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Art Of War - MACHIAVELLIAN RHYMES

Author: Jeremy King
Thursday, 6 October 2005
MELBURN HIP HOP OUTFIT ART OF WAR MAY BE A HANDFUL IN INTERVIEWS, BUT THEY'RE DEADLY SERIOUS WHEN IT COMES TO ROCKING SHOWS.

I don't mean any disrespect to the boys from the Art of War but for the better part of interview I feel like I'm trying to control a classroom full of 14 year old stoner kids. These boys are laughing, heckling each other and making comments that, to put it nicely, are a bit all over the place. It's a good thing then, that generally they're not being judged on their conversational abilities but rather on their hip hop skills which, as shown by their album The First Chapter, are sharp, raw and aggressive. And to give the guys their due credit, while they may laugh, stammer and sigh in a Q&A, the same can not be said for their onstage antics. Brash and proud, these boys are most certainly 'cock of the walk' when they're on stage and doing their stuff. As Kilo (one of the MCs) simply puts it: "we're putting on shows don't worry about that. We're putting it on…".

And next on live agenda for the Art of War is the Obese Block Party which is coming up on the horizon. The Obese label has become synonymous with Oz hip hop and the Block Party not only represents an opportunity for many groups to raise their profile. As Burna (producer and MC) from the group states, it is simply not an opportunity that a hip hop group can afford to miss. "They're all associates and friends." He tells me. "And within Obese there is always a sort of friendship thing going on between us all… we didn't play the last one and we were a bit disappointed considering there was such a buzz around it and stuff. So when we got offered it we felt like we couldn't say no. There's a bit of a buzz around it and it's pretty much the who's who of the Oz hip hop industry at the time."

The Block Party is also symbolic of just how far local hip hop has come. I'm pretty sure that 10 years ago, the spectacle of 10 hip hop groups doing a big showcase just would not have been thought to be feasible. There just wasn't either the market or the depth and breadth of hip hop crews that we have nowadays. Showcases like the Block Party are a good indication that for many Aussie punters it is no longer the local band in the pub that turns them on, but rather the MC in the club. As Snoop Dogg might put it, people have turned 'from beer to blunts'. For the boys from the Art of War, however, it's just about turning away from 'top 40 shit' and it doesn't matter whether it's Dr. Dre or You Am I. "Everything comes with progression" Kilo states. "And if you look at music these days, top 40 stuff is fucking shocking. So it's good that people look outside the circle and want to get into Aussie hip hop but it's still actually just music."

And hip hop fiends can look forward to an energetic and hyperactive live show from the Art of War. These boys may stock serious amounts of liquor and grass backstage but nothing can dampen their overwhelming desire to leave a crowd sweaty and satisfied. Burna's philosophy is refreshingly straightforward. "Make sure that the audience is completely into it… physically jumping around and getting their hands up with a bit of screaming. It's always, always better if the motherfuckers know the lyrics. Which has been good since The First Chapter has come up. To be able to rap and watch the guys in the audience rap along with ya. That's basically it. Just let them feel the bass through their chests and listen to us and what we have to say. And then they walk away happy and we walk away happy."
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