Australian hip-hop stars Remi, Sampa the Great, Briggs and Bigfoot
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The best Australian hip-hop track of all time, according to 20 authorities

Legendary artists and tastemakers tell us their favourite piece of homegrown hip-hop.
By Katie Cunningham
11 min readPublished on
Three decades ago, Australian hip-hop barely existed. Just Us had one of the very first Australian releases with ‘Combined Talent’ in 1986, and along with MCs like Munkimuk and Sound Unlimited rapped into the early ‘90s. But they were outliers and it would take more years before the scene would find a distinct local identity or earn the respect of outsiders.
Pioneering label Elefant Traks was established in 1998, triple j started adding the genre to rotation, and when Hilltop Hoods released their album The Calling in 2002, it broke the dam completely. Near two decades later, Australian hip-hop has new waves of artists rapping about increasingly diverse strands of culture and heritage. A few BBQ tracks aside, Oz hip-hop has always been political, from The Herd’s meta ‘We Can’t Hear You’ or war story ‘I Was Only 19’ to resistance rhymes from South West Syndicate, The Last Kinection, Local Knowledge and Wire MC.
To look over this rich history, Red Bull asked 20 people who were part of it to name the best ever Australian hip-hop track. From pioneers like Maya Jupiter, MC Trey, and N’fa Jones to current stars like Remi, Genesis Owusu and Birdz, some are rappers starting their careers, others are veterans of the game, and all know this music inside out.
Several respondents picked matching tracks and many artists pop up repeatedly -- a testament to their impact on the genre. But the full list covers a lot of ground, spanning tracks released between 2000 and 2019, listed here chronologically. Is this list definitive? Of course not. Rather than a complete account of Australian hip-hop, this is a window into moments that shaped the genre as told by people who saw it done.
Dig in below and then head over to read our list of the most underrated Australian hip-hop tracks, which explores the incredible cuts that deserve more shine.

Bigfoot -- ‘Dirt’

Released: 2000
Picked by: Nerve
“This was probably the first Australian hip-hop release that I ever actually downloaded and put on my iPod back in 2011. I first heard it in the Jisoe documentary, which is already a pillar of Australian culture, and the storytelling in the song is concise and effortless and funny as fuck. Very relevant to what was going on back in 2011 with a lot of my mates.”

Koolism -- ‘The Season’

Released: 2002
Picked by: MC Trey
“I had to dig in the crates to find this one. I love this Koolism tune titled 'The Season' which was released by Independent Sydney hip-hop label Parrallax View/I-Raq Records. It was such a breath of fresh air at the time, offering a chill summer vibes tune produced by Danielsan, with smooth deliveries by Hau. The video was also a fave 'cos it reminded me of my family gatherings. I would still pump this in 2020.”

Muph N Plutonic -- ‘Heaps Good’

Released: 2004
Picked by: Thundamentals’ Jeswon
“I feel like this was the first time that I’d ever heard Aussie slang like ‘crook’, ‘rank’ and ‘heaps’ in a radio single. Muph’s flow and patterns are so unpredictable and Plutonic’s production on this track is so funk heavy I challenge anyone not to bop to it. A track that still stands up as undeniable today. Plus, Thundamentals first ever gig was supporting Muph N Plutonic in our hometown of Katoomba. What an honour!”

The Last Kinection -- ‘I Can’ feat. Radical Son

Released: 2008
Picked by: Jimblah
“Indigenous hip-hop has always been ahead of the game -- we’ve always had to be visionary and The Last Kinection and Radical Son are great exemplars of that. This is a proper special moment: ‘Can’t pass on what you can’t maintain’.”

Hilltop Hoods -- ‘I Love It’

Released: 2011
Picked by: Illy
“Verses, feature, beat, huge pop hook, everything is A-grade killer. This was the first time a Hoods song sounded like that, ten years after they broke through, and they smashed that progression out of the park.”

Briggs -- ‘Bad Apples’

Released: 2014
Picked by: James Mangohig
“To this day I think this is one of the most powerful tracks, full stop, to emerge from this country. This song painted a true picture vividly through lyrics, the beat and the clip. I remember the first time I saw the clip and the line came in: ‘They call them good for nothing, I call them cousin, I call them brother and sister, I still love them’. The beat is so hard too and perfectly backs Briggs holding nothing back.”

Joelistics -- ‘Out Of The Blue’

Released: 2014
Picked by: Good Buddha’s Andy Lane
“From the start, Australian hip-hop’s size and youth often manifested in music that was self-conscious as it struggled to find its voice. Hip-hop has a history of story songs, from Slick Rick to NWA. So does Australian music, like Archie Roach or Slim Dusty. 'Out of the Blue' was a successor to both these traditions.
It’s one of those songs that I breezed past on first listen but it’s given me something new to admire each time I come back to it. It's Paul Kelly’s 'To Her Door' for hip-hop, a specific yet universal tale of love and hardship delivered by a lyricist at the height of his powers. With 'Out of the Blue', Joelistics harnessed his career of chopping samples and dropping freestyles to deliver a near perfect song. It was the product of a local sound that could do anything, proof that the nascent scene I was so in love with as a kid had come of age.”

Briggs -- ‘The Children Came Back’ feat. Dewayne Everettsmith & Gurrumul

Released: 2015
Picked by: Maya Jupiter
“‘The Children Came Back' is the living embodiment of hip-hop. Briggs's lyrics are an education, both eloquent and poetry in motion raising up some of our great First Peoples. From sporting heroes to musicians, political activists to community members, we hear their names, we honor them, we celebrate them. Briggs flips the narrative of Archie Roach’s Took the Children Away over outstanding production, collaborating with the extraordinary Dr G while Dewayne’s voice is the glue that brings it all together. This is what hip-hop is about: representing who you are and moving the culture forward.”
This is what hip-hop is about: representing who you are and moving the culture forward
Maya Jupiter

The Ansah Brothers -- ‘Go Figure’

Released: 2015
Picked by: Coda Conduct
“The Ansah Brothers are the Canberra sibling duo Citizen Kay and Genesis Owusu. This track combines the best of both their talents -- Kay's high energy verses and catchy hooks, and Genesis's super slick bassy voice. Picking a favourite track is all about the time and place when you discovered it, and for us this takes us back to our early days making music in Canberra, our first tours, and the exciting explosion of Australian hip-hop that was happening all around the country at the time. Plus it still goes haaaaard!”

Remi feat. Jordan Rakei -- ‘Lose Sleep’

Released: 2016
Picked by: N’fa Jones
“This is very difficult as there’s been so many incredible songs that are in my list of top favourites, and so many that were slept on or underrated. With deep consideration and thought, the best song for me might be ‘Lose Sleep’ by REMI and Sensible J featuring Jordan Rakei. I say this because the song discusses social political matters to do with race, identity, sex, mental health, self love and pop culture, reinforced by a beautifully emotive chorus, sung over a super dope groove that makes ya head bump. This incredible song is soul food for both a local and global audience.”

Remi feat. Sampa the Great -- ‘For Good’

Released: 2016
Picked by: Arno Faraji
“‘For Good’ was one of the first Remi songs I bumped and it also introduced me to a lot of Sampa the Great’s discography. I was 16 or 17 when I heard it, but I reckon it’s still one of the most effortlessly timeless and soulful joints to come out of the country to date.
Instrumentation wise it’s so crisp, the drums are simple but solidly stacked, the Rhodes keys riffs are soulfully ‘airy’ but meaningful and the rhythmic guitar is memorably funky... I geek out over how clean it sounds, especially when you get to Sampa’s verse. And that’s that’s just me talking about the beat. Remi and Sampa’s bars on top of the melodic support elevate this ting to a GOAT status, lyricism combined with the steeze delivery make the track sound authentic yet effortless. Like the current Australian culture this joint is laidback, and does a lot to feed the soulful roots of hip-hop.”

A.B. Original -- ‘January 26’ feat. Dan Sultan

Released: 2016
Picked by: Birdz, Hau Latukefu, L-Fresh The Lion, Omar Musa
“This track is genius. In my opinion, it’s the best hip-hop song to ever be produced in Australia. I think the fact that it hit the top 20 in triple j’s Hottest 100, whilst speaking on harsh facts that a majority of Australians still refuse to engage with, shows you just how groundbreaking it is. It’s undeniable.” -- Birdz
“This whole Reclaim Australia album was a defining moment for hip-hop in Australia. The impact this record had on the entire landscape of music and then crossing over into politics I think showed, for the first time, the real strength of hip-hop: how it goes beyond just being music and can have a very real impact on the world around it. This song was one of the main talking points and it's a huge anthem, flipping some classic West Coast hip-hop vibes while hitting home with a hard, undeniable message. This album, and this song, will go down as one of -- if not the -- most important hip-hop records to ever come out of Australia.” -- L-Fresh The Lion
“A ferocious, funny, uncompromising, unfuckwithable anthem. A powerhouse combo of Blak talent saying exactly what we need to hear. ‘January 26’ is totally of the now, but also brings me back to an era where tunes could be political but still make a party bounce.” -- Omar Musa
“Australia's NWA/Public Enemy moment.” -- Hau Latukefu
This song will go down as one of -- if not the -- most important hip-hop records to ever come out of Australia
L-Fresh The Lion

Sampa The Great -- ‘Bye River’

Released: 2017
Picked by: Remi
“This song encompasses everything I love about music, and it happens to fall under the ‘hip-hop’ umbrella. I love that it’s seven and a half minutes long, and keeps me totally engaged throughout the three different sections. Silent Jay created a MASTERPIECE with the music, while Sampa delivers beautiful soft melodies in the hook, and absolute truth in the raps: ‘How you spose’d to be black down under’. Goosebump journey stuff.”

Huskii -- ‘Body in the Booth Episode 4’

Released: 2017
Picked by: Triple One's Obi Ill Terrors
“Huskii Ben and Triple One were both doing sad rap, emo stuff at around the same time. I remember hearing the Brainumb EP on Soundcloud and that shit sounded like it was recorded in a cardboard box, but that was the hardest thing about it. A little after that, Huskii's 'Body The Booth' dropped and blew shit up. I have shown this song to a million people on benders and what not, and it still gets better every time. It never fails to captivate everyone who listens to it. For me, this made Australian rap cool.”
For me, this made Australian rap cool.
Obi Ill Terrors

Sampa the Great -- ‘Final Form’

Released: 2019
Picked by: Genesis Owusu, Mantra, Chong Ali
“The title of the track kinda says it all; we're watching our brightest and most promising go full Super Saiyan. She knew it, people who were in the know knew it, but for everyone else, this was where Sampa told the world she was unfuckwittable. Honourable mention to ‘OMG’ too, that might be my favourite, but ‘Final Form’ was THE moment.” -- Genesis Owusu
“Australian hip-hop has been on a tear lately but one of my absolute favourites has got to be 'Final Form' by Sampa The Great. I love the control in her delivery, the balance in her tone is effortless and her subject matter is personal and chock full of imagery. ‘Final Form' doesn't rely on any popular sounds to get it attention and because of that I think it'll be a mainstay on my playlist for years to come.” -- Chong Ali
“Sampa dropped one of my favourite records of 2019, and possibly my favourite Australian hip-hop record ever. I could probably list a BUNCH of songs as favourites -- honourable mention to Dare To Fly, which is a masterpiece -- but I can’t go past this one, just for the sheer scope of what the song accomplishes. First and foremost, it’s a BANGER. But it’s so much more than that. Sampa literally declares her intentions for the music industry with a confidence and wisdom most emcees could only dream of, and in the process almost prophesises the song, album and herself, being immediately recognised as legendary. Seeing how this track has resonated around the world is further proof of what a bonafide instant classic it was.” -- Mantra