Hip-Hop In Australia: 10 Great, Inspiring Things That Happened In 2018
With special guest writer, Hau Latukefu.
Music 12m

Words by Christopher Kevin Au & Hau Latukefu //

To say that 2018 was massive would be a gross understatement.

Exactly 12 months ago, I hit Hau Latukefu on Facebook Messenger – we weren’t on a phone number basis back then – and asked if he would like to work on a list of 10 great, inspiring things that happened in hip-hop locally in 2017. We did the article, sat back and thought to ourselves, “Shit, that was a pretty huge year!”

Coming into 2018, we knew that things would be heating up on the hip-hop front, but some of the advancements in the scene have been unprecedented and unbelievable. Old, new, underground, mainstream; from abrasive rap to more soulful sounds and everything in between, hip-hop has really taken off around the country. It only seemed right to call upon Hau once more – he’s currently on holidays, but still managed to squeeze in some writing time in between his piña coladas – and compile another edition summarising a truly great 2018.

Read it all below, and bring on next year:

THE UNDERGROUND BRANCHES OUT

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_FqrJMaozes

While people often think of Australian underground rap as its own seperate entity, this year saw some artists branch out from their guttural roots and grab the country by the throat. ChillinIt came sprinting out of the gates with his album Women, Weed & Wordplay, accumulating millions of streams in a matter of weeks and earning playlist attention on Apple Music. He further joined Thundamentals onstage in Sydney, collaborated with Canberra crooner Turquoise Prince, and featured Adrian Eagle in his video for ‘Wish You Well Pt. 2’ – proving that the underground can co-exist gleefully with Australian artists outside of their immediate sphere.

Sydney’s own motley crew Triple One also got their singles ‘Tarlo’ and ‘Showoff’ on high rotation on triple j, leading to a debut festival slot at Listen Out, and they’ll tackle all four dates of Falls Festival later this month. Both of the aforementioned artists appeared on the Get Bodied festival lineups which brought underground rappers to sizeable, sold-out shows in Sydney, Brisbane & Perth throughout 2018. There’s more attention being thrust on hip-hop with a more brash aesthetic, and the industry at large is being forced to take notice, whether they like it or not.

Christopher Kevin Au

BLACK EXCELLENCE

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T-rDeG-Kkh0

2018 may well be the best year we were blessed with so many Indigenous hip-hop artists. Baker Boy continued his strong run of performances nationwide. We saw the 15-year-old king, The Kid Laroi, create one hell of a buzz by performing to over 20,000 punters at One Night Stand. Kobie Dee out of South Sydney popped his head out, and made people realise he was one to watch for in the future.

The talents of Lady Lash, Miss Hood and Dizzy Doolan combined powers to form the sisterhood, Oetha. Dobby not only showed us that he’s as good on the drums as he is on the mic, but that he’s a radio host as well. West Sydney’s Sesk returned to the forefront sounding strong as ever. Tasman Keith released his debut EP with some stunning visuals and toured it up the East Coast. Bad Apples representatives Nooky and Birdz released strong singles as well – reminding the younger generations how it’s done. Koori Rep possibly penned some of the country’s best diss records.

Jimblah teamed up with his partner, Georgia B, to form Homeward Bound and released a couple of singles. Perth’s Ziggy Ramo just wrapped up a tour with Thundamentals, Sky’High and Last Kinection returned to the stage for Elefant Traks’ 20th anniversary celebrations, Indigenoise released their debut through iconic label, Hydrofunk records. Shout out to Izzy, shout out to Ms.She, shout out to all those I may have missed, shout out to those still coming through and shout out to Kaylah Truth – I hope to see you cause a storm in 2019!

Hau Latukefu

THE UK CONNECT

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EgyONhtleyg

Melbourne-via-London grime pioneer Fraksha described 2018 as the genre’s biggest year down under, and the bridges between the UK and Australia are getting stronger in the process. This year, massive grime platform JDZmedia hosted raw videos from Australian emcees like Shadow, Nerve and ChillinIt, while the latter also featured Kamakaze on his aptly-titled collaboration called ‘AUS2UK.’

Internationals were also making history in Australia: Skepta became the first grime artist to headline the Concert Hall at Sydney Opera House back in September, Slimzee and Eyez played intimate club shows, and AJ Tracey & Dizzee Rascal will be hitting Australian festival stages over the new year.

A triple j cypher featuring the likes of Alex Jones, Spinner, Scotty Hinds & Talakai proves that grime is well and alive in Australia, while local nights like Fully Gassed and Extra Spicy keep the UK appreciation thorough. And we can’t forget the UK YouTube reviewer IAmChazza, who’s covered more underground Australian releases in 2018 than pretty much every local journalist combined. How does that happen?

Christopher Kevin Au

AND A BIT OF AMERICAN LOVE, TOO

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3EqfNLdNO04

Kaiit has played sold out gigs throughout the year and stole the show convincingly up at BIGSOUND in September – and she even got some Instagram love from American R&B queen Jill Scott, who reposted her track ‘OG Luv Kush Pt 2’ and described her as the musical love child of herself and Erykah Badu. It wasn’t the only piece of Stateside attention that Australians got in 2018: The Kid Laroi recently premiered his collaboration with new-age rapper Lil Skies, while Tkay Maidza’s bouncing single ‘Flexin’ is one of our favourites of the year, featuring Los Angeles’ own DUCKWRTH.

Christopher Kevin Au

THE MASTERCLASS

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dDubhAKSeB0

In November, a Masterclass panel was put together by ARIA and Apple Music to discuss ‘The New Australia’ – a title given to describe the fresh sound we are experiencing from a scene that has never been this culturally and stylistically diverse, ever. The Masterclass panel consisted of Briggs, Sampa the Great, Kwame, Christopher Kevin Au and myself, and was moderated by the Beats 1 don, Zane Lowe.

We talked history, we talked presently, we talked hopes for the future. The gesture behind putting this panel on was proof that hip-hop in this country was making the big corporations and the wider audience want to listen to our stories. It felt like the culture shift was truly starting to take shape.

Hau Latukefu

ROLLING LOUD & SHIFTING FESTIVAL LINEUPS

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mHTtYdTR_Bs

Australia has a tumultuous history with hip-hop festivals – R.I.P. Supafest and watching Fat Joe perform ‘Twinz’ at 2pm in the afternoon – but the timing couldn’t be more perfect for Rolling Loud’s expansion into Australia. In November, the world’s biggest hip-hop festival announced that it would be hitting Sydney for a one-off event, and now a date of January 27 has been locked in with a line-up including Future, Lil Uzi Vert, Playboi Carti & more. Manu Crooks was the only Australian artist to snag a spot on the bill – which makes sense, given his excellent and rambunctious live show – but let’s hope that there’s more local love from Rolling Loud in later editions.

Rolling Loud sold out in a flash, proving that the hunger for hip-hop in Australia is undeniable. Other festivals have also taken the hip-hop route: Anderson .Paak will headline Falls Festival (after playing to just over 1000 attendees in Australia as recently as 2015) while FOMO Festival (which earlier focused on big-name electronica acts) have Nicki Minaj and Rae Sremmurd leading their 2019 roster. It’s looking like a nice summer.

Christopher Kevin Au

CALL & RESPONSE

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CMvcGOOlXUA

A show consisting of only Australian and New Zealand hip hop and R&B videos? Would have been a crazy thought 10 years ago. This year? A no brainer. Not only was the music stronger, but the videos were of higher quality and were getting made at a rate consistent enough to warrant an hour-long show, each and every week.

‘Call & Response Hip-Hop’ hit our screens for the first time in November on MTV Music. Within the first five episodes, we’ve seen A.B. Original, NTER, Sampa the Great, Carmouflage Rose, Kaiit, Huskii & Lil Sknow, Phil Fresh and Mirrah – already delivering a balanced and true representation of our scene. Never has a music show catered for the local culture like this before.

Hau Latukefu

HIP-HOP TAKES OUT THE HOTTEST 100

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tvTRZJ-4EyI

Only recently did hip-hop become the most popular genre in the United States, and it feels like Australia might be heading down a similar trajectory. Back in January, it was revealed that Kendrick Lamar took out the Hottest 100 with ‘Humble’ – becoming only the second ever hip-hop song to snatch the top prize. With a record number of over 2 million votes cast in for the countdown, it’s an encouraging sign that hip-hop is making a bigger impact on the national youth broadcaster’s airwaves.

On a local level, Sydney rapper Kwame took out the triple j Unearthed prize for Artist of the Year, while he was also the most played artist of 2018 on that station – and excitingly enough, it feels like he’s only just getting started.

Christopher Kevin Au

WESTERN AUSTRALIA GOES LARGE

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=csaQ2usslUM

I remember sitting on my couch, flicking through Instagram stories, and catching footage from the One Dayers’ WAVY and Ice Cream Factory parties in Perth. It looked fucking mental to say the least: 4500-person hip-hop parties in pristine locations, featuring a mix of DJs and live acts, performing across multiple stages. When the One Dayers travel from Sydney to Perth, they certainly don’t do things by halves – and there’s certainly nothing else like it happening in Australia right now.

It’s just one part of WA’s widespread glow-up. Perth emcee Shadow has been one of the year’s best, and will continue his rise in 2019 after recently signing to Golden Era Records. Arno Faraji has proven himself to be one of the country’s most efficient young guns, and is now working alongside the tight-knit Astral People team. This time last year, Complete released ‘Jordan’ and the song has run up 2 million views throughout 2018. Monk, José Halftime, Kogz and Cortext are some of the other WA locals commanding the microphone, while DJs like Bace Kadet, L$treet and Aslan continue to champion hip-hop in their respective turfs. It might be time for a trip over there soon.

Christopher Kevin Au

… AND SO DOES WESTERN SYDNEY

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eDIx62mIQD4

Western Sydney continued its strong streak in 2018. Longstanding area ambassadors like Fortay and B Wise (who’s South-West, technically) are playing shows and dropping material consistently, while emerging acts like Nardean, HAZRD, Elijah Yo, OneFour and Mitchos Da Menace (who’s dropping his new album, Silence tomorrow) show that there is plenty of depth and diversity housed in Sydney’s west.

Red Bull’s Sydney Sounds event brought the likes of Jesswar and Turquoise Prince to Parramatta, while the Parramatta Lanes event billed everyone from Milan Ring to Dobby. Parramatta Park is being used as an outdoor venue with greater frequency with 50 Cent, Lil Wayne and Ace Hood performing there throughout 2018, and it will also play home to FOMO festival next month. Moreover, 2018 also saw the third installation of TRACKS, a Western Sydney hip-hop initiative from FBi Radio that provides mentorship and advice to aspiring artists from the area.

Christopher Kevin Au

December 20, 2018
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