JustUS: What Hip-hop Wants You to Know

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Hip-hop music is ubiquitous and Indigenous groups globally are using Hip-hop to express local social and political issues and movements (Mitchell 2001). The question that this film and thesis seeks to answer is evident in the film’s title π˜‘π˜Άπ˜΄π˜΅π˜œπ˜š: 𝘞𝘩𝘒𝘡 𝘏π˜ͺ𝘱-𝘩𝘰𝘱 𝘞𝘒𝘯𝘡𝘴 𝘠𝘰𝘢 𝘡𝘰 π˜’π˜―π˜°π˜Έ. More specifically the research and creative production focuses on a sub-genre of Hip-hop called Conscious Hip-hop which provides the audience with a critical lens on society and politics and rallies its listeners to demand social change. The main impetus for this research is to use the popularity of this global youth culture and its music to engage young people in matters of social justice. The recurring themes present in much Australian Conscious Hip-hop - police violence, the over-incarceration of Indigenous people in Australia, and the use of Hip-hop as a means of artistic resistance – are explored visually and aurally through this research and creative project. Conscious Hip-hop artists from Indigenous, culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds share their experiences and knowledge of these issues as they directly or indirectly affect them. I decided to focus on the personal journey of a young Indigenous rapper from The Block in Redfern, Sydney, Stephen Carr-Saunders (aka Sonboy). His story provides the audience with a more personal account of the trauma experienced by those directly affected by police violence and growing up in a predominantly Black community impacted by racism and colonisation. His story is also one of empowerment and an example of the transformative power of Hip-hop to heal those suffering traumas and offer an alternative pathway to recidivism. Sonboy’s story also provides another positive representation of Indigenous Australia. The film is directly informed by scholarly research pertaining to the over-policing and over-incarceration of Indigenous people in Australia and acknowledges the enduring importance of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody (1991). Indigenous scholars in the field of criminology have recognised Indigenous protest musicians, including Indigenous folk/country singer-songwriters, Kev Carmody and Archie Roach, as "Outsider Criminologists", who speak β€œtruth to power” in their music, seen as a form of β€œartistic resistance” (Porter 2019, pp. 129-137). Additionally, some social anthropologists have recognised the social justice issues experienced by Indigenous Australians expressed in Indigenous Hip-hop as well as the cultural and political connections Indigenous Australians have with African American Hip-hop and the parallel histories of Civil Rights activism (Hutchings and Crooke 2017; Minestrelli 2017). The creative work and thesis build upon Australian Hip-hop scholarship, offering an Indigenous auto-ethnographic perspective and provides more detailed context to a number of social justice issues that Indigenous and other Australian Conscious Hip-hop speaks back to.
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