TheVine story: ‘Does Aussie hip-hop have a problem with racism?’, September 2012

On the back of Thomas Rock’s recent comments on triple j concerning what he saw as the rising threat of racism in Australian rap music, I surveyed fourteen artists from around Australia — including Hilltop Hoods, Urthboy, Ozi Batla, Jimblah and Diafrix — to get their thoughts on the matter. It turned out to be one of the more rewarding stories I’ve had the pleasure of writing. Check out the excerpt below, or follow the link at the bottom of the post to read the whole story on TheVine.

Thomas Rock turned heads in mid-July when he used an appearance on national youth broadcaster triple j to talk about racism in Australian hip-hop. The Def Wish Cast vocoder man conducts workshops with at-risk and marginalised youth in and around Sydney, and chatted at some length with Hip-Hop Show host Hau Latukefu about the worrying trend of white pride and toyshop patriotism that he was witnessing during his sessions.

Rock’s words caused a stir, both in the rap community and the wider music scene. Hip-hop in Australia has often been the target of snobbish derision when it comes to the quality and content of its output, but are there any grounds for accusing the local genre of being tainted with racism?

With this in mind, TheVine dialled some digits and asked 14 of Australia’s biggest hip-hop artists – Rock included – the following question:

Does Australian hip-hop have a problem with racism?”

Suffa, MC and producer with Hilltop Hoods, co-founder of Golden Era Records (Adelaide)

Yeah, I think there’s racism in local hip-hop. That’s part of what inspired us to do the track ‘Speaking in Tongues’ on the latest record: we’d noticed some xenophobia in our fan base through the social networks. Which was confusing to us, because we’d been raised on everything from Public Enemy to Poor Righteous Teachers. So we just wanted to re-enforce with our fan base: “This is what we’re about. Hopefully you’re about it too.”

We’d see it on YouTube. You might have someone coming over from Louisiana and saying, “I really like these guys. Shout-outs from Kentucky,” and you’d have all these guys leap on him saying, “Fuck off you American shit!” and just attack. It was just bizarre, and confusing.

I know where this comes from: it’s all about the accent debate. Really early on, people like us and Def Wish Cast and others were really pushing to be ourselves because that’s what hip-hop’s about. So it came from this position of not being ashamed of sounding like who you are, but it’s now turned into: “I’m proud of what I am, and I dislike what you are.” So it came from a good place where we were trying to find our own identity, and I’m really proud of that, but I’m disappointed that it’s spun into this thing where it’s gone from not being ashamed of who you are to being overtly patriotic without cause.

With more diverse voices coming into the genre it will break down this problem. We’ve done a video for ‘Rattling the Keys to the Kingdom’, featuring cameo artists from all over Australia of all different backgrounds. And that shows the diversity of artists in Australia, but what’s not reflected yet is the success of such diverse artists. The people having a lot of success – us, Drapht, Bliss N Eso, 360 – there’s not a lot of diversity there. But it’s the strength of their art that will eventually help break down those barriers.

Full the full article, visit TheVine.

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