When I began writing this piece, the New York State Senate had just legalized gay marriage and at the time I felt very sad for the great amount of distance Australian society has yet to cover to come in line with the claims of ‘liberal democracy’ so many well-fed academics and journalists make. To say that we live in a political, cultural and social climate that appeals to the lowest common denominator would be a brutal understatement; entrenched racism, prejudice, stupidity, falling down alcoholism and a lack of refinement permeates every facet, every niche of our culture. It is the cornerstone for every marketing campaign, every political statement, every step anyone takes to benefit is shackled to a crippling appeal to mediocrity. I could list examples but unfortunately it is at this point I begin to ask myself, what does this have to do with music? Well, while gay marriage legislation is important, the lack of action on climate change is criminal and the treatment of refugees worse, I feel that Australia falls behind in one particular sector of legislation more than anyone else. While it is still legal to make to create the kind of horrific, damaging, generic, over-produced and souless ‘hip-hop’ in the style of Bliss and Eso and Hilltop Hoods, the Australian parliament is committing a crime against humanity. The genre of ‘Aussie hip-hop’ as the self-styled ‘emcees’ like to refer it is worse than any other type of creativity that has and ever will ever stem from this sun burnt country.
Now, there is a difference between ‘bad‘ and simply ‘over-rated‘. The worst atrocities of music occur when these two characteristics are combined. Throw in the fact that someone at triple j has decided to make it their life’s mission to play more Australian hip-hop than everyone everywhere else ever would or should, and we arrive at the point I am at now. It is a slow Saturday afternoon in Melbourne and I am listening to the j’s. An old Weezer song, an American Joy Division ripoff, a few local bands with the innovation of a gnat, some Belgian electro and Aussie hip-hop. Waves of it, cascading down, hour after hour, a never ending cacophony of swearing, constant references to utes, beers and an utter lack of musicianship of any kind. I like music, I like hip-hop, acts like NWA, Public Enemy, Tupac and Biggie Smalls were all genuinely great artists, voicing the dissatisfaction of their generation of mistreated and unlucky African-Americans. He’s not great but I remember listening to the occasional Eminem track when I was 14 and just learnt how to break international copyright laws with a laptop. Odd Future are getting noticed for a reason and even Jay-Z still makes some catchy tracks. However, nothing in the Australian scene has ever reached a level which I would deem palatable. My patience for Australian hip-hop has reached its end, and here’s why.
The chorus, which is utterly nonsensical and appealing to the worst type of jingoistic cultural bottom feeder needs no critique. “my grandma told me do not take shit from anybody in this mother f**king bitch/see my grandma told me never never never take no shit especially that shark in the dark cause that shark in the dark can suck my (watch yo mouth)”. Those lyrics simply speak for themselves.
The style in which the majority of Australian hip-hop is performed seems require four things: a black hoodie, gigantic jeans, having no subtlety and the ability to yell into a microphone. The lack of flow in delivery is I think the thing that is the worst about Australian hip-hop. The utter inability of any Australian to actually rap well. Hip-hop grew from jazz and spoken word, the nuances of which few artists seem to have an appreciation for any longer. Australian hip-hop grew from the days in which lower-class white kids took brief breaks from ‘graffing’ and ‘smoking the ganja’ to be racist and learn how to abuse women. Oh wait, those days are still here, and reinforced by the utterly moronic lyrical content which makes up most of the back catalogue of this total embarrassment of a genre. I am so continually appalled by this genre no because of its inherent lack of qaulity but its seemingly unending and widespread appreciation. I simply do not understand it. The Hilltop Hoods can release literally any piece of uninspired and average music and it will without doubt sell highly and gain status in triple j’s yearly music poll. The problem however goes to a deeper level of cultural dysfunction, the modern Australian bogan who still somehow values a broad accent, board shorts and across-the-board racism as staples of his cultural milieu. Now, I don’t mind wearing a singlet in the sun and drinking a cheap beer myself, but this idea of the relaxed fun-loving Australian has become inescapably entangled with ideas of nationalism, racism and misogyny. As if to be Australian means to get drunk, abuse women and to sport clothing branded with statements like “Fuck off, we’re full.” The hip-hop artists of this country fit perfectly into this stereotype, appealing to and sometimes even encouraging these sort of backwards attitudes.
Enter our friends, Bliss and Eso, and the cycle continues. For many reasons, I weep for humanity. Australian hip-hop is high on the list.