Meet the emerging Perth rappers putting WA on the hip-hop map
While the world's hip-hop scene dominates, some long-time local favourites are quickly gaining acclaim.
If there's one genre that's summarised 2019, it's hip-hop. Across the year thus far, the many pockets of sounds and sub-genres that hip-hop encompasses have all grown and flourished: the trap-rap sounds of US heavyweights have broken chart records and grown more than ever in the past year; slowthai and Stormzy have helped the UK grime scene continue to dominate both in its homeland and overseas; and those areas often unexplored in the international lense are rising too (and in the case of genres like country-rap, are somewhat unexpectedly successful in doing so).
Perhaps a flow-on effect of this is a rising attention to what's happening back here in Australia, and more specifically, Perth. In the last few months particularly, the global attention to Australian hip-hop is capturing some of the genre's more important names both behind-the-scenes and in-front, whether it be festivals like Rolling Loud enlisting Manu Crook$ and The Kid LAROI. for their US events (or beginning Australian events entirely) or companies like Def Jam and Spotify investing in the local culture; the former readying to launch an Australian arm preluded by releases by Kwame and Ph1lla in the past few weeks.
While much of the attention has been on the east coast - a constant battle those in the west face regardless of their genre - a side-effect from this increasing attention means that Perth's own rap scene feels more populated and exciting than ever, with a diverse collection of musicians covering a wide range of sounds that feel like the next step for Australian hip-hop and R&B; the newcomers proving that the future for Perth's rap scene is incredibly bright.
Here, we're going to break down some of these newcomers and the breath of fresh air they're putting into the Perth music scene, placing the spotlight away from the heavyweights and old favourites - Drapht and Downsyde are two acts that could definitely fit in here, but we're leaving them out to promote the next generation - in favour of those who we think will be huge in just a few months. Dive in:
Arno Faraji is a musician who at this point, really needs no introduction. Since taking out triple j's Unearthed High competition a few years back, the Zimbwawe-born rapper has become a multi-disciplinary mastermind of the Australian hip-hop space; his gentle, light-hearted flow often accompanying tropical-tinged productions and boom-bap beats that he's handcrafted. Over the years, he's worked with everyone from REMI to Milan Ring; become a triple j favourite playing festivals all across the country; and is quickly blossoming into something incredibly special.
Since her 2018 break-out single Queen, Hyclass has proved unstoppable. She's become a reckoning force to Australian R&B and hip-hop that's able to move between genres and sounds at the drop of the hat, and has quickly become an in-demand name on the live circuit too, with everyone from the One Day crew to local dancehall and rap-beat parties hitting her up. Her two tracks of 2019 thus far - You Don't Even Know and Yeah Nah - are both brilliant in very different ways, and very much worth checking out if you're unfamiliar.
One of the country's quickest-rising pockets of Australian hip-hop is its Grime scene, with a strong contingent of local names quickly becoming cult-adored and finding themselves onto festival bills despite being barely commercially known this time last year. Golden Era-signed rapper Shadow is not just one of WA's most-recognisable names in rap music, but he's also a growing force within this Grime-influenced space that doesn't seem to be letting up anytime soon, quickly becoming a national favourite and catching the attention of Grime masterminds like Eyez, who just put Shadow on his latest Grime Down Under compilation.
In many ways, Mali Jo$e feels like the second coming of Arno Faraji. Since being named a finalist of triple j's Unearthed High competition this year, Mali Jo$e - armed with his production partner OJC43 (Oskar Johns Carpenter) - has dropped an explosive run of singles that see him find his footings in Perth's crowded rap scene, with the 17-year-old Fremantle rapper tackling on a smoother side of hip-hop you'd expect from names like Smino, Aminé and the Dreamville collective led by J. Cole. There's a lot of promise here, and he's only just getting started - chances are, Mali Jo$e is a name you'll be well familiar with within a couple of months.
The Tone Youth crew are one of the state's biggest rap collectives, and smack-bang in the centre of it is their greatest asset: T$OKO. Whether he's playing at Laneway Festival or collaborating with names including Just A Gent, the Zimbwawe-raised rapper is quickly becoming a west coast favourite setting his sights on the east coast, even going as far to support Lil Wayne and Wale at Sydney's Jumanji Festival. There's no denying that T$OKO will be an act to break free from Perth's isolation shackles, it's just a question of when exactly that's going to happen.
Hoodzy may be one of the newer names to the spotlight of Perth's rap scene, but she's quickly becoming something incredibly special. With just one major release under her belt - June's Nightmare - the teenage rapper has already played Listen Out Festival's Perth leg and found themselves a reckoning force on the live stage; something quickly becoming apparent as she joins lineups left, right and centre. There's not too much to say here, other than Hoodzy is most definitely the future, and as long as she's in that space, the future seems incredibly bright.
Veering off for a take on hip-hop a little left of centre here, SUPEREGO - formerly known as POW!Negro - are a Perth-based hip-hop outfit who inject a touch of experimentalism into our rap scene, twisting it with almost Death Grips-like creativity and incorporating it with elements of... well... everything as they go. Part-Flying Lotus, part-King Krule, it's incredibly hard to put SUPEREGO into a box and in a way, that's something that makes them so attractive - it's hard to find that level of left-field experimentalism in WA rap, and it's perhaps why they're becoming so well-known.
When it comes to Jaycee, quality is matched by quantity. Currently in the midst of a project that has him dropping a new track and music video every single week for the second half of the year (he's currently up to his 16th song/video), Jaycee's extended discography has allowed us to explore and discover every facet of his craftful sound, which veers between that classic US trap-rap and moments more R&B-intuned and smooth as he continues. As the sole producer, mixer, masterer and writer of his work - while also overseeing all of his music videos - Jaycee is a real talent to Perth rap music, and people are catching on.
After taking out triple j Unearthed's Origin Fields competition last year, Toyotomi went a little bit quiet. Now, however, he's back to his high-octane self, and is quickly reminding everyone of his place in Perth's rap scene in doing so. His latest release, Spirit Music, is an extensive, ten-track mixtape that explores his many sounds; the washed-out, lo-fi mark distinct to Toyotomi twisted and screwed into new energies as he experiments and works on his craft, drawing comparisons to acts including Yung Lean as he progresses.
Last but definitely not least comes Alex Parkman, a rising newcomer to Perth's rap scene who with his debut single King Of The Block, gave us an introduction for the ages. In the time since, the young, emerging name has distinguished his sound and cemented his future into place, encapsulating his bright future ahead with a tightly-packed and concise debut EP The Motion, arriving back in August. He's quickly gaining confidence and experience, but we get a feeling that when Alex Parkman hits his peak, he's going to be unstoppable.