Jesswar and Birdz are easily two of the most important, forward thinking voices on the Australian hip hop scene. The two artists are from radically different parts of the country – Birdz being from Katherine in the NT, and Jesswar hailing from Brisbane – but they are connected through their musical styles, both offering up Australian hip hop with a distinctly international flavour. The two rappers are steadily on the rise, and with good reason – they represent the next generation of boundary pushing Australian hip hop. They will also both be playing at A Weekend In The Gardens in Melbourne on Saturday the 18th of November, along with Aussie hip hop mainstays Spit Syndicate, Thundamentals and Illy. Jesswar will be the host for the day.
We wanted these two contemporary artists to pick one another brains on the world of hip hop both at home and abroad, how they discovered the genre, and where their influences came from.
Jesswar Interviews Birdz:
Jesswar: What’s the first Hip-hop CD you bought?
Birdz: Jay Z – Reasonable Doubt. I went halves with my best friend and we had to order It from interstate because Katherine was, and is still, mad small with not much of a Hip Hop selection on the shelves.
Jesswar: Best performance you’ve seen from a rapper?
Birdz: I’d have to say Nas when he toured with Damian Marley. I’ve been lucky enough to catch them twice, once in Canada and again in Australia. Both shows were equally incredible. Also, I have to say that Damian Marley has the best live sound/mix I’ve heard, one of those times you can actually say it sounded just like the record (and better).
Jesswar: What made you fall in love with Hip-hop?
Birdz: Seeing artists like Ice Cube say ‘fuck the police’ and get away with it while at the same time representing where he’s from. Growing up in Katherine N.T., I experienced a lot of racism – Hip Hop gave me an outlet to express myself, and fuelled my aspirations to see the world.
Jesswar: Best gig you’ve ever played?
Birdz: To date, probably Yirramboi Festival in Melbourne. Performed on the back of a truck, and it was mad. The whole BAM squad performed that day and the vibe was dope as fuck. Plus, I’m pretty sure that’s the first show my son saw me play, so it’s pretty special for that reason as well.
Jesswar: What’s your dream stage or venue to play at?
Birdz: There’s heaps…. But, for me, I think it’s more about the people in the crowd to be honest. It could be a small room with only 100-200 people in there, but if everyone’s connecting and fuckin’ with the music, than that’s the one, that’s the feeling I’m always chasing when I perform, and why I love it.
Jesswar: Dream collaboration?
Birdz: Yasiin Bey (aka Mos Def), Ice Cube, produced by Dr Dre.
Jesswar: Cardi B or Nicki Manaj?
Birdz: Damn…lol I’ve been a Nicki Minaj fan, but I have to say I’m feeling Cardi B’s music and energy more at the moment. *still singing “I don’t fuuuuck witchuuu..!”
Jesswar: Where did you grow up and was there a Hip-Hop scene there?
Birdz: I grew up in Katherine NT. When I was there, a “Hip Hop scene” was unheard of. I could probably count on one hand how many actual heads were really into rap, let alone wanted to be a rapper. Katherine was pretty country (some say it still is) so a lot of rock and hot 100 pop type stuff was the safe norm I guess, whatever’s mainstream enough to reach remote areas. If you were into Hip Hop you were automatically branded as an outcast and a “wannabe” so to speak. That kind of ostracism already came with being black, though, so I was like fuck it, this is me 100%.
Jesswar: If you had to choose a dinner of 5 with your favourite rappers, who are they and what you cooking?
Birdz: Dead or alive? Probably 2Pac, Ice Cube, Snoop, Yasiin Bey and 50cent. I’d try slow cook some ribs or something and make sure there’s enough Hennessy etc. etc. for the night.
Jesswar: Who are your favourite rappers in Australia right now?
Birdz: In no particular order: Briggs, Trials, Nooky, Remi, Sampa The Great, Philly, Nfa, Jeswon, Tasman Keith…
Birdz Interviews Jesswar:
Birdz: What are you listening to at the moment?
Jesswar: The last month I’ve been vibing to 70s disco . Really loving chic at the moment also been playing everything from Cardi B . She’s a queen.
Birdz: The Brisbane scene seems to be on the fire at the moment, so many different vibes coming from one city. What would you say inspires you the most to create?
Jesswar: I feel the people around me give me the most inspiration and I always get inspired when I see a dope live show from a rapper. Makes me wanna do better or go home and re work all my songs. I always learn from watching or hearing artist I like.
Birdz: It’s dope that you’re hosting A Weekend In The Gardens, what can people expect on the day?
Jesswar: All of the groups and artist playing on that day have amazing stage shows. Y’all can expect high fucking energy from the performances while me and Baby mama play tunes in between sets. Get your tickets now ! You do not wanna miss this festival.
Birdz: If you could work with any producer, who would it be?
Jesswar: Scott Storch. That would be a dream. I grew up listing to the tracks he produced and I would love to bring back 00’s bangers. I follow him on Instagram and message him daily so this can happen, but he’s super famous and never replies.
Birdz: The Fempress Cypher is dope af. How long have you all been building together, and can we expect another one anytime soon?
Jesswar: Fempress is a dance party curated by artist Hannah Bronte which features live performance by Female rappers and DJs, so in the lead up to her Venus Fly Trap edition we all came together and created the cypher. That project is only 1 year old but has gained the biggest crew with all the sisters in Brisbane. We’ve all know each other for a while, and the project came together really naturally. You can definitely expect more. there’s a lot of secret plans in the mix with all of us to collaborate more, so watch and see . The most important thing with us is, I feel we all genuinely care and respect each other’s hustle, that’s why we always put each other on when it comes to big festivals or gigs. We want to see everyone shining! They’re also all so vicious on the mic, so the next edition will be even bigger.
Birdz: What’s next – is there an album in the works?
Jesswar: Yes! After the EP we will be doing an LP . I’m very excited to release the Video for ‘Savage’ the first single off the EP. Really keen to see what sort of reaction people will have to it. It’s pretty dark and very different to what artists in Australia are releasing right now. I’ve just started to create a lil bit of hype and I’m keen to make a bigger presence with this EP.
Birdz: Finish this sentence: Everyday I wake up and…
Jesswar: Sip a long black , write a list for all the shit I have to get done while listing to the best hits of 70s disco.
Birdz: What’s the best thing about Hip Hop in Australia right now?
Jesswar: I feel the amount of females coming through is dope. Evey gig I play now there’s at least 2-3 women on the bill which is a huge difference from 3 years ago when I would play and be the only one. It’s an exciting time to watch the scene evolving. It’s pretty fucked that we are this far behind from the rest of the world when it comes to females in the Hip-hop industry, but it’s amazing we’re now creating space for females on these line-ups. I’m also frothing how different genres within Hip-hop like grime, trap, Dancehall or jazz rap are influencing our artist to create music outside of the classic “Aussie hip-hop” sound. Artist like Okenyo, Ziggy Ramo, Manu Crooks, Sampa The Great and Miss Blanks are prime examples of the diverse music currently coming out of this country. It’s an exciting time to be making, releasing and consuming music in Australia at the moment, and the tides are changing for sure .