Music by VICE

Here's An Exciting Glimpse into the Future of African-Australian Hip-Hop

Listen to Big Skeez, KWASI and HFNR’s three-way trap experiment.

by James Ruklis
01 September 2016, 2:13am

Images: The XCV Collective

Sydney’s Big Skeez is the most recent figure to rise from Australia’s underground hotbed of young, African-born rappers. The position certainly wasn’t self-appointed either, as there’s just something about the guy that his peers truly respect.

When you watch his early videos or listen to his S.A.T.T mixtape, you see someone who historically doesn’t belong at the helm of a polished Australian music-industry vessel. But about a year ago, the quality of his music and the way he presented himself online crossed a line that very few African-born artists have touched without some serious management wizardry.

In a western-world music scene, the difference between success and failure often comes down to an artists understanding of cultural intricacies. If you don't book a shows at the right venue or have your social media aesthetic on point, good luck.

“Up In Here”, Skeez’s latest step into the unknown is an equally balanced joint-effort with two very talented Melbourne rapper KWASI and producer HFNR.

For those of us who can stomach warble-trap, all three artists did the Lord’s work on this one. Skeez’s feverish, lyrical blurting will march your ears through a non-existent Kenyan-Australian jungle. Kwasi’s rhythmic melodies take you bouncing through Melbourne’s nebulous club-scene. As for HFNR’s digital storytelling, well that’s a whole other world in itself.

Noisey: What’s the story behind “Up In Here”?
Really, I was in Melbourne for the weekend to headline THANK GUARD's Boney monthly, linked up with HFNR, went to KWASI’s home studio, went through HFNR’s beats, found one we liked, free-styled the hook, wrote the verses, recorded it the same night and that was a wrap.

You seem to be searching for a new sound that goes beyond the ATL influence. What’s your musical vision for the next few releases?
Yeah, I’m trying to do a bit of everything really. My next few releases are quite different to what I’ve been making. I’ve been working on a lot of different sounds just to surprise everyone.

Can Australian rappers ever really compete with the USA at their own game?
Yes. I think very much so, because the amount of new [Australian] artists coming out right now is just unbelievable and the music that’s coming out is dope. Period.

What are some of the challenges you’ve faced as an African-born rapper trying to make it in Sydney?
Um, just being accepted into the industry. I think the fact that I’m African and trying to get into the Aussie hip-hop scene is hard, because people don’t tend to pay attention at times.

Which Australian rappers are you bumping right now?
Right now I’m bumpin' I AM D, Erik Sanders, Marcus, Dos Boy & Levi.

James Ruklis is one of the hip-hop heads behind THANK GUARD, follow him on Twitter.

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