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Hip-hop mob get their own Redfern recording label

With a bling and a bang, Aboriginal hip-hop has got a new home. Billing itself as the first urban and independent Aboriginal record label, Redfern Records Entertainment leapt into life with a party in Kings Cross reports Joel Gibson in the SMH of October 22, 2007.

"There needs to be another vehicle in the Aboriginal community to project the dreams and aspirations of Aboriginal people around Australia," said the label's co-founder, Stephen Ridgeway.

"We're focusing on urban music because at the moment that market's untapped."

The origins of Redfern Records lie on The Block, the inner-city black ghetto where Stephen and his co-founder, Nikita Ridgeway, grew up. The grandchildren of acclaimed Bundjalung elder and author Dr Ruby Langford Ginibi, and cousins of the former Democrats senator Aden Ridgeway, the brother-sister act were raised to be leaders. For their parents and elders, country was often the Western musical genre of choice. But young indigenous artists throughout Australia are adopting the African-American styles of rap, hip-hop and R&B.

Ridgeway puts it down to their story-telling power and their common themes.

"Urban Aboriginals and Aboriginals from the bush have the same settings as Afro-Americans, dealing with drug problems, violence, bad health, poor living standards, living in ghettos," he said.

On the airwaves, indigenous hip-hop artists such as Brotha Black and Radical Son have already garnered a mainstream following, while non-indigenous performers such as the Herd and Morganics hold regular workshops for indigenous children in remote communities. One such program produced the 2002 hit song Down River, by the Wilcannia Mob.

Established stars such as the Australian Idol runner-up Jessica Mauboy and Anthony "Choc" Mundine rubbed shoulders at the launch with what seemed to be half of Redfern and the new guard of Aboriginal musicians, who go by monikers such as Radical Son, Task and Konect-a-Dot.

Alice Springs R&B performer J-Dash-P, alias Jaii Pryor, called the indigenous hip-hop phenomenon a sort of "modern-day corroboree". "It's the same thing we were doing thousands of years ago, but in the modern interpretation ... Our stories are passed down, whether it's song and dance or storytelling or music and hip-hop."

Matt Noffs, of the Ted Noffs Foundation, runs a "Hiphoperations" program that works with indigenous children in the bush and in south-west Sydney. Hip-hop changed lives, he said.

"It has changed the way people feel about themselves. When these young guys and girls, black or white, get up and belt out a rap, you can be sure they're feeling empowered and ready to live another day with strength. That's the message I get."

Photo: Bryan O'Brien - Urban voice ... artists Lillie Duxbury, Archie Crawston and Konect-a-Dot with label founder Stephen Ridgeway.