HISTORY OF HIP HOP IN AUSTRALIA


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1980’s

Australian hip hop music began in the early 1980s; originally it was primarily influenced by hip hop music and culture imported via radio and television from the United States of America. However,since the 1990s,a distinctive local style has developed. Australian hip hop is an underground music scene with only a few commercial hits in the last decade. Albums and singles are released by mostly independent record labels,often owned and run by the artists themselves.In 1982, the video “Buffalo Gals”,was shown on a television music show called Sound Unlimited. The show was staged in a Manhattan basketball court and featured images of graffiti and break dancers. This left an impression on many teenagers and many started attempting the dance moves they saw on the show.
The first Hip Hop to be released by an Australian Artist in 1983

Also in 1987/1988 former punk band turned hip-hop act,”Skippy the Butcher” performed at venues around Melbourne,most notably a residence at The Razor club around the end of 1988. Following this they joined in the first tour of RUN-DMC,playing support at the Festival Hall and Metro concerts in November 1988. After recording one 5 track EP; “Full Blown Rap”  at the ABC                   

The second Australian hip hop record released was “16 Tons” / “Humber Mania Time” by Mighty Big Crime released by Virgin Records and Criteria Productions in 1987 . The single was a Beastie Boys derivative and the Melbourne based duo soon disbanded.

studios in Elsternwick,Melbourne the group disbanded. In the late 1980s, Sound Unlimited Posse became the first Australian hip hop group signed to a major record label (Sony BMG),releasing A Postcard from the Edge of the Under-side in 1992. The group initially received some criticism for their instrumental style and commercial success,particularly from other Sydney-based hip hop outfits

The third Australian hip hop release on vinyl, “Combined Talent” / “My Destiny” in 1988. Founding members include Dj Case, Mentor later joined the group, later it was re-formed with Roamz.

Down Under By Law, released in 1988, was the first ever Australian Hip Hop compilation featuring Westside Posse, Sharline, Mighty Big Crime, Swoop, Fly Girl 3, Pest-A-Side, Mike Scott & Drew Muirhead.

 

The first ever DMC Australian event wasn’t held until 1988 or 89. DMC Australia was then ran by Sydney-based promoter and DJ Joe Coneeley (a.k.a Joe 90) who ran various dance parties and went on to found the `Vibes on a summers day’tour. His Sydney DJ comp events were huge and one in particular drew 5000 punters to the Horden pavilion. The event was hosted by a young Rodney Overblow the Third, now more reasonably known as MC Rodney O. That year it was Sydney-sider Drew Muirhead who triumphed at the nationals. Drew headed to London to perform at the biggest crowd ever at the World finals, 10,000 people at the Wembley Arena where the stage was rebuilt out to resemble a huge turntable. He took to the stage in a Driza-Bone and Akubra but his man from Snowy River attire wasn’t enough to sway the judges who gave first place to Germany’s DJ David.

Joe 90 split with DMC in 1990 and it wasn’t until Chris Smith (DJ Chris Kross) took over in 1992 that the DJ comp ecommenced. That year the VIC heat took place at the Mega Bar and included some stellar names. Ransom took out first place, with DJ Kash second and Anthony Pappa in third. Ransom’s routine included the first `Beat Juggle’ in an Australian battle, but the judges at the Australian finals (including Future Entertainment head Honcho Mark James and old skool DJ Paul `Flex’ Taylor) gave the nod to NSW champ K.C (Kirren Way) who’s spectacular set included samplers, 4 decks and pyrotechnics. The live act in 1992 was Def Wish Cast.

In Melbourne  1989 we had the PARK BENCH ROYALS who released a 2-track 12″ single “One Time, Live/I Hate Hi-nrg”. Although ironically, NEMO, dissed house music but then ventured into esoteric Hip-House a few years later.  Adelaidian DJ, K-JAY produced this as well as being a member of the famed AKA BROTHERS, who also released a 3-track 12″ single in 89 “Coming Out Large/Poetry In Motion/Tall Poppy Sundrome”. This is when Australian Hip Hop music was truly born. It had crunchy breaks, funky scratching and the true aesthetics of Hip-Hop styles courtesy of RANSON, CHOICE CUTS and PAC. Years later in 1990 they released another 12″ single “What Is It/On the T-Cozy Tip” also on STRAIT UP records. They also took this with them when they performed at the New Music Seminar “Standing On the Verge” gig in New York in 1990.

Home Brews Volume 1 was released in 1995 on Mushroom Records and features 11 artists from Sydney, Canberra, Melbourne & Adelaide; Koolism, Mama’s Funk, Movement Electronique, Debt Crew, Voodoo Flavour, Frederick Cutter, Wicked Beat Sound System, Merma, BSK, Raised By Wolves & Groove Terminator.

1990’s

  Burwood Park in Sydney’s inner west was one of the earliest breakdancing sites in Australia, and was not without the occasional violent encounter, as represented in multicultural crew Sound Unlimited’s 1992 track ‘Tales from the westside’

In 1991 a local Sydney Rap Solo Artist, KIC,only 16 years old was signed to Sony/COLUMBIA records becoming the youngest to sign to a major label. His first debut single ‘Bring Me On’ was an instant hit in Australia and reached the top ten charts in Singapore and Hong Kong in 1994. In 1992,1992 saw the vinyl release of one of Sydney`s most hardcore truestyle B-Boy crew DEF WISH CAST and their “Mad As A Hatter” EP.
Consisting of four songs which were also on the independent label Random Records released Def Wish Cast‘s album Knights of the Underground Table. After this there were a string of independent CDs and tapes released by various artists from the Western Suburbs of Sydney,an area traditionally regarded as working class,underprivileged,and crime-ridden,with a large population of immigrant inhabitants.

In 1993, MC Que released a cassette taped titled ‘Tellin’ it like it is’ which was the first release by a female emcee in Australia.

Following its beginnings as a hip hop record store in 1995, Melbourne-based Obese Records gained a high profile as a record label.

Documentary on Sydney Hip Hop screened in November 1997. Hosted by Sereck Aka Celsius of Def Wish Cast,  it features Sleek The Elite, FWP (Just Us), Def WIsh, Rapid Fire, MC Trey, Cross Fader Raiders (DJ ASK, DJ Bonez), Dr Phibes, Brethren (Wizdom, Mistery) and many more from the Sydney scene.

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Australia’s first All-women Hip Hop comilation released in 1999 which has 14 tracks as well as poetry, spoken word, instrumentals and skits. Featuring Beats R Us, Maya Jupiter, Trey, Ebony Williams, Shorti RV, Dana Diaz & Phoenix.

After Sound Unlimited split in 1994,there was little commercial activity within Australian hip hop. However,underground artists continued to play  plenty of small live shows and release independent recordings. DJ Peril formed the 1200 Techniques in 1997.

Metabss ‘N Breath toured USA in 1997/1998 and was the first time Australian Hip Hop was ever mentioned in Billboard Magazine in 1999.

Stealth Mag was launched in 1999 by Mike Pollard and released 14 issues before ending in 2007.   “What we’re about takes many forms – from raps about BBQs, drinking beer, smoking pot and painting trains, to political and social inspections about race, class inequality and gender issues. The content of Australian hip-hop is as varied as its practitioners ” (Pollard
2003).

  2000’s

By the early 2000s,the Australian Record Industry Association began to recognise the growth of interest within Australia and then in 2004 introduced a new category in their annual awards,’Best Urban Release’ (artists working primarily within the urban genre,e.g.: R&B,hip hop,soul,funk,reggae and dancehall). The inaugural award was won by Koolism for their album,Random Thoughts.  At the 2006 and 2007 Awards it was won by Hilltop Hoods for their album The Hard Road and its orchestral remix album respectively. The Hard Road also became the first Australian Hip Hop Album to take the No. 1 position in the ARIA Charts in 2006. In 2008 the ARIA Award was won by Bliss n Eso for their album Flying Colours.

In 2001Draino from the Puah Hedz crew released the multimedia CD documenting artists active in the Australian hip
hop scene.  An accompanying website was regularly updated until 2005 when the well respected publication was closed – leading to the formation of this website by Dj Defenda.

Kool Herc was in Sydney in 2004 to witness a key moment in Australian hip hop, when Canberra duo Koolism – whose name is a direct reference to Kool Herc himself – received an ARIA (Australian Recording Industry Association) Award for their album Part 3: Random thoughts. Their award was celebrated by most of the Australian hip hop community, as it was the first major mainstream Australian music industry acknowledgment of local hip hop – albeit under the rather meaningless rubric of Best Urban Release. Koolism beat a number of mainstream R & B artists for the award, representing what had been by necessity an underground music scene for at least 15 years.

1200 Techniques released the crossover hits Hard As Hell, in 2001 and Karma in 2002 which ” charted in the Australian top 40 and won ARIA awards for “best independent release” and “best video”. The group also scored a support slot on a Linkin Park tour that year.

Australian hip hop made a name for itself in the American scenewhen in 2005MC Justice from Melbourne won thefreestyle battle in the highly coveted Scribble Jam eventThe world Jump Off rap battles also featured teams ofemcees from Melbournefeaturing Anecdotewho made it to the finals in America.

Since its inception,Australian hip hop has been very influenced by the urban African-American styles. Like many hip hop scenes outside the United States,some Australian hip hop artists were also heavily influenced by reggae as well. One artist describes his own style has having been “influenced by London reggae rap rather than North American rap,conceding the Afro-Caribbean ‘roots’ of that scene,but carefully distancing himself from charges of imitation or of subjection to a putative American cultural imperialism.”]as general Australian hip hop is more similar to American hip hop as stylish,but the diversity of American hip hop is very different than Australian. In the United States hip hop artists are predominantly black,and Latino American. Possibly due to demographic differences,this contrasts with Australian hip hop artists,a majority of whom are white or from other cultural backgrounds indicative to Australia.

In 2004, Crookneck Records released the compilation 15.OZ vinyl: 15 years of Australian hip-hop on vinyl. This compilation was mixed by DJ Ransom, a veteran from the AKA Brothers, who, in 1989, became the first Melbourne hip hop group to release a recording. According to the album’s accompanying liner notes (written by various leading Australian MCs), the first Australian hip hop release appeared in 1983. A novelty record entitled ‘The Aussie rap’ by the Average Aussie Band, it appears to have sunk without a trace. However, Sydney hip hop luminary Blaze (1994) regards the 1988 independent release ‘Combined talent’/‘My destiny’ by Just Us (available on the 15.OZ Vinyl compilation) as the first “true” Australian hip hop record.

Though not at the forefront of Australian hip hop scene,Aboriginal rappers such as Brothablack,the South West Syndicate,Local Knowledge,Lez Beckett and the Native Ryme Syndicate produce songs that address the situation of Indigenous Australians.] One of their musical influences is the American hip hop group Public Enemy. Since the early 1980s,many crews have focused on their presentation in the eyes of their competitors,portraying their skills as better and their turf as tougher.

Another performer is Munkimuk,he works around Australia on community educational hip-hop projects[ such as 1999s Desert Rap with Brothablack from South West Syndicate and Morganics,organised with Tony Collins from Triple J,of which ABC TV made a documentary.[ Munkimuk also hosts a nationally syndicated weekly radio program “Indij Hip Hop Show” produced from Koori Radio in Sydney.

In Australia,dance moves associated with hip hop,like locking and popping has been one of the main things that has drawn public interest in hip hop,and contributed to its popularity. These dance moves that make Australian hip hop so intriguing to Australians,however,has being criticized as not original and another sign of proof that Australia suffers from not having a hip hop cultural identity of its own.As a result,it is hard to pinpoint what in Australian hip hop makes the hip hop Australian.

Some say that Australian hip hop is an example of how the country has been Americanized. However others argue that Australian hip hop has been localised with the use of the Australian accent,Australian slang,political views,references to localities,dealings with the Australian cultural identity,etc. This is demonstrated in the lyrics of early Western Sydney artists such as 046,Def Wish Cast and the White Boys.

Additionally the non-Anglo immigrants of theses areas were attracted to hip hop because of it features in lyrics and content of racial opposition such as in African American hip hop. The American influence in Australian music and film has actually made its biggest impact in the 21st century with the internet. The internet has made American film,music,language and fashion popular worldwide .

In the industry this debate is a sore point with many Australian hip hop artists denying any association with American hip hop. One way of asserting their authenticity is by making clear that,for them,hip hop is not about race. This distinguishes Australian rap,the performers and enthusiasts of which are mostly white males,from U.S rap,which is very much associated with African American culture and style.

Although one cannot deny that hip hop originated in the U.S. and that U.S. hip hop has major influences on hip hop scenes around the globe,in emphasizing the lack of racial issues in Australian hip hop,Australian rappers imply that their hip hop scene developed separately from America’s and is its own entity. In the lyrics of Def Wish Cast it is “down under,comin’ up.” But,despite the absence of a racial undertone Australian hip hop shares the same sexualization found in its U.S. equivalent.

Maxwell believes that the teens of the area find it “exotic”. One problem is that Aussie hip hop does not play a large role in the grand scheme of things and many of the artists now it saying “once you leave our shores you realise how small a part we play”. This tends to create a problem for the style of Aussie music as they may not be able to create their own identity and have to follow the more traditional Western hip hop fads.

As it progressed,Australian hip hop has taken on a greater diversity with influences from New Zealand and United Kingdom,but also by developing its own unique flavour with a focus on the Aussie battler,jovial,larrikin lyrics and the heavy use of samples and sound bites.

There are,however,many instances of artists and their works that use their lyrics to analyse and discuss society,politics and how Australian suburbia interacts with the Australian culture amongst other such subjects. A theme that is becoming more and more prevalent throughout the work of various Australian MCs is that of their individual emotional struggles throughout life. Australian hip hop is now at a world standardand various artists have proven that they can equal or even exceedthe skills of the American counterparts.

Radio

Later in Melbourne radio station 106.7 3PBSFM featured the radio show Steppin’ 2 da A.M with DJ Krisy the show ran for over 5 years and featured almost the entire Australian hip hop scene including regular dj Spots by DJ Ransom,DJ FX and many more.

Also in Melbourne after Steppin 2 da A.M ended was a show called The Formula with hosts Stewbakka,Bias B and DJ FX that run for many years,when ‘The formula’ show ended the Hosts started a show at 3RRR Triple R called ‘Werdburner’ with Hosts Stewbakka and Bias B.

On 3PBSFM in Melbourne was a show called ‘Hitt’n Switches’ with Hosts Reason,Pegs,Minas,Newsense and DJ FX on the Turntables this show ran for many years and had a strong following with many Australian hip hop artists doing interviews and live to air freestyles.

3PBS Still hosts 2 hip hop show’s with ‘Rampage’ hosted by Zack covering oldshool hip hop from the beginnings of 1979 until the golden era of the late 80s and early 90s as well as ‘Hippopotamus Rex’ with Ronan that covers hip hop world wide.

Iconic Melbourne radio station Triple R featured the dedicated hip-hop program “Wordburner” for many years,replacing it in 2007 with Son Zu and Doc Felix’s program “Top Billin”. Additionally Gavan Purdy’s long running program “Can You Dig It” features a substantial hip-hop component.

Influential youth radio station Triple J introduced the Hip Hop Show,a weekly program initially hosted by Nicole Foote,then rapper Maya Jupiter and now (2008) by Hau from Koolism.

In Tasmania,Launceston station City Park Radio (7LTN) featured the weekly hip hop show Ghettoblast,which was begun in 1985 by Ben Little and continued for about 17 years,manned by a rotating crew of devotees including Large B,Kingy,DJ D-Swift,Dice,Dready,Bust One and others. Before it ceased in 2002,Ghettoblast was for many years considered the longest running hip hop show in Australia. (Brisbane’s Phat Tape has since taken over that honour). Meanwhile,in Hobart,J Robin and P Bourke had a dance music show on 7THE called Black Satin & Plastic in the mid-late 80s,which featured a lot of hip hop. In 1988,Dope DJ Double D (later DJ D-Swift),inspired by Black Satin & Plastic,started occasional midnight-to-dawn hip hop shows on 7THE,before starting the weekly Live from the Terrordome in 1989,which lasted 2–3 years.

Television

The first appearance [28] of an Australian hip hop act on Australian Television was in November 1988 when Skippy The Butcher performed live on the ABC’s “The Factory” connected to the Run DMC tour.The first Australian hip hop documentary,Basic Equipment,was made in 1996 and released in 1997. It was narrated by Paul Westgate (aka Sereck) from Def Wish Cast and examined the Sydney hip hop culture. The documentary was made by Paul Fenech (creator of SBS’ Pizza series). It featured MC Trey,Def Wish Cast,DJ Bonez,DJ Ask and more.[29]

In August,2006 the ABC program Compass showed a documentary entitled The Mistery [sic] of Hip Hop which explored the cultural movement and popularity of hip hop in Australia. The film followed one of the “founding fathers” of the Sydney Hip-Hop scene Matthew “Mistery” Peet. Mistery works full time as graffiti artist and is also emcee/rapper in the group Brethren. The 28 minute documentary looked at the “four elements of hip hop”: breakdancing,DJing,rapping,and graffiti. It featured interviews from the then host of Triple J’s hip-hop show Maya Jupiter,the other half of the group Brethren: Wizdm and DJ Kool Herc.[30]

In December,2007 ABC Television aired the documentary Words from the City,which included interviews with a number of high profile Australian hip hop artists from around the country including: Hilltop Hoods,Koolism,Downsyde,TZU,MC Layla,Bliss n Eso,MC Trey,Wire MC and Maya Jupiter.[31]

In 2004,independent film-maker Oriel Guthrie debuted her documentary Skip Hop at the Melbourne International Film Festival. The film includes live footage of freestyle battles and prominent gigs around Australia,as well as interviews with Def Wish Cast,DJ Peril,Hilltop Hoods,Koolism,Blades of Hades,Maya Jupiter,The Herd and Wicked Force Breakers.[32]

Out4Fame presents 2003 MC Battle For Supremacy was the first (documented) national MC tournament and was responsible for kick starting the careers of many MC’s across Australia. The following year MC’s were invited to enter the tournament for the chance to compete in New Zealand. MC’s who have competed in Battle For Supremacy tournaments include Weapon X,360,Anecdote,Nfa,Justice,Dragonfly,Robby Bal Boa,Kaos,Tyna,Surreal,Cyphanetics,Delta.

Oriel Guthrie also documented the 2004 and 2005 events and released them on DVDs. MC Justice went on to win the 2005 Scribble Jam MC Battle,USA. The first Australian to win the competition

Media

Australia has an illustrious history with printed publications including one of the first hip hop magazines in the world,[33] Vapors (1988),put together by Blaze (who also established the first hip hop shop in Sydney). Other notable zines include Hype (a pre-eminent graffiti magazine with a worldwide following through the late 1980s and 1990s) it was the first full colour graffiti magazine in the world,Zest,Raptanite,Arfek,Damn Kids,Artillery,Blitzkrieg,Slingshot and others. The first full colour hip hop magazine in the Southern Hemisphere was Stealth Magazine. It debuted in 1999 and has published over 14 issues since,and was distributed worldwide via Tower Records.

Following the popular Out4Fame: Battle For Supremacy tournaments,Out4Fame Magazine was launched as a free publication. Although the magazine achieved limited success within the local scene copies of the magazine soon became collectors items as the tournaments gained popularity. Out4Fame Magazine was later relaunched as Out4Fame presents ACCLAIM Magazine,later to simply become ACCLAIM Magazine which is currently distributed throughout Australia as well as in other countries including New Zealand,Singapore,the UK among others .

With Out4Fame being removed from the free publication market this created a gap for a new publication to be founded & Australia soon saw the release of the first Peak Street Magazine (Issue Zero). Peak Street Magazine has since released two further issues but have yet to put out another issue since mid-2008.


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