The best in Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Music

Hip Hop – Miguel D’Souza

This story originally appeared in Deadly Vibe Magazine Issue #7 August, 1997

We have just opened The Vault – all the back stories from old editions – dating back to the 1990s. To know where we are going, it's important to understand where we have been. And that story you can follow in the Deadly Vibe Vault!

Lots and lots to catch up on this month, before we bring the hip-hop, remember Deadly Vibe’s wicked competition from last month. If you want your own instant record collection, drop us a line and tell us why you want to be a DJ.

And so on we go; time to catch up on all the releases from the hip-hop world you should try and peep. From Notorious B.I.G. comes a double album called Life After Death; there are really only three tracks that match the standard of what Biggie was really capable of with his rhyming, and that’s because they’re produced by DJ Premier and the RZA, of the Wu Tang Clan. DJ Premier produces Ten Crack Commandments, where Biggie runs things down from his own experiences of crack slanging and hustling.

“I’ve been in this game for years, it made me an animal . . .”, he begins, while Premier’s simple beat, nothing more than a basic melody and drumbeat, using a sample of Chuck D counting down and Premier cutting with a tone creates rising tension.

Like all Biggie’s material, the rhymes are dark and match Premier’s tense beats perfectly. The same goes for the other DJ Premier cut “Kick In the Door”, which uses a wicked horn break from a track by Screamin’ Jay Hawkins called “Put A Spell On You” ; Screaming Jay is a blues performer who used to appear from a coffin during his stage shows, and whose voice got him the title ‘Screamin’. RZA produces Long Kiss Goodnight, another grim, but beautifully produced cut.

Other track titles like You’re Nobody (‘Til Somebody Kills You), Somebody’s Gotta Die, Last Day and My Downfall make for even more grim listening, the choice of title almost suggesting that the shooting of Notorious B.I.G. was the best thing his record company could have hoped for especially when you consider what it can do for album sales. With all these rumours about Tupac not really being dead, I don’t know . . .

The RZA’s main project, the Wu Tang Clan, also released a double album recently. Called “Forever”, this really is brilliantly produced music, with RZA the Abbott’s rhyming apostles Method Man, Inspectah Deck, Ol’Dirty Bastard, CZA/Genius, U-God, Masta Killa, Reakwon and Ghost Face Killah dropping super rhymes over RZA’s usual beats. The Wu Tang Clan come from New York’s Staten Island, and their rhymes tackle diffent concepts to the drugs and gansterism of Notorious B.I.G Forever begins with Ol’Dirty Bastard frightened voice, “these things just took over me, just took over my whole body, so I can’t even see no more.

I’m calling my woman a bitch, I’m calling people all kinds of things. . .” The Wu’s message, changing for the better “leave the cigarettes, the guns, the alcohol and everything, that’s the mental devil that exists within your body”. Improving your own situation, and following a hip-hop path, giving young people the discipline that can be learnt by learning to do something really well. In Wu Tang’s case, the thing that they do is rhyme; and look where it got them.

On the local front, try to find the album Sleekism, Sleek The Elite, a Lebanese-Australian mc. On his cut Child of the Cedar, Sleek rhymes about racism from his own experience, as well as what he’s seen around him. He’s aware that migrant Australians aren’t the only ones to have been victims, when he rhymes “but wait a minute convict, because now you’re the man, it doesn’t mean you’ve always owned the land, in 200 years you spread disease and been tears confirmed fears nothing goods been achieved, there’s much less Indigenous people now believe and still many Aboriginal mother grieve”.

It’s important that more MCs like Sleek, who have records out speak out about racism in Australia. Hip-hop music became a means for black youth in America to fight back with words, now it’s happening here.

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