Def Wish Cast are like the abusive father of Australian hip hop. Not always around, often drunk, and their seed is widespread. Despite that, deep down, you always love them. These pioneers from Penrith know what makes Australian hip hop so permanently potent.
“I suppose where you’re from, the accent, relating it to your neighborhood, speaking to people who are close to you, and the sound as well. Everywhere has its own sound, you know. Sydney has a certain sound, a diverse sound that stretches from the city to suburbs and changes a lot.”
Sounds may differ from state to state, Tasmania just sounds like cousins in love, but no matter how much variety there is, its important to remember your roots. Australian hip hop is tied up with a fierce pride, sometimes trying to dissociate itself from the bling bling of American gangster rap but still acknowledging where it all began.
“I think hip hop is about freedom for everyone to talk. They talk about their issues, and while we’re obviously concerned with our own culture, America will always be a massive influence, that’s where it started. People who think ‘I don’t listen to American crap, I listen to Aussie hip hop’ — that’s pretty bad, it’s a bit closed-minded. Through American hip hop I learnt about the black culture, then jazz and blues, I didn’t have a clue before that. I was raised in the suburbs where rock music was prominent.”
It’s trendy to push the boundaries — Michael Jackson did it with masculinity. But as with MJ and Larry Emdur, less is sometimes more. Hip hop has rules, Def Wish Cast operate within that framework, and have created some of the most influential Australian hip hop. Now some new acts are forgetting the basics.
“People say ‘oh you know hip hop is anything’ but its not. Hip hop has fundamentals and people got to respect that. People who don’t probably just fear it. The fundamentals are with the B boys and DJs and Emcees, and graffiti writers, it’s about finding a place where you can communicate.”
Communication can be an issue today, with older generations thinking hip hop is a nasty affliction resulting in aching joints.
“You tell people you’re into rap and they say oh so you’re a DJ, or your into Snoop Doggy Dog. The other day a guy asked me if I was into New Kids on the Block, like what the hell?”
But the real problem isn’t with the painfully ignorant middle-aged, but the obnoxious bedroom dreamers, with grand plans built on stilts.
“That’s the change in hip hop. Nowadays it has become this personal multimedia thing where people can make a hit in their bedroom. Everyone is going to a formula, which can lead you into a hole. I hear a lot of people saying, ‘when am I going to break out, when is it going to happen for me’ and that’s bad, man, that’s the commercialism of it. That’s showing what they really want it for, money and stardom and fame. We just don’t have that, we have eternity in our head.”
Although elder statesmen of the Hip Hop scene, Def Wish Cast are still in touch with the new breed of artists, stepping up to the hip hop mantle.
“Hermitude are one of my most favorite groups. I adore them and all the other guys, Horrorshow, Urthboy, Bliss n Eso, I know them well, and they’re all nice guys.”
In a world where a major record deal often means leaving your cred at the door, for the first time the ball seems to be in the court of independent labels and artists.
“I definitely believe so. Hip hop is much closer to the ear of the street as well, people are saying the right stuff and people are listening.”
Smaller labels are hitting high notes with different artists, not relying on one song from one band to pass one year.
“For sure. Don’t forget there has been an industry that has always been about pop and rock music, whereas hip hop had to learn how to make its own records, set up its own distribution labels, its evolved. That’s what hip hop is, an evolving culture, it’s like a parasite, feeding off everything around itself and making it better.”
Def Wish Cast hope to get parasitical and infect us all with their new collaboration, teaming up with punk rockers Toe To Toe, in a musical orgy set to blow all our minds.
“We’re in the studio, its magic what we are coming up with, absolutely amazing. That’ll be dropping early next year, it’ll be a very first. I’m telling you, no one has done it like this.”
Def Wish Casts’ new CD will be surfacing in 2009, but for now check them out at http://www.myspace.com/defwishcast and at Hermans bar on 14th December.
Photo By Jim Skouras