Who will be Australia's next big hip-hop star?
Tkay Maidza, Hilltop Hoods, Thundamentals and co have all left some big shoes to fill.
Australian hip-hop has always had a bad rap among the kids for being too 'bland' and 'boring', but honestly, as an ex-Aus-hip-hop doubter, this is anything but true. Names including Tkay Maidza, Thundamentals, REMI and Baro have joined the big dogs of Bliss N Eso, Hilltop Hoods, Illy and more as major local and international drawcards, all building on unique flavours of hip-hop which are exciting and incredibly refreshing. However, while names like Tkay Maidza will continue to play festivals both here and abroad, we think it's a great idea to keep our eyes set on the future. The future of Australian hip-hop is as bright as it has ever been, with names including L-Fresh The Lion, Briggs and the One Day crew all doing great things now and in the near-future, and there's also a whole heap more destined to be huge – some of which we've included below in a quick little re-cap of Australia's bustling hip-hop forces which we think will be making some serious moves in the next twelve months or so (if they aren't already).
I've said this before, but I'll repeat it again and again, and again. Manu Crook$ is Australia's next big hip-hop king. The young Sydney-based is one of Australia's most exciting names live, with an unbeatable energy and passion which you'll be pressed to find anywhere. His sound is a little more American than your standard Australian hip-hop, which to many, will make it more accessible and more friendly on the ears. If you enjoy the quick-firing verses and bass-heavy trap productions that dominate the US hip-hop scene, then you'll be a sure fan of Manu Crook$.
Sampa The Great
Melbourne's Sampa The Great is arguably too big for this list already, but she's so good we're going to give her an extra plug anyway. She's collaborated with names including REMI and Estelle in the past, with the Zambian native's incredibly unique flow feeling super relaxed and almost too easy on singles including the recent Rhymes To The East. She's one of those instantly loveable musicians on the Australian market right now, with her drumming, tribal productions charming us time and time again. Her new album is out this Friday by the way, and it's easily one of the best of the year.
Baker Boy is one of Australia's most talked about artists at the moment and for a good reason. Hailing from the Milingimbi community in north-eastern Arnhem Land in the Northern Territory, the emerging favourite is the first break-out Australian hip-hop musician to actually rap in an Indigenous language, with tracks including May's Cloud 9 sporting Baker Boy rapping in Yolngu Matha in addition to a smooth, chilled-out chorus by guest collaborator Kian. "I'm not coming down, you can't stop me" he declares on Cloud 9's dying moments – something which we wouldn't even dare to contest.
Sydney's OKENYO is one of Australia's most significant musicians. On her accessible, triumphant singles, OKENYO discusses incredibly important topics which many wouldn't dare to touch on before her – making music which is so much more than just music. For example, on her commanding latest single Woman's World, the consistently impressive musician (who is also an A+ actress) declares that the future is female, proclaiming that we're living in a women-led world. She provides a voice for those who may lack the platform to have a voice themselves – notably LGBT+ residents of colour – and does so in a way that is both enlightening and entertaining. We're living in OKENYO's world.
Our love for indigenous Perth rapper Ziggy Ramo is definitely not hushed, and I doubt it ever will be. The rising west-coast musician is one of Australia's most exciting and compelling, with singles like the recent YKWD and Black Thoughts addressing thought-provoking and crucial issues such as racism towards indigenous Australians through jazzy productions and effortless flow. Triple j director Nick Findlay put it best, calling Ziggy "Strong, powerful and catchy – everything I like in a politically charged hip-hop track." There's a reason why he's Kehlani's favourite Australian rapper.
Miss Blanks is the most fun name in Australian hip-hop. The Brisbane hip-hop star is refreshing and bright, with her quick-witted lyrical prowess effortlessly gliding over addictive clubby productions produced by names including Moonbase and tomtom. She's got the instantly loveable nature of US hip-hop stars such as Princess Nokia and CupcakKe, and not just in her sexually-empowering raps. She's another hip-hop name using her platform for political activism, standing up for her transgender family while also touching on racism and sexism across her charging singles which I guarantee you'll instantly adore.
Young Perth hip-hop up-and-comer Arno Faraji is quickly becoming one of Australia's most exciting, recently taking out triple j's incredibly competitive Unearthed High competition (which included already established names like Ninajirachi and SYDE as finalists). Earlier this year, we proclaimed that Arno Faraji was "kinda like Kaytranada if he rapped", something which we 100% stick with. Also comparable to names including Chance The Rapper and Goldlink, Faraji's funky, energetic singles are some of Australia's most unique, combining his traditional, quick-paced hip-hop vocals with bouncy, at times house-leaning productions which is something you'll be stretched to find even on an international level.
Imbi The Girl
Sydney's Imbi The Girl is the young, emerging version of Sampa The Great. Her two singles thus far – Acidic and V.I.P. – are two for two, with groovy, funk-infused productions which provide the perfect background to Imbi's light and relaxing vocals. She's been dubbed as the next big thing countless times already, so consider this just another. She's raw and unique, fierce and bold, and all-around incredibly great.
Perth-based hip-hop crew Tone Youth would be Australia's answer to A Tribe Called Quest. Composed of T$oko, Jimmy Drones, Rob Delirious and Chu, the four-piece were one of the finalists of triple j's Lorde remix competition, and just one listen to the remix entry is another to figure out why. The Season – the collective's first combined release – is a mellow, yet hyped-up heater, with Rob Delirious and T$oko feeling very Outkast-like above the single's punching, woozy production. They're definitely one to watch from the west-coast.
He only has a handful of singles under his belt thus far, but they're so good that we have nothing but high hopes for Canberra's Genesis Owuso. In a scene which tends to follow trends and keep things safe, Genesis Owuso's most recent single Sideways makes him stand out the pack, with a worldsy production (aided by Simon Mavin and Perrin Moss from Hiatus Kaiyote) chugging along underneath Owuso's woozy vocals. It's a little jazzy, a little soulful, a little hip-hop, and very, very good.
Despite having collaborations with names including Midas.Gold under his belt, on his most recent solo single Late Nights is where Brisbane's Carmouflage Rose is at his best. He's another artist diversifying the Australian hip-hop scene, with a sensual, Kaytranada-esque funk vibe that twinkles across the woozy, soulful single. It's an incredibly dangerous single to anyone else in Australia's hip-hop world trying to make moves – all it has taken Carmouflage Rose is a handful of bubbly singles and he's one signing major booking deals and becoming one of Australia's most celebrated up-and-comers.
There's something so addictive in Melbourne's Sophiegrophy which keeps me hitting repeat. She's already got quite a buzz around her, but her new single FA$T LIFE breaks boundaries, combining a bubbly, punching Lewis Cancut production with her light, quick-firing vocal flow which will instantly draw comparisons to Tkay Maidza and the likes. The Nigerian -born musician touches on a more clubby and pop-infused side of hip-hop which I can definitely see becoming big, especially if they're all as quirky and distinctive as FA$T LIFE.
Familiar with his collaboration with Alice Ivy Get Me A Drink, Charlie Threads may be the last name in this list, but he's one of the best. The Melbourne rapper is one of the more emerging names on this list but he's nothing but excellent, causing a stir with his jazzy, King Krule-like productions which swirl underneath his effortlessly easy verses. As one of the highlights of his Rainy Weather Music EP, Fall is a blissed-out and relaxed hip-hop jam which combines Illy with BADBADNOTGOOD for something that's really quite unique (and very cool) to Australia.