Originally published through Tone Deaf.
If you had told an industry professional 10 years ago that thousands of people would travel from all over the country and pay good money to attend a festival based purely around Aussie hip hop, they would have laughed you out the door.
Now, watching a mass of loyal fans gather in an arm-pumping army of appreciation, it’s hard to imagine the movement getting any bigger.
For the second year running, this November, hip hop heads from just about everywhere dusted off their basketball shirts and made the necessary arrangements for the annual pilgrimage to Brisbane for Sprung.
It’s generally an unfortunate reality that being placed at the top of a festival timetable means an artist will draw less of a crowd – but looking at the mass of enthusiastically bobbing fans that turned out for Adelaide duo Mase-n-Mattic, you would never have guessed it was still before midday.
Their performance of crackling, refined hip hop however, more than justified their strong fan base.
Following them was Victorian emcee, and Hilltop Hoods labelmate, Briggs, who has built up a loyal following over the years. Sprung saw him at the top of his game, delivering a selection of his best work with typical charisma.
Outside, the focus was more on the underground, with the Real Talk Emcee Comp followed by Dwizofoz. He could be found yelling, “if you love hip hop say SUCK MY DICK” into the crowd – apparently, they do – before breaking into a song dissing an ex-girlfriend.
He brought what looked like every underground emcee in Brisbane onto the stage for a verse each during his final track, in what was actually a rather touching vision of solidarity.
There was some decent talent on display here too, if you could get past the preaching about what ‘real’ hip hop is.
Taking place on the same day as the annual ‘Supernova’ event (Brisbane’s version of Comicon), this year’s festival was coincidentally being held directly opposite the RNA Showground – so when a Stormtrooper was spotted wandering around you could have assume he’d gotten lost.
That is, until he reappeared with a host of other Star Wars characters for Seth Sentry’s performance.
“Is this a little over the top?” the laid-back rapper joked, gesturing to the assembled cast of sci-fi characters behind him.
It’s hard not to love Sentry – he’s just a big kid. Sprung saw him get rid of his usual technique of firing Nerf gun bullets into the crowd, instead employing a water pistol as a weapon to soak the audience.
He was joined in his assault by his exceptionally talented (and frankly adorable) DJ Benny, and fellow Melbourne emcee Grey Ghost.
Up next was Mantra. You have to wonder if the silver-tongued rapper is ever frustrated, as other artists across the country become household names, while he is comfortably one of the best in Australia without the same acclaim.
Watching him leap loose-limbed all over the stage though, it was hard to imagine someone looking like they were having any more fun. His vocals have so much rhythmic variety; it was barely noticeable when the DJ cut out for him to deliver a series of stunning a capellas.
Vents followed, brining party-master Trials and DJ-of-the-moment Adfu with him from Adelaide for a demonstration of the raucous, energy-burst style that has become a speciality of the city.
Outside, Seven stumbled onstage through the rain, swigging from a wine bottle and brandishing an inflatable dolphin: the Gold Coast version of Capt. Jack Sparrow.
He delivered an infectious set of dance hip hop with fellow emcee Mr. Hill, with variations from demented jumping to stoned-out-of-your-brains swaying. All tastes have been catered for here, provided your number one priority is partying.
TZU, as expected, were one of the highlights of the day, and completely at home on the stage – an ease granted to them by years of experience and a thoroughly enjoyable back catalogue.
A first for the festival, they pulled out an acoustic guitar and silenced the DJ for a beautiful rendition of You Am I’s ‘Heavy Heart,’ before breaking out an electric a few minutes later – showing off their typical versatility. Theirs was a performance that more than satisfied old fans, while doubtlessly solidifying some new ones.