Hip-hop is a living art form that’s expanding at a rate as high as the very universe we inhabit. The genre’s evolution is, in part, due to the way streaming is gradually globalizing the music industry, enabling artists to reach parts of the world previously unfathomable.
But having access to more music than ever before doesn’t translate to more listening. In fact, it does the opposite. The constant barrage of content from an increasing number of artists leaves us with less time to explore what’s on offer at the world’s auditory buffet. A shame, but thankfully we are here to rectify that.
Despite hosting what is equivalent to one-thirteenth of America’s population, Australia’s hip-hop scene is diversifying as swiftly as music is globalizing. But with an influx of music dropping every week, to whom shall we collectively lend our ears and, more importantly, our time?
To introduce you to what Australian hip-hop has to offer, we’ve carefully curated a sampler of five acts that are well worth listening to. Enjoy.
Hilltop Hoods (@hilltophoods)
The Hilltop Hoods are the trailblazers of Australia’s hip-hop scene. Having amassed a broad worldwide audience, the “Best Australian Live Act” are 13 dates deep into their 50 date world tour that will see them perform to over 100,000 fans across North America, Europe, and Australasia.
Consisting of dual-discipline Suffa, MC Pressure, and DJ Debris, the group has released nine remarkably consistent full-length projects over the course of their 20-year career.
Initially backed primarily by Suffa’s penchant for crate-digging, the group’s sound has evolved dramatically over the years. They’ve progressively outsourced production to an intimate collection of close collaborators and began to recruit orchestras, choirs, and session musicians more regularly.
Fortunately, Pressure and Suffa cultivated a technicality to their songwriting that complemented their rich sound before they found a mainstream audience. As a result, they are two of Australia’s—nay, the world’s—greatest lyricists. Anyone that can match it with The Roots’ frontman Black Thought, which they did on “Living In Bunkers,” and the Organized Konfusion MC Pharoahe Monch, which they did on “Classic Example,” is a legend, technically speaking.
Earlier this year, the trio released their eighth studio album The Great Expanse. Featuring songs monumental in soundscape (“Into the Abyss”), odes to toxic relationships (“Sell It All, Run Away”), anti-club club singles (“Exit Sign”), and the amusingly titled “OOFT (Ponda Baba),” The Great Expanse is a far cry from their previous work from a production standpoint, but still unmistakably the work of the Adelaide Allstars.
Triple One (@tripleonemusic)
Having been dubbed “Australia’s next big thing” and compared to BROCKHAMPTON by Apple Music’s Zane Lowe, Triple One is making a name for themselves as the most exciting up-and-coming Australian group, period.
With Billy Gunns on production, Lil Dijon providing vocals as smooth as butter, and MCs Obi III Terrors and Marty Bukkake Large’s ability to handle bars like Hulk Hogan, the Sydney squad has an overflow of talent.
Despite the three vocalists’ obvious inclinations for either singing or rapping, their artistic versatility sees them occasionally tag team. For example, Obi opens “Tarlo” with an uncharacteristically mellifluous croon before Dijon offers the melodious first verse.
Like Gunns when he’s beat-making, the group is open to experimentation, which is one of their greatest strengths. In their refusal to limit their sound—which is evident upon perusing such striking singles as “Overflow,” “Autumn Collection,” “Showoff,” and “Butter”—Triple One is ensuring their potential remains limitless.
Seth Sentry (@sethsentry)
Seth Sentry is arguably the most meticulous writer on this list. Taking great pride in the nitty-gritty elements of songwriting, he’s become the personification of quality over quantity (and his music is quality). Every word serves a purpose, tie-ins are omnipresent, and each project takes three or four years to materialize.
Various heavyweight Australian producers have shaped his sonically symmetrical bodies of work. Melbourne beatsmith Matik produced The Waiter Minute EP, which drew inspiration from samples of days past. Seth’s two subsequent releases married earthly instrumentation with inspired cinematic production. The sound of the latter project was primarily shaped by the production partnership of Carl Dimataga and Styalz Fuego, who collaborated again on “Wrong One,” the lead single on Seth’s untitled third studio album.
Seth is a storyteller at heart. With diction clearer than the mix of the world’s finest engineer, he unravels tales like parchment. He possesses an innate ability to convey meaning to the extent that would leave your favorite high school English teacher drooling like a newborn. Incredibly, he achieves this level of narrative clarity while interweaving some of the most technically comprehensive lyrics ever recorded.
Once likened to Ice Cube by Wu-Tang Clan’s Ghostface Killah, Briggs is an overtly political artist that’s defined by his humor, attitude, and range.
After establishing himself as a solo MC a decade ago, Briggs has become many things: screenwriter for Matt Groening’s latest offering, Disenchantment; actor/presenter on multiple acclaimed series; Apple Beats 1 host; founder of record label Bad Apples Music; an activist and voice for Australia’s Indigenous community; one half of the revered duo A.B. Original, whose provocative single “January 26” gave new weight to the debate around Australia/Invasion Day.
His latest single, “Life Is Incredible,” has been described by writer Al Newstead as “the Get Out of rap songs.” The song is a veiled commentary on the “disparity in the mortality rate between Indigenous Australians and White Australians,” and was conceived as a response to the “It's OK to be white” motion put forward in Australia’s parliament by Pauline Hanson’s One Nation right-wing party (whom Briggs trolled on a billboard-sized scale recently during her election campaign.)
In the case of Johniepee, music maketh the man. A guiding force from an early age, music moves the Perth-born-and-based rapper like a soundwave—and ultimately, it served as the medicine he needed to navigate his troubled childhood.
This pure love of the art shines through in his writing, which is as varied as his influences. Having focused in on his delivery when he first began writing in 2015, Johniepee can chop like Tech N9ne, croon like the mother of a newborn, and offer vocal performances that range from masterfully modern to ‘90s boom bap-esque.
Emerging in the age of social media, Johniepee’s work has captured the imagination of an ever-increasing audience as a confident and charismatic creator who’s comfortable in his skin. His personality, when coupled with his drive, is the singular element that will define his success, as well as his legacy, in the years to come.
Johniepee’s discography is short and sweet, with less than two dozen songs (and 11 features) available on streaming services. That number is set to double soon, however, with a mixtape dropping this Friday (September 27), his debut album (Attachment Theory) slated for November 1, and another mixtape to follow before the year is over.