NEW WAVE: SWIMMING AGAINST THE TIDE AND BREAKING DOWN DOORS

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Driving an hour and a half away from Melbourne’s CBD, one thing becomes clear: Cranbourne is very, very far from the bright city lights. Once you make your way through the endless amount of highways, traffic jams, and a large portion of Melbourne’s suburbs, you find the small city so far away that it’s where the train line stops.

If you’re not from Melbourne, you’ve almost definitely never been that far out in the sticks. Cranbourne’s population is over 20,000 though despite its slight desolation, lies a common sentiment amongst its people attempting to break out from an isolated area.

The opportunity to be the first is an arms reach away, but you gotta work 10x harder, and you gotta be different.

Cranbourne is home to artists like MLBRN, Real Ren and rap collective New Wave, who in the last year or so, have set fire to Burn City, and torched their name onto every ‘up next’ list. Comprised of three members, Moses and brothers TAKTiX and KiD LaZE, the TBS trio frequently made music for fun while growing up.

TAKTiX met Moses at school and became close, before LaZE got to know him as they became family friends. Music was a lifelong dream for all three of them, but back then Australia didn’t really have the scene to reinforce those dreams further than achieving local virality for car freestyles. However, the love never died, and eventually those dreams would become a reality.

Each had their seperate journeys growing up with music but like many, the love for hip-hop started from mid 90s G-funk and West Coast icons like Tupac and NWA. Later on, they pivoted towards Drake and Eminem but the musicians that really influenced New Wave when they started were trap artists around their same age such as Lil Tecca and Lil Mosey. Recording on borrowed university equipment and using Airpods as their microphones, the trio began making music in their family home.

“We had a home studio at the time and we used to get told off for swearing in songs. We used to swear quietly because the parents wouldn’t let us.”

– Moses (2023).

The genesis of New Wave began when they learnt how to freestyle. They all started out with an American accent, imitating the artists that they were fond of. At the time, they were trying to shape themselves to fit into the growing trap sound that was taking over the world, but wasn’t quite the wave in Australia just yet. Additionally, they began during the backend of a time where being a rapper over here wasn’t taken seriously, although it was becoming more popular. Often, taking that first step into following your dreams can be the hardest part, which is why they chose to switch up their accents.

Back then, it was more accepted and more common. Now, as the Australian hip-hop scene has broadened and a more established scene has formed for local artists, the American accent debate has heightened.  Some argue that due to American media’s saturation and accessibility, it’s understandable why newer MCs begin their rap journeys with American accents —while others argue that it’s not and artists, especially within hip-hop, should be themselves. It was then that New Wave had been born. They just didn’t know it yet. In fact, it took years of people telling them to drop music properly for it to really register with them.

Rooster Park, as they call it due to the rooster statue, is where the early building blocks for New Wave were laid. It’s a local park in Cranbourne, a few minutes off the main road. To the naked eye, it’s nothing special at all. There’s a grass hill, some courts nearby, and a canopy-covered seating area surrounded by barbecues. But to TAKTiX, Moses, and LaZE, it symbolises togetherness, and was the location of some of the most important times in their musical journeys so far. They would pull up with a box of Jack Daniels and fry sausages on the park’s barbecues, freestyling at the table nearby alongside their friends. They’d spend hours feeding off each other’s energy, having fun, and testing themselves in friendly competition.

As I sit down with them at the symbolic table, only lit up by each of our combined phone lights, it’s a special day for the group. Not only is it their first interview, but it’s their 1 year anniversary of hitting 100k plays on ‘Cash Flow’. Now, it’s amassed almost 1.5 million streams with no playlisting.

Initially, aiming high wasn’t a huge priority. They enjoyed making beats and writing raps, so to them, putting consistent music out to the world to enjoy alongside their friends and their small following was at the top of their to-do list. A national tour, big numbers, and cementing themselves as needle movers within Australian hip-hop was never a priority, or even a realistic ambition.

After years of polishing their freestyle ability and making music on the side, heavy encouragement from family and friends spurred them to take music more seriously. So, they purchased actual equipment to polish themselves up. But just after the lockdowns, it dawned on them that they had something special.

As a collective, seeing how things worked from afar and watching groups within Australia and the wider global rap scene come and go, New Wave understood that consistency was really the key. It became their mission. Following ‘What Is Your Type’ in 2020, they picked up steam as a collective in the first half of 2021, but last year was their major breakthrough in terms of gaining wider Australian recognition. Dropping a handful of tracks in 2022, including a drill reinvention of Clean Bandit‘s ‘Rather Be’ and career highlight performances on ‘6gs’, New Wave were thrusted into the spotlight. 

“I think going against the grain is a fairly accurate assumption [of us as a group].”

– TAKTiX (2023).

New Wave are more than just another rap group from Australia. They stand out. Unlike others, what makes them different is that you never truly know what you’re gonna get as a listener and even if you guessed, they could switch it up again tomorrow. They approach everything they do with energy and authenticity, but it’s the type of originality and chemistry you catch just by listening. Without knowing anything about them, it’s clear to listeners that New Wave are tight knit. Labels can’t buy that type of chemistry on a track—which makes New Wave’s formula almost unbeatable. 

In other areas, like social media presence and public perception, they’re killing it. Add up the numbers of plays on streaming services and views on YouTube, and they couldn’t be doing much more at this stage of their journey. New Wave have a cult following, and to amass such an audience so early is special.

A lot of the music coming out of this country is great. But at the top, it’s somewhat stale. Those who dare to experiment rarely receive the credit they deserve, and often, following the formula is what makes it onto the airwaves. The blueprint is set and for now, it works.

Most can appreciate the Australian music scene for what it is right now. “The Aus music scene is pretty good”, says TAKTiX. But there’s still discontent. “Oh…it’s alright”, Moses replies. “It’s better than it was a few years ago. Everyone sounded like OneFour.”

“There’s more people breaking off and doing cool things”, says LaZE. “And there’s a lot of people I admire Aussie wise that aren’t popping”, adds TAKTiX. 

So….what actually makes New Wave different from other Australian rap groups—-which also have a large Polynesian presence. Staples like OneFour and HP Boyz have played a huge role in the formation of today’s hip-hop scene in Australia. Due to their success, it’s been somewhat of a blueprint and (not to the fault of their own), has become crowded.

Within the overall drill scene, the production, hooks, flow patterns and even certain phrases are recycled time after time. But New Wave are different. Their refusal to let a single bar go to waste and their approach to each song is exactly what is lacking. They’re a much needed refreshing and energetic influx of life into the Australian rap game. And they actually have something to say.

New Wave are exactly who they say they are. A New Wave. It sounds corny, but it’s true. OneFour, who are a big inspiration around the country especially for New Wave, are still huge. Let’s not get it twisted, they’re not going anywhere anytime soon. But with younger acts pushing through, they’re getting closer and closer to OG status. Just like Dave has put the UK on his back after artists like Skepta, Wiley, and Giggs (among others) spent decades building the foundations, New Wave are set up to carry the baton of the extremely esteemed Polynesian rap presence in Australia, and have all the ability to see it through for years to come. 

“We’re pretty oblivious to what people think about us. We’re just grinding everyday.”

– TAKTiX (2023).

As individuals, each member prides themselves on their own artistry. Their ability as rappers is second to none, as is their diversity. Each of their upcoming solo releases are all different genres, like TAKTiX’s latest single ‘Dancers’, which dropped yesterday. Growing up in Cranbourne, they’ve built an organic community, which has taken years. And they’re for the people, which is why getting hundreds-of-thousands of streams on each track is light work. 

As for the future, New Wave aren’t content. They want to go international and honestly, their eventual explosion to global stardom seems to be just around the corner. They’re a breath of fresh air. So take a deep breath. New Wave aren’t even next. They’re now.

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