Per capita I’m willing to wager the quotient of Australian hip-hop covered on RapReviews.com is greater than if not equal to any other magazine online or off in the entire United States. I can understand when other publications avoid French, German or Japanese hip-hop due to the natural language barrier, but it mystifies me that more people don’t embrace this scene in North America. The likely culprit is those stupid Crocodile Dundee movies, the ones that set up absurd stereotypes involving kangaroos, boomerangs and “throwing shrimp on the barbie.” Any rap head who listened to a Muph & Plutonic, Hilltop Hoods or Pegz album among many others would quickly realize how wrong those ideas are. The scene in “the land down under” can be traced back to the mid-1980’s and in the last decade the beats and rhymes of rappers from Melbourne and Sydney have proven to be the equal of any underground or mainstream rap act from New York or Los Angeles. I don’t want to stand on a soapbox and preach but at the same time people who say “hip-hop is dead” and don’t listen to a single album from any rapper outside of North America should just SHUT IT.
“Those who don’t agree with my freedom of choices
Should at least respect here they got the freedom to voice it
Media hype, sensationalized poison
Divide by our difference not build common points
But for all from Baghdad to Britain
Ain’t feelin our lifestyle and living pack your bags good riddance
Can’t question our morals, can’t query our spirit
Cause we know when the fire come, heroes come with it
And this is my country, flaws and all
Stood with our boys overseas at war for us
So, I’m not hearin we ain’t doin it right
Cause it’s easy to criticize, it’s easy to divide
But this is our country, young and free
We the sum of all nations, the sum of all creeds
Yeah, we invite, knowin when it’s crunch time
We the sum of our people combined”
The sentiments Illy expresses on “Our Country” are patriotic and humanistic at the same time. It could easily be mistaken for pride in American stars and stripes worship were it not for his accent when he says “I’ll be a proud motherfucker with my flag raised high.” It’s tempting as it is to accept this as jingoistic and not look any further, but the banging ivories and ill sped-up R&B samples provided by J-Skub draw you in to see the universal truths this Melbourne native drops. While he’s perfectly clear that he feels Australia is the greatest country in the world, the song credits that greatness to their diversity, tolerance and compassion of the Australian people. In the end though Illy offers this surprising confession as the dope beats wind down: “Now I’m not sayin we’re perfect, we’re far from it – and sometimes the bullshit gets in the way of us seein how good we’ve actually got it.” He also expresses a deep abiding love for Australia’s aboriginal people and desire to see them enjoy the same benefits of the bountiful “lucky country” as anyone else.
Illy’s pride is enough to make you want to hop a long flight headed for the Southern hemisphere, but he’s more than just a pro-Aussie hip-hop head. “Dumb it Down” is not the same sentiment Lupe Fiasco would be very familiar with. Over a horn filled Ta-Ku beat, Illy smoothly keeps the tempo and offers a party rap about coming home looking like “stir fried shit” but taking a splash of cold water in the face and going out to get your drink on “cause none of us intellectual at three A.M.” Nothing wrong with having a little fun right? Illy also blesses the soulful wailing of the M-Phazes produced “Generation Y,” offering though-provoking sentiments about being proud of those who serve their country while still hating the old men who send them to war for less than ideal reasons (that sounds familiar). “Rock Star Shit” lives up to the billing and again it’s M-Phazes who deserves the beat credit, but Illy deserves even more for banging out raps with enough attitude that you’d expect Billy Danze and Lil’ Fame to join in with him at any second – pure mosh pit hip-hop you can slam to.
When Illy closes the album out with “All Around the World” featuring Kulaia, you can hear the plane flying overhead, a true indication of the seriously global vibe Illy’s on. This album is multi-layered in every facet – well thought out and complex beats with equally well thought out and delivered rhymes that speak to universal truths AND the local ones that Illy knows so well. One really does get the feeling they’ve been around the world and back again after “Long Story Short,” with the irony being that Illy could and SHOULDhave made this short story longer. While I regret that once again many of my peers will refuse to take a chance based on the accent alone, I would wager that Illy’s flow is one of the easiest to follow of any of his Australian peers and in terms of his lyrics and breath control I would rate him the equal of Muph in ability. Aside from the unfortunate price difference that may come from having to import an album like this there isABSOLUTELY NO REASON you should sleep on Illy, who lives up to his name by being one of the top rappers to come from Melbourne in general or Australia as a whole. If he isn’t already a superstar in his native land he should be very soon, and if he decides to tour a city where you live passing up a chance to see him would be like passing up a chance to see Del or Nas. Aussie hip-hop – if you don’t love it yet, start HERE.