Before this year, I don’t think I’d ever heard an Australian hip hop track that I liked. More accurately: before this year, I don’t think I’d heard an Australian hip hop track to which I did not take active aversion. There was a passing tween phase where I listened to a lot of friendly, melodic hip hop like De La Soul and Jurassic 5, but generally the stuff that appealed to me was lean, lo fi and tough as shit. The garish samples and relentless optimism of groups like Hilltop Hoods made me feel a bit like puking.
In July, Melbourne’s Brothers Hand Mirror dropped the Picture Tape EP. ‘We Don’t Hide’, featuring HTML Flowers‘ odd flow and quiet lines on friendship, and Oscar Key Sung‘s honeyed refrain, became one of my favourite tracks of the year. In September, Dream Damage put out Psycho Shower Scene by POWER MOVES – a collaboration between Austin Buckett (Golden Blonde) and Thomas William. The EP’s tortured beats recalled some of the standout underground Southern rap of the previous year.
Then there was Milwaukee Banks, with beats by Adrian ‘Edo’ Rafter (Flight Tonight) and words by the happily named Dylan Thomas (Polo Club). For no particular reason their name’s a nod to both the NBA’s Milwaukee Bucks and Tyra Banks of America’s Next Top Model (and, more importantly, in my opinion, the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air). The vapour-logged synths and rolling snares of first single ‘Pluto Bounce’ have an unsettling effect that brings to mind the words ‘horror-core’, while heavily treated vocals and lopsided rhythms point to the influence of UK bass. The lyrics are understated – there are nights out, girls to impress and a broken ankle in jelly bean coloured socks – which in the Australian context, is kind of refreshing.
A video for ‘Pluto Bounce’ came out last week. It was filmed around Wonthaggi and Hayfield in Victoria, on 16mm infrared film (and if you’re not sure what that means, just watch and it will become apparent).