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9 Artists From the Australian Rap Underground You Should Know

From boundary-pushing sounds to cult followings and online communities, here are 9 artists who are carving out unique lanes, new sounds and underground audiences within the Australian scene.

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Australia’s hip-hop scene has grown exponentially over the last few years. The emergence of superstars like OneFour, The Kid LAROI and HP Boyz has shone a bright light on what’s going on around Australia, and it’s seen the scene shift and morph. When titans of a music scene make it on a global level, it starts to shine a light on those that are making waves in the underground. Fans of OneFour/HP Boyz are likely to fall in love with acts like New Wave and RealDealSkeng, while fans of The Kid LAROI will want to check out SAHXL.

Look even deeper, though, and you’ll start to see the green shoots of the underground poke through. Scenes like the Australian SoundCloud rap scene are in their infancy, relative to their overseas counterparts, but communities are already starting to form around the music these artists are making. Speaking to Rude Baby Records founder Gabby Bortolot about the Australian SoundCloud rap scene, a scattered yet exciting movement, she highlights the community that forms whenever these artists play a live show. “Because rap shows are often few and far between, it’s those fans that go the hardest,” she says. 

“They’re the people buying tickets weeks before the show, rocking up soon on doors, being vocal at the front of the crowd, moshing, etc. They’re so awesome, and definitely, a huge reason why Rude Baby has such a strong community.” Sydney MC Scan, who’s a close friend of the Rude Baby Records community, echoes this idea of showing up to celebrate when it matters most. Shouting out Rude Baby Records, he says, “[Rude Baby] took me from just doing shit on the internet to putting on shows. All I want is for people to enjoy my music and have fun so it lets me have fun with them and I really love performing.” 

Throughout our conversation, Scan urges fans to tap into what’s going on online – especially on SoundCloud. Pockets like the SoundCloud rap scene are popping up across the country, both in person and online, and it’s creating a snowball effect. Artists that are challenging the norms are increasingly finding their audiences, which encourages people to make the jump from being a fan to being an artist. It’s exciting to think where the scene is going to be in a few years, because there are more artists than ever pushing the sonics of what is considered Australian rap forward. 

However, not every Australian artist pops off in Australia first. YNG Martyr found an Australian audience after he was already a global underground star, following the success of tracks like the viral ‘Nike Ticks’. Reflecting on his trajectory, he says, “I think I did things in reverse.I became an international artist before I ever had any success in Australia. As the years have rolled on though, I feel that we have broken the mould of what Australian rap music “is”, and we have opened the gates to so many different subgenres of it. I’ve started to land festival slots, and feel accepted in my home country, which is something I genuinely didn’t think would happen.” 

In the last 12 months, though, YNG Martyr’s been a steady presence on the Australian festival circuit, and Australian audiences have fully embraced him off the back of tracks like ‘WAIT’ with Logan M, ‘Overthinking’ and ‘Love Boy’. He’s passionate about the Australian rap scene’s trajectory and says variety is the scene’s biggest strength. “Australia has a crazy underground scene, and the main strength I think is that we tamper with a lot of different sounds,” he explains. ”That’s our biggest strength, we have hella artists from every genre, who all come through with a different flavour, and different definitions of these pre-existing genres. The scene here takes notice of what is happening in other countries, but always adds their own sauce. I compare it to how the UK Drill scene took note of people like [Chief] Keef, and created their own genre out of that. I love that about us.”

If you’re looking to dive deeper into the world of Australian rap, then it’s worth tapping into what’s going on in the Australian rap underground, as it’s a swirling world that is as exciting and chaotic as anything that’s happening in Australia at the moment. Like Scan, you might want to trust the SoundCloud algorithm – he says he will “always rave on about the autonomy of SoundCloud and the quality of the algorithm” – or you could listen to us! We’ve put together 9 artists from Australia’s rap underground that you should have on your radar, from a number of sub-genres and sounds. Grab some headphones and take a crash course in the weird and wonderful world of Australian rap.

Check out the full list below and get these 9 artists on your radar!

01. Hamza

Every time South Western Sydney rapper Hamza jumps on a track, it feels like he’s distilled his struggles into tightly-packed rhyme schemes that build out whole worlds in just a few syllables. To hear Hamza rap is to hear his mind tick over; and his brain is running at a mile a minute. Thankfully, he slows his thoughts down just long enough for you to keep up.

His 2021 EP Conference Of The Birds is one of Australia’s most underrated and underappreciated projects in recent memory, while 2022 saw him drop the menacing ‘Cloud 9’ and link up with Dxvndre and SOLLYY on ‘The Re-Up’. The joy of a Hamza song is found in the smallest details: on ‘Section 10’ he describes checking Waze for shaitan (a term used to describe evil spirits in Islam, and in this case used to describe police), while he says he’s the “Bradman with this rap shit” on ‘Grub’, which isn’t too far off the mark. 

Standout song: ‘Grub’

Follow Hamza here for more.
Image c/o Hamza (IG)

02. Isaac Puerile

It took a moment for Western Sydney’s Isaac Puerile’s music to click, before I suddenly found myself driving around the car park of my local Woolies yelling the lyrics to ‘Strongboy’ at the top of my lungs. Isaac’s 2022 EP i hate you too is somewhat of an anomaly in the world of Australian rap. It’s more vulnerable than many of his peers might allow themselves to be, but it’s endearing. At the end of the day, we’re all flawed, but a lot of people try to fight it. Isaac embraces it. 

He’s able to seamlessly switch between a laidback flow and a bewitching croon, all the while weaving together elements of hyperpop, surf rock and hip-hop that make his music feel immediate and current. November’s ‘SODA’ is as much a Jersey club hit as it is a hip-hop song, but it’s also arguably the strongest vocal performance of Isaac’s to date. Producers Oh Boy and Tanssi let him get sexy with it, and the result is a track with almost-infinite replay value. 

Standout song: ‘SODA’

Image c/o Isaac Puerile

03. Bayang (Tha Bushranger)

Western Sydney artist Bayang (Tha Bushranger)’s 2022 single ‘Ngl’ is the antithesis of “BBQ rap”. Imagine showing this track to Pez and 360 when they were writing ‘The Festival Song’? Their heads might have exploded. A collaboration with producer Kuya Neil, who’s just released the collaborative project Stressor with Teether, ‘Ngl’ is music that closes the night at the coolest club that’s ever denied you entry. Bayang’s fuzzed-out bars are hair-raising, and the beat activates the dopamine receptors that you didn’t know you had. Free Palestine. Free Britney. Free South West Sydney. 

Bayang’s just turned on the flamethrower for 2023, teaming up with 1300 producer Nerdie for a double A-side, ‘Dexamphetamine and ‘Ghola’. ‘Dexamphetamine’ harangues the listener into paying attention, as the urgent, post-punk-indebted song calls to mind bands like Gold Class and Royal Headache, one of Australia’s finest-ever outfits. ‘Ghola’ extends on the sounds of ‘Dexamphetamine’, as Bayang delivers incantations from another realm while Nerdie fires off drums like fireworks in the night sky. Give it a spin.

Standout song: ‘Ngl’

Image c/o Ladstreet

04. Scan

One of the fully-fledged members of Funny Gang, Sydney MC Scan’s music straddles the line between the abstract and the insightful. Sandwiched between bars about Tim Cahill and Scott Pendlebury are nuggets of wisdom that speak to the human experience. On the glittering ‘Spend Something’ Scan reminds listeners that “If you ain’t willing to work for this shit/You never making it/You pay for your mistakes in life/By now I’ve paid it”. If Scan had said this 1000 years ago, would he be considered one of history’s most decorated philosophers? You be the judge.

He’s often accompanied by Perth producer SUS1ER, with the pair working together on the yet-to-be-released album Trying To Be Better. He also credits Melbourne’s WALKERRr with helping to shape his sound, as well as teaching him how to use Ableton. Produce a beat for someone in Ableton and they’ll rap for a day, teach someone to use Ableton and they’ll rap for a lifetime. In a fair and just world, ‘RIVER STYX’ might have won the Hottest 100 last year – part cloud rap epiphany, part club anthem, the track feels ripped straight from another dimension. If they ever hold a vote for what song should replace ‘Advance Australia Fair’, I am putting this forward.

Standout song: ‘RIVER STYX’

Follow Scan here for more.
Image c/o Scan (IG)

05. Zheani

Putting Zheani on this list might seem  slightly out of place — on YouTube, her numbers compare favourably to almost any other rapper in Australia. However, save for some visionaries like touring company WavyLand, who put on Zheani’s 2022 Australian tour, Zheani’s music has found a far bigger audience overseas than here in Australia, thanks to her impressive work ethic, high quality output and online omniprescence. Satanic one moment, angelic the next, every release is an aural exorcism where both listener and artist attempt to get rid of their demons. 

Zheani’s music scratches the part of the brain that often lays dormant. Listen to her 2022 album, I HATE PEOPLE ON THE INTERNET (surely she’s not referring to us), and you’ll understand about 10 seconds into the opening track ‘Napalm’. It’s not often that a song’s name is so apt.

Standout track: ‘Designer Sadness’

Follow Zheani here for more.
Image c/o Zheani (IG)

06. Chef Chung

Melbourne’s Chef Chung has a solitary project on Spotify – 2021’s BALANCE. His stream-of-consciousness rhymes on tracks like ‘jousan, pt. II’ feels revelatory, while ‘holy water’ is soulful in the truest sense of the word. BALANCE sounds timeless – there’s nothing tying it to the year 2021 – but don’t mistake that for sounding dated or aged. However, for those that only visit Chef Chung’s Spotify, confusion might emerge: why hasn’t he released more music? 

A visit to his SoundCloud, though, opens up a whole new world. The 16-track BETWEEN THE LILLIES features the likes of Teether, 3K, brickbaby and MAMMOTH., but here, Chef Chung reigns supreme. Much like BALANCE, BETWEEN THE LILLIES tugs on strands of boom-bap, but the focus is Chef Chung’s flow. There’s no hint of a facade, no pretence or attempt to obfuscate his past, present and future. What you hear is what you get from Chef Chung, so grab a pen and start taking notes. 

Standout track: ‘holy water’

Follow Chef Chung here for more.
Image c/o Snack.y 

07. Cherry Chola

Melbourne’s Cherry Chola made a splash in 2022, releasing the hypnotic EP exótica. Rapping in both English and Spanish, exótica is intoxicating, and Cherry Chola is the type of artist that could end 2023 as a bonafide headliner. If you’re a fan of ROSALÍA, then we implore you to listen to Cherry Chola. On the surface, the EP’s production sounds like there is a tinge of polished, almost bubblegum pop-esque within them – but Cherry’s flow is more in line with a marching band leader.

EP standout ‘XO’ insists on drawing your attention; much like the rest of the EP, it imbues you with a sense of almost-otherworldly confidence that will carry you through the rest of your week. The coolest friend you have is listening to Cherry Chola, and what a coincidence – that’s us!

Standout song: ‘XO’

Follow Cherry Chola here for more.
Image c/o Sim Kuar

08. Cult Shøtta

Listening to Western Sydney rap duo Cult Shøtta for the first time is an experience that mimics what it must be like to get struck by lightning. E11even and lil golo frequently drop hyperactive singles that mimic the peak of the best (or worst) night of your life, with the pair endlessly amping up each other. The pair also frequently collaborate with New Zealand-based MC tanboymiguel, and their track ‘mr brightsid3’, which samples a song by The Killers (you can probably guess which one), is both mesmerising and full of melancholy. E11even is one of Australia’s most captivating MCs, lamenting on the track that “jealousy turned my brother into a snake” while Lil Golo could transform a library into a nightclub, such is his charisma. 

Cult Shøtta are comparatively veterans of the Australian hip-hop scene by now, and they’ve worked with the likes of Manu Crooks (‘Planned Out 2.0’), Babyface Mal (‘Levellin Up With Felons’) and Creed The Kid (‘Moana’). Cult Shøtta’s overseas equivalents, the Bad Boy Chiller Crew, have become beloved staples of the UK rap crew, and it is baffling that festivals aren’t turning to Cult Shøtta to get the party started during those early afternoon slots. Your move, festival bookers of Australia.

Standout track: lil golo & cult shϕtta – 250

Follow Cult Shotta here for more.
Image c/o Sim Kaur

09. KVKA

KVKA’s been around for a hot minute. Born in Zambia, before living in New Zealand and now Melbourne, his first track, ‘WHO YOU’, caught fire when he was just 16 thanks to his guttural, impassioned delivery. There is no doubt that KVKA’s got that dog in him (to borrow a phrase), and subsequent singles like 2019’s ‘CALLHER ID’ alongside STUSS, 2020’s ‘No Lackin’ and the 2021 EP Cupid Revenge confirm this. KVKA’s bark might be ferocious, but don’t mistake him for a one-trick-pony – he can glide on a beat when he needs to.

Following the release of Cupid’s Revenge, KVKA took a step back from releasing, hitting the studio to grind. He returned at the end of 2022, releasing a double single as part of Test Press 1, which was soon followed by Test Press 2’s ‘I Feel Gassed’ and ‘Scrape The Pot’. Listening to Test Press 2 evokes a similar emotion to what I feel when I watch a Big Manny video: Big Manny uses his knowledge to set off a chemical reaction that usually results in a bang, and I feel at peace. KVKA’s flow causes a similarly sized explosion out of your favourite speaker system.

Standout track: ‘Scrape The Pot’

Follow KVKA here for more.
Image c/o KVKA (IG)