The Australian-Korean supergroup 1300 flipped the country’s idea of what could be some of the hardest rap in Oz with their debut mixtape Foreign Language. Diving deeper into each member’s psyche and cultural roots, the five-piece band continue to rewrite the boundaries on their sophomore full-length record GEORGE.

“It’s kind of like Foreign Language‘s big bad brother,” 1300 says.

Western Sydney-based rappers Rako, Goyo, Dali Hart, producer-singer Nerdie, and producer pokari.sweat, have been as electrifying in execution as they’ve been in their approach since 2021. From notable collaborations with Kwame and Young Franco to their Valentine’s Day <3 EP, 1300 has been a consistently innovative and celebrated anomaly within Australian music.

In the lead-up to GEORGE, the 2023 NLMA Best Hip-Hop Act nominees spent two weeks on a writing trip in the Blue Mountains during lockdown. “It was like cabin fever, letting everything out and screaming into the forest. We let our minds run wild and that’s why it sounds pretty raw,” the band explains. “We spent the rest of the year and a half polishing the songs. It was very chaotic but you just have to learn to accept that things don’t go the way you plan and move with the punches.” 

This chaotic energy is conveyed from the grimy get-go of ‘Yao Ming’, with its low-pitched chanty vocals and thick bass production that Yeezus-era Kanye wouldn’t be unsuited to. ‘WIRE’ featuring Easymind and oddeen exudes the ‘big bad brother’ persona the best, sounding like it could be in the Cyberpunk soundtrack or a hectic parkour video. 

“It’s a super heavy and dark club track with dub influences, reminiscent of the vibrant underground club music scene in Seoul at the moment,” 1300 says.

‘GANTZ’ features a verse from the Most Badass Asian member, EK, an OG in the Gangnam District and South Korean rap. Furthering the unique culture of the Korean rap scene, 1300 bridges the gap for an increasingly interested foreign market in the wake of the BTS phenomena.

Named after the fictional children’s character Curious George, the mixtape is a gritty coming-of-age tale with the cover art referencing the primate’s loss of innocence. “It explores some darker regions of the psyche and contains more negative emotion,” 1300 says, and ‘FOLLOW ME’ showcases this.

The opening line in English on ‘FOLLOW ME’ – “they do not speak my language” – speaks volumes, because to get this far in Australia, and be able to create a sophomore project with this kind of backing, it’s evident that good music doesn’t need to be understood, simply heard. Another line in the hook reinforces this, translating to “kids who can’t even speak Korean dance and welcome us.”

While the group’s support in Australia has been immense, it might be tiring to exist as the sole provider of a subgenre within a country, making it an even more welcome choice for GEORGE to work solely with Korean artists. That being said, the group has become well connected within the Australian rap scene; working with artists like Agung Mango, Raj Mahal, and 18YOMAN on Foreign Language, and soon to tour with support from fellow Western Sydney artists, Full Circle collective members FRIDAY* and Dylan Atlantis.

Along with the previously released ‘Ape Shit‘ and ‘Levitate‘, ‘Rock Lee’ is a stand-out track on the mixtape. Sung in mostly English, ‘Rock Lee’ pays plenty of homage to Eastern cultural crossovers in the West with the title’s namesake being a Naruto character and bars like “Hide a monster like Digimon.” GEORGE is ripe with references throughout, with the opening track being named after one of China’s best professional basketball players, and ‘GANTZ’ after the horror manga series.

These easter eggs act as an effective bridging point for the group to connect with an even wider audience. While neither of those references is South Korean, they give representation and a nod to fans of other Asian backgrounds, who are just as underrepresented in Australian hip-hop and the wider music scene despite Australia being a country located in the South-East Asia region.

“I hope it helps people feel more comfortable in their own skin, you don’t have to be perfect or conform to someone’s expectation of you to be “successful.”

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