Local Knowledge were an Indigenous hip-hop group from Newcastle, New South Wales.They were formed in 2002 by brothers Abie and Wok Wright and Joel Wenitong with DJ Jay Tee joining later. They disbanded in 2006. After the breakup Joel, his sister Naomi from Shakaya and DJ Jay Tee formed The Last Kinection while Abie and Wok have formed Street Warriors.
Brothers Abie and Wok Wright both have a background in rugby league and traditional Aboriginal dance
Local Knowledge won a Deadly Award in 2005 for Band of the Year and a Musicoz award for Indigenous Band of the Year. They played a live set for TripleJ’s Live at the Wireless show, becoming the first indigenous hip hop group to do so and were the subjects of a SBS TV documentary “Local Knowledge: The Message”. Their song Blackfellas was on high rotation on TripleJ
One of the most successful Indigenous groups in Australia has parted ways. But it ain’t all over for this band of brothas.
Back in 2002, brothers Abie and Warwick “Wok” Wright approached Joel Wenitong about forming a hip hop crew. All three shared a common passion for producing and performing hip hop music, and Joel also had his own studio.
What eventuated was the most popular and successful Australian Indigenous hip hop crew ever; a proud, community-minded Aboriginal trio who aptly calle d t hemselves Local Knowledge.
The three began taking their message to Indigenous communities aroun d t he country, picking up a fourth member, DJ Jaytee along the way. The crew broke into mainstream radio waves, collected a swathe of awards, rocked sold-out concerts earne d t hemselves an army of fans.
But four years on, Local Knowledge have decide d to call it a day. Joel has now teamed up with his sister Naomi, formerly from Shakaya, while Abie and Wok have formed a new group, Street Warriors.
“We had a blast,” says Abie of his time with the group. “We were the first to combine hip hop with Aboriginal culture, and now there’s plenty of brothers and sisters out there shaking a leg and having a goo d time.”
Two of Local Knowledge’s top achievements include Indigenous Band of the Year at the 2004 Music Oz Awards and the 2005 Deadly Award for Band of the Year.
Indeed, Local Knowledge were trailblazers in many regards. They lai d the groundwork for Indigenous hip hop performers across the country to fin d their own voice, unclouded by the often overbearing American element inherent within hip hop culture.
“We didn’t want to become clones of the African American hip hop scene,” Abie explains. “We wante d to put out something that was true to us; something that our people could be proud of.
“I think we achieve d that. And now Wok and I want to go on an d take it to another level.”
In their time, Local Knowledge became synonymous with Indigenous pride, speaking out about many issues that affect Indigenous people. And while they may no longer be performing, their legacy and message will certainly live on.
Abie and Wok are intent on maintaining the same kind of energy, content and message that became synonymous with Local Knowledge.
“It going to be the same message but with more energy,” Abie says. “We’re going to take it to a higher level. We’re already three quarters of the way into our album and hopefully we should have it released by the end of the year.”
The brothers have been busy jetting from state to state, working with several producers, and intent on equipping themselves with the best hip hop beats and production currently on offer.
“We’ve been spending some time in Melbourne working with a producer called Jay C who has won best R;B producer at the Music Oz awards for the past two years,” Abie says. “So we’re really getting the best production an d t he best beats available.”
Local Knowledge were always a tightly knight group, an d the four parted ways on goo d terms, all of them optimistic about what the future may hold.
The break up of Local Knowledge has also coincided with that of another successful young Indigenous group, Shakaya. Joel has now teamed up with sister Naomi and Jaytee to form Last Kinection, and the group has already started performing.
“We are all definitely still close,” Abie says. “In fact, we just performed with Joel and his sister Naomi at a NAIDOC show in Newcastle, so it’s all good.”
So while Local Knowledge may be no more, the fellas are still out there doing what they do best – telling it like it was, how it is and how it should be.
As Joel Weintraub, originally from the Kabi Kabi tribe in south-east Queensland,
MC with Local Knowledge and lecturer in Health Sciences at Newcastle University,
told Australian Music Online, Local Knowledge is primarily ‘about getting young
blackfella mob back into their culture and teaching our history through music’.18 Their
track ‘Blackfellas’, for which they completed a video in Redfern in October 2005, was on
high rotation on Triple J for two months, and is the feature track of their debut EP,
which they have been selling at gigs, and has already gone into a second pressing.19 It
starts with a shout out to all the Aboriginal groups throughout Australia: Kooris, Murris,
Noongah, etc. They sometimes even throw in ‘Maori’, in commemoration of the
numerous Maori immigrants in Australia and the Indigenous Down Under workshops
they did with Maori crew Upper Hutt Posse in Wellington, Aotearoa, in 2003. – http://press-files.anu.edu.au/downloads/press/p171301/pdf/article091.pdf
A lot of o ur early stuff w as just rap p in g ab o u t straight-up, hardcore issues, about
the stolen generation, about being hassled by coppers, all that sort of stuff. W e just
w an ted to m ake the kids know that there is still a lot of w ork to be done, an d w e
ca n ‘t lose them to drugs an d alcohol, just to tell them they do have a role to play.22
This side of the group w as show n on the 2004 SBS ‘B laktrax’ program , Local
Knowledge: the message, w hich p rovided a useful b ack g ro u n d to the g ro u p ‘s d ev elo p
m ent as an educational crew in A boriginal com m unities since they form ed in M arch
2002, as w ell as the w ay they use A boriginal English an d diss A m erican ‘w a n n ab e es’.23
But as W ok em phasises, there is a negative side to the educational aspects of hip hop
w hich som etim es conflicts w ith its enjoym ent:
I like the m ore com m ercial stuff to be honest, the feelgood stuff, just because I
d o n ‘t like rem inding the kids of how w h en they get hom e from school, there is no
food, d a d ‘s hitting m um , m u m ‘s hitting dad, so they go into their room an d p u t
m usic on, they d o n ‘t w ant to hear anyone singing ab o u t that. They w an t to go on a
journey w ith their music. So th at’s one thing w e do, the easy going feel, but w e
have a bit of a go at everything — A bie likes his crum p, Joel’s a straight hip hop
lover, as w ell as reggae and ragga.24
W eintraub em phasises the p o p u larity of hip ho p in A boriginal com m unities as
w ell as its sim ilarity to existing A boriginal trad itio n s of song and dance:
In o ur com m unities storytelling, m usic, dance, creative arts are the only form of
com m unication, it’s the w ay w e’ve passed on o u r know ledge, and th a t’s one of
the big reasons hip hop is huge in A boriginal com m unities. There isn ‘t one
A boriginal kid w ho d o esn ‘t like hip ho p because it’s that oral com m unication that
we’ve been used to over thousands and thousands of years. And you can also
dance to it, which is a bonus!23
One educational project which Local Knowledge was involved in is ‘Young, Black
+ Deadly’, a series of workshops in all genres of music in a variety of Sydney locations
for young Koori musicians. This was organised by the Gadigal Information Service and
culm inated in concert finales at the Enmore Theatre and CD releases. As Abie Wright
has stated, ‘YBD is our way of m aking sure that Koori music and young Koori artists
keep developing through to the next generations. It’s our traditional way of teaching’ – http://press-files.anu.edu.au/downloads/press/p171301/pdf/article091.pdf
Local Knowledge, a trio from Newcastle, New South Wales, have combined hip hop with traditional Aboriginal dance and storytelling to produce an educational form of rapping, dealing with issues such as alcohol and drugs, deaths in custody, racism, sex education and Aboriginal history, while their 2005 track ‘Blackfellas’ featured shout-outs to Aboriginal groups all over the country. Local Knowledge were the subject of an SBS Television documentary screened as part of the Aboriginal music series Blaktrax in 2004. This documentary showcased the group in performance and interviewed them about their approach to hip hop through Indigenous culture and education (Blaktrax 2004). In 2005, Local Knowledge won Band of the Year at the Deadly Awards (The Deadlys 2005) and headlined Klub Koori: Indigenous Hip Hop, an all-Aboriginal hip hop event held at the Manning Bar at Sydney University. Local Knowledge split into two separate performing groups – Street Warriors and the Last Kinection – in 2006, both of whom performed at that year’s Klub Koori events. – Tony Mitchell
New South Wales, Australia