Hottest 100 of 2013

Hottest 100

It’s that time of year again. The time where you choose your favorite hip-hop songs of the past twelve months, painstakingly whittle them down to a mere ten, head to a BBQ pool party with your mates, turn the radio up and listen with gradually increasing disappointment while local hip-hop gets underrepresented once again. That’s right, it’s the Triple J Hottest 100!

I don’t listen to the radio. Partly because I don’t have a radio, and partly because all Australian radio is horrible. “What’s better, cats or dogs? Give us a call!” Jesus fuck. Triple J is the best we’ve got, and it’s okay, sometimes. But the good stuff is lost amongst all the indie/folk bullshit. This is why all my new music comes from albums I buy or bands I find online. To be honest, I usually recognise a good handful of songs from the 100, purely through not living under a rock. But this year, when my sister told me her money was on Lorde picking up #1, I had to youtube who that was. This year when I cast my votes, I had to add four songs manually because I couldn’t find ten tracks in the song list that I liked. That is a sure sign I’m losing touch with society.

Here are my favorite songs from 2013, in no particular order:

  • Bliss N Eso – Reservoir Dogs (featuring 360, Pez, Seth Sentry & Drapht)
  • Busta Rhymes – Thank You (featuring Q-Tip, Kanye West & Lil Wayne)
  • Kanye West – New Slaves
  • Mantra – Loudmouth
  • Spit Syndicate – Amazing
  • Horrorshow – Unfair Lottery
  • Force – Rep What We Rep (featuring Tommy Illfigga)
  • Known Associates – Ashes to Dust
  • Dialect and Despair – Low Pro
  • The Tongue – Rhymin’

The last four were the ones added in manually, presumably because they weren’t on the Triple J rotation. Check them out if you haven’t heard them, they’re great! The most difficult thing about this year’s vote was trying to decide which Horrorshow track to put in. King Amongst Many is an incredible album start to finish. Another tough decision was whether to include the Busta Rhymes track given its horrible Emirates product placement and the fact that Yeezy and Weezy are both credited as feature artists yet neither of them actually drop a verse. Kanye is good, but a few “uh” and “yeh” noises from him doesn’t entitle him to a spot in the track features. Q-Tip is great though.

I wonder how many years I have left in me before I don’t even bother voting or listening, and spend Australia Day tuned into Goonbag Radio alone like a grumpy old man.

Endless Perspectives

Architecture and graffiti are intrinsically linked. Buildings, like a train in a siding, are a blank canvas for writers to create art. Yet this relationship remains relatively unexplored. Far from working with writers, architects design against them; anti-graffiti glazing, cladding and all sorts of materials are available to deter ‘vandals’ from adding colour to a building. Occasionally, firms will include a permanent mural as part of their design, but these 2D facades fail to push the boundaries of either architecture or graffiti. The potential for cooperative design is (largely) yet to be realised.

The exception is ITN Architects. This Melbourne based firm are doing things never seen in Australia and possibly the world, combining street culture and architectural design to create unique and eye-catching buildings. Their first project was The Hive apartments in Carlton (pictured below), a collaboration between ITN and renowned graffiti artist Prowla. Prowla designed the letters and they were incorporated into the facade as structural panels of precast concrete, creating a beautiful amalgamation of the two artforms. The interior is also quite unique, like something out of a sci-fi flick.

Hive Banner

ITN’s second project in their series of three street culture themed buildings is an ambitious design in Collingwood. Dubbed the End-to-End Offices, it is an ode to the glory days of Melbourne graffiti, when whole-cars rattled along the rails bringing colour to the masses, from the city loop to the suburbs. Perched atop the six offices are three decommissioned Hitachi carriages that house boardrooms for their owners. When completed, the design will certainly turn heads.

End-to-End Banner

And here, in ITN’s half-finished construction site, among the piles of reo bars and timber frameworks, DOES set up his Endless Perspectives exhibition. The spot was perfect. And popular; the queue for entry on opening night was an hour long. As it was a building site, visitors had to be shown through in groups of no more than 10, which explained the wait. Once we arrived at the front of the queue we were issued with hard hats and briefed. Then we were in.

The exhibition itself was a curious one, based around five pieces and five cities. Amsterdam, Basel, London, Paris and Melbourne. DOES visited all of these cities and painted a mural in each, based on the colours he experienced while there. Once each piece was finished and filmed DOES buffed his own work, leaving not a trace of the original, taking only a canvas of each letter. Given the quality of his work, it seemed a shame that these incredible murals are no longer available for the public in each of these cities to see. But herein lies the point of DOES’ exhibition; to highlight the transient nature of the artform. Graffiti doesn’t last forever. If it isn’t buffed or painted over with grey, it will eventually be capped or have a new piece painted over it. The death of a piece is inevitable, DOES takes his work into his own hands.

Endless Perspectives showcases all five works; the thirty-two canvases from Amsterdam, Basel, London and Paris, plus the full original painted on a precast concrete panel of End-to-End. Each piece is mounted alongside the original sketches and a projected video of the city they came from. The designs blend an impressive palette of colours. DOES’ attention to detail is obvious, each letter is well considered and executed. The full-colour letter canvases sit on black and white prints of the whole; memories of what used to be, but is now gone. The contrast is visually stunning, and leaves the viewer thoughtful. Four are gone already, and once the viewer leaves, the Melbourne mural will also be taken down. Ironically, this fact makes DOES’ paintings more memorable than the ones we see daily on our train lines.

I wonder what the old heads and ‘graffiti doesn’t belong in an art show’ purists thought of the exhibition, since the pieces were definitely painted on walls originally. One thing is certain though, it was popular. The exhibition tour spilled out into the alleyway behind the building where a DJ and bar with free Jägermeister and Red Bull had been set up, and it was packed. DOES himself floated around the crowds, as did architect Zvi Belling of ITN. It was an impressive evening. Endless Perspectives ran all this weekend but unfortunately is now over. The canvases were for sale, so will be dispersed and probably never come together again once the exhibition has been toured, but such is the nature of the art.

Below is a handful of photos from opening night. Visit DOES’  website here, and his Vimeo channel here to see videos of the stories behind each piece.

Hip-Hop and the Hottest 100

Well, today is the last day to vote in the Hottest 100, the annual music countdown run by Triplej. If you’re not too busy adorning your car mirrors with Australian flag covers or walking the streets shirtless with a VB stubbie and flag cape like some sort of drunken, racist superhero, perhaps you’ll be spending your Invasion Day like me; in a mate’s backyard pool with the radio locked on Triplej.

Australia Day may (does) have morally questionable foundations and the combination of alcohol and patriotism may (does) bring out the worst in parts of our society, but the day itself also highlights one of this country’s great strengths: unity. And the millions of people, nationally and internationally, that tune into the Hottest 100 is a beautiful example of this. Music is relatively unbiased and pushes no agenda. Music is something everyone can enjoy.

Triplej describes the countdown as “the world’s largest musical democracy.” Of course a democracy, as with any political system, has its faults. Songs receiving frequent airplay are likely to place higher. Some artists, as determined by the gods at Triplej, receive no airplay at all. Artists themselves must decide if they’ll shamelessly spam their fans with self-promotion. Songs released at the beginning of the year are disadvantaged. Some artists receive airplay on commercial radio. Et cetera, et cetera. Such flaws are unavoidable. Still, for the most part, it is good.

My favorite thing about the Hottest 100 is how it makes you think about music. Even if you don’t vote, the simple act of considering the options sparks those brain cells. And for those who do vote, the task of condensing an entire year of music down to 10 songs, while difficult, really helps you better understand what you appreciate in music, why you listen and what defines your taste.

Even for someone like me, with such a tight range of music I would define as “good”, it was still a struggle to decide who to vote for. I probably put more thought into my votes than I did last federal election.

• Do I vote for the big international acts or support the home grown Australian stuff?

• Do I prioritise smaller acts that would benefit from the exposure more, over well-established ones?

• What do I value more; lyrics, delivery, production, cuts, originality, depth?

• Do I vote for popular songs that are guaranteed to make the 100 to help them get as high as possible, or do I vote for lesser known songs/artists in the hope that they may scrape in?

• Do I vote for artists that make top 100 music but didn’t even get on the list (Maundz) or is that throwing away votes?

• If I do decide to vote international, do I choose the catchy single that everyone will vote for (Thrift Shop), the thoughtful critique of hip-hop/basketball/consumerist culture (Wings) or the long overdue and beautiful discussion of hip-hop and sexuality (Same Love)?

• Do I vote for my favorite song of the album (The Underground) or the track with the incredible video clip (Rattling The Keys To The Kingdom)?

• The cheerful tune (Young And Dumb) or the deeper one (Maybe Tomorrow)?

• The most banging beat (Naive Bravado), the best feature (Clean Slate) or the summer anthem of 2012 (Knee Length Socks)?

• The funny song (Dear Science) or the serious song (Campfire)?

• What about the bizarre yet catchy South African rave-rappers (Die Antwoord)?

• Or the amazing cover song that’s possibly better than the original (Brother)?

Decisions, decisions…

The great thing is you can’t really go wrong. But definitely think before you hit Submit, partly for the thought process itself, but also because votes are powerful, and the artists you choose appreciate your support more than you may realise.

Robert Hunter Cup

It’s not hard to spot a hip-hop head if you know what you’re looking for. Hoodies, caps and kicks were thick on the 12:53 Lilydale. Warriors and Kings tees. Sunglasses, probably hiding the hangover from last night’s All Stars gig. Pretty sure I even saw Fraksha fare evading up the other end of my carriage with his dog. Needless to say, we all disembarked at Glenferrie station for the pilgrimage to the Robert Hunter Cup, a charity football match in memory of Hunter (of the Syllabolix crew) who was taken by cancer 366 days previous.

Before I’d even set eyes on the oval I could hear the chanting. “HUNTER! HUNTER! HUNTER!” The Eastside Kings, a mass of blue, were running laps of the oval. The Westside Warriors were warming up on the far side. A crowd had already started to gather in the shadow of the Michael Tuck grandstand. Goonbag Radio had set up a portable broadcasting studio in a truck on the sidelines (out of eyeshot of the scoreboard, which would prove troublesome for the commentators later). Beatbox Kitchen was supplying the food. Monster was dishing out freebies from the back of a ute. Dvate was starting the mark-up of a mural dedicated to the West Australian legend. Fans were setting up on any available space around the oval. It was all coming together.

Shortly after 2pm Marley, Hunter’s son, took to the oval for the coin toss. The two teams, Warriors in red and Kings in blue, converged on centre field, forming two opposing lines. Marley, surrounded by his father’s peers, tossed the coin. The Warriors would kick east, Kings west. Then the game began.

Safe to say the Warriors dominated from the first bounce, largely due to the efforts of Mr Grevis. The Kings failed to score a single goal in the first quarter, a fact that Suffa and Sesta at the Goonbag commentary desk were only too happy to point out. Repeatedly. Apart from very biased observations, the commentary consisted mainly of discussions of who K21’s real dad was, uncertainty of the actual score and who would get the first hit on Beats (and win the 18YO Chivas Regal bounty). But the first hit was on Crispy. From my vantage point it was difficult to see what happened, but one minute he was dashing for the ball, next he was on the grass surrounded by St John’s Ambulance personnel. Thankfully though, Crispy left the field on his feet, not on a gurney.

The first quarter ended with Suffa shouting “Stop! This is the siren!” in lieu of an actual siren, although I believe a vuvuzela was provided by Dedlee Jr. for future use. The score was 0-0-2 vs 3-3-21 to the Warriors. The Kings huddled around their captain, Trem, for a pep talk. Trem himself was off the field due to an injury at their last training session, but he must’ve said something right because the Kings came back swinging in the second quarter, scoring two goals and a further point. At the end of the first half the Warriors still lead though, 2-3-15 to 4-4-28.

By the end of the third quarter it seemed like the Westside Warriors had the cup in the bag, widening their lead to a massive 18 points, 4-4-28 to 7-4-46. But the Kings fought back in the final quarter, largely thanks to some deadly accurate kicking by Scott Dooley. In the dying minutes of the game they were only two points short of the Warriors. The Westsiders fought to maintain their lead but were unable to stop Reason kicking the final goal of the match, putting the Kings ahead by 4 points and winning the game 7-8-50 to 7-4-46. Fists went skywards from the Kings contingent at the final siren. What a win!

Players and their families, friends and spectators all came together for post-game speeches. An esky was passed around to collect donations for Make-A-Wish. Trem received the trophy for the victorious Eastside Kings. Scott Dooley was awarded Best on Ground, as well as picking up the bottle of Chivas for getting the first hit on Beats. Dools also managed to get sponsored $100 per goal he scored from Hong Kong Phooty (who actually donated a round $500) and Stuart Haven from Vibe Electrical. Dedlee announced that the match ball would be given to Marley. The teams gathered for photos, Dvate finished off his mural, Goonbag clicked off and a huge collective of Australian rappers left Glenferrie oval to either go home and sit in a bath of salts, or more likely, to have a drink in Hunter’s honour.

The objective of the Robert Hunter Cup was twofold; to remember a legend in the Australian hip-hop scene and to raise money for Make-A-Wish, both of which were achieved spectacularly. While the Kings won the match, the Warriors were the clear winners in donations, raking in a massive $9,671 from generous supporters. The Kings collected a not-to-be-sneezed-at $5,268 for a grand total of $14,939 (not including money collected on the day) donated to Make-A-Wish. Bloody incredible. Massive thanks and congratulations to Dedlee, Bias B, Heata and Stewbakka for organising the entire event and pulling it off on the day.

But the event achieved a third, less expected success: bringing together an incredible number of artists and contributors from every corner of the genre. Seeing Headlock and Dazastah playing alongside each other, Bias B handballing the leather to Crispy, Trem patting Urthboy on the back, Chris Gill clashing with Kai in the ruck or Drapht dodging a tackle by Tornts was special. I don’t know of any other scene in Australia, or even the world, where such a diverse range of musicians could come together from all over the country and play a ball game to celebrate the life of a fallen comrade. Such is the spirit of the hip-hop community in Australia and the strength and importance of Hunter’s position within it. I hope the Robert Hunter Cup becomes an annual tradition. It deserves to be. RIP Huntz.

A full list of the players involved can be found here.

Keep an eye out on the Goonbag Radio website for the audio commentary, which should be available soon.