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Issue 12: Straya Day
Fruit salad, yummy yummy
Another year, another January 26. For any international readers, this day is officially known as Australia Day. It's a topic of much contention, especially during today’s time of heightened social and political awareness.
Rather than celebrate the legacy of colonialism and white supremacy, it does warm my heart to see my social media feed filled with posts calling for Indigenous justice and activism.
A series of posts by my friends at AUDollars also highlighted the growing presence and influence of Aboriginal artists in the hip-hop scene. It goes without saying that hip-hop as a platform for the marginalised and oppressed has no rival. There is a new generation of artists with more visibility than ever and that’s something worth celebrating this January 26.
One Indigenous artist of particular note is someone whose career I’ve been following closely since its very beginning. Someone who managed to get Justin Bieber to the upper echelons of Aussie indie-alt culture, Triple J’s Hottest 100 earlier this week. I am of course speaking of The Kid Laroi.
This young upstart from Sydney has carved quite the unconventional career path thus far. From humble beginnings in the Sydney underground, to a slightly controversial relocation to the US, to a stratospheric viral rise to fame via Tik Tok and a rabid Gen Z fanbase, The Kid Laroi has fast become a household name in the global pop/emo rap scene. (I also wrote at length about his career on the main blog here).
Unlike the aforementioned artists who are passionate and issue-forward regarding race and social issues in their lyrics, The Kid Laroi’s Indigenous identity does not feature largely in his artistic expression.
However, the fact that he doesn’t sing or rap about his Indigenous heritage is by no means a shade at him. Rather, the identity is very sneakily featured at the forefront of his branding. His moniker is in fact taken from the tribe of his ancestors, the Kamilaroi people of northern NSW.
Howard’s moniker ‘Laroi’ is derived from his Indigenous Australian roots, namely the Gamilaraay/Gomeroi/Kamilaroi/Gamilaroi people of northern inland New South Wales. They are one of the four largest Indigenous nations in Australia.
The name is formed from “gamil”, meaning “no”, and the suffix -(b)araay, bearing the sense of “having”... Unfortunately, the spoken language is considered to have died out by the 1950s, although anthropological research seeks to piece it together once more.
[Full disclosure, as an active Genius contributor and editor, I wrote this myself, with the hope that curious fans may learn a little bit about Indigenous Australian culture. As one of 2021’s hottest artist, his lyrics pages amass millions of page views.]
The fact that Australia’s most successful musical export in recent memory (if not ever) has Indigenous heritage and has millions of fans around the world familiar with the ‘Laroi’ name is pure poetry.
Countless Aussie artists have tried to crack the American market for decades, and very few have succeeded. From the 2010s onwards though, Aussie bands have broken out in many genres - Tame Impala, Courtney Barnett, Middle Kids, Parkway Drive, Flume, Alison Wonderland to name a few.
However, Aussie hip-hop still seems to be finding its legs globally (although for some reason, Hilltop Hoods are extremely popular in my adopted home of Czech Republic). With artists like Onefour and The Kid Laroi now turning heads, and talents like 18yearoldman and Blessed shaking things up, it's only a matter of time before Aussie hip-hop makes a real name for itself.
Hip-hop was founded as a way for Black voices to speak to power. Somehow it just feels right for an Indigenous teenager named after his tribe to be the one who brings this face of Australia to the forefront of pop consciousness in 2022.
Now that's something worth toasting to this Australia Day week.
NOTE: The Kid Laroi is just that, still a kid. There are many detractors, whispers and rumours of shady industry deals and dodgy characters on all sides of the equation, but this post isn't about that. I just wanted to highlight the moment of a young artist able to hoist his tribe's name in lights and screamed by legions of fans all across the world. He may be singing/rapping about teenage issues and collaborating with the Biebs, but there's really no telling where his career may take him.
Album of the Week
Rich Brian - Brightside EP.
So many beat and flow switches. Also dishing out killer punchlines, Indonesia’s rap prince continues to prove he's more than just a memelord who got viral lucky.
Playlist of the Week
Nina Las Vegas - track IDs.
Mix of house, rap, RnB, club and dub vibes. Perfect to bounce and vibe to.