Next Of Kin
The Last Kinection
To win a signed copy of the album, see below
When Naomi Wenitong from Aboriginal hip hop group The Last Kinection is asked how challenging it is to be a woman in the male-dominated music industry, she laughs.
"I don’t mind being one of the only buns at this Oz hip hop sausage sizzle," she jokes to Green Left Weekly.
"Everyone has challenges in this industry regardless of their sex. You can either let it be your disadvantage or make it your advantage.
"The first words of advice from my parents were: you’re from a poor family, you’re black and you’re a girl ― you are going to have to work a million times harder than any other artist. Obviously I was up for the challenge.
“Besides, we have the womb, so we always have the power!"
Wenitong, better known as Nay, laughs as often as other people blink. Yet in making The Last Kinection's uproariously upbeat second album, Next Of Kin, she has faced challenges so death-defyingly dark they could even kill the cackle in a kookaburra.
While the band were touring their debut album, Nutches, in 2008, their car was forced off the road in a horrific crash. Nay was declared dead at the scene and covered with a blanket. It was only the band's other rapper, Joel ― Nay’s brother ― who noticed the blanket move.
In the new album’s liner notes, Nay thanks God, but the religion-wary may find salvation in the fact she also raps "I believe in God, but not religion" on the record.
"If you have been through anything really rough, I think it would be pretty depressing to not believe in anything higher than this Earth," Nay tells GLW.
"I believe we all have different names for this higher being ― ancestral spirits, Jah, the creator, etc. I call him God. I think God and religion are two different things.
"I don’t want to come across self-righteous because I’m so far from it, but I don’t need a middle man, like a priest or anything to talk to God, because I talk straight to him.
“If you feel uncomfortable reading this, then that feeling is the perfect example of what people and religion have done surrounding even the slightest little mention about God in an interview."
It's the kind of confronting honesty that The Last Kinection have made their mission. The new album addresses Aboriginal apathy, dying Indigenous languages, racism, crippling insecurities, refugee-baiting, slavery in Queensland, the cowardice of social media and a plethora of other issues most bands would not have a bar of.
"When The Last Kinection first formed we agreed that we would bring all of those uncomfortable things that people don’t want to talk about to the surface ― that’s why we never expected airplay," laughs Nay.
It's a sentiment shared by the band's third member, Jacob Turier, a hook-slinging heavyweight of a DJ/producer who has landed them plenty of airplay.
"We really feel that a lot of people choose not to talk about some things because it makes them uncomfortable and if they talk about it, they will have to confront the problem," says Turier, also known as Jaytee.
The band seem to relish confronting challenges. Most musicians would be content with the level of success the multi-award-winning Last Kinection have reached.
Yet Joel, better known as Weno, was not able to take part in this interview because he was in the middle of exams for a medical degree. The Last Kinection also stick to a gruelling schedule of community hip hop workshops.
And whereas other bands would be content to stick to the winning formula that brought them success on their first album, Weno and Jaytee have ramped up their repertoire on their follow-up.
Amazingly, they have managed to kick their sound into the future while keeping one foot firmly stomping in the past, blending corroboree calls and down-and-dirty didge with the speaker-shattering sub-bass and spacey snares of dubstep.
The new album also sounds a lot more like a live band.
"We worked a lot more closely with our good friend Gareth Hudson, a multi-instrumentalist from Newcastle, on this album," says Jaytee. "He added something to pretty much every track. I would usually take a beat that Joel or I had done and get him to either replay parts or just add live elements in."
The resulting sound is so infectious that The Last Kinection have done the seemingly impossible in Australia, bridging the wide divide between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal hip hop.
"Well, we’ll all be getting along when the aliens come I bet," laughs Nay.
"Nah, I joke about this, but honestly it’s a little bit scary knowing that if we all can find something similar to hate, it becomes easier for us not to see the differences in each other.
“I think it's up to you ― what circles you want your music to move in. There is a choice there. We chose to team up with Oz hip hop label Elefant Traks rather than a Black label for this reason, among others.
“Personally, I believe music is one of the most beautiful things in the world that brings all of us together, no matter what age, sex or background. Take a look at the audiences at our gigs. They are so mixed. When I started noticing that happening, that’s when I really felt like, hell yeah! We can change attitudes in this country! We just keep kicking that door until it opens."
The Last Kinection take Green Left through Next Of Kin track by track.
'Find A Way'
NAY: I wrote this chorus and my verse with the desperate need to remind myself that even though I had picked myself up from the lowest point in my life after being in a horrific car accident, that I had to find a way to keep going in so many areas of my life. A lot of the tracks I’ve written remind me of many things that I feel I shouldn’t ever forget.
'Together' featuring Omar Musa
NAY: Together is spawned from my own thoughts and observations as a half-black, half-white female growing up in this country. Take from these lyrics what you want, it may speak to you in a different way.
'Burning Bridges' featuring Briggs
NAY: People take my kindness for a form of weakness every day. After a while you just explode and write a track like this. Ha ha!
'Millions Of People'
NAY: I still can’t believe how honest I’ve been on this track, my verse is pretty much every single insecurity I have. I’m pretty sure that anyone who listens to this track will relate to at least one. When I think of the music industry I look around and think, you know what, we’re all out here trying to make ends meet. Most of us have our hearts in the right place; some of us don’t, but we all face similar battles. I think it’s comforting knowing you’re not alone.
'Talk About It' featuring Trials from Funkoars
NAY: This track is a classic example of... you can either say something or sit back and watch history repeat itself.
JAYTEE: "Talk About It" was an idea that Joel came up with. I did a beat (that was almost a dance beat at first) and Joel did the hook ("we don't even talk about it") and we had that simple idea just sitting there for ages. We were still not sure about what it exactly meant though. We really feel that a lot of people choose not to talk about some things because it makes them uncomfortable and if they talk about it they will have to confront the problem. But we also wanted to touch on the way people don't talk in person any more and how people can just get on the internet and spout ridiculously racist things behind the safety of anonymity. Ironically, the whole Trials collab happened via email - ha ha! I had met Trials quite a few times through Briggs and always wanted to get him on a track. Once the beat was sounding a bit closer to its finished state and Joel had done his verse I sent it to Trials and asked if he would be keen to do a verse on it; he said, for sure.
'1995' featuring Ozi Batla
NAY: Back in the day when I was first introduced to music, before I was tainted by the industry, before I got a little bit jaded, back then, music to me was my parents rehearsing in the lounge room [they are both musicians], mixed with laughter and accents from distant lands. Back then, music was listening to rap that seemed to understand what I was going through when we copped racism from cops and teachers etcetera. Back then, music was real. We wanted to show a glimpse of that - and a reminder. Heh heh.
'The Strong Remain' featuring Rival MC from Impossible Odds
NAY: It's easy to be a good person when everything is all roses, when everything is going well, but being a good person when everything has gone to shit - THAT’S WHEN IT REALLY COUNTS. Survive the trials and tribulations. It’s about all three of us (Nay/Weno/Rival) conquering our personal battles and being strong enough to survive them. One of the best things about music is that it's open to interpretation by the listener. If we have done a good job as songwriters, every person will relate to this song differently.
'Are We There Yet?' featuring Simone Stacey from Shakaya
NAY: Are we there yet as a country? Are we there as Aboriginal race - treated equal? Are we there as the human race? Are we there as women - treated equally to men? Are we there yet as a hip hop group? Are we even changing anything? There are endless questions…
'Prove Them Wrong'
NAY: If anyone anywhere throws any negativity at you, just prove them wrong!
'Happy People' featuring Lotek
NAY: I want people to be embarrassed if they’re not smiling. Ha ha! If you're feeling like crap, go home! Ha ha!
NAY: [It's about] every ex, and I have a fairly long line of suspects - ha ha! It was fun making all these negative experiences into a positive track.
NAY: This track is actually about touring and how you just don’t know if anyone will turn up. Ha ha! Either way, we will still put on a show like the room is packed.
NAY: Mum produced this track. I had an idea, and it fit perfectly, listen and make up your own mind on what you think is small stuff in your life.
NAY: Only you can put yourself back together when you fall apart. I’m not saying you ever have to do anything alone, but you must always know and be empowered by the fact that you can pick yourself up and soldier on, no matter what life throws at you.
[The Last Kinection are now on an album launch tour. Fri, Nov 25: The Gap View Hotel, Alice Springs. Sat, Nov 26: Goodgod Small Club, Sydney. Sat, Dec 3: The Cambridge Hotel, Newcastle, with Ozi Batla.]
To win a signed CD copy of the new album, email your name and address to firstname.lastname@example.org before the next issue of Green Left comes out. Winner picked at random.