Against great odds, the best rapper in the country has delivered perhaps his finest collection yet.
Three years ago, a buzzing Wollongong rapper named Huskii, wearing a now iconic Gucci baseball cap and looking like he hadn’t slept in days, stepped into the BodyBagMedia booth to spit a freestyle that would drop like a bomb on the Australian underground. In an onslaught of bars about toxic relationships, drug addiction and a loneliness so profound he’s begun to miss his days of smoking ice with his brother, his irreverence and naked honesty somehow made it seem he’d come from another planet, yet the bars about racking clothes from David Jones could only have come from Australia.
The climax of it all is a jaw-dropping story of a conversation Huskii has with his father while sharing a cell in Silverwater jail. After telling Huskii he feels slack seeing his son with the same scars he has, his Dad tells him how to properly slit his wrists if he’s trying to kill himself. The freestyle exemplified what set him apart from his peers: his devastating, diary-entry style of songwriting and gift for painting vivid stories in only a few bars.
Now, three years later, after amassing a loyal fanbase that Huskii himself refers to as a cult and garnering almost unparalleled respect in the Australian underground, he’s dropped his most substantial project yet and the closest thing we’ve got to a long awaited debut album. Usually this would be cause for celebration. Sadly, Huskii is experiencing the drop from behind bars.
Legal troubles that already put him away for six months at the start of last year continue to dog him and he’s wound up back inside, likely facing 4-8 years. The timing could not be more tragic. The months before his reincarceration saw him in perhaps the best health of his life, playing sold-out arena shows in support of Sticky Fingers off the back of a collaborative EP with fellow Aussie heavyweight ChillinIt and raising his newborn daughter. Fortunately for fans he’s dropped off another collection of blunt confessionals and vivid, paranoid street rap where, unfortunately, Huskii once again sounds at the end of his rope.
His ‘BRAiNUMB‘ EP from 2017 was somewhat of an anomaly in rap music. While there’s obviously a long tradition of rapping to get shit off your chest, most of the time rappers are trying to convince you how dope they are, one way or another. Across the BRAiNUMB EP, however, it feels like Huskii’s aim is to convince you that he really is the pathetic waste of space that he feels he is. While he’s still got plenty of venom for others, his disses and vents are more often about himself. The braggadocios bars could be counted on one hand. He narrates his decay; detailing itchy drug withdrawals, the unwavering sickness in his stomach, his futile money-making routines and the decay of his teeth from endless cups of codeine ‘n’ soda. There’s no sign of hope but the memory of his son’s face. It’s depression and addiction rendered in HD, peppered with quintessentially Aussie street shit and unclouded by pride. It further crystallised an anti-commercial ethos which valued honesty over popularity or looking cool.
I remember hearing the Brainumb EP on Soundcloud and that shit sounded like it was recorded in a cardboard box, but that was the hardest thing about it. A little after that, Huskii’s ‘Body The Booth’ dropped and blew shit up. I have shown this song to a million people on benders and what not… it never fails to captivate everyone who listens to it. For me, this made Australian rap cool.”Obi Ill Terrors (Triple One)
‘Recalled EP’ finds Huskii in a very different position in his life, but no closer to peace. In fact, he sounds as stressed and paranoid than ever. Rapping is his therapy and he’s said on a few occasions that he probably wouldn’t be here if he didn’t write music. Suicide has basically become his brand, but he recently told Filter Zine that, while he acknowledges its significance in his success, he worries that by building depression music as his niche he’s put himself in a box both musically and mentally, dwelling in his darkest states in order to write music and feeling like people wanted him in that state for the sake of their consumption.
On this tape, it’s clear Huskii is trying to break out of that box, or at least expand it’s perimeter. While, presumably out of necessity, he hasn’t left it behind all together, he’s said that this tape is “not sad shit no more, it’s just gimme ya money shit.” Moved on from just beating up on himself, he says the goal is to show you what he’s what been through so you can understand his hunger. His motivation has turned from a dwindling desire to stay afloat to an urgent need to provide for his family everything he never had.
On the surging “Intro”, Huskii catches listeners up on where he’s at and what new stresses he’s dealing with over a dizzying and suitably restless beat. A recurring theme of the tape is the conflict of wanting to be left alone but forced into the public eye and the politics of the music industry in order to make a living. As he tells on the intro track, going from “poor and sleeping on the floor to in the hall of fame”, he feels constantly out of place and surrounded by people who wouldn’t like him, never mind care about him, if he wasn’t rapping.
The dark cloud of impending jail-time also hangs over the project, and in the first captured moment on a tape full of them, he talks about having to call his girlfriend from Surry Hills jail to tell her he won’t be there when the baby comes. If Huskii’s arrogant about anything, it’s the amount of fucked up shit he’s had to endure in his life. His raps about street shit and success tend to be characterised more by exasperation than any sort of pride.
Before he gets to the ‘gimme ya money shit’, he gives fans sequels to two of his best tracks. On ‘Blood Brothers Pt. 2’, a sequel to ‘Blood Brothers‘, he once again teams up with Tryl and recruits Skem, two fellow aficionados of self-destruction and raw honesty, for a morbid feast of on-the-brink rapping. ‘Still Stressin’ is an unofficial sequel to ‘Stress‘ from the BRAiNUMB EP. The beat is bubbly and delicate but Huskii tears through the tranquility with a self-sabotaged love story.
The ‘gimme ya money shit’ starts (and possibly peaks) on the third track ‘This ‘n’ That’. The beat is one of a few on the tape that don’t feel up to the quality and originality of Huskii’s raps – serviceable but never better than what they’re trying to imitate. Regardless, it carries a suitable slap and sets the pace for Huskii to stick his chest out and flex a bit. Even on a track like this, he is incredibly writerly, and rarely spits empty bars. He doesn’t waste his breath saying how he’ll retaliate to any enemies, instead threatening them with an ‘RIP’ comment under the post of their GoFundMe memorial page. In twisted Huskii fashion, the most fun bars here are the most evil ones, the runner-up being a threat to neighbours contacting the cops that he could ‘make a phone call, get their baby kidnapped’.
The following track ‘Ain’t Shit Changed’ is darker, more menacing but a bit weaker. The start of the track feels almost like an impression of himself, relying on Huskii-wannabe cliches about the demons in his mind, hating himself etc. without his usual depth. ‘Money Machine’ is another departure from dark headphones music, a simpler song designed to be blared through car speakers.
Before you might get the impression Huskii’s enjoying himself, he unleashes ‘Pressure’ – one of the most cathartic therapy sessions he’s ever put to wax – venting about how he desperately wants to quit this rap shit. The phenomenal second verse is a fine example of Huskii as an incredibly passionate vocal performer; he’s able to capture fatigue, scorn, exasperation and just raw pain, exerting himself to the point of a wounded shriek. Often sounding on the verge of tears, it can make lines like “You ain’t seen this fear/ When your baby brother crying cause of hunger and there’s something in the bin from here” somehow even more affecting, burying the imagery deeper in your mind. There are moments all over this tape where he uses his voice in whole new ways, like on the closer ‘Surfin’, where he’s pushing himself into new cadences to keep up with the frantic energy of his raps.
The tape closes out at the same restless pace that it begins. Over an airy but tough beat that shares an opera sample with OneFour’s ‘Home and Away’, Huskii is back to non-stop play-making, cheffin’ and rawtin’ to stack funds after he’s put his daughter to bed. It’s one of his best blends of the fun bars and the desperate street tales (e.g. Deadlines got a brick of the loose shit/Stepped on it twice, and her friends said it’s nice so she calls every night tryna do biz).
The true testament to Huskii’s songwriting is how easy it is to miss the skill that underpins his evocative raps. He stacks complex rhyme patterns and switches up his flows in such a natural way, scratching that traditionalist rap fan itch without ever sounding like he’s trying to.
This EP is some of the best music Huskii’s made. It offers the most polished version yet of the intensely emotional music that has become his forte and casts an optimistic vision of the high-quality street rap he can make if he is lucky enough to leave the sad shit behind him for good. We can only hope that he beats his case, finds some peace and continues to provide fans with incredible music.
Listen on Spotify below or on Apple Music here. Also below is a playlist of his best songs over the years. Some of his best are only on SoundCloud, like ‘DUST 2 DUST’ which might have his best verse ever. #FreeHuskii.
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