JUDAH. Selects: 10 Australian/New Zealand Scene Stalwarts And Risers

The Melbourne fashion brand commemorate their evolution...

JUDAH. was born in the Southeast suburbs of Melbourne, Australia a.k.a THE AREAZ, on the basis of representing the unrepresented. Coloured by the lens of its director PHAT JUDAH., the brand takes on an array of references that pay homage to the lineage of classic streetwear. The brand has amassed a cult following, becoming a beacon for those cut from the same cloth who wish to venture into Australian waters. Most recently, JUDAH. launched an exclusive collaboration with Central Cee’s brand Syna, marking a significant moment for both brands, showcasing a seamless blend of Australian and UK cultures. With no intent to halt the momentum, JUDAH. have unveiled their latest collection, showcasing a nylon tracksuit set that flexes the brands technical prowess alongside staple t-shirts and accessories.

With their finger on the industry pulse, JUDAH. stand at the intersection of style and subculture in a burgeoning arts scene across the vast expanse of Australia and New Zealand. To commemorate the collection reveal and their growing stature as tastemakers, JUDAH. have spotlighted ten homegrown acts spanning atmospheric rap, narcotic drill, wistful RnB, jazz fusion, hardcore and club-skewed electronics.

Baro Sura

Melbourne artist Baro boasts a noteworthy, career-defining credit to his name: he featured on Mac Miller’s posthumous album ‘Circles’ on the track ‘Hand Me Downs’ – the sole guest appearance on a sprawling denouement of a rap Great. When you experience Baro’s devotional rap it becomes evident why the likes of Miller and Mick Jenkins venerated him. A fresh-faced Baro dropped his debut project The Earth Is My Living Room’ on Bandcamp in 2013, and his tempered flow and jazz-laden production acumen came to the fore on subsequent collections ‘HOWGOODISGOOD?’ and 2017’s Just Problems You Need To Know. Since then, Baro has dropped standalone affirmations packaged as blithe, breezy anthems, which will have you contemplating life, and dreaming of sunnier terrains.

Silentjay

Australian-born Filipino artist Silentjay may be a jazz-trained conceptualist, but he’s just as much a natural splicing up obscure soul samples on a drum machine, as he is playing saxophone, piano, keyboard, and the flute. A key figure in Melbourne’s musical Renaissance, Silentjay came up as a backing vocalist and contributor to Hiatus Kaiyote’s revolving live ensemble, his work extending into arrangement and live musical direction for core collaborator, Sampa the Great. Silentjay’s 2016 beat tape with Jace XL – a voyage-drifting, synthesized exploration of clipped 90s RnB – set the tone for a dense discography that has been co-signed by Giles Peterson, Rhythm Section and Brainfeeder impresario Flying Lotus. If you’re seeking mind-expanding trips through the cosmos – much of which is released on self-run Nap King Cole Records – Silentjay is the one for you.

Nasty Mars

Nasty Mars hails from the South-Eastern suburbs of Melbourne, and his music captures the lore and heritage of his locality. Citing Frank Ocean, D’Angelo and Prince as early influences, he emerged on the local scene with his band The Martians, their sound conjuring the whimsy and warmth of ‘Hive Mind’-era The Internet and classic soul forebears. The pandemic compelled Nasty Mars to soft-launch his sound again with 2021 release ‘Sage’, a melodic rap groove laden with syrupy sweet nothings. This year Nasty Mars returns recalibrated, laying out plainly his art-directed next moves.

SON RAY

SON RAY evokes Static Major-era programmed RnB, with a glint of Jimmy Edgar technoid futurism. The Naarm-based musician’s distilled soul coda ‘HARANA’, released last year, documented the cycle of contemporary romance: love unrequited, love attained and love lost. SON RAY’s use of clipped samples, percolating percussion, spacey atmospherics and melismatic vocal loops is deliciously unabashed but always immersive. If you’re seeking a playlist mapping out a constellation of love languages – one that beams you back into the MTV-BET duopoly – ‘HARANA’ by SON RAY is the one for you.

C.FRIM

Charlotte Frimpong, known by her artist name C.FRIM, is spearheading the QTBIPOC dance community Down Under with intersectional, Afro-diasporic events like Dutty. Born in Australia and of Ghanaian-Filipina descent, C.FRIM honed her craft as a DJ at local warehouse raves, but her career catapulted to new heights with a Boiler Room set at Sugar Mountain in December 2022, and a blistering continuous mix at Dekmantel last year. C.FRIM’s anthemic, arms-aloft club dominion sheds a light on Melbourne’s fast-growing electronic scene, and wherever she performs globally, she takes a piece of home and heritage with her; excavating her musical ancestry, importing rap, grime, Afro-electronics, Delphic house and techno into mixes that are borderless and always personalised.

Nauti

New Zealand artist Nauti careens between homegrown grit and melodic euphony in his cloud rap compositions. An influential figure in NZ’s underground scene, Nauti has been prolific with his output; 2022 7-track EP ‘Road To A Brick’ and last year’s ‘VOODOO CHILD’ and ‘Gotham’, a trifecta of releases conveying a storyteller in flux, preserving the spirit of Auckland whilst pushing outwards and onwards to new sonic terrains. New single ‘DOM P’ solidifies Nauti’s promise as genre-agnostic artist subverting the underground with mass appeal, a technicolour, discofied celestial tour.

Miko Mal

Australian-born, Turkish-Egyptian rapper Miko Mal (f.k.a Babyface Mal) might at first glance be the next conveyor belt drill prospect, but in his fledgling years he’s displayed a knack for zippy, zeitgeist-indebted storytelling. Mal offloads bars surveying multicultural discord, adolescent angst and romantic drift over production that pulls from his mixed heritage and his Gen Z credentials. On recent single ‘#ONLINE’, his precise, prismatic wordplay is underpinned by Worldbeat Arabesque melodies, and on Scott Storch-evoking Tramp, he’s a snake charmer chiming over darkly atonal production. Co-signed by the likes of Mixtape Madness and Rolling Stone Australia, this year expect Miko Mal to go global.

Speed

Sydney band Speed are screamo custodians of schizoid world-building. Since their debut release ‘DEMO 19’, released in 2019, they’ve fortified a sound packed full of blood and guts viscera, aggressive tempo shifts, and extreme vocal dissonance. But venture deep enough, and you’ll hear a band’s conscious exploration of identity, ownership and Otherness. The band featured on the This Is Australia Vol.2’ compilation masterminded by noteworthy imprint Last Ride Records, part of a community of local musicians honouring First Nations people and their sovereignty in a colonized land. In 2022, the band fine-tuned their sound with ‘Gang Called Speed’, affirming themselves as visible, benevolent and brazen upholders of a more inclusive, but no less vital, brand of hardcore.

MELODOWNZ

Not many artists can boast having Bootsy Collins on their debut album, but West Auckland Native MELODOWNZ doesn’t fit the conventional mould; his artful, truth-telling style of rap a bridge between worlds and generations. 2022’s ‘LONE WOLF’, released on Def Jam NZ, synthesized a decade’s worth of extended plays and projects, pivoting between left-field, experimental rap, ’80s RnB, boogie funk and deep jazz flourishes. Most striking is the poetic profundity of MELO’s words, which has seen him transition from an Aotearoa local legend to a star of international pedigree.

Chef Chung

Regularly endorsed on NTS Radio, Triple J and Triple R, Melbourne rapper-producer Chef Chung established himself as a wayfaring drifter on EP ‘BALANCE, a murky, minimalist epic of love, faith and inner city monologues. Debut project ‘WARRIOR POUNDS THE MORTAR’ released last year, continued the instincts, impulses and same subversive streak of it’s predecessor, filling every nook and contour with modulated production flourishes and dimly-lit confessionals that thrum with purpose and passion.

Words: Shahzaib Hussain

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