Indigenous Hip Hop

My hip hop research has chosen to focus specifically on local Indigenous artists. There has been much written within academia about hip hop recently and many important contributions to understanding the significance of the music for identity formation and the upholding of social bonds have been made. Having said that, no in depth ethnographic work has fixed on the creative side of this contemporary form of music.

ECPIndigenous hip hop group ECP performing at Windang (photo: Andrew Warren)

Thus my work has focused on how hip hop is being produced and consumed by Indigenous youth, and what this may mean for the future of Australian and Indigenous hip hop. Most of the fifteen participants interviewed and observed during my research became involved in rapping or deejaying to self express. Rapping, dancing or deejaying assisted them to negotiate wider social problems faced at school or home. Along the way well recognised hip hoppers from the wider Indigenous community played a mentoring role in assisting musical participation. The Wollongong region is also integral to this music making, where raps speak of love for country and culture.

Corey WebsterCorey Webster performing at Windang (photo: Andrew Warren)

From initial flirtations, a number of young rappers then begun to perform their music locally, even receiving small payments for their gigging. These experiences had crystallised aspiration for professional careers in music, however unlikely that may have been. This work challenges discursive assumptions often portrayed in the media about young Indigenous people as idle and lacking ambition. In many cases, participants had been praised by audience members after performances for their slick rhyming skills, and funky beat making. However, performances were limited to Indigenous events, with patron discourses acting to determine 'proper Indigenous' performance from 'other 'forms of expression (see Van Toorn, 1990). This work, with great help from my good mate Rob Evitt - also an amateur Indigenous rapper himself- is ongoing, but demonstrates the obstacles facing young Indigenous performers in the region.