Wed 8 Jul 2009
Look, I know hardly anything about American hip-hop, and this post includes literally EVERY SINGLE THING I know about Australian hip-hop, so I am clearly far, far from an authority on the subject, but chances are if you live in the United States, you know even less than I do. So I am going to exploit what little knowledge I do have.
As they say in the hip hop world, I am about to DROP SCIENCE.
Basically, I didn’t even know Aussie hip hop existed until I heard this song on the radio late last year:
The track is Nosebleed Section by Hilltop Hoods, a group from Adelaide who have probably become the biggest name in Australian hip hop. This was a watershed song back in 2004 the first breakout hip hop hit to originate in Australia. I have to admit that the part that sticks with me the most is the Melanie Safka sample, sounding like an old, scratchy record in the very best way, but it’s a fun song.
I think the title is clever, too. “Nosebleed section” usually refers to the budget seats in a stadium, far up and away from the action, where the joke is that the altitude is thin enough to cause nosebleeds. Hilltop Hoods might be able sell out huge stadiums these days, but they certainly weren’t able to when they recorded this song, when the audience for Aussie hip hop was mostly underground. So in this case, “nosebleed section” means way up at the front, where those dedicated fans were likely to be bloodied and bruised in a moshpit. This song is dedicated to them … and to drinking, partying, hot babes and hard work.
Drinking, partying, hot babes and hard work seem to be, unquestioningly, the most common themes in Aussie hip hop. Though it should be noted that Aussie rappers are less likely to rely on these themes than their compatriots in the pioneering Australian rock band AC/DC, it should also be noted that, well, that’s not saying much. It is only the most temperate Oz Hop albums which are restrained enough to include only one jubilant anthem to the act of getting blitheringly drunk. Such albums are, indeed, hypothetical and may in fact be too temperate to actually exist.
Drapht, who provided the song which inspired yesterday’s post, has two exceptional examples of the alco-hip hop genre, the maudlin (I almost wrote “sober” … ha!) Drink, Drank, Drunk and the bouncy Boom Boom Boom), but I’d rather talk about his song Jimmy Recard, which is mostly, but not ENTIRELY about drinking. Plus it actually has a video clip:
Jimmy Recard uses the common rap motif of an unstoppable alter ego, though from the beginning Drapht spins it as a conceit, a “what-if” scenario based on the idea that being given a different name could give anyone a different life, one that could possibly be infinitely cooler. Unlike the typical boast song, where the listener is invited to idolize the narrator, here the narrator himself is just fantasizing about being someone worth idolizing. What I find funny is that his aspirations apparently aren’t really that high — his hypothetical Jimmy Recard is referred to most frequently as “the king of the bar.” He may be “practically the man of the millennium,” but in Jimmy’s world “king of the castle” is no different than “king of the barstool.”
Jimmy Recard would, in fact, be a terrible name to grow up with, so dangerously close to Jimmy RETARD that it would like low-hanging fruit for school kids looking for someone to pick on. So I think that even the hypothetical hero of this song must delusional. Scarred from age seven onward, he now spends his days drowning in each pint he downs, imagining a crown on his head and a multitude of lacy brassieres at his feet. Hoorah, hoorah!
Finally, one last Aussie hip hop track, just because it has an amusing video clip. I found this one while trying to track down Where Yah From? earlier this week. The song is called Where You At? by the Astronomy Class, and it uses basically the same lyrics as the chorus Where Yah From?, though the rhythm is different. I can’t decide which song is catchier. Any opinions?
Actually, the is only Aussie hip hop song I’ve heard so far that features more than just thin, pasty white dudes on the mic. It’s nice to see a bit of diversity. One of the chicks in the video calls herself Africa-Australian, and my first thought was “Oh, interesting!” but then I remembered that I have a good friend who is Africa-Australian, and he is a thin, pasty white dude. So there you go.
And that is everything I know about Australian hip hop. All or none of it may be true.