Hooligan Hefs performed in Brisbane on Friday.
That’s a big deal. It should not be taken for granted. Only recently, fellow drill act ONEFOUR announced the cancellation of their debut national tour. The cancellation was allegedly the result of an ongoing campaign of censorship by police across the country. At the centre of the campaign is Strike Force Imbara. The force is tasked with the investigation of anti-social behaviour of street-level criminal networks in Western Sydney. Ostensibly, it has targeted drill music as those involved are suspected to engage in such behaviour. In practice, it’s meant that young disenfranchised men have been deprived of a legitimate source of income. Thankfully, Hooligan Hefs has been allowed to make a living, at least so far.
Hooligan Hefs is an Australia rapper of Chinese and Samoan descent. His music fuses elements of drill and EDM. It’s as indebted to Harlem Spartans as it is to Hardwell. It’s a unique mix that could only have been born out of the melting pot that is Western Sydney.
His show at The Zoo was a celebration of the new wave of Australian rap. Local rappers Hooks and DAY1 each performed a short energetic opening set. DJ S.Y. Orosa’s DJ set fittingly featured UK drill, EDM and American trap records.
Hooligan Hefs eventually took the stage flanked by members of his entourage. They danced, took turns to shout the lyrics. Many were topless. It was not a professional performance but it was a hell of a lot of fun. It was a celebratory and jubilant. It reminded me of the early drill performances in Chicago.
Young men, not professional musicians, just happy to have made it. Happy to celebrate and to perform their work to an enthusiastic crowd. And the crowd was enthusiastic. Hooligan Hefs has only released four songs on official streaming services. But his fans know every word to these songs, they know every word to his feature verses and they know every word to the loose freestyles that the rapper has uploaded to YouTube.
Part way through the set, Hooligan Hefs brought out local rapper Nerve to perform their remix to UK rapper Aitch’s ‘Taste (Make It Shake)’.Nerve’s feature verse ends with the couplet:
If they telling you I ain't one of the best, that's a lie
Straight from Manny out to Aussie I'm a legend till I die
For that final bar, the DJ dropped the instrumental and Nerve held his microphone out to the crowd. As the crowd shouted “Straight from Manny out to Aussie”, it was clear that they had a real sense of pride in this new wave of Australian rappers. Australian rappers which, unlike many before them, are seeing international recognition.
Australian drill is on the cusp of mainstream success. If you want to see a young rapper about to break through to an international audience, see Hooligan Hefs. You will not regret it.