There’s no question that Australia and New Zealand have been experiencing a rap renaissance of late. In the last year or two, countless new artists have appeared from all over both nations, with diverse backgrounds and refreshing approaches to hip-hop. Areas like Western Sydney, Ipswitch and Auckland have become cultural hubs for a new generation of rappers who wear their diversity with pride and are reinventing the sound of Australian and New Zealand Hip-Hop.
In the midst of a global pandemic, we’re reminded that some of the most exciting new music is coming out of our own backyard. With that in mind, we spent some time getting to know three of the women who are taking local hip-hop to the next level; Auckland’s JessB, Perth’s Hoodzy and Ipswich spitter Unamii.
See the list below for interviews with all three artists.
What’s your first music-related memory? My mum used to take me to this kids class called “music and movement” where all the lil toddlers used to get down and bump to some fire toddler tracks. I have some really early memories of absolutely loving that [laughs].
How did you first get into rapping and who were some of the artists that inspired you to try it? I first got into rapping by remembering every single word to songs that I loved—literally every single word, every single adlib, not one missed. That eventually turned into making my own stuff for and about my friends in school. I also used to hang out with a group of guys who freestyled at house parties. They used to gas me up, so I started thinking maybe I was kind of alright. The artists that inspired me the most were probably Missy Elliot and Lil Wayne.
Who are some creative women/GNC people that inspire you and why? Oh my god, where to start? I am inspired by so many women and GNC people. I feel very lucky to be inspired by the people around me, who they are and what they stand for. So many friends that I have met since starting my music journey have inspired my own growth in so many ways. I guess it’s been a mutual thing and we have watched each other grow and deepen our connections to who we are and what we are alive for. To name a few shout out to my darlings Hana, Ngaumu, Stephany, Maka, Shajal, Shaquille. I am blessed to have them in my life!
There are too many to name in all honesty. Existing and resisting and making waves is something that I am inspired by, and something that so many WOC and GNC people that I follow do every single day. We are amazing!
Who are some local artists you’re into lately? Local NZ artists I am into include Benee, Church & AP, Paige, Raiza Biza, Abdul Kay, Mo Muse, Blaze the Emperor, Indyah, Omni Potent, Polly Hil and so many more. There’s so much local music I love at the moment. Aussie artists I am into are Kwame, Tkay Maidza, Jerome Farrah, G Flip, Arno Faraji, Jordan Dennis, Hoodzy, Kaiit, Genesis Owusu. So much quality around at the moment it’s hard to narrow it down!
What do you think about the current climate of Aus/NZ hip-hop? As you can see my lists above, it’s super exciting. I’m stoked to be a part of the new era. The only thing it needs is more girls to the forefront and more international exposure I think.
You recently put out ‘Pon It’ Could you talk us through how that song came together? I was over in Europe last year and I had an opportunity to go to Amsterdam for 3 days and work with a couple of producers out there. I had the best time, and generally loved the sound they were creating over there. It’s like this cool mashup of dancehall, reggaeton, EDM and hip-hop. It was right up my alley so I smashed out several tracks a day. This was one of the tracks that came from it.
What’s the most memorable experience you’ve had on tour so far? Playing one of the headline slots at an NZ festival called Splore. I was there 3 years ago with a group of my friends and watched the same time slot on the Saturday night. I remember being so in awe of the idea of being up on a stage that size, and at that festival, so it was a particularly special moment to get the chance this year.
What is one hip-hop ‘trend’ that you’d like to see disappear? I wanna see the black kids who are out here creating dope content on TikTok to hip-hop songs, to get the same fame and props as all the Sallys who end up famous by jumping on the trend!
What are you excited to do once COVID restrictions die down? Hug my homies.
Where’s your favourite spot to hang out in your city? Wherever the good company is. Late-night catch me at this rooftop bar called Seven, even later night might catch me at New Flavour or Spicy House getting a feed.
What have you been listening to/binge-watching/reading lately? The Last Dance doco about Michael Jordan has been my favourite for the last few weeks.
What’s one thing you want to achieve in the next year? I would love to be even more established than I am now, particularly internationally. I have been spending more and more time in Australia this last year, and connecting with people. I would love to build enough of a fanbase over in Australia and be able to do headline tours, play on some of the big festivals, and continue to spread even further globally.
What’s your first music-related memory? My first real music-related memory would have to be sitting down with my brother and learning Biggie Smalls’ ‘Juicy’ lyrics until we got it word for word.
How did you first get into rapping and who were some of the artists that inspired you to try it? I got into rapping because I just loved hip-hop in general. There was never a day where I didn’t listen to it or even think about it but one of the main artists that inspired me to rap was Azealia Banks. Her track ‘212’ definitely influenced me a lot.
Who are some creative women/GNC people that inspire you and why? I would have to say my homegirl Hyclass. When I first moved to Perth she took me under her wing straight away and welcomed me into the Perth music scene. She’s also one of the dopest female rappers I’ve come across.
Who are some local artists you’re into lately? Definitely bumping a lot of Jaecy’s tracks lately. One of his latest tracks ‘WHAT’S GOOD’ slaps hard.
What do you think about the current climate of Aus/NZ hip-hop? It’s mad to see so many artists coming up, you can really start to recognise a shift in the culture but I would love to see more originality and support from other local artists.
You recently put out ‘Hardcase’ Could you talk us through how that song came together? Originally ‘Hardcase’ was just some throw-away bars that we decided to lay down. Producer Solo worked his magic and whipped up the beat and we worked on it from there.
What’s the most memorable experience you’ve had with music so far? Definitely performing at Mardi Gras Fair Day. From attending the year before to support to being asked to perform was insane for me.
What is one hip-hop ‘trend’ that you’d like to see disappear? Flares.
When you’re not making music, what would we catch you doing? If we’re being honest, probably making TikToks or learning how to bake from watching TikToks.
What are you excited to do once COVID restrictions die down? Be back in the studio again.
Where’s your favourite spot to hang out in your city? Northbridge hands down, and if you’re down for food as much as I am, Old Shanghai in Northbridge is the place to be.
What have you been listening to/binge-watching/reading lately? Definitely been watching way too many Mukbangs, it kinda slaps though. As for music I’ve had Burna Boy on repeat.
What’s one thing you want to achieve in the next year? I’d hope to inspire other young up-and-coming artists, especially female artists, to not be afraid to just go for it and back themselves.
What’s your first music-related memory? My first music-related memory was at the age of 6 when my dad played Lil Wayne’s ‘Make It Rain’ in the car on my way home from school. I definitely fell in love with music from then on.
How did you first get into rapping and who were some of the artists that inspired you to try it? I got into rapping at the age of 12. I would come home from school and listen to YouTube beats and write in my little notepad. It was my little secret, I would hide it from everybody. Nicki Minaj, Lil Wayne, and Lil Kim are some artists who made me believe I could do this.
Who are some creative women/GNC people that inspire you and why? A woman who inspires me creatively would definitely be Beyoncé. She gives you more than music. Her shows and the way she goes about releasing her content is done with so much attention to detail and intent and is always in a crazy, out of this world way that still stays true to who she is as an artist. I want to be a female rapper, yes, but I want to be one that takes it to new heights creatively every chance I get.
Who are some local artists you’re into lately? I’m definitely into Swish Music’s unreleased tracks, they are always on repeat. Bently, Eco$ystem, Kaethegoat, Biggie are also some local artists I definitely have my ear to.
What do you think about the current climate of Aus/NZ hip-hop? I think it’s progressing in its own unique way. We are starting to see people from different cultural backgrounds in the rap scene with all different sounds. I think the way it is evolving is gonna be something to talk about in 10 years.
You recently put out the ‘Showtime Remix’ with your crew Swish Music. Could you talk us through how that song came together? The label had initially loved the song and wanted to remix it with an AU hip-hop sound. I heard the song the same day we recorded the video and the features for sure did not disappoint.
Who would you love to get on a track with? The people right now I would love to work with are Big Mali, Flo Milli, Mulatto, KentheMan, IvorianDoll and TeeZandos. All upcoming female rappers with fire music!
When you’re not making music, what would we catch you doing? Most definitely by a pool with cocktails and good food or with the Swish Music family all at the house having a good time.
What are you excited to do once COVID restrictions die down? Most definitely water activities. Jet skiing, beach trips, and surfing to name a few.
What have you been listening to/binge-watching/reading lately? Since quarantine, shows have become my best friend. Wentworth, Narcos Mexico and Money Heist have been seeing me a bit too much.
What’s one thing you want to achieve in the next year To finish my degree as well push myself continuously and consistently to get to a big level in the music industry.