• (R-L) Tasman Keith, Nooky, Urthboy, Ozi Batla, L-Fresh the Lion on the roof of Koori Radio studios in Redfern (Barbra McGrady/NITV)Source: Barbra McGrady/NITV
Some of the biggest names in Australian hip hop have united for a special track to raise awareness and invite the nation as whole to think about how we celebrate Australia Day.
By
Emily Nicol

24 Jan 2017 - 3:28 PM  UPDATED 25 Jan 2017 - 10:50 AM

Nooky, Urthboy (The Herd), Birdz (Nathan Bird), Thundamentals (Tuka and Jeswon), L-Fresh the Lion, Tasman Keith, Ozi Batla, Kaylah Truth, Coda Conduct (Erica and Sally) and Hau (Koolism) are all a part of an historic and powerful collaboration, 3LACK60, released today on NITV. NITV caught up with some of the artists to find out how and why they got involved in the project.

Urthboy

Urthboy (Tim Levinson) is an award-winning hip hop artist from Sydney, who arrived on the music scene in 2004, picking up J, ARIA and AIR nominations and awards ever since. With an honest style of delivery and socially minded edge, Urthboy has collaborated frequently with Indigenous artists such as Thelma Plum, Nooky and Jimblah and worked with organisations such as GetUp to help raise money for Indigenous run health and education programs, and is a vocal and passionate supporter for Indigenous rights.

Urthboy told NITV that it has been a process of education that has led him to take a stance against celebrating Australia Day.

"January 26 is a complicated day. I grew up just not thinking anything about it. I grew up thinking about it just as a public holiday, I didn't have any understanding about what it meant. In recent years I've come to realise that it symbolises a lot about what is unresolved, a lot of unfinished business in Australia. It symbolises dispossession, the advancement of the majority of Australia at the expense of the owners - the people who have lived here for 60,000 years," Levinson said.

"January 26 has become something for me, and a lot of those who are close to me, as a day of mourning. It's a day that i've come to see is important to express solidarity. I think any country that doesn't reconcile it's past is going to be fairly blind in navigating it's future"

"January 26 has become something for me, and a lot of those who are close to me, as a day of mourning. It's a day that i've come to see is important to express solidarity. I think any country that doesn't reconcile it's past is going to be fairly blind in navigating it's future"

Nooky

Yuin hip hop artist Nooky (Corey Webster), is a powerful voice from the south coast of NSW, whose connection to his tribal roots and passion for bringing awareness to the continuing struggles of his people are the driving force in his music and lyrics.

Webster told NITV that this project is an important one for him and hopes that it keeps the conversation going about what the day means and in the 'best case scenario' - change the date.

"[Jan 26 is] Invasion day plain and simple - Survival day if I’m feeling nice. I think we need to change the date but truth be told even if it did change, I don’t see myself celebrating 'Australia Day'. A lot more needs to happen first. What is Australian? I’m Yuin, and until equality is reached I won’t be throwing any lamb on the bbq."

Webster says he chose the words for #ChangeTheDate because he feels as though his people have been screaming for justice and equality for years,

"I feel like the majority are not listening. It’s a lot easier to go about life pretending like this shit isn’t rife within society - like we’re not still dying, like our kids aren’t still being taken. I then took it further by referencing the Like a Version I did with The Herd back in 2012. We said 'A Change is Gonna Come' - but when?

Five years later I’m still singing the same song. I had to tackle the issue of deaths in custody. It's sad that there are so many names that pop in to my head when I hear those words. I felt I had to call it for what it truly is, murder - but where’s the justice?

Five years later I’m still singing the same song. I had to tackle the issue of deaths in custody. It's sad that there are so many names that pop in to my head when I hear those words. I felt I had to call it for what it truly is, murder - but where’s the justice?"

L-Fresh The Lion

L-Fresh The Lion (Sukhdeep Singh), a powerful new presence on the hip hop scene from Western Sydney with Sikh roots and a dedication to championing human rights, was invited to the project by Elefant Traks label mate Urthboy and his decision to come on board was an easy one.

Singh told NITV that he got involved in the project through Urthboy and was instantly interested,

"The most exciting thing for me, was finding out how many people were involved both Indigenous and Non Indigenous.

For me, the 26th January is very symbolic of the ongoing relationship between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australia. It feels like since Day 1 of colonisation, Australia hasn't done something that really needs doing now, which is to listen to and respect Indigenous people," Singh says.

"For me it's been an ongoing practice, to really listen and learn about my place in modern Australia, and what that means in terms of colonisation and then break that down that framework so as not to be an active contributor to the ongoing oppression of Indigenous peoples. That's why this project is important.

This song symbolises a step forward. It's Indigenous and non-Indigenous people coming together and respecting the space of this issue, which needs to be taken very seriously, because we haven't, for the longest time. Indigenous people have been telling us that we haven't been doing good enough, that we haven't been listening and taking notice. I hope this song challenges that current framework. Changing the date is but a small step towards what needs to happen.

Singh said that his lyrics on the track try to explain how if you are a recent migrant in Australia, you're expected to assimilate to white and mainstream Australia; one that celebrates Australia Day. 

"It’s part of what you are expected to do to fit in to Australian culture, and to some degree, renouncing the culture you came from. It’s kind of what it feels like."

"It’s part of what you are expected to do to fit in to Australian culture, and to some degree, renouncing the culture you came from. It’s kind of what it feels like.

Being invited to celebrate in this way, what you are not being told in that part of the story, is that you are continuing the legacy of invasion and you are participating in a date that is divisive."

M.C Tuka

Popular hip hop group Thundamentals, a group formed in the Blue Mountains just outside of Sydney, most recently through their Got Love  initiative are raising awareness of issues close to their heart. MC Tuka (Brendan Tuckerman) told NITV that the decision to be involved with #ChangeTheDate was an easy one.

"Basically we want to support and contribute in changing the date in any way we can..To be honest I’ve never really supported or celebrated Australia Day. I’m patriotic to a certain extent, but definitely not on that date. I’m not proud to celebrate that date and I don’t identify with celebrating that date.

I grew up in a regional town and when I was young, my next door neighbours and best friend were Aboriginal, so I guess I had a personal connection with their family about it. Then, when I moved to the Blue Mountains my two best friends were Adam, who was Vietnamese and Nick who was Aboriginal, so I was just always conscious that they don’t really like that day," Tuckerman told NITV.

"I think [changing the date] would give us an opportunity to have a better understanding of one another and it would help bring people together and be inclusive with everyone that was comfortable celebrating it. I don’t think it’s a bad thing... 

I think the date has been changed several times. There is nothing sacred about this one day, Jan 26.  So I don’t see what the problem is? Other than making more people happy to celebrate. I can’t see any cons in changing it." 

Tuckerman told NITV he used the lyrics, 'On this day / One love got ripped part / Dismantled then put on display' because he wanted to highlight the disrespect of celebrating this day. 

"You are not giving people the chance to be inclusive and come together -you are pulling society apart a little bit and you are showboating it," he says. 

"I had a really amazing day. It was a great day to connect with everyone and I feel so privileged that I got to be a part of it because it is a really special song. The energy in the room was really cool, I got a lot out of that. It was refreshing. If people want to point the finger, you can, there is a lot you can point the finger at, it’s a really racist country. But that’s not my approach. 

In my mind it would be awesome if people just take the song on board and it spreads like wildfire, and that it helps people to understand why it’s important for us to change the date and how It’s only one step of a much more complex, bigger puzzle."

Tasman Keith

MC Tasman Keith was raised between inner-city Sydney and Bowraville Mission in the Nambucca valley. Tasman 'proudly represents the legacy of Gumbaynggirr Nation hip hop' and was one of the first artists to brought on board the #ChangeTheDate project. 

"Obviously it's important because of the message - but also because of the amount of people involved in the project and their backgrounds, sharing the thoughts and feelings around this particular date itself, and why it should change. it’s a massive project. For the audience, I hope to open their eyes. This is well overdue," Keith told NITV. 

"Hopefully a bunch of different voices from different backgrounds can make that change that needs to come. Most people don’t listen to Blackfellas saying it,  so hopefully all of us coming together will make people understand from different perspectives and they can relate it to their own."

"Hopefully a bunch of different voices from different backgrounds can make that change that needs to come. Most people don’t listen to Blackfellas saying it,  so hopefully all of us coming together will make people understand from different perspectives and they can relate it to their own."

Much like peer Nooky, Keith says that many things have to change before he truly feels comfortable celebrating an 'Austrarlia Day'. 

"For me personally, I guess it would mean, we have taken one small step which is well overdue and it would mean that my little brother and little sister don’t have to grow up watching people celebrate genocide. Simple as that."

Kaylah Truth

Brisbane-bred M.C Kaylah Truth (Kaylah Tyson) is an honest, raw and smooth 'hip-pop' artist, who is passionate about sharing her truth and struggles of her people.

She told to NITV that she was most likely invited to be invovled in the project as a result of being outspoken on many issues over the years including the topic of focus - Jan 26.

"It probably helps that I can string a few rhymes together too," she laughed. 

"Being involved with projects of this kind are often emotional, sometimes scary but always important because speaking up on things that matter and being a part of the conversation could spark the mind that can make a change towards a better future for my people and this country, as a whole," Tyson says.

"January 26 is a Day of Mourning to me. While the same day is celebrated at this point in time, I also see it as a road block that separates the nation every year.

I absolutely think we need to change the date. I feel it is an integral part of the movement for change. When the date is changed it doesn't mean that everything is rosy but it will be a symbol, if you like, to show that the rest of the country acknowledges our history and wants to move together toward the future.

I absolutely think we need to change the date. I feel it is an integral part of the movement for change. When the date is changed it doesn't mean that everything is rosy but it will be a symbol, if you like, to show that the rest of the country acknowledges our history and wants to move together toward the future," she says. 

Tyson says that her lyrics 'Do I start the convo? / Or will it kill the mood?' is a very simple line, but such an honest portrayal of the situation so many of us find ourselves in every year.

"If you bring up the conversation with friends and family amidst the Aussie, Aussie, Aussie chants you'll be seen as the serious one who needs to relax and get over it. I wanted to include these words to paint the picture and let other people know that they're not alone, it is an uncomfortable conversation to have but it needs to keep happening if we hope to see action."

Watch #ChangeTheDate here
NITV's 3LACK60 Sessions: #ChangeTheDate
Some of Australia’s best hip hop artists have come together thanks to NITV, Elefant Traks and Bad Apples to produce an original song ‘Change the Date’, and an accompanying 360 degree VR experience.

Discover more about Indigenous Australia with NITV's #AlwaysWillBe, an interactive line-up of truth, tradition and expression. 

Read these too
Activism from all angles: NITV captures hip hop supergroup's Jan 26 track in Virtual Reality
Recorded on the exclusive Nokia Ozo camera, NITV is telling Indigenous stories from every angle.
Comment: The only way to defeat January 26 is to come together
Solidarity is a word that we must become better acquainted with as we enter a period of entrenched far-right ideology within our political and other institutions. However, as we hurtle toward Australia Day this January 26, solidarity remains an elusive strategy that is only haphazardly being pieced together by forward-thinking individuals.
Jenny Munro brings Indigenous issues to forefront of Women’s March
Aboriginal activist and elder Jenny Munro was among a headline of speakers at the Women’s March on Sydney – highlighting the many issues facing Indigenous peoples in Australia today.