HUSTLE & HARDSTYLE: HOOLIGAN HEFS ON LEGACY, DJ PLANS & HOW HE TURNED AUSTRALIA INTO A PARTY
Hooligan Hefs is nothing short of a household name throughout Australia.
For someone who debuted in 2019, the Doonside-raised artist has achieved more accolades than most would dream of hitting in a lifetime. ‘Tell ‘Em I’m Doing Eetswa’ is Gold, his breakout single ‘No Effect’ is certified Platinum, while his ARIA-nominated track, ‘Send It‘, has already doubled that milestone. Selling out shows across the country over the last five years, Hefs is far from finished, with sets booked at Splendour In The Grass and Light It Up festival later this year. Drive through Sydney tomorrow, and you’re likely to come across a mural or billboard with his face on it.
Despite being only 25-years-old, Hefs is now considered an elder statesman and a big influencer within the landscape of modern hip-hop in Australia. Carrying the torch for EDM and hip-hop crossovers first pioneered by Kerser over a decade ago, the Samoan-Chinese rapper has helped to shape a large part of the music that’s coming out of the country today. As he delves into further ventures, Hefs continues to embody what hustle is all about. His latest partnership with Chivas Regal celebrates this sentiment, with the I Rise, We Rise campaign championing underdogs who challenge the Australian mainstream narratives of success, start difficult conversations, and uplift others in proving the possibility of success outside the norm.
Take away everything, and Hooligan Hefs is just a kid from Doonside who worked his way to the top, and is now a beacon of hope for Western Sydney youth and an inspiration for kids chasing their dreams nationwide. Speaking to AUD’$, Hefs offered his thoughts on the Australian hip-hop scene, talked about his legacy, and future plans.
How are you today bro? What’s happening, man, what’s new?
I’m good. Can’t complain bro, same old. I’ve just been working on a project, just finished it up. But in the meantime, same old. Yourself?
Me too, you know how it goes. Let’s start 4-5 years ago—I know loosely about your come-up, but what actually got you into music, and making it yourself?
Get Rich Or Die Tryin played a big part, just that whole movie. It played a big part in terms of how my life has turned out. Seeing 50 Cent rap and make business moves, that’s what really inspired me at the start.
That coming from somewhere where you’re not supposed to make it, and then making something out of yourself story. In terms of music, what’s your ‘why’? What keeps you motivated, what keeps you going?
Obviously family but also the doubters. There’s a lot of people I want to prove wrong, and that’s what gives me energy, you know? Also, the success and money this far plays a part too.
Are you on social media a lot? Do you read comments or pay attention to what people say?
I am on social media but I don’t really pay attention to that. There’s obviously a few certain things that pop up and stuff but once you get to a certain point in life, you just got to learn how to block all that stuff out. If you keep paying attention to all that stuff, it’s going to drain you and it’s going to take you off your path.
You’re a huge name in Australia and over your career, you’ve covered pretty much every sound. You’ve blown up with the EDM combined with rap music: what’s your favourite lane to be in?
To be honest, I like my party stuff. I like the good vibes. The rap stuff is hard too, and obviously the drill type stuff but I prefer the EDM stuff. This project that I’m dropping now has no party stuff whatsoever though. It’s back on that old Hefs. You know what I mean? Well, I wouldn’t say old Hefs, but it’s for the day one people that have been supporting me since I’ve been doing all that rap stuff. So this new project is all just rap. I’ll save the summer for summer.
Who were the artists you listened to growing up? Aside from 50 Cent, who were the ones that shaped Hooligan Hef’s sound, and what artists did you look to once you started making a name for yourself?
Meek Mill. I like Meek, and have always been a big fan of the DreamChasers stuff. Just how he goes in, he just doesn’t care whatsoever, the energy he brings, all that. So yeah, Meek, and to be honest, Tinie Tempah, he’s got the party stuff and he’s been doing his thing for a long time.
What is your focus with music nowadays, and what’s the goal with the music you’re putting out?
Eventually, I wanna get to Europe and that. But I know in order to get there, I’ve gotta learn DJing. I was actually thinking of picking up DJing and that, and just learning, because that can also add to my act. I saw Savage at one of the festivals, and he told me that if he could go back and change something, he would learn how to DJ and add it to his act. I dunno if he can DJ now, but if he could back then, he would have been at Tomorrowland playing ‘Freaks’. Honestly, that’s all you really need, four or five bangers that the world knows, and then eventually you just chop your way up the lineup.
Would you still put music out as an artist or would you shift towards DJing?
Both. I’d do the party stuff alongside DJing, and then rap as well.
Let’s shift gears. You mentioned it briefly before but what does community mean to you, and what role has it played in your success?
Community is important, especially the one I was raised in. I wouldn’t change anything, it shaped the person that I am today regardless of the good or bad. So yeah, it really plays a big part in my success. Even for the younger generation to break barriers – it’s not all about the west and it’s not all about Australia. You can get your passport and fly somewhere else, you know what I mean? I want to break that mentality.
A lot of the younger artists in this country definitely look towards you for inspiration. Who are some of the up-and-comers you mess with?
Bro there’s a lot of people in the scene I really like. I really, really, really, rate them. Kahukx, his wordplay and delivery, he goes hard. Billymaree, she’s hard too. She’s doing her own thing in her own lane, which is pretty cool. Nasa Nova’s good too. Ay Huncho’s doing his thing at the moment, he’s making a name for himself which is a good thing, good for him. DAY1 too, I think he’s really talented. He’s already big, don’t get me wrong, but he can go global for sure. I feel like Kahukx is one that could really break through though.
I know you’re still young in the grand scheme of things, but in terms of the Australian rap scene, you’re somewhat of an OG now. You’ve been around long enough to see what it was like before, and then you experienced that pop, and you’ve seen it become what it is today.
I think I came at the perfect time because nowadays, you can be the hardest out but people will always accuse you of trying to sound like someone else.
What do you think have been the main changes in the Australian scene that you’ve witnessed over time?
If I’m being completely honest, I think the scene has dimmed down a bit. It hasn’t died out, but it’s dimmed down compared to what it was in 2020 and 2021.
Why do you think that is?
When COVID hit, besides me, a lot of the main rappers in Australia just weren’t dropping. Nobody was really doing anything. I think the scene will slowly wake up, I think we’ll wake it up.
Looking back at your career thus far, what is Hooligan Hef’s contribution as an artist?
My contribution? I played my part, I guess. I’ve turned the whole scene into a party, that’s for sure. Which is a good thing. I like saying that. People wanted the old stuff, but I just kept going with the party stuff and then people just started loving that party stuff. That’s mad, I love to see it.
A lot of people would consider your rise to success very inspirational, coming where you came from and reaching the heights you’ve reached. What’s been some of the toughest challenges and learning curves along the way?
Thanks bro. I can’t lie, probably motivation. Sometimes I want to just chill and kick back, but I have to just discipline myself and keep going. There’s a lot of other things you learn too. I wouldn’t say fake, but there’s a lot of people whose intentions aren’t pure, if that makes sense.
What’s been the biggest change in terms of how you approach the industry now as opposed to when you started out?
I’m pretty business minded now. I’ve always made money and stuff, but when I first started, it was just music, music, music, music, music. I wasn’t really thinking about other ventures and where I could go from where I was.
Who do you think the most influential Australian rappers are, and where do you think you fall into that conversation?
When I was a kid, I loved Kerser, back when he was doing the battles with 360 and that. All of that gee’d me up to start writing and stuff. Kerser’s been doing it for a minute, good on him. Youngn Lipz is doing his thing, HP Boyz are doing their thing, there’s a lot of people doing their thing. Where do I fall into the conversation? I’m not sure. I know I’m somewhere amongst it but I dunno where I stand.
What are the things you want people to think when Hooligan Hefs is brought up in a conversation?
I just want people to think that I really went from all this, and have gone on to achieve and do the things I do. Sort of like 50 Cent. He’s done music, now he’s done all these other things, that’s what I want people to think. Even haters, I want them to not have to admit it, but amongst their friends, they’ll give me props. If you’re not a hater, you’d give props. In 10 or 20 years, I want people that don’t like me to give me props.
When it’s all said and done, what do you want people to remember about Hooligan Hefs the artist?
I want them to think I marked my name. If you’re talking Hooligan Hefs, you’re talking Australia. I want to be seen as someone who played a big part in the Australian music scene, something like that. That’s what I want them to remember.