Normally, Australia Day is all about getting legless, usually in the company of friends with a barbeque and watching the fireworks at the foreshore. The hard working people at Down Under Ground Events had different ideas however, starting Australia Day Eve with a hip hop Jamboree at the Civic Hotel, the site of last year’s smashing Masta Ace gig. This night was all about the best in local and national hip hop, with representatives from both the East and West Coasts making an appearance on what was shaping up to be another hot Australia Day Eve for the city of Perth.
Kicking things off was Dista and MX Axis, both a part of local collaborative Sound Magnetiks Affiliation, backed by SMA affiliate DJ Jamu, whom had been dropping classic bangers in preparation for what came ahead. Dista, proving there was no rest for the wicked, took to the stage with a mic in one hand and a crutch on the other. The heat caused the duo to playfully perform a bit of Nelly‘s Hot in Here before launching into What I Talk About – the drinking song that makes an appearance in every Australian emcee repertoire – which did much to distract the audience from the weather outside.
Xzakt from Street LIFE Descendents took to the stage to drop his verse on a track about the importance of where one calls home, before a rendition of So Broken that not only spoke on human frailty but serendipitously tied in with Dista’s leg. A performance of Right Reason, which spoke of the process of art slowed things down a bit, before Fucked Up closed out the set.
Switching over to representation from the East Coast, Mistress of Ceremony took to the stage, not only representing Melbourne, Victoria, but also representing the next generation of female emcees that are coming through the ranks. The Mistress started the party with what very well may be her battle cry, M.O.C, garnering audience participation with Mistress handing off the mic to someone in the audience to do parts of the chorus. LMG Sessions Verse off Let Them Eat Cake quickly followed, with its Eastern rhythm samples takes on an extra edge when performed live. The set continued on with further tracks in a similar high octane fashion. This did much to get the crowd going, before the emcee flipped the script and slowed the proceedings down with some more tracks that took on a personal edge. It’s with tracks such as Who Am I and Come Around that show she can not only get the party started but also speak of personal pain and loss. Capping off the set was Hustler, proving the Melbourne femcee was just as hard working as her male peers.
Heading back to WA, Dazastah and Layla hit the stage, with the latter being an obvious influence on Mistress of Ceremony. Kicking things off with a bang, the presence of an MPC meant that the producer extraordinaire was going to have some fun on his own terms. A rendition of Tits and Balls set the stage, the track being enjoyed by both genders and also showed the levity of the dynamic duo when they perform on stage together. After setting the scene with tracks like that, it was a look into the past with R.I.P, Dazastah‘s collaboration on Drapht‘s album Brothers Grimm, before Daz had some fun with aforementioned MPC, and launching into a freestyle jam season over some new beats and bars.
Paying tribute to another local legend, Woody Woodpecker got a run out – the playful track coming from Done DL, his collaboration with Hunter and a fitting dedication to the local stalwart who sadly passed away. After being on the receiving end of some playful heckles from emcee Mortar, the duo delved into some more of the quality material both have accumulated over the years. The rendition of Calm Before the Storm off Downsyde‘s last album, All City, kept the good vibes of camaraderie and playfulness going. The duo finished things off with a track that paid tribute to the hell queen that is Layla, before the hell queen herself choose to dedicate the next day to the original owners of this land, a fact that is often forgotten by many as they celebrate on the foreshore.
After the dose of hip hop royalty , it was time for the main act. Proving how love of the art can overcome setbacks, for the uninitiated, MDMA is composed of Mdusu and Manaz Ill. Manaz Ill hit the stage, taking a minute to suss out the size of the stage as the emcee is blind from a degenerative eye disease. Not that this has had any impact on the love the emcee holds for the art, which is evident in the tracks he makes. After starting with some self deprecating tracks such as Ray Charles, the emcee launched into Run Away, which covers the darker side of addiction and losing people to it. Love You Hot covered the angst in dating game, whilst Memory Lane, like its namesake, was a trip to golden era for many that was the 90’s. Next up was Red Pill, Blue Pill, with its heavy synth setting a tense atmosphere, which helped reinforced the pop culture reference about choices.
No Part of Me took things back to light side, the catchy shuffling beat complementing the emcee’s rhymes about the split personality nature of not only himself, but everyone in general. A track Manaz wrote about being fresh of the plane whilst he was in the air reflected the hard working nature of the emcee, whilst the title track of the album showed the musings and thought processes of a man clearly in love with the art. It was here the solidarity of hip hop was shown, with a rendition of No Justice, No Peace, had the presence of local emcee Cortext. Blah Blah Blah, a diss-track, not only acknowledged of hip hop history in the nature of the rhymes, but the inclusion of a sample from Eye of the Needle by Ten Wheel Drive only reinforced this notion. The sample appearing in numerous tracks over the years in some shape or form. With the night getting on, Manaz Ill thanked everyone that was on and off stage, finishing his set with Game On before finally ending things appropriately with the psych rock influenced When the Party Stops.
The night before Australia Day, especially this one that happened on a weekend, is usually a hard sell for many. For those who opted to attend were treated to a selection of both East and West coast hip hop artists who all brought something a little different to the night, which helped the relaxed attitude nicely. Kudos to everyone that made it that night, especially Down Under Ground Events for donating all the proceeds to the victims of the recent Perth bush fires. Again showing the solidarity that occurs in hip hop, a refreshing change from the perceived materialism that can plague the genre.
By David Coffey