Arts & Entertainment

The Art of Words

N3 (Smacktown), 26th Letter (Soul Benefits) & Chico Cas (Smacktown), photo by Chris Peken

Hip-hop is often generalised as an entity of rivalry and violence, where artists look out for number one in order to become top dog.

Forget what you think you know about that concept.

One Mic will be a night that blows all of these misconceptions out of the water, as this monthly event at the Civic Hotel sets out to exemplify the multi-cultural ethos of Australian life. Expect to see MCs and performers from all walks of life banding together to fill the room with poetic verses and unabashed attitude.

The event, which is the brainchild of Fight Music and hip-hop blog Poetry Runs Deep, is what co-organiser and Smacktown MC N3 feels is definitely called for.

“We saw that something was needed in the hip-hop scene in Australia. It’s evident that things are going on overseas in America, but not here,” he says.

“We felt we had to start off small, so with a small venue only fitting around 300 people and a decent sound system we felt it was a good start.”

The night is centralised around the idea of a cypher, where five up and coming artists will each take a turn to spit an exclusive, off-the-cuff verse over an instrumental track provided by the resident DJ. This tactic of unification stems from a desire to separate the misconception of what hip-hop is.

“Everyone is just trying to make it independently in his or her own places,” explains N3.

“In Australian hip-hop there is a lot of focus on being Australian, we are trying to unite everyone. Whatever accent you have or where you come from isn’t relevant, as long as you can rap, that’s all that matters.”

With acts such as Kadbury, Chico Cas (Smacktown), Ello C (Overtime), Chrispy (Sleepwalkers) & Matuse (Freedom Fighters) to take the stage for the One Mic debut, unification is not the only thing on their mind – the artists gain the chance to get exposure. It’s enough to send any dedicated local hip-hop fan into a frenzy, as N3 discovered, there is an overwhelming sense of relief at the emergence of this event, which also includes live visual art displays and DJs.

“From the feedback we have received there are so many people who are really positive and excited that there is finally an event like this being launched in Australia,” he explains.

“It was a little shocking that people were really jumping on board!”

The night is set to become a prominent event for the Sydney hip-hop scene and it creates a sense of nostalgia to see just how much the spoken-word scene has developed in our country.

Gone are the days when budding poets and performers were subjected to finding work in small-city bars and clubs, competing for coveted set times. The introduction of the Australian Poetry Slam has paved the way for the unification of artists all over the country, as co-creator Miles Merrill explains, it took a while for the event to take shape.

“In 2004, I was working with a few different friends that were part of the poetry scene in Sydney and Melbourne,” Merrill says.

“We had talked about starting a poetry slam, and in the beginning some of them wanted it to be done in teams, but my feedback to that was ‘well, nobody knows what a poetry slam is, so who will spontaneously put together a slam team?’”

Born and raised in Chicago, USA, Merrill received his performance break in Sydney where he impressed the audience with his combination of theatre, experimental audio and hip-hop beats to gain recognition and further gigs.

“It was strange the situation I was in when I first started because people were like ‘Oh that guy does poetry, and he performs it, isn’t that interesting?’” explains Merrill.

“I was one of maybe six people in the country that did it. That uniqueness at the time meant I got all of the work, which was nice but at the same time it was not a very respected art form.”

It was through volunteering for the Australian Poetry Festival that Merrill was able to lend his insights and ideas to set out an appealing structure for what would become a national event across a variety of venues. As an individual at the forefront of the spoken-word scene, Miles believes that Sydney today has a lot more prospect for artists than most realise.

“I think there is a lot more opportunities for new things and trying out new stuff, such as new concepts for performance. Every year, it’s kind of like a little map of the country’s imagination coming out. The more we document it and film it and create other forms out of it, the closer we can see the consciousness of the country and what it is doing.” (CD)

One Mic, Civic Hotel, Aug 9, 388 Pitt St, Sydney, $15, (02) 8267 3185,

The Australian Poetry Slam 2013, (heat) Oct 1, Friend In Hand Hotel, 58 Cowper St, Glebe, (final) Oct 13, Sydney Opera House, Bennelong Point, $TBA,

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