LOCAL HYPE: THE BEST HIP-HOP COMING OUT OF AUSTRALIA?
On August 1, 1981 music changed forever. A duo from London known as The Buggles were projected into homes on television sets around the world with a clear message – ‘Video Killed the Radio Star’.
The launch of MTV changed the face of the recording industry, paving the way for new technology and corporate media to influence music and popular culture like never before. Though TV maintained a stranglehold on music media throughout the 80s and 90s, the internet revolution at the turn of the millennium ushered in the blog era – a period where by and large, independent curators and ‘tastemakers’ became the leading voices recommending the new music you needed to know. While the timeline is blurred, sometime in the last decade the power shifted again and has remained firmly in the hands of Digital Service Providers, none more so than Swedish tech giant Spotify.
No longer just technology platforms to access music, these organisations have become content creators and curators themselves – influencing the taste, reach, and accessibility of music via their algorithmic and editorial decision-making processes. Artists, labels, and publicists live and die by Spotify playlists which have the implied ability to make or break careers.
If you’re a hip-hop artist in Australia looking to get your break, and to win the attention of the industry while showcasing to a wider audience, then ‘Local Hype’ is where you want to be. The self-proclaimed ‘Best Hip-Hop coming out of Australia’ has over 132,000 followers and is made up of 100 songs; entirely from domestic artists. It is the gateway to larger, international curations, and the place where label A&Rs, booking agents, and management executives go fishing for their next potential signing.
With an unmatched level of influence, we thought it important to dive into the playlist and understand just what the ‘Best Hip-Hop coming out of Australia’ looks like. What we found was interesting.
Of the 100 songs in the playlist on Friday August 5 2022, 96 of them were performed by or featured male artists exclusively. Only 4 were either by, or featured female or non-male identifying acts. This is despite ARIA Award-winning rapper Sampa The Great having recently released 3 singles from her forthcoming sophomore album ‘As Above, So Below’. She makes no appearance in the playlist. Nor do Adelaide’s Elsy Wameyo, fresh off show-stealing performances at Groovin’ The Moo and Splendour In The Grass, Western Sydney’s ever-popular A.GIRL, or internationally acclaimed Tkay Maidza.
When assessing sub-genre, or branch of hip-hop to which the songs belong, 65% of the songs could be classified as ‘Drill’. The next highest being EDM – electronic dance music typically with heavy instrumental drops and bass lines featuring limited rap vocals over the top – these accounted for 14 songs. The remaining 21 songs, or just over one-fifth of the playlist were made up of G-Funk (U.S West Coast influenced sounds), Trap, and Latin. There were no boom-bap or ‘traditional’ hip-hop-sounding rap numbers featured in the playlist. Zero. That is despite names like ChillinIt, Nerve, and Huskii commanding some of the largest independent fanbases in the country. None of the trio featured in the playlist.
Despite the non-appearance of some of the more prominent acts in Australian Hip-Hop, there were a host of names with repeat entries in the playlists – Western Sydney Driller NASA NOVA leads the charge with 5 entries, alongside Brisbane’s Say True God? with the same number. Each of these artists have more songs in ‘Local Hype’ than the total amount of female or non-male acts combined. This was followed by Western Sydney’s Ay Huncho, Bally Boy, and The 046 each with 4 songs.
Interestingly 4 of the top 5 most featured artists hail from Western Sydney, with 3 of them belonging to the same label Biordi Music. Of the 15 acts with repeat entries; all 15 of them are male, and all 15 of them have songs belonging to the ‘Drill’ sub-genre. 12 of them are from Western Sydney. Despite their remarkable international success over the last 12 months, none of Mason Dane, The Kid LAROI, or Genesis Owusu make a single appearance.
When accounting for First Nations representation, leaving aside Say True God? who is of mixed Polynesian and Aboriginal heritage, there is a single song; ‘ZIP!’ by Chiggz and Nate G of East Coast collective ECB that is at home in the playlist.
All of this data is publicly available. The ‘search in playlist’ function on Spotify makes this incredibly easy to access. AUD’$ makes no editorial comment on the make-up of the playlist nor the artists featured within it. That is up to our audience and the wider public.
Our own curation AU CASH RADIO with currently over 22 hours worth of music takes an exhausting amount of time to populate. Playlisting for taste and access is a difficult, onerous job. However, with power comes responsibility. Australian Hip-Hop is beginning to enjoy its first real taste of international attention, which has in turn inspired a generation to take up the craft. Those at the forefront of the industry have been tasked with ensuring its success, sustainability and longevity. That is a position that must not be taken lightly.