Roll with our rap stars

Editorial assistant by day, rapper by night, Erika Bacon, introduces us to the local hip hop scene

You see, kids get bored, kids kill time. So long as there's kids on this planet, kids will rhyme.

- Horrorshow

Erika Bacon is E Money.
Erika Bacon is E Money. 

My passion is hip hop and rap and - as with everything - the more you enjoy something, the more you are exposed to it and the more you learn. Initially, I was exposed to the US ''gangster-rap'' style, but from there it didn't take long for me to discover Australian hip hop.

Australian hip hop is a burgeoning scene that has grown from underground roots to levels that were previously thought unimaginable. Artists such as Hilltop Hoods, the Herd, 360, Illy and Drapht have broken into the mainstream.

Rapper and slam poet Omar bin Musa,
Rapper and slam poet Omar bin Musa, 

It wasn't until 2004 that the Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA) Awards recognised it didn't have a category for Australian urban talent, so best urban release (now album) was created to fill this embarrassing oversight.

While acknowledging that Australian hip hop has grown exponentially, it is still relatively unknown. While most are probably familiar with some of the names mentioned above, and have perhaps even heard a track or two (think: The Nose-bleed Section) that's probably the extent of it. Hip hop is still a fairly underground genre. Let me introduce you to some local names worth looking out for.

Probably the most prominent name is the KP crew, founded by Big Dave in 2007. KP crew is a group of local Australian rappers with background stories as diverse as their music. In 2011, KP crew achieved international support by entering into a distribution agreement with American record company WIDEawake Entertainment. Since 2009, WIDEawake Entertainment has owned the iconic label Death Row Records. Keep an ear an eye out for these three notable acts from the KP crew: Bishop, Pug D and Eitha. Bishop is a naturally gifted MC, Pug is an indigenous MC with a lot of soul to his voice and a crazy life story involving being shot and stabbed, and Eitha is probably the hungriest MC around town, performing at every gig he can.

Koolism is another big name, and was the first recipient of the ARIA's best urban release award in 2004. Koolism is made up of MC and lyricists Hau Latukefu and DJ Danielsan Ichiban and, since their beginning in 1994, they have released five albums. They are also featured in the documentary Words from the City, which explores the Australian hip hop scene.

Omar bin Musa is a rapper and poet from Queanbeyan and has a strong presence in the local scene. Musa's poetry comes through in his lyrics and is sure to disband any negative perceptions you may have of hip hop. Listen to his track Each Footstep and make sure to check out his rapper tag on YouTube (underground rappertag 9).

Born in Ghana but established in Canberra, Kayo Marbilus has been performing live since he was 15, and released his first album at the age of 19. He was also the winner of the MusicACT Annual Music Awards (MAMA). He should be congratulated as he had some tough competition, going up against other fine local acts Bushland Prodigies and Big Dave.

Another local synonymous with the Canberra scene is D'Opus & Roshambo, a duo not to be missed. And last shout out goes to Raw City Rukus, who also have a strong local presence and are one of the only hip-hop crews with live instrumentation.

Next time you are wondering how best to fill an evening, check out a gig guide, and go try something different.

I rap under the name of EMoney and reckon freestyling is the only way you can prove your worth as an artist. Having written poetry and enjoyed hip hop for many years now, it was a natural progression that these two passions would collide. I love to ''battle'' - the key to battling is to use what you have in front of you, take inspiration from the person's appearance and then use that peppered with pop-culture references to ''dis'' someone. For example, if your opponent rhymes really slowly, you could try something like:

''You rhyme real slow, and here is the thing, it took you longer to spit that verse than for Frodo to get rid of the ring.''

Or perhaps, ''Your rhymes are slow, I went and helped David finish the Goliath slaying, I came back, and you still hadn't finished what you were saying.''

The best thing to do is never stop, even if you mess up. The more you practise, the faster you will become at putting verses together. A helpful tip: it's always good to have some pre-rehearsed lines to buy you time if you get stuck.

Think about what people are likely to say about you and then work out a reply. There is nothing worse than being dissed and then choking when it's your turn.

Freestyling, rap battling and ciphers can happen anywhere any time but, most commonly for me, they have happened after gigs, when crowd and band members are milling around together. This is when the magic happens. Like watching a movie until after the credits, sometimes you need to wait for the best stuff.