by blaze

Australia is one of the largest countries on the planet, in
fact it is the largest island nation in the world. This however does
not correlate with its inhabitants. Add 3 or 4 million to the
population of New York and there you have it. Imagine a country the
size of the United States with the pop of NY scattered over it,
mostly on the eastern seaboard, with Sydney holding about 4 million
of that. Forget the inside of Australia, it`s mostly comprised of
hostile deserts. It is also part of the British commonwealth, much
like Canada, although this connection is less & less applicable each
year. Yep! just like a zillion other countries the British came here
too and almost wiped out its indigenous peoples. The Aboriginal
people share a very similar tale of the American indigenous,
although they were a far more nomadic people, so it was harder for
them to fight back against the invaders. In fact, up until the mid
60`s this country had a white Australia policy. Thankfully this shit
is history and the floodgates were opened to let in people from all
corners of the globe. The people who have migrated to Australia have
made the country a much more interesting place to be, not just in
culinary delights, but also in human experiences.

Hip-Hop culture also migrated here, but not by boat or by
plane. It came via television, cinema & radio, circa 1983/84. Like
most other countries it came in a loosely held package. Strangely
enough it manifested itself here via an Englishman`s version of New
York. Yes it was Malcolm McLarens doing, moreso it was the filmclip
to his "Buffalo Gals" track. Although the song isn`t all that, the
visuals were. We heard the sounds of, The Worlds Famous Supreme Team
scratching, the Rock Steady Crew breakdancing and . . . Dondi
piecing up a Buffalo burner. Shit was too much at once. Okay we may
have heard Grandmaster Flash & the Furious Fives "The Message" on
the radio, we may even have seen Crazy Legs & Frosty Freeze freaking
it in Flashdance at the movies for a couple of seconds or seen some
graff in Death Wish on TV, but to see all this in three minute music
clip was kinda awesome. That was when the seeds to the current
Australian Hip-Hop culture were germinated. We all started breaking,
some of us then went out bombing, others became glued to the
turntables while a select few started rhyming. If one had a
Video-recorder, one could always rewind the breaking videos to work
out the moves, if one wanted to practice graff one would run around
at night with spray paint after perusing over a copy of Subway Art,
or after watching a dubbed, dubbed, dubbed copy of Style Wars (which
was aired on New Zealand television in 84). If someone else wanted
to start deejaying, well then, they bought turntables and records
from the import dance stores and stayed at home and practiced, but
if one wanted to rhyme . . . well then.

Rhyming was the most neglected part of the four quarters of
Hip-Hop. Because all the rap that anyone had ever heard was from
African-Americans, most felt that they were the only ones who could
do it properly and sound good. The problem was in reality that
no-one had ever heard a non-American accent rapping and when they
did hear an Australian voice rapping they would turn off and prefer
to hear someone with a fake accent. This stifled the development of
rhyming in the early years, whereas breaking was everywhere, but
then it started getting out of control with the media & advertising
industry exploiting the fuck out of it. So to many b-boyin' became
just another passing fad, but to others it was more important and
they stuck with it and channeled their drive for breaking into the
world of bombing. This is what became the most prolific part of Hip-
Hop in Australia.

Every suburb seemed to have it's own bombing crew, one
didnÕt need lino or cardboard and a boom box, all one needed was a
pen. Because breaking was a physical activity not everyone could
partake in it, whereas everybody could write. And because one was
constantly writing one was also practising at the same time. Shit
became hectic and soon the major cities started changing in about
86-88, that was when it was at its peak. A day wouldn`t go by
without seeing another writer on the train in the standard uniform:
runners with fat laces, tracksuits, backpack, etc. . . . Styles were
being mastered and statewide correspondence had been initiated,
friendly battles ensued, shit was happening. Then in the late 80`s
the criminal element crept in and started to disrupt the scene.
Luckily there were those who wouldnÕt fall into that negative
lifestyle and they just kept painting for paintings sake, while
others equated the already illegal process of bombing with the
action of searching (=going into shops, popping the till and taking
the money). This fucked things up bigtime. Stealing paint is one
thing, but this non-graf addition deluded a new breed of writer into
a totally different scene. Graffiti Art/aerosol art is an artform.
End of story. It is not about being a good thief. It`s about being a
creative and original artist. Who cares if you can steal a thousand
cans of paint . . . is your piece any good?

Whoops. Flew off on a tangent there for a minute. Well let`s
get down to the musical development in Australia. The first ever
true Hip-Hop release was back in late 1988 with JUST-US and their
independently pressed "Combined Talent/My Destiny". Musically it
relied on 808 beats, 303 bassline, heaps of impressive scratching
and Aussie accents. Undoubtedly a classic and very indicative of the
sound of the western suburbs in Sydney at that time. This was
followed up a couple of years later with a 6-track EP "Voice of the
Hunted" on CENTRAL STATION RECORDS which included their popular
track "Stinging In The Rain". Unfortunately DJ CASE left for Malta
and MENTOR ventured into metal. Other vinyl releases to follow was
the very poor "Down Under By Law" compilation which was put together
by dance music producers and DJs. It was a tub of lard with no
redeeming features, although WEST SIDE POSSE`s track "Pull the
Trigger" was the closest to what we wanted.

Down in Melbourne in 1989 we had the PARK BENCH ROYALS who
released a 2-track 12" single "One Time, Live/I Hate Hi-nrg".
Strange that the rhymer, NEMO, was dissing the fuck out of house
music on the obviously titled track would then himself venture into
esoteric Hip-House a few years later. Adelaidian DJ, K-JAY produced
this as well as being a member of the famed AKA BROTHERS, who also
released a 3-track 12" single in 89 "Coming Out Large/Poetry In
Motion/Tall Poppy Sundrome". This is when Australian Hip Hop music
was truly born. It had crunchy breaks, funky scratching and the true
aesthetics of Hip-Hop styles courtesy of RANSON, CHOICE CUTS and
PAC. Years later in 1990 they released another 12" single "What Is
It/On the T-Cozy Tip" also on STRAIT UP records. They also took this
with them when they performed at the New Music Seminar "Standing On
the Verge" gig in New York in 1990. Yeah, the Americans realised
their skills before most Australian Hip-Hop fans had even heard of
them. Also released on STRAIT UP was RIZE & TARKEE`s debut single
"Let Yourself Be Yourself/Called to Add Mind". This was a gem also
and solidified the fact that Australians could hook up beats just
like anyone else. Two years later they released another single on S.
U., but this time they came with a name change. They were now to be
known as MAMAS FUNKSTIKOOLS. And boy did they drop a cool slab on
vinyl. "Funstikools Theory/Not Just Funks Theory/Rozettas Got A
Friend". In 1993 New York label TOMMY BOY included "Funstikools
Theory" on their "Planet Rap" compilation. Also floating around was
the AKA BROTHERS album which was a rough ass cassette only release.
More like a duped copy of four track completions. Essential
listening for those that underestimated their skills.

Sydney group SOUND UNLIMITED, who were signed to
multinational company SONY never received full respect from the
legions of hardcore Hip-Hop fans, because their music lacked that
one element essential to a critical audience . . . Dopeness. They
released a few singles and an LP and then changed their name to
RENEGADE FUNK TRAIN after a reshuffle behind the scenes. Blacktown
inhabitant D-MAN also released a few singles that fell off the face
of the earth, probably he went for the pop jugular and failed. He
then nobly re-appeared to disappear again with another single a few
years later.

1992 saw the vinyl release of one of Sydney`s most hardcore
truestyle B-Boy crew DEF WISH CAST and their "Mad As A Hatter" EP.
Consisting of four songs and of course a graff cover, this cemented
their cult status to wax forever. They then became the only
Australian underground act to tour all across Australia without the
aid of anybody but themselves. Then they released a 3-track tape,
which then turned up on their explosive album and medieval inspired
"Knights of the Underground Table". Unfortunately it came out on CD
and cassette only. Much to the dismay of the European audience who
heard them via Norwegian Hip Hop DJ and magazine publishing freak
(Fatcap), Tommy Tee. He became an ardent fan and played their music
on his radio show which was broadcast into several northern European
countries. The Germans also went apeshit over them and they sold a
few hundred copies there as well. They also managed to make a
videoclip for the anthemic track "A.U.S.T." which mangaged to get
played on a few nationally broadcast music video shows. They have
now changed their style from a somewhat British style to a more East
coast flavour. Currently without a label they are working on new
material for release next year.

Down to Adelaide, South Australia 1993, FINGER LICKIN GOOD
released a fairly solid 6 track EP, "Illegitimate Sons of the
Bastard Funk" which well known DJ GROOVE TERMINATOR put together
with rhymers MADCAP and QUROMYSTIX. The attractive two colour
packaging artwork came from the talented Brisbane writer HAMS. This
gave it that extra classy touch. Melbourne based ORGANIZED RHYME
PRODUCTIONS also released a somewhat curious compilation EP which
included a track each from RISING NOT RUNNING, DOO DAYZ, RHYME,
BRUDAS UNITED AS ONE and ORGANIZED RYHM themselves. Very dark and
old school sounding, which the younger audience found hard to
appreciate, although it wasnÕt an altogether satisfying release.
Sydney also saw the debut of ILLEGAL SUBSTANCE appearing out of
nowhere with mixed results on their "Back of Da Truck" CD, as well
as BLACKHAND with their dated and longtime coming tape.
Heading back to Sydney we collide with the wacky FONKE
KNOMAADS who release an EP on coloured vinyl. With song titles like
"The Hills Are Alive With the Sound of... /You Can`t Deny
Genetics/Flavourite" plus remixes, they remained an offbeat mishmash
until rhymer TEOP became a born again Christian and absolved himself
from Hip-Hop (Luckily SOUP is still producing and will soon burst
out again on wax soon.) But before TEOP bowed out they appeared on
the Jazz Funk Hip-Hop "Undertones" compilation with the track "The
Big One Drops". Also on the same LP were two tunes from The URBAN
POETS "Phat Sax" and "Soup". They have since gained new members and
reformed themselves into the crew EASYBASS. They then released a
crude 4-track tape in 94 which contained a hint of what was to come
in the shape of 1995s "Space Program" tape. Much more impressive and
proof that 4-track recorded tapes can sound good when mastered. 95
also saw a release from the NOBLE SAVAGES with their self titled
debut. They were going for an album length release but released an
8- track tape, due to frustration of always working on tracks and
never putting them out. Ex-DEF WISH CAST member DJ VAME appeared
behind the decks on CAPITAL PUNISHMENTs "Sentenced 2 Def" six song
tape, as well as on Campbelltown locals 046 (named after their area
code) thirteen track CD "Life".

Appearing this last year from Melbourne was a 6-track tape
from MC QUE, female rhymers are hard to find here and this release
had some exceptional production and scratching. Contributions from
PROWLER remind us that he to also released an impressive tape almost
two years ago as well as producing the DEF POETS SOCIETY tape of 95.
This is by no means a complete history, trying to recollect
a nation's Hip- Hop output is by no means easy. Of course there are
many groups that have yet to release anything at all, but there are
also many crews that have made demos or tapes that never ventured
further than their friends. So don`t be pissed off if I missed you.
My room is a mess and my memory is chockas.
Hopefully 97 will see a turnaround in output and more
dedication and professionalism involved. Peace to all international
Hip Hop crews struggling for the music and culture they love.


blaze can be found @ or

written by Blaze (1994)
originally published in Bomb Magazine, Issue 42

as mentioned in References:

Musical visions : selected conference proceedings from the 6th National Australian/New Zealand IASPM Conference and the Inaugural Arnhem Land Performance Conference / edited by Gerry Bloustien
page 93

NLA book reference: