The popularity of Australian hip hop has been growing rapidly over the last decade. Whether you like it or not, it is a style that now demands to be taken seriously. Sydney collective The Herd was at the forefront of developing the style and seeing them live gives you a glimpse at why.

Opening the evening is Sydney MC Sky’high (aka Skhai Gerrey). Winner of’s ‘Best Female Mc Of The Year’, Skhai’s energy and brutal attitude is a perfect match for the deep dancefloor grooves that accompany her.

Second on the bill are Thundamentals, whose approach to Aussie hip hop has seen them gradually build a wide and devoted fan-base since the release of their debut LP Sleeping On Your Style in 2010. Tracks like ‘Paint The Town Red’ and ‘How You Been?’ are perfect examples of the current formula for the style; grab a vintage loop of some horns or piano, put on some drums and bass, and rap about getting drunk, catching up with your lady friend, etc. This formula sounds simple, however, pulling it off correctly isn’t easy. Thankfully, Thundamentals’ talent for a strong hook and their overwhelming stage-presence sees them through with a roaring response from the Melbourne crowd.

As The Herd takes the stage, the excitement from the audience is immeasurable. These guys have worked hard for over ten years to get where they are and they sure as hell deserve it.

While most hip hop crews will perform with decks and MCs, The Herd use a full live band (with decks in place of drums). Using a lineup like this not only gives the crowd a greater feeling of connection with the music, but it also seems to spur the whole group on to push their performance to the limit. Also, when you see a piano accordion with a distortion pedal strapped to it, you can’t help being a little excited.

Legendary MC Urthboy is in his element working the crowd and delivering his lyrics with seriously intense emotion. Vocalist Jane Tyrell is a perfect addition to the group. Her sultry voice and melodic embellishments help to distinguish The Herd as a unique force to be reckoned with. This tour also sees the return of MC Ozi Batla, who suffered a punctured kidney and dislocated jaw after a cycling accident on Christmas Eve 2011. After missing a string of Christmas/New Year’s shows, it is obvious to see that he is glad to be back (and fully recovered judging from his exuberant performance and immense stage presence).

Working their way through their impressive catalogue, visiting classics like ‘The King Is Dead’, ‘77%’ and ‘I Was Only 19’, The Herd showed Melbourne that real Aussie hip hop contains depth, intelligence and emotion. In a market that seems to be filling up with sub-par production and lackluster writing, it’s refreshing to see the style done properly and with such passion.

–  Nigel Moyes