It’s the million-dollar question: what’s next for Australian hip-hop? Even in the last 18 months, we’ve seen some seismic shifts in the local hip-hop landscape, with new players and a new sound asserting itself.
We’re talking about new sound less informed by beers, barbeques and the beach, and more informed by a cocktail of international influences, mainlined directly from the internet. Think the warm crackle of ‘90s analogue production techniques seasoned with flavours lifted from throughout the US rap canon, from Big L to Earl Sweatshirt.
Maybe you’ve already got your SoundCloud locked on the new crop of local talent (Baro, Charlie Threads, Milwaukee Banks and a whole host more), but who are their successors?
To find out, we sat down for a coffee, and then a beer, with Brad, Carl and Pat from burgeoning Australian hip-hop community SpiralViii. They let us in on some of the key emerging acts on the horizon.
SpiralViii DJs are playing the Australian Institute of Music Melbourne Open Day on Saturday November 15.
How did you guys come together?
Pat: We all met at AIM [the Australian Institute of Music]. We took Entertainment Management together.
What can you tell us about the SpiralViii collective?
Brad: Originally the idea was to do something similar to the Boiler Room sessions, but just with hip-hop. But we refined that to start smaller first. We decided wanted to review local artists, and focus on the scene. From there, we wanted to get young MCs and young producers who people otherwise wouldn’t have known to collaborate with each other and release that song through SpiralViii.
Pat: We want to find those younger dudes who are maybe struggling to find how to get their stuff out there and what they can do to get into the industry. We want to set ourselves apart from the mainstream guys.
Brad: In a sense it’s also a mentoring thing. We know enough about the industry to be like, ‘This is how you really sell your stuff. This is who you need to talk to to get a gig.’ We have all that information between the three of us.
We felt like there was a massive gap in Australian hip-hop. I believe there was a big stigma around the main hip-hop acts. No disrespect to them whatsoever – 360, Hilltop Hoods, Bliss N Eso. They’re not over-produced, but they make heavily produced tracks. And then you’ve got these young guys in the bedroom who are playing old-school, original, samples hip-hop and no one knows about them.
Unless they’re like a Baro, or something.
Brad: Exactly, and he’s someone we’ve spoken with a few times.
Carl: That brand of hip-hop we’re really enjoying. Some of the artists who we’ve started reviewing, who we want to be part of SpiralViii as it grows, are local acts like Left Egg, Rip Krisky, Eloji.
And because a lot of rappers don’t have beats to go with it, and, vice versa, producers may not have rappers for their beats, we’re trying to establish relationships with people in the Melbourne scene. Then we’re the platform that releases that content.
Are there plans to become a formal record label?
Carl: That’s a big-picture thing. At the moment, we need to establish a reputation first, get those networks going.
We’ve only done one collaboration so far. This summer, we’re planning on organising more collaborations, and then probably premiering those collaborations with live shows that we organise.
Carl: Baro’s crew 90’s RD – Charlie Threads and all that – they’re really cool. What they’re doing is exciting, and we want to bounce on that brand.
Our brand is the kind of old-school hip-hop that Melbourne is doing through those guys. It’s not so much the electronic stuff that you hear with that new-age hip-hop. It’s a little bit more reminiscent of early-’90s Brooklyn type stuff, with an Aussie twist.
Brad: Breakbeats with those old jazz samples thrown in and funk basslines – that’s what I like.
Carl: Cafe-style hip-hop.
Brad: The first thing that opened my mind to Australian hip-hop, years ago, was Grey Ghost. And then we went to an event a few months, and for the first time saw Milwaukee Banks. And I was like, ‘I know what we’ve gotta do with this.’
Pat: We when start setting up gigs, that’s when the money side will come into it.
Carl: And that will help us with our distribution – getting amateur stuff pressed and everything would be a real dream.
So you still want to work in physical media?
Brad: We want to be the go-to people in Australian hip-hop. We want it to be like, ‘These dudes have brought up these young guys to this level.
What do you think has changed in Australia? It’s only recently that Milwaukee Banks, Baro, Remi and all those kind of guys have come out, and they’ve become really big quite quickly.
Brad: I think it’s the generation. The generations coming up with hip-hop now are young, but old enough to have known hip-hop back then. And I really think that music recycles itself.
Carl: And there are a few old-school artists still kicking around, like DOOM. The stuff he’s doing with Bishop Nehru is quite old-school, and he’s been one of the few artists who’s dodged that need to progress along with changing tastes.
Do you think that it’s a reaction to how massive that styles like trap have become?
Pat: I also think it’s to do with the broadening of hip-hop. Artists would be massive in the US, and people who wouldn’t normally listen to hip-hop [in Australia] started listening to these songs, and were like, ‘Okay this is what hip-hop can be like.’
It’s not necessarily underground East Coast–West Coast gangsta stuff that maybe our generation couldn’t attach to, and that’s started them on their journey to discover all this other stuff that they may have missed out on.
Brad: You used to have people like Lil Wayne and Nicki Minaj, Lil Jon who were just killing it, and thanks to people like A$AP, Joey Bada$$, the whole TDE crew, people started taking notice of hip-hop again.
How do you find artists?
Carl: I’ve been lucky enough to have gone to school with a few people who really like hip-hop. You’re just at parties, and someone will be like ‘Hey, you like hip-hop, right?’
Brad: And a lof of it is hours on SoundCloud.
Carl: Sometimes [Triple J’s] Unearthed, but it’s generally more miss than hit. I think it’s mainly just word of mouth, or going to gigs.
So far we’ve done one collaboration between a producer and an MC, Daixie and Left Egg. We’re hoping that the next collaboration will be with my best mate Rip Krisky.
Have you guys butted heads on much stuff?
Carl: It’s not so much butting heads, as it is different tastes. There have been a couple of tracks where it’s like, ‘This is not so much SpiralViii. This is more just something that we’d listen to.’
Do you guys have any other favourite music collectives?
Carl: My favourite would be the Diggin’ In The Crates Crew – Big L, Showbiz & A.G., Finesse and all that. That kind of old school stuff – Zulu Nation, Tribe Called Quest. Everyone on the Stones Throw label, basically.
Brad: I love my Madlib, J Dilla, DOOM. I love the TDE crew because they bring something fresh to hip-hop, and at the same time, I love old-school Eminem. I was a white kid from the suburbs; I grew up on Eminem. I can’t deny it.
Pat: Or even Gorillaz. They’re good together, but they’ve got all these separate projects like Deltron 3030.
Carl: As you can see, there’s a pretty wide range, but the common denominator is a love for old-school hip-hop.
A lot of analogue sounds.
Carl: Yeah, absolutely.
So what can we expect from a SpiralViii DJ set?
Brad: So, yeah, we’re playing AIM Open Day on the 15th. Basically, we’re going to everything we just mentioned, really. We’re not going to have a language warning or anything like that. If you don’t like it – sorry.
Pat: We’ll being playing some favourites, just because they’re recognisable. But we’ll be playing lots of local stuff, because that’s what it’s about.
Brad: It’s going to be a healthy mix of the things that influenced us to do this: what we grew up listening to and the things we’re listening to now.