• It was a stellar year for Blak music. Powerhouse rapper Barkaa performed during Barrabuwari at Sydney Opera House in April. (Getty Images AsiaPac)Source: Getty Images AsiaPac
With a new single out this week, Barkaa's star continues to rise. She speaks about being a woman in hip hop and dissing her ex through rap.
Dan Butler

10 Jul 2021 - 11:31 AM  UPDATED 10 Jul 2021 - 11:34 AM

Life has changed dramatically for Barkaa over the last few years.

“Oh, It's surreal. It's taken off so fast. (To be doing) what I've always dreamt of doing is just, yeah... Deadly,” she told NITV's Big Mob Brekky.

The 26-year-old Malyangapa, Barkindji rapper only began releasing music last year, but after catching the attention of Melbourne star Briggs, she signed to his label Bad Apples Music.

Now, her star is firmly on the rise.

Her first track of the year, King Brown dropped this week. Part of a forthcoming EP ‘Black Matriarchy’, the track is a classic break up song, dissing an ex-lover.

“It was just my cheeky side where I wanted to write something really fun. He owes me money! So I thought, 'How do I get my money back off him?'

“So hopefully I make some money off (him) in that way,” she laughs.

One publication has already called the track “a searing display of female strength.”

"We're really supportive of our women and our matriarchal culture... we're just all mob.”

In a male-dominated hip hop scene, her outspoken femininity has ruffled some feathers and she says coming up in the industry has been a challenge.

“(I’ve learnt) to be okay with not being accepted by everybody. But... under Briggs' label with my brothers Kobie Dee, Birdz, Nooky (for me and) sis Alice Sky, you know, there's a huge support there from my brothers.

And I feel like, if we know our culture, that we're really supportive of our women and our matriarchal culture... we're just all mob.”

It’s central to Barkaa’s identity, reflected in the title of her EP: power in womanhood, and pride in culture.

That identity is front and centre in her music and it shows.

While performing in front of the Sydney Opera House in April, she brought her young daughter on stage for a performance of “I Know I Can,” an anthem of self-belief and defiance in the face of an oppressive system.

If Barkaa was already beginning to make waves in the industry, that performance cemented her status as a star, burning into the consciousness of Australian music as a setting sun blazed on the Harbour Bridge.

It’s a far cry from the tough circumstances she faced not so long ago. Struggles with drug and alcohol addiction saw her giving birth to her son while in prison.

“I think alcohol and I don't mix. I become very wild. And rowdy.

“So I don't like where it took me.”

Barkaa has been open about those struggles, and often posts on social media about her journey with sobriety.

“Before I used to be very secretive and hide everything. Being able to be open and inspire others… and feel like we're not alone in this world is a big thing for me.

"You know, part of telling my story is just... this is the honest truth. And it's okay to be honest with yourself, and be who you are.”

These days, honesty is not an issue for the rapper: her politics are loud and proud, not just in the music she makes.

Reflecting on this year’s NAIDOC theme, she doesn’t hesitate when asked what it means to her, to ‘Heal Country’.

“Give it back. Give it back,” she said.

She’s unapologetic about her forthright views, and taps into the shared history of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in defending them.

“As a Blakfulla, we don't have a choice but to be politically fueled. Our blackness is seen as political when it's just survival for us mob," she said.

“Seeing my mother go through what she went through, being a part of the Stolen Generation, and growing up with racism and prejudice… It's just life experience, where I'm writing about our lived experience.”

Barkaa has the makings of greatness: a message, a voice, and a fire driving her.

She has a simple plan for the future.

"I'm just gonna keep killing it. I'm gonna keep writing music. I got a lot to say still," she said.

“I'm always getting inspired and (I’ve) got a lot to get off my chest. So I guess I'll continue writing until I'm healed.

“Which will be never!”

She laughs, before qualifying: “It’s a journey.”

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