Hunter (SBX) - The Words
reflections on Hunter‚Äôs first three albums
"Done DL" Hunter and Dazastah (2002)
"Going Back to Yokine" Hunter (solo album) (2006)
"Monster House" Hunter and DJ Vame (2010)
When Walter Benjamin said in 1936 that "the art of storytelling is coming to an end" - due to the rise of the printed novel and the lowering value of experience - it is clear to see he didn't anticipate the later rise of the hip hop emcee to partly revive this craft in our modern world. In all of his albums, Hunter shows his skills as a wonderful storyteller - in the traditional meaning of the term - sharing with the listener the stories from his life. Of course, not all the stories are happy, but all have an undercurrent of hope to them. There are tales of growing up, getting into trouble and later returning to his hometown of Yokine, Perth in the songs "Adolescence", "Going Back To Yokine" and "Yokine (Drugs + Crime)". These are stories of self-discovery, and of changing his life - giving up old ways that were not working for him and focusing on music, rapping and a hip hop infused life instead. "What I Do Best" has the feeling of "coming home" to a community of supporting people and finding your place in the world. There are stories of mateship and the value of community with his Syllabolix (SBX) family and crew. There are stories of having children and the specialness that can bring to one's life in "Ultrasound" and "Kids of the Future". Also, there are stories born from remembered advice from his father littering his rhymes - as it seems his Dad is always close to his thoughts and words - "Kids of the Future", "The Big Issue", "Me Old Man".
Hunter has great comedic sense too - with the songs about relationships bouncing along at a steady pace. The stories of lust, the virility of youth and some of his experiences with women are some of his more popular songs. In these songs, which he describes as ‚Äúnothing nice‚Äù, he tells of the women‚Äôs role in the tales. Often these stories are the most explicit, in language and description, yet there‚Äôs an undercurrent of humour to them, often hinted by the light and playful melodies that waft over the beat, which leads me to think perhaps they shouldn‚Äôt be taken too seriously at their word. The stories of relationship breakdowns and coping mechanisms in ‚ÄúNever Trust a Woman‚Äù are as tense as the subjects, and show that we often end up hurting those we love the most. ‚ÄúComing Home‚Äù is a song about making mistakes and some of the consequences, and suggests (to me) that it‚Äôs related to ‚ÄúZed‚Äù.
‚ÄúZed‚Äù is the most powerful and emotive song on his albums so far. He describes the depths of despair‚Äîtaking yet another fall, thoughts of suicide, and saying good-bye. Hunter‚Äôs rapping style changes during this song‚Äîto a softer tone, almost spoken word‚Äîthe enthusiasm has left his voice, to match the sombre words he is sharing with us. Upon first listen I wasn‚Äôt sure if it was him rhyming‚ÄîI had to check the album liner notes to confirm‚Äîhe sounds very dislocated from his normal voice and self.
I‚Äôm not even sure if I was meant for this place
so after I‚Äôm gone, please let them know
that I didn‚Äôt want to feel pain
I didn‚Äôt want to cause it
so I had to go
couldn‚Äôt swim against the flow
kept getting sucked down to the depths below
where the sun don‚Äôt even show
not even a distant glow
and we all need some sunlight to grow
it‚Äôs like a chain hanging round my neck, dragging me down
after a week you probably won‚Äôt even notice I‚Äôm not around
I used to love the sound
of waves crashing down
I want to get so lost that I can never be found
under the ground
or maybe high in the sky
nobody knows where we go when we die
so I guess this is good-bye
Hunter ponders ‚ÄúThe Big Issue‚Äù‚Äîa mixture of his own thoughts with some long-remembered advice from his father on how to live your life, and how to cope with what life brings. There are words on pain and what it means, and of course, his ideas on the meaning of ‚ÄúThe Big Issue‚Äù. The lyrics in this song show a higher level of consciousness, connecting the soul and mind to the heart,
I want to hear the sound of people supporting
The soul is the emotional organ
your brain has got the thought in
your heart feels the distortion
where your mouth keeps talking
and your legs keep walking
pain is just a warning, a caution
and everybody gets served a portion
The powerful and moving ‚ÄúSay a Prayer‚Äù says thanks to the ‚Äúbest friends a man could have‚Äú. It also sounds like a message for his son and those close to him‚Äîit‚Äôs at once an apology, confession and explanation of his life. For me, this is one of his best songs‚ÄîHunter has summarised his life and beliefs in these few stanzas‚Äîhe has distilled his life into this one song‚Äîand shows the spiritual side of his self in a subtle and beautiful way. Be prepared to shed a few tears over this song.
please, understand what I tried to do
is be strong enough to walk alongside with you
. . .
you know I made mistakes, too many to mention
now I need to be forgiven without condition or question
my confession, yes, I made a fucken mess
but I wanna get it back to become one of the best
and I‚Äôve been blessed
with the best of friends a man could have
and I damn should have
thanked them before this time
so I‚Äôve gotta take the time
in the middle of this rhyme
to say Thanks
. . .
I try to do the right thing
and time and again
I keep fucking it up
and I really don‚Äôt know when
I‚Äôm going to get it back
on the right track
and I‚Äôm sorry to you all
but I want you to know that
I forgive myself
‚Äòcause I found the connection
that forgiveness and atonement leads to redemption
every second, every step and every breath
brings us one step closer to death
and what‚Äôs next
do you love the life you live
and do you live the life of love
and is that going to be enough
to get you going, through the times ahead
because it‚Äôs going to get rougher like the Good Book says
I had a revelation, that God will move Heaven and Earth
and we‚Äôll all get exactly what we deserve
in the end,
will Kharma be a foe or friend
please Say A Prayer
as the dark descends
Hunter writes from the soul‚Äîhe shares his soul with those who listen‚Äîespecially with those who listen to more than just the upbeat, party songs. There have been ups and downs in his life-story, just as there have been in each of his listener‚Äôs lives. The difference is, that Hunter‚Äôs life is laid out for all to hear in his rhymes as he contemplates life, and the experiences of his life. This reminds me of the lines highlighted by David Toop, in Seamus Heaney‚Äôs poem ‚ÄúPersonal Helicon‚Äù which are uttered as the subject looks at himself in the reflection of water at the bottom of a well: ‚ÄúI rhyme / To see myself, to set the darkness echoing‚Äù. (2010: 134)
By capturing his memories into lyrics, Hunter has preserved them, and ensured that they remain intact and repeatable. No long will they shift and slide in his mind‚Äôs inner voice‚Äîthey are shared with others via the recordings and live performances, where others may join in reciting the words. The stories can be transmitted to others more powerfully when they are spoken or rapped and audibly heard, than if they were read in a written piece by the lone reader‚Äîthe listeners may interpret the words and adjust them to their own ears based on their own experience, and in this way, enable them to remember the stories longer. Rapping adds a level of time and rhythm to the words also‚Äîthe emcee sets the pace that should be followed, and in this way, assists the listener to consider the words in their appropriate space.
Hunter often collaborates with other Australian hip hop emcees on his albums‚Äîparticularly on his ‚Äúhardcore hiphop‚Äù party songs. These songs and guests are very popular at live performances. He and the guest MCs deride other rappers who talk themselves up without proving themselves first, and show that hard work is what really matters. They rap on a range of topics‚Äîthe dark and menacing animal instincts of ‚ÄúOceanography‚Äù is a particular highlight. The list of guests is an impressive range of Australian hip hop MCs and rhyming styles: Dazastah, Mortar, Layla, Bias B, Ciecmate, Clandestine, Brand, Nick Sweepah, Dyverse, Intalekt, Reason, Mistery, Raph, Illergic, Porsah Laine, Tommohawk, Format, Graphic, Dynamics, Optamus, Figure 8, Sinner, Defyre. Kelly Hayden(H), and Chantal provide extra vocals, and turntablists DJ Armee, DJ Vame, Finatic, Karisma and Incogneto provide the cuts on many songs which adds an extra layer of percussion to the music and beats by Dazastah.
On ‚ÄúDone DL‚Äù album, Dazastah rhymes some songs also ‚Äì the inclusion of Guru / Gangstarr ‚ÄúJFK 2 LAX‚Äù samples on ‚ÄúBusindustry‚Äù is very well done. Dazastah‚Äôs lyrics ‚Äúmoney is a bonus not the motivation . . . all I really want from the industry is respect‚Äù align with the sample taken from the Gangstarr song, as well as a later lyric in the same song: ‚ÄúTo elevate the mental is to be poor no more‚Äù. These seem to be the ideals of many of the Syllabolix crew.
Hunter‚Äôs emceeing style is raw and real. He raps in a strong Australian accent that matches the experiences he is describing‚Äîgrowing up in the Australian suburbs, relationships, the Australian hip hop community as well as personal insights into his ideas and feelings. His style could be classed as ‚ÄúOcker hip hop‚Äù[1.] according to academics such as Tony Mitchell (2005)‚Äîthough, I haven‚Äôt heard a rhyme about BBQs yet‚Äîthere are songs about drinking at the pub‚Äî‚ÄúHave a Drink with Us‚Äù, and the ‚Äúsoundtrack for a pub fight‚Äù song ‚ÄúNight Out‚Äù. Hunter‚Äôs first album has an ode to his favourite football team, the East Perth Royals, called ‚ÄúEast Perth‚Äù. There is also an ode to the art of tattooing in ‚ÄúInk‚Äù. In Hunter‚Äôs words, he makes ‚ÄúHardcore Hiphop‚Äù as the song title suggests. Despite these labels, Hunter does consider some issues in depth. Listening to the albums made me, the listener, feel like we were having a ‚Äúdeep and meaningful‚Äù conversation, and I was listening to him tell the stories from his life.
Hunter rhymes in the language he speaks‚Äîthere‚Äôs often swearing, though this tends to be in the more upbeat, hardcore hip hop songs. The slower, more reflective songs have words with enough power in themselves to not need emphasis from swearing‚Äîeven ‚ÄúUnlikely Pairing‚Äù describes how Hunter‚Äôs language has changed, with the ‚Äúc‚Äù word being used often when younger, but now ‚ÄúI put them back where they belong, at the bottom of the pile‚Äù [of words].
In some ways it seems like he is using the power of verbal magic to attract the changes in his life, like KRS One mentions in ‚ÄúThe MC‚Äù.
Her infinite power helps, oppressed people sent me to tell you
if you truly study lyrical flows and stay on your toes you will be
Who am I? THE MC!
and as an MC you will study verbal magic
but watch what you say cuz you'll attract it
control your subconscious magnet from pullin‚Äô in havoc
These ideas are also suggested by writer and emcee Saul Williams, who explains,
‚Äúa latin transcription of the word ‚Äúperson‚Äù is ‚Äúbeing of sound‚Äù. as human beings we communicate with each other and with the greater universe through sound vibration. it is, thus, the essence of our collective being. all sounds reverberate with meaning. every sound vibration has an effect, and ever sound connected with every word we speak, in every syllable, is connected to its eternal meaning, its eternal reverberation‚Äù (2008: 21)
. . .
‚Äúi have often thought of my poetry in terms of incantations: spells (note: magic is done through casting spells which is the same way words are made) or prayers to be recited in the darkest caves and highest mountain tops. in writing, i often feel as if i am deciphering age-old equations and am often as baffled an audience member as any other listener or reader. i have also found numerous occasions where I have felt that I wrote or recited a situation into existence‚Äù (2008: 22‚Äì3)
. . .
‚Äúlanguage usage is a reflection of consciousness. thus, the future of language is connected to the ever-evolving state of human awareness. as we become more aware of our existing reality, it becomes clearer that we live with the power to dictate our given situations and thus the power to determine our future. our present reality is pre-sent, dictated by what we asked for previously. no, i am not saying that everything that happens to us is within our control, but through our perception we have the ability to determine much more of our reality than we realize (all puns intended). and what we say (which is clearly a reflection of what and how we think) is of the ut-most (utter-most) importance. what we say matters (becomes a solid: flesh). word life‚Äù (2008: 23)
or as Guru succinctly says (also mentioned in Williams‚Äô article),
‚Äúthese are the words that i manifest‚Äù (2008: 24)
‚ÄúMysticAL Alliance‚Äù alludes to the special powers and bonds of Hunter‚Äôs crew, whilst his spirituality shines through in previously mentioned songs such as ‚ÄúSay a Prayer‚Äù and ‚ÄúThe Big Issue‚Äù.
. . .
enable us to focus on the mystery of three turntablists - Armee, Karisma and Selekt
they‚Äôll attack with cuts like ice to protect
the secret circle, the sacred flame
that burns emcees in the Syllabolic name
I think Hunter would like to be recognised, but fame, money and getting radio play are not his main focus. Songs such as ‚ÄúDestined‚Äù, ‚ÄúBring it on Wax‚Äù and ‚ÄúDon‚Äôt Give a Fuck‚Äù talk about these themes and show just how ‚Äúreal‚Äù Hunter is. There‚Äôs no doubt he‚Äôs respected in the Australian hip hop community, especially from all the comments and support he‚Äôs been given recently.
I, for one, am really looking forward to his next chapter in his forthcoming album ‚ÄúFear and Loathing‚Äù (Hunter and Mortar) due in May 2011. Hunter is a man with many words to share. Though he may not be a number one chart topping Australian music superstar, his thoughts and songs are important and real, and I feel blessed to have been able to listen to them so far, even if I am late catching up on his work. Please join me in sharing his journey.
-- by Kath O'Donnell / AliaK 27/04/2011
Benjamin, Walter. 1969. ‚ÄúThe Storyteller: Reflections on the Works of Nikolai Leskov‚Äù. (1936). In Hannah Arendt (ed.), Harry Zohn (trans.), Illuminations. New York: Shocken.
Heaney, Seamus. ‚ÄúPersonal Helicon‚Äù
Mitchell, Tony (05/03/2005). "Lazy Grey". Local Noise. University of Technology, Sydney.
Toop, David. (2010). Sinister Resonance: the mediumship of the listener. New York: The Continuum International Publishing Group Inc.
Williams, Saul (2008). ‚ÄúThe Future of Language‚Äù. In Paul D. Miller aka DJ Spooky that Subliminal Kid (ed.), Sound Unbound. Massachusetts: The MIT Press.
1. Tony Mitchell (2005) describes ‚ÄòOcker‚Äô hip hop as follows: "‚ÄòOcker‚Äô hip hop is mainly Anglo-Australian, insists on using a broad Australian accent, with frequent swearing and recourse to Australian slang, decries MCs who rap with an American accent as ‚Äòwack‚Äô (ridiculous) and often celebrates aspects of Anglo-Australian working class culture like barbecues, sport and pubs. Prominent exponents include the Hilltop Hoods, Brisbane‚Äôs Lazy Grey and Perth-based ‚Äòfemcee‚Äô Layla."
update 31/05/2011 : Hunter's new album with Mortar "Fear and Loathing" was released in May 2011 - Hunter answered a few questions/comments I'd made in this article for ozhiphop.com
update 12/06/2011 - I'm playing with InDesign & Issuu - here's a pdf version of the article. the images are from my recent trip to Bangkok (not really related to the article topic)