Images: Ben Thomson
“What do you know about me? What do you know about we?” fires young MC Kmalith over a woozy trap beat on the track “3977”. “Put it down for my town right now, I can’t say I got the crown right now, but I swear that’s my crowd right now getting loud right now.”
Of course Kmalith isn’t the first young hip-hop MC to proudly rep his town or neighbourhood, but his ‘3977’ is the postcode for Cranbourne, a suburb in Melbourne’s outer south-east, that has gained recent, and some say over zealous, media attention for a perceived rise in crime and gangs.
The 18-year-old is part of GREMLNS a young and mostly African and Pacific Islander hip-hop crew who live in Cranbourne and surrounding suburbs. With names like Phantom, La Mob$tah, Leviticus, Juice, Wang, Sky Pharaoh, and Miracle, they produce a hip-hop that is heavily influenced by US trap and even elements of UK grime.
With a large social media presence and appearances at local parties, the crew are raising both their profile and their skills with an increasing sophistication in their beats and flows.
Kmalith moved from South Sudan to Melbourne with his family when he was six. It was in high school that he first picked up a microphone and through collaborating and jamming with his friends improved his style and confidence.
Lil Ralphy doesn't lack confdience. The young GREMLNS MC and entrepreneur, who has a New Zealand and Hawaiian background, runs Varmint a clothing brand and hosts and promotes popular parties in homes and halls in the local area. Promoted heavily through social media and with the Gremlns often playing, the parties can attract up to 400 people in just a few hours. Though often shut down by the cops Ralphy says that while violence does sometimes occurs it’s not as out of hand as the media make out.
Young, talented, entrepreneurial and party-harders, GREMLNS are putting Cranbourne on the map for all the right reasons.
We caught up with Kmalith and Lil Ralph before they headed into a Collingwood studio to record a new Kmalith track.
Noisey: Who are the GREMLNS?
Kmalith: We are around six young guys from the south-east. Most of us are 18 and under. The youngest is 15. We started making music in high school and decided to take it more serious and started with Facebook and You Tube videos. We ended up getting picked up by management who put us on shows at Crown Casino and stuff.
Are many of your songs specifically about living in Cranbourne?
Kmalith: We talk a lot about the south-east. Life in the 3977. Our music is about us as kids. About how we want to party but also make money from our music.
Unlike most Aussie hip-hop you seem to have a more US feel and style.
Kmalith: We are influenced by American stuff but we have our own little south-east style that people seem to dig. I put out the song “3977” and the response was real strong. I think people like to hear music about where they live.
You like Drake?
Ralphy: He’s crazy. His old shit is more raw the new stuff he put out is like summer vibes.
Who makes your beats?
Kmalith: A few people. For the track I’m recording today it’s this Canadian guy Gaz. I think he lives in Caroline Springs now. We met online and he’s got crazy, quality beats. He sends the beats to me personally.
Ralphy, your parties seem like an important part of the 3977 scene.
Ralphy:: Yeah they get big. At our last one people came from all over west side.There was 600 people by nine o’clock. Then the cops shut it down. The neighbours called the police.
Do the the police hassle you much?
Kmalith: Yeah all the time. I got stopped in Noble Park just the other day.
Ralphy: It’s normally at stations. I was helping a lady get her big ass bag of shopping off the train and the cops came up to me and said “Drop that bag now”. I was trying to help her!
Is there much crime happneing?
The usual stuff like people taking cars and stuff.
What else is going down in Cranbourne?
Kmalith: Cranbourne Plaza (laughs) It’s going up now. They’ve renovated it.
Ralphy: Yeah. There's the Square. We used to have beef with the junkies who hung out there. They’d follow people and try to roll them.
Talk back radio and some media are losing their shit over the Apex Crew. Do you know those guys?
Kmalith: Yeah, but there’s only like 15 of them who are legit. There’s not as many as people think.
Are they into hip-hop?
Kmalith: Yeah. Some of them try to make hip-hop too.
Are they any good?
Kmalith: Yeah they are pretty good. Some of them are.
Do they come to your parties?
Ralphy: Yeah they come but don’t cause any trouble. The only time trouble starts is when the cops come. People try to fight the cops and they can’t so other fights break out.
I like your style. That’s a sweet jacket.
Kmalith: Yeah thanks. Savers is where we shop. We can get good stuff that's real cheap. I got this one at Fountain Gate.
You need to hit the country towns for old school clothes that are cheap and rad.
Kmalith:Yeah that sounds cool.
The GREMLNS regional Australia tour?