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More stories from the ever-evolving world of Australian hip-hop

Part 2 provides some interestingly alternative views from Kaylah Truth, Netti, and Jesswar

Posted by Kish Lal

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Last week I introduced an article that meant a lot to me but even more so to the people I interviewed. I spoke to the most underrepresented voices – black women and non-binary folk – about an issue that rarely gets spoken about: white hip-hop culture in Australia. The general consensus was that it was a discussion that needed to happen, elevating these voices at this time caught the attention of many, but not all of that attention was good. Many people took offence to their measured answers, questioning their validity and their ownership of hip-hop.

Here is the second and final instalment, where I spoke with Kaylah Truth, Netti, and Jesswar. All of these artists are incredible and their words should be considered just as they did when they spoke with me.

Kish Lal is a contributor for ACCLAIM. She’s a lady on the streets and lacks impulse control in the tweets. Don’t @ her – @kish_lal

01. Kaylah Truth

I’ve come across Kaylah Truth’s name many times, often described as an OG and a respected pillar of the Australian hip-hop scene. The Gurang and Ngugi rapper, unfazed by the question about a scene she has come to find a place in, told me about how it inspires her.

“Ah, the talk about the Australian hip-hop scene being predominantly white arises again. The hip-hop scene may very well be white but that would be because Australia as a country is predominantly white. But, as [it] becomes more multicultural the scene continues to grow and reflect the diversity that is continuously expanding within our country. I know that some of my friends and [peers] will have a different experience to me but I would be lying if I said that I feel that doors have been shut in my face because I am a black woman. I may not be where I want to be in the industry yet but my truth is that I haven’t always focused my energy 100% on the music so I take responsibility for the outcome of that. Yes, racism exists. Yes, ignorance exists. Yes, I do experience or witness these things from time to time. In fact, these things tend to inspire me to create more. I will continue to make music and I endeavour to improve the quality of that along with my dedication and motivation to the many sides that make up the business. When I do that, I will be where I want to be. And, I will have something different to offer because I am a woman of colour in Australia.”

02. Jesswar

Young Fijian rapper Jesswar is making moves at the age of 20. Her music is a push forward, bouncing off electronic beats with stinging bars. Tired of being limited by labels her plan is to look to the future where black woman are on top and the banality of a white dominated hip-hop industry ceases to exist. 

“First of all I don’t really vibe with the word WOC to begin with, it’s like another barrier. You’re a female, you’re gay, and you’re black. I feel like defining myself by all of those terms is limiting. At the end of the day I’m a hip-hop artist. Australian hip-hop is associated with white dudes so it’s probably the furthest from what first enticed me into the movement. Hip-hop is based on revolution and the oppressed uprising. Rap is rhythm and poetry that’s what it stands for [and] I feel to make strong hip-hop you have to have experienced the struggle.

Growing up in Australia being Fijian I was more often than not the only black person in the room. They made it very clear I was different and not part of the group, that is what pushes you to become more savage and thick-skinned. Australia is a racist country, no doubt about it, so of course this is going to be reflected in hip-hop there are talented Indigenous rappers like D.C.P, MC Triks, and Native Bones that should be at the top in the public eye for their raw talent and power on the mic but they aren’t because they’re political. This industry is definitely dominated by men but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t women doing it and doing it fuckin’ well.

An immediate example of the scene changing was the show I played [with], Kaylah Truth and Miss Blanks supporting Lady Leshurr. The fact that two proud black queer women and a proud black trans woman were the representatives for Brisbane hip-hop shows me that things are evolving. I think the tables are turning really quickly and a lot of men who were at their peak when I first started aren’t around anymore. I think we can discuss the scene of white bros running the show but at the end of the day black MCs, hip-hop artists, and DJs are finding each other and quickly. Events are changing, the sound is changing and this year in hip-hop my prediction is the future will be black women on top!”

03. Netti

Melbourne local Netti is a natural with word play and the cadence of her voice transports to you back to somewhere between the ’90s and 2002. When I spoke with her about the industry she seemed hopeful and as a close friend of the AUD’$ crew she sees change happening all around her. 

“To me, traditionally the scene has been very white. I will say that it has most definitely grown and evolved with a majority of [new] artists from culturally diverse backgrounds. AUD’$ is a really dope [radio] show that has been started by my homie Junor. Over 70% of the artists played are from culturally diverse backgrounds; Midas.Gold that made Spotify’s ‘Most Necessary’ playlist, Big Skeez, Kash Kal, and Nico Ghost. As a woman, I don’t feel so left out anymore [because] the scene is becoming more inclusive, diverse, and accepting. We have people of all races, faiths, sexualities becoming more involved and making a big difference in our scene for the better. People are embracing uniqueness and taking a second look at what’s really out there and what I love about it is all the respect that is being [given to] one another.”

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