Last weekend, A•STAR made its way to the Small World street festival in Marrickville: an awesome celebration of everything that makes the Inner West the greatest.
The music was amazing (of course), with sets by local favourites BLOODS, Tumbleweed, Little Bastard, Snowdroppers, and True Vibenation, running the gamut from bluegrass to 90’s rock anthems to hip-hop.
After chowing down on some of the local fare (incidentally, the best way to eat at Porteño without paying with a kidney), our intrepid correspondent, Sista B, made her way to the press area to interview two of the three artists who make up local hip-hop crew True Vibenation:
Sista B: Can you tell us a little bit about yourselves?
Native Wit: So, we’re twin brothers, and we’re half Zimbabwean and half Australian. We were born in Zimbabwe – our dad’s Zimbabwean, our dad’s side of the family is Zimbabwean – and our mum is Australian with roots in Germany and Scotland. So, yeah, a bit of a mix up.
Verbaleyes: When we were born, Zimbabwe at that time was under apartheid. Our parents were activists, and were active in working for the companies who were fighting against apartheid. So when we came to Australia, we had helped a lot of people who had come from South Africa and those organisations who had stopped the apartheid.
So I think that’s deeply in our history and where we come from, with music.
Native Wit: But we’re still in touch with our family in both places, which is really awesome. So we can go back to rural Zimbabwe and hang out with the uncles and cousins; we’ve got a huge family there.
So we moved to Australia when we were quite young, maybe three or four. We moved into the city, and then moving around the Glebe area, and then out to Campbelltown through high school, and went through uni and stuff like that, and ended up back in the Inner West.
Sista B: Where did you go to uni?
Native Wit: I went to CSU (Charles Sturt University) at Bathurst, doing a journalism degree.
Sista B: Oh my gosh! That’s what I studied, but now I’m doing arts.
Native Wit: Oh, cool! Nice one. And he… what did you do? Went out to Western Sydney and…
Verbaleyes: …and changed quickly. (laughs) I did Arts at the College of Fine Arts (at the University of New South Wales) and specialized in sound design.
Sista B: Now for a big question: where did your hip hop inspiration come from?
Verbaleyes: You know, I guess we grew up in the generation where hip-hop was becoming a global thing. So our first introductions would have been stuff like “Can’t Touch This” by MC Hammer and whatnot.
I think eventually over time we accepted it as part of our normal, everyday music, and when we were around 16, I think, we were pretty strongly listening to Jurassic 5, and starting to write rhymes. They released this album, Quality Control, and with it came an instrumental CD, and we were just inspired.
You know, we’ve been doing music since primary school, but more formal music – I was clarinet, he was playing trumpet – and this was music where it wasn’t reading off a sheet, and playing what we were told. It was about us and what we thing and what we feel, and it has that writing element to it; the poetry of them as well.
So I guess that’s what got us into hip-hop. But I remember, I actually remember, this very strong feeling in high school, feeling, ‘I could do this forever, forever make music, and write, and express ideas and share ideas’.
So that’s a big question!
Native Wit: That was a long answer.
Native Wit: Well, originally what got me super excited about hip-hop was listening to OutKast and their very first album. So I’d definitely say that Big Boi and André and Organized Noize, their production team is definitely a hip-hop hero for me.
And also because they didn’t just make hip-hop, you know what I mean? They can branch out into lots of different ideas and just be creative. So that was amazing for me, it was like “Woah!” They were bringing in jazz, but also bringing in, like, rock music, and gangstah rap, and mixing it all into one.
Sista B: Awesome! When you guys were like 14 or 16, what did you want to do?
Verbaleyes: I just wanted to have fun and make music. I think, you know, when you’re that age, it’s hard because people it’s that sort of age where people say, “What do you want to do?” And the thought of doing something for the rest of your life is kind of a hard thing to get your head around.
If I could talk to my 16-year-old self, I’d say, “Do what you’re passionate about, that’s the right track. Keep following what you love doing, that’s the answer to what you should do.
Native Wit: And that’s what our mum – because we’re twins – that’s what out mum encouraged us to do; to just, you know, it sounds corny, but it’s that whole thing about “Do what you love and you won’t have to work a day in your life”. So, yeah. Try and stick to that, and survive at the same time. (laughs)
But yeah, I think it’s really important. Especially, it’s really easy in Australia or a place like here where we’ve got so much choice and there’s a lot of pressure to just, “Oh, you’ve got to tick these boxes as you get older. You’ve got to uni so you can get this job, and then you’ve got to do this”. And that’s fine, doing all that is great, but if your heart’s not in it, then when you get to your deathbed, you’re going to be like, “Oh, I wish this and I wish that”.
And if you talk to older people, they’ll say… even politicians who’ve had amazing careers and are earning hundreds of thousands of dollars, they’ll look back and go, “You know what, I really wish I learned to play the recorder”, or whatever, you know?
So, it’s important that, whatever you do, you care about it, because that’s the only way you’re going to change the world.
Sista B: Okay, this is another one of those broader questions. What do you think of the direction in which Australia’s heading? Do you think we’re on a good path, or do you reckon we need to focus?
Native Wit: To be honest, at the moment I’m probably a little bit worried about the direction Australia’s going; it seems to be, at least on a political level, getting more conservative. I guess with the current government, and a lot of the governments in place in places like New Zealand, it’s really… I dunno, for me it feels like it’s a little bit of a backwards way of thinking.
But at the same time, you kind of need people to realize – to be angry enough to want to make change. So if everyone’s really comfortable and having a great time, but it’s not quite right or not quite where it needs to be, then nothing’s really going to happen, because everyone’s so comfortable.
And when people start to get hit, and they start to think, “Oh these things that we talked about are actually affecting my life”, they start to go, “Shit!” and start to get angry; “That makes me want to do something”. And it’s something that becomes real for them.
Verbaleyes: I think there’s definitely a heavily backwards way that we’re heading, but on the other side, I think you see with young people these days that they’ve grown up in a place where they’re exposed to so much different cultures and so much different ideas that they don’t see each other as separate as I feel the older generations did.
I think in that sense of understanding of each other… there’s a whole new generation of young people who are going to come up and think about Australia as it’s been perceived in history for so long quite differently from the people in power at the moment.
So hopefully, you know, I think there’s a bit of positivity in that. I think the times will change, but it does take a little bit of passion, and for people to get angry a bit, and not to be sitting back too much and just watching. Even neighbourhoods are a better thing to focus on; just helping people in your own community.
Of course, their set rocked:
Not bad for a street party! Inner West, you’re aaaalll right.