight and the only blue collar I had was attached to a Billabong rashie, but I digress.

Turns out, Australian hip-hop is only as old as my parents; bread and butter was all it had. In 1983, The Average Aussie Band released the song Aussie Rap, an aptly-named parody song that was made before the genre had a chance to prove itself. Sung by an ocker, the track has everything you’d expect: shit singing, sexist remarks, and the didgeridoo being played over burping sound effects. The Aussie larrikin, complete with its half-assed and negligent attitude, was in full effect.

But rap music wasn’t the first case of hip-hop culture in Australia. Indigenous artists like Munkimuk would begin their careers in breakdancing in the early 80s. Melbourne and Sydney would curate some of the finest graffiti and b-boy scenes the decade had been witness to. Groups like Just Us and Sound Unlimited would begin to make music during this time as well, with Munkimuk launching his rap career in 1988, later forming the legendary hip-hop group, South West Syndicate.

Despite this, the attitudes that gave your Slim Dusty’s recognition would persist through to the early 2000s, where we saw the likes of rappers such as 1200 Techniques, 360, Drapht, and, of course, Hilltop Hoods. Thus began a steady cultural decline. No matter what you think of it today, it was a time where rap became hollow and anthemic, Advance Australia Fair with a drum sample. However, rap becoming an exercise in glorifying colonisation wasn’t due to the artists themselves, but rather, the voices who amplified them.

Various radio hosts, celebrities, and television shows would not only put these new voices in the spotlight, they’d belittle the rest. Fitzy and Wippa have their segment, ‘Rap Battles’, which is nothing but a bland facsimile of 1983’s Aussie Rap, except now the joke is less funny than it was 40 years ago. In 2009, the show Hey, Hey, It’s Saturday would host a six-piece act, all of whom were in black face. And Chris Lilley would repost an old music video titled Squashed N****, performing as the S. Mouse character, only days after Elijah Doughty’s murderer was cleared of manslaughter.

The heads of entertainment, these at-the-time cultural arbiters, negated an entire form of art, and exploited it for financial and socio-political gain. Aussie rap now had at least one parameter to follow: be white, in every sense of the word.

But with artists like Baker Boy, The Kid LAROI, and Genesis Owusu, that’s starting to change. Now that hip-hop has overturned rock music in global popularity, people are finally starting to do something new with the artform, so why aren’t we listening?

I’ve met very few people that listen to Australian rap music. I’ve heard people say that it’s imitative, music that feels forced, has none of its own culture. Now, we have true artists that put their hardships on repeat. Artists like JK-47, who have the ability to turn Tupac songs into Australian classics, or Wombat, one of the most creative lyricists spitting some of the most raw and personal shit about addiction I’ve ever heard. People like Lisi, Kwame, No Money Enterprise, Jesswar, MUNGMUNG, Sidney Phillips, all of whom are bringing something new to the table. Why are we still seen as a country with no cultural capital?

Now, he’s not a music guy, but I think writer David Burton said it better than I ever could:

“Everyone gets insecure about their hometown. Patriotism can be garish and unbecoming. Far better to roll your eyes in superiority and get out of dodge.

One thing I never realised about Australia is how sensitive we truly are as a country. Every “true blue” Aussie I’ve come to know blankets their insecurities in layers of apathy. People that acknowledge the undying racism in this country still treat Australian hip-hop as a joke, because it’s more fun to look from afar and laugh at the accent.

If you don’t like Hilltop Hoods, or Baker Boy, or any of the artists I’ve mentioned above, that’s totally fine. But Aussie rap, in all its forms, is a very precious thing to me. As a kid, it gave me the ability to appreciate the land I was on, the dirt in between my toes. It’s the music that will always be close to home. The music that tells you to keep working for more than yourself, to keep going. The music to be proud of.


Bea’s Soapbox – The Burbs by Aztec Flow (feat. Chief Maez)

This one took me by surprise. This article, ironically, had me tongue-tied for quite a while, which is why it took forever to get out. I’d like to bring Kish Lal’s work into the limelight, as I used quite a few of her articles for additional research. Her work made me realise that there’s so much more to talk about in this field, and I can’t wait to write about it.

But I digress. If you, for some reason, don’t want to listen to any of the artists listed above (which is ludicrous, by the way), then at least listen to this. I’ll be surprised if this isn’t my number one song of the year. From Mexican-Australian producer, Aztec Flow, The Burbs is the epitome of good hip-hop that doesn’t need to reference Vegemite in order for it to be Australian.

Catch us next month for the latest topic: A Deep Dive Into Australian Children’s Music

Same Chat-Time, Same Chat-Channel

Bea is just a silly lil fella. They write a lot about what they see, and the things that happen to them, because they still haven’t figured out a way to put their thoughts into verbal constructs. They think they’re cool, so let them indulge in that fact. You can find their work in many places, or you could harass them on Instagram @_rad_boi_

Bea Warren
Bea Warren
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