Students break loose in hip hop homage

28 April 2023

WAAPA students explore the emergence of hip hop with a slick performance, supported by a local legend, writes Claire Trolio.

Break it Up: The Birth of Hip Hop, WAAPA Contemporary Music students with Composition and Music Technology students 
Rosemount Hotel, 27 April 2023 

This year hip hop becomes a quinquagenerian. Turn your mind to the Bronx, NYC in 1973, when DJ Kool Herc played that famous party, sampling from two turntables to extend the break beat: it’s a long way from North Perth 50 years later. But that moment changed music forever and, in Break it Up: The Birth of Hip Hop, WAAPA students show how pervasive the hip hop genre has become. 

WAAPA’s Composition and Music Technology students have used this pivotal moment in music history to inspire their own compositions, culminating in a live show at the Rosemount Hotel.  

At times the stage is empty while electronic tracks ring out; at other times WAAPA’s Contemporary Music students perform the pieces live. 

Josh Holland and band get the party started. Photo: Stephen Heath

Break it Up draws from those early hip hop parties, when DJs began isolating the break beats and invited MCs to grab the mike and add vocals.

Local rappers Insane the Prince (one half of hip hop duo And Beyond) and Marksman Lloyd are brought in to pepper the evening with their individual rap styles. 

Josh Holland and a live band kick off the night with a cover of Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five’s 1982 anthem The Message, setting the tone for a celebration of beats. It is the first of two covers, with Eminem’s Lose Yourself (2002) heralding the start of the second set. 

These familiar tunes energise the crowd, their diversity reflecting the evolution of the genre. The Contemporary Music students perform them exceptionally, honouring the originals and not compromising on nostalgia, while adding their own flair – Finn Rooney’s guitar solo during The Message and guitarist Sylvia Salazar Molano’s solo during Lose Yourself two standout examples. 

Conceptually, “the birth of hip hop” suggests both hip hop’s roots and what came next, and the students explore this idea through their compositions. There are elements of disco, funk, soul, breakbeat, drum and bass and jungle riding through the performance. 

This journey is embodied in Lindsey Reed’s Electric Flow, which begins by drawing on elements of funk and disco, before morphing into a contemporary dance track. The variety in individual compositions like this shows the students’ breadth. 

Matthew Cole’s electronic composition To Gold provides smooth beats for Marksman Lloyd and Insane the Prince, and ethereal, melodic tracks such as Forgotten and Window Jammer (Jake Dunstan and Luke Manning, respectively) contrast with the heavier, industrial sounds of Ben Buchanan’s work MIRANDA IS CALLINGGGG!.

Sylvia Salazar Molano impresses on guitar. Photo: Stephen Heath

Musical directors Lindsay Vickery and Stuart James allow space for the individual styles, while creating cohesion and flow. 

One of my favourite performances involves the two guest rappers freestyling while Annabelle Volery, Maze Mather and Aimee Croston harmonise to the Shaun Ferralolo-penned No Two Paradises. Rich and full, this is collaboration at its best. 

Nathan Brown’s rendition of his own Such a Dream is also a hit. His languid flow is powerful; with a full backing band it commands attention. 

But the greatest gift is saved until last with an appearance by local hip hop royalty Drapht, who performs his two biggest singles Rapunzel and Jimmy Recard. A veteran of live gigs, Drapht is slick and the Contemporary Music students producing the thunderous live backing are superb. Rather than overshadow the emerging artists, Drapht is humble, supportive and professional and ensures the audience leaves on a high.  

Naturally, there is ebb and flow in the evening, with some new works stronger than others and the sound mixing not always in balance, but each musician delivers a polished and energised performance. What a bundle of talent.  

With origins belonging to another place and time, Break it Up is a shining contemporary show. 

For more WAAPA music performances, see the website.

Pictured top: Insane the Prince and Marksman Lloyd bring their rap styles to ‘Break it Up: The Birth of Hip Hop. Photo: Stephen Heath

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Author —
Claire Trolio

Claire Trolio completed a Bachelor of Arts (Hons) and a Bachelor of Laws (Hons) at UWA. She writes about Western Australia for various digital and print media and owns a shop with her sister. For her, the spider swing is the ultimate in playground fun.

Past Articles

  • Gentle touch guides lunar landing 

    Balancing weight with whimsy, this children’s theatre work strikes the right chord for its target audience, writes Claire Trolio.

  • Next-gen theatre makers impress

    From the fresh and funny to the weird and wonderful, WAAPA’s Performance Making students bring fresh, incisive work at full tilt, writes Claire Trolio.

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