HISTORY OF HIP HOP IN AUSTRALIA
compiled by Dj Defenda
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Apologies for any errors, omissions or incomplete information, this is being updated regularly.
This page is an Interactive Time-Line – most sections will allow you to click on the ‘info’ button for more information, video & audio tracks as well as links to associated Artists
Australian hip hop music began in the early 1980s; originally it was primarily influenced by hip hop music and culture imported via radio and television from the United States of America. However,since the 1990s,a distinctive local style has developed. Australian hip hop is an underground music scene with only a few commercial hits in the last decade. Albums and singles are released by mostly independent record labels,often owned and run by the artists themselves.
The first hip hop recording was the relatively mainstream 1980 pop release ‘Rapper’s delight’ by
the African-American Sugarhill Gang. This was followed by films such as the 1982 rap and graffiti documentary Wild style , the 1984 rap and breakdance feature film Beat street, among others), and hip hop music videos such as Malcolm McLaren’s ‘Buffalo gals’ .
These three key hip hop visual texts had a considerable impact in Australia, as elsewhere in the world, where fledgling and inspirational breakers and graffiti writers, and later rappers and turntablists, copied every move from the videos and began taking their newly acquired skills out onto the streets. Burwood Park in Sydney’s inner west was one of the earliest breakdancing sites
in Australia, and was not without the occasional violent encounter, as represented in multicultural crew Sound Unlimited’s 1992 track ‘Tales from the westside’ – Tony Mitchell
I’m glad to be the person who started it, to bridge the culture gap. You know, no black thing or white thing. It’s the we thing…… There was never no racism, music is the universal language. – Kool Herc
There’s no such thing as black and white hip-hop, just good and bad – Briggs
Okay we may have heard Grandmaster Flash ; the Furious Fives “The Message” on the radio, we may even have seen Crazy Legs ; Frosty Freeze freaking it in Flashdance at the movies for a couple of seconds or seen some graff in Death Wish on TV, but to see all this in three minute music clip was kinda awesome. That was when the seeds to the current Australian Hip-Hop culture were germinated. We all started breaking, some of us then went out bombing, others became glued to the turntables while a select few started rhyming. If one had a Video-recorder, one could always rewind the breaking videos to work out the moves, if one wanted to practice graff one would run around at night with spray paint after perusing over a copy of Subway Art, or after watching a dubbed, dubbed, dubbed copy of Style Wars (which was aired on New Zealand television in 84). If someone else wanted to start deejaying, well then, they bought turntables and records from the import dance stores and stayed at home and practiced, but if one wanted to rhyme . . . well then.” – BLAZE
The first computer to ever play music was in Sydney
CSIRAC was Australia’s first digital computer, It is the oldest surviving first-generation electronic computer and was the first in the world to play digital music.
The Fairlight was the first digital synthesizer and sampler. It was invented by two young Australians.
The Fairlight got its name from a hydrofoil (itself named after the Sydney suburb Fairlight) which Ryrie and Vogel saw pass by as they worked on their invention in Ryrie’s grandmother’s Point Piper garage. We take sampling technology for granted today, but at the time it was a revelation for a computer to be able to store (on floppy disc) and manipulate recorded natural sounds.
The first Rap single to be released by an Australian Artist
Although this was, technically, the first Rap released in the country, it is a Novelty Track and isn’t respected by the community or widely acknowledged as a true Hip Hop Release.
The Thong Clap was also released as a piece of satire and is not really considered a Hip Hop release.
Possibly released in 1983
One of Melbourne’s First Hip Hop Events
Itchin’ In The Kitchen
A song, a video, a legacy. With almost 20 copies sold worldwide Itchin’ in the Kitchen was probably one of the most unsuccessful records of the 1980’s. The lack of sales had probably to do with it only being available in five stores. ‘A video doesn’t a marketing plan make’. Ironically the video was in high rotation on the Australian music video television shows. The video also won a couple of awards.
Side one has a female vocal rap while the B-Side is an instrumental electro version. Apparently it had a custom press run (300?) but the story goes that only 20 copies were actual sold. What happened to the rest of the copies is unknown