I’m still recovering from Botanics’ album launch – it was crazy and funny and enlightening all at the same time. Not having associated myself with the hip hop scene since my early high school days, I rocked up to the Oxford Art Factory wondering what kind of crowd would amass for the Friday night gig. As I imagined, there was scant pretense and plenty of Nike shoes about the place; the crowd was diverse and the atmosphere chilled. If you’re a hip hop novice like me, here’s a rundown: the key elements of the music style include rapping, a cool, catchy beat, and an attitude to match.
The Phonies kicked off the night with a hilarious set – hilarious for many reasons. First of all, their front-man rocked up wearing shorts so tight, my friend and I couldn’t look at him without our eyes wandering downstairs. In an attempt to quell laughter, we tried our best to avoid looking at him at all. Complete with a glow-in-the-dark ‘Australia’ headband and long school socks, he made an interesting picture indeed.
The only girl of the group entertained us with her quirky dancing, not to mention her stripping down to a glittery purple leotard halfway through the set. The order of the day for The Phonies was apparently to get as naked as possible without actually getting naked. Despite all this, I appreciated their attitude, confidence, and eccentricity. Their music was catchy and smooth, but was outshone by their personality.
I was subsequently blown away by KillaQueenz – these two hot ladies were off the charts! Embodiments of style, attitude and rhythm, the charismatic duo effortlessly rapped over deep bass and the catchiest beats. They pumped up the audience to a throbbing level of energy, with a set so long and exceptional it blurred the lines between support act and headliner. I was left with the highest respect for KillaQueenz – best support act ever.
With the hip-hop genre largely written off as music for the bogan population, Sydney band Botanics makes hip hop look good. Unfortunately, they didn’t match KillaQueenz energy, but they had an onstage presence and musical sophistication that’s a rare find. One could say, perhaps, that they’re the elite of the hip hop scene.
Ordinarily a three person crew, Botanics was joined by guest members who provided trumpet and guitar instrumentals. The trumpet parts, in combination with the band’s liveliness, meant at times their sound bordered on that of The Cat Empire. Botanics have the characteristic catchy rhythms and chord progressions of the hip hop genre, but with refined beats and touches of jazz woven throughout.
They played a range of their songs to the packed room, including the smooth ‘People of the Dust’, and we all appreciated the dance-worthy tunes. I seem to recall a Michael Jackson moment, though by this time I was too trashed and busy whipping out my wannabe hip hop dance moves to bother writing notes… next time I’m faced with the choice between jug and schooner, I know to make the mature and wise (boring?) decision and opt for the latter.
Back to the band – they rounded off the show with title track ‘What The Deal Is’, which was smooth, cool, and catchy as hell. Botanics engaged the audience live, and maintain this capacity on record; I’ve been listening to their album on repeat since the concert. If you’re curious about hip-hop music, or perhaps a little hesitant, I suggest checking these guys out. You might find you actually like the experience (copious amounts of beer and revealing shorts are optional).