Boom Bap in the Barkly – Check Australia’s Freshest Desert Beats
Meet the electronic producer working with some of Australia's best crews.
The central deserts of Australia are a place few people ever pass through, let alone actively seek out. They're also not necessarily the first place people look for banging new beats. But hip-hop culture is well and truly alive in Indigenous communities. Half the kids you meet out there are sporting Wu-Wear, Fubu or 50 Cent clothing, usually knock-offs sold at local community stores. Others are blasting G-Funk or gangsta rap.
For the last year, one Monkey Marc has been visiting the Barkly region, which is some 300,000-odd square kilometers of desert in the middle of the Northern Territory. He's been part of the Barkly Desert Culture program, a Barkly Shire Council initiative to train local kids in music and technology. But before we get into it, who the hell is Monkey Marc?
Well he's produced beats for Roots Manuva, he's played Glastonbury, and he tours Europe doing renegade shows in squats. He owns a mysterious shipping container studio somewhere in Melbourne and he still, in 2015, doesn't see the point in making beats on a computer, preferring instead a battered Akai MPC. In short, Monkey Marc is a producer's producer; staunchly independent and probably Australian electronic music's best-kept secret. His music channels the spirit of punk, original dubstep, Public Enemy, modern beats and electronic culture, and the heaviest of Jamaican riddims all at once.
With that kind of musical heritage, it comes as little surprise that Monkey is also fiercely political. Founding member of staunch hip-hop crew Combat Wombat, he's been protesting for Indigenous rights and about anti-nuclear issues for two decades. This quest to promote indigenous rights led him bush 15-plus years ago, and he's been running workshops in the most remote locations in Australia ever since.
The last year has seen him visit Ali Curung, Ampilatwatja, Alparra and Elliott, all places you've probably never heard of. Out of it has come real hip-hop, some proper boom-bap shit; kids telling you what its like to live where they live over raw, banging beats. THUMP is stoked to premiere an exclusive new track from the Barkly Desert Culture sessions, available to stream right now.
"Because Of Our Skin" by the Desert Sevenz is a low tempo banger, telling of unwarranted police harassment, complete with a chorus in Alyawarra, one of several distinct indigenous languages native to the Barkly region.
Desert Sevenz and their Ampilatwatja crew
Another favourite track from the new Ali Curung studio is "Kids On the Run", complete with low-budget, big-attitude film clip:
While you're at it, check out Monkey Marc's latest joint, a co-lab with English reggae MC Soom T, from their new album Bullets Over Babylon via UK label Renegade Masters.
Finally, for reference, here's Monkey Marc in solo producer mode, a reflective sample based jam from his underground classic of a few years ago As The Market Crashed.
We've only scratched the surface here, both of Monkey Marc's work and the hip-hop tracks from one isolated part of Australia. If you want to dig deeper into Indigenous hip-hop, I thoroughly recommend the site/book Real Talk: Aboriginal Rappers Talk About Their Music And Country as great place to start.