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What’s an ‘Aussie hip hop’?

This was someone who was just in the zone, and it was also one of the all-time greats of Triple J’s Like a Version.

And this is someone else who was in the zone, back in 2013, and also one of the all-time greats. A more low-key version of the zone, but that’s Illy. Still, this turned out to be an incredible snapshot of some of the best Australian music of the past 20 years.

It also shows an evolution of (and evolution away from) what ‘Aussie hip hop’ is. The term Aussie hip hop is almost a taboo for Aussie artists now. Because it pigeon holes them.

If Illy comes out and says he’s an Aussie hip hop artist, he’s put in a box. That’s why he distances himself from it. It is his roots, and what inspired him in the beginning, but it would put him in the same box as early Hilltop Hoods, Muph & Plutonic, Downsyde, Bias B, Pegz, Tzu, Def Wish Cast, the artists from the Culture of Kings mix CDs, and all the other Obese Records artists. Those guys were edgy, and just doing their thing – bringing hip hop to listeners here with a unique Australian feel. They all got the ball rolling for hip hop in this country, but Aussie hip hop today is not even close to what it was then. So ‘Aussie hip hop’ is kind of dead. The Hilltop Hoods are from that time, but they aren’t even close to just an ‘Aussie hip hop’ band now. They’re a hip hop band, but now with a much more complex sound than they or most Aussie hip hop artists had 10-15 years ago.

Same thing goes for All Day. Yeah, he’s a rapper and artist from Australia, but he’s not an ‘Aussie hip hop’ artist. The writing, the hooks, the sound and even the attitude, it’s come a crazy long way from what was once called Aussie hip hop.

Ditto guys like IllyHorror Show, Thundamentals, Drapht, Urthboy, Bliss n Eso, even post-2010 Funkoars… It’s a totally new sound compared to the early days of Aussie hip-hop. Now you can barely even compare the two.

For example, Muph & Plutonic used to kill it, and they were ‘Aussie hip hop’ (by the way, if you know what Muph’s up to now, I’d love to know. You can’t find a trace of that dude anywhere online – he’s a legend). They were raw, and real, and introduced the genre to so many people who were only into hip hop from the US. Things like this, Muphin with this, or this with Suffa from Hilltop from back in 2003 made people sit up and think, ‘Shit. Aussie hip hop is actually kinda good’, a massive improvement on what most Australians had thought before that (and notably, even one of the last rippers Muph & Pluto came out with in 2008 was no longer “Aussie hip hop” either).

The sound of hip hop from Australia has changed and developed unimaginably from the early days of ‘Aussie Hip hop’. It’s not better or worse, it’s just evolved.

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