I had a chat with Bias B from Obese Records of Australia to find out what their scene was saying and who we should know about from down under.
First off, Tell us how Obese Records began and its roots in the Australian hip-hop scene?
Obese Records began in 1995 out the back of a skate shop in Prahran with $2000, a small clothes rack and 1 crate of vinyl. The original owner OB - Ollie Bobbit was a well known Graf writer and DJ and was fed up trying to get all the new releases so he set out to make his own shop happen. It was originally named OB's Records and later changed to Obese when Ollie was tired of retail and sold it to a chubby Shazlek One around 97 – 98. By then it had moved to a larger location and had become the number 1 Hip-hop store in the country. In 2000 the Obese Records label was born with releases from Reason, Bias B and the Culture Of Kings Compilation 1. In 2002 the store was then bought by Pegz who continues to run the store, label and distribution.
How long has hip-hop been making noise down under and how much of a mark does it make on your mainstream music market?
Aussie Hip-hop began making noise in the mid 90's and only really began getting recognition around 1998 with a number of quality releases which set the standard in Oz. In the last 3 years it has received a lot more love from the mainstream and is getting a lot more airplay. We always had our average commercial sounding Hip-hop and its only in the last year that things have really changed for the better with underground artists getting a lot more exposure for their years of dedication and hard work.
Which artists are on Obese and also, which artists in general in your land should the rest of the world know about?
Artists on Obese are Hilltop Hoods, Muphin, Reason, HyjakNTorcha, Pegz, Matty B, Downsyde, Andy Struksha, Layla as well as many who are distributed by but not signed to the label. The world needs to know about Hilltop Hoods for sure. These guys have been rapping for over 10 years and went gold earlier this year with their 4th release – The Calling. This was a huge step for local Hip-hop.
If someone totally oblivious to Australian made hip-hop wanted to hear some, which one record be vital for him/her to cop?
If you wanted a history lesson – Bias B, Beezwax. If you wanted variety – Obesecity, Compilation. If you wanted the current benchmark – Hilltop Hoods, The Calling. My latest favourite would have to be HyjakNTorcha – Drastic Measures.
Is there an online store to get hold of this stuff from?
Yes. Obeserecords.com. You can get all the info you need.
The show 'Neighbours' is a big thing for unemployed students and lonely house wives over here. When the character 'Tad' became a DJ, I blushed. I'm guessing hip-hop is misinterpreted a lot like everywhere else?
Yes it does get a little misinterpreted. The funny thing about that is a few of us knew the script editor at the time and we had our names written into the script later on in the show. There was even a flyer with Brothers Stoney, Reason and Bigfoot on the bill. Even so it was very wak. I cant say much though because I still watch it and still know people who work on the show.
Is there much knowledge about the UK scene or when it comes to international vibes is it all about the states?
There is a lot of knowledge on the UK scene and it's growing everyday. Braintax, Taskforce, Foreign Beggars and Mystro get a lot of love. I remember copping Hijak – The Horns Of Jericho, years back and loved it. Also Blade was well received in Australia. Although there is still a lot of US hip-hop coming into the country it seems to get quite repetitive and people here are more into the local sound these days.
How concentrated is the community? Is it pretty close knit or has it branched out crazy all over the place?
We do have a very close nit community going on here but still everyone does their own thing with their own crews. It has branched out to country towns you would expect to not even have radios, they are so remote. The styles also vary from hardcore battle raps, to hippy raps to comedy style raps and to be honest a lot of shit. The young battle scene at the moment is mad hungry. We just had our second Oz Vs NZ battle for supremacy and the Aussies have taken it out two years in a row. First Delta won in 2003 and Anecdote took it out this year.
Is there a big graffiti, beat boxing, break dancing etc scene or is the focus strictly on music?
Australia has always had an incredible Graf scene. The music only broke through in the mid 90's and Graf had been the main focus since the mid 80's with too many kings to mention. Breaking and Beat boxing is around but has never been as dominant as the Graf and Rapping.
What's in the pipe line for Obese Records? Any plans to fly over and show us poms what you're made of?
Obese are looking towards distro across Europe and shows to follow in the future. I will be over your way in Oct for a few months and planning to do a show or two whilst I'm there. I'm hopefully bringing DJ Selekt and Ciecmate with me and Prowla and Layla will be there also. Might have a little Aussie showcase for you if you are lucky. I have been in touch with Disorder – suspect packages, and Rodney P so we will have to see what eventuates. If anyone is interested, let me know. I'm down.