Hunter (SBX) - The Words

Hunter (SBX) — The Words

Reflections on Hunter's first three albums:
::: "Done DL" ::: Hunter and Dazastah (2002)
::: "Going Back to Yokine" ::: Hunter (2006)
::: "Monster House" ::: Hunter and DJ Vame (2010)

When Walter Benjamin stated in 1936 that, “the art of storytelling is coming to an end" due to the rise of the printed novel and the lowering value of experience, he hadn't anticipated the rise of the hip hop emcee to revive this craft in our modern world. In all his albums, Hunter shows his skills as a wonderful storyteller. There are tales of growing up, getting into trouble and later returning to his hometown of Yokine, Perth, in the songs "Adolescence", "Going Back To Yokine" and "Yokine (Drugs + Crime)". These are stories of self-discovery, and of changing his life, and of hope — giving up old ways that were not working for him to focus on music, rapping and living a hip hop-infused life instead. "What I Do Best" has the feeling of homecoming to a community of supportive people and finding his place in the world. There are stories of mateship and the value of community with his Syllabolix (SBX) family and crew. There are stories of having children and the specialness that can bring to one's life in "Ultrasound" and "Kids of the Future". Littering his rhymes in "Kids of the Future", "The Big Issue" and "Me Old Man" are stories based on his Dad’s advice, as he contemplates being a father himself.

Hunter's emceeing style is raw and real. He raps in a strong Australian accent that matches the experiences he is describing — that of growing up in the Australian suburbs, relationships, the Australian hip hop community as well as personal insights into his ideas and feelings. His style could be classed as “Ocker hip hop”, according to writers such as Tony Mitchell (2005), and whilst there are no songs about BBQs, there are songs about drinking at the pub such as "Have a Drink with Us", and the "soundtrack for a pub fight" song "Night Out". Hunter's first album has an ode to his favourite football team, the East Perth Royals, called "East Perth". There is also an ode to the art of tattooing in "Ink". In Hunter's words, he makes "Hardcore Hip Hop" as the song title suggests. Hunter rhymes in the language he speaks — there's often swearing in the upbeat, hardcore hip hop songs. The slower, more reflective songs have words with enough power themselves to not need emphasis from swearing, even "Unlikely Pairing" describes how Hunter's language has changed, with the "c" word being used often when younger, but now he says, "I put them back where they belong, at the bottom of the pile" [of words].

Hunter also has great comedic sense in songs about relationships that bounce along at a steady pace. Stories of lust, the virility of youth and some of his experiences with women are some of his more popular songs. In these lyrics, which he describes as "nothing nice”, he tells of the women's role in the tales. Often these are the most explicit, in language and description, yet there's an undercurrent of humour to them, often hinted by the light and playful melodies that waft over the beat, leading the listener to not take them too seriously at their word. The stories of relationship breakdowns and coping mechanisms in "Never Trust a Woman" are as tense as the topics and show that we often end up hurting those we love the most. "Coming Home" is a song about making mistakes and some of the consequences and suggests that it's related to "Zed".

Hunter writes from the soul. His words are more than just the upbeat, party songs. The way Hunter contemplates his experiences of life is reminiscent of David Toop's musings on Seamus Heaney's "Personal Helicon" poem: "I rhyme / To see myself, to set the darkness echoing" (Toop 2010, 134). He uses the power of verbal magic to attract changes in his life, as KRS One mentions in "The MC": "but watch what you say cuz you'll attract it / control your subconscious magnet from pullin' in havoc". Writer and emcee, Saul Williams describes a similar approach: “what we say matters (becomes a solid: flesh). word life" (Williams 2008, 23), as does Guru: “these are the words that i manifest” (Williams 2008, 24).

"Zed" is the most powerful and emotive song on these albums. Hunter describes the depths of despair of taking yet another fall, thoughts of death, and saying good bye. Hunter's rapping style changes during this song and takes a softer, spoken word tone which sounds very dislocated from his normal voice and self — the enthusiasm has left his voice, to match the sombre words he is sharing with us.

Hunter ponders "The Big Issue", a mixture of his own thoughts with some long-remembered advice from his father on how to live your life, and how to cope with what life brings. There are words on pain and what it means. The lyrics in this song show a higher level of consciousness, connecting the soul and mind to the heart.

The powerful and moving "Say a Prayer" says thanks to the “best friends a man could have”, leaving a message for those close to him — it's at once an apology, confession and explanation of his life. This is one of his best songs — Hunter has distilled his life into these few stanzas and shows the spiritual side of his self in a subtle and beautiful way. Be prepared to shed a few tears.

By capturing his memories into lyrics, Hunter has preserved them, and ensured that they remain intact. No long will they shift and slide in his mind's inner voice. They are shared via the recordings and live performances, where others may join in reciting the words. The stories can be transmitted to others more powerfully when they are spoken or rapped and audibly heard, than if they were read in a written piece by the lone reader. The listeners may interpret the words and adjust them to their own experience and enable them to remember the stories longer. Rapping adds a level of time and rhythm to the words and leaves an imprint from the emcee who sets the pace and allows the words to fall into their appropriate space.

Hunter often collaborates with other Australian hip hop emcees on his albums, particularly on his “hardcore hip hop” party songs. These songs and guests are very popular at live performances. He and the guest MCs deride other rappers who talk themselves up without proving themselves first and show that hard work is what really matters. They rap on a range of topics: the dark and menacing animal instincts of "Oceanography" is a particular highlight. The list of guests is an impressive range of Australian hip hop MCs and rhyming styles: Dazastah, Mortar, Layla, Bias B, Ciecmate, Clandestine, Brand, Nick Sweepah, Dyverse, Intalekt, Reason, Mistery, Raph, Illergic, Porsah Laine, Tommohawk, Format, Graphic, Dynamics, Optamus, Figure 8, Sinner, Defyre. Kelly Hayden (H), and Chantal provide extra vocals, and turntablists DJ Armee, DJ Vame, Finatic, Karisma and Incogneto provide the cuts on many songs which adds an extra layer of percussion to the music and beats by Dazastah.

::: by Kath O'Donnell / AliaK ::: 27/04/2011
::: edited version from


Benjamin, Walter. 1969. "The Storyteller: Reflections on the Works of Nikolai Leskov (1936)". In, Hannah Arendt (ed.), Harry Zohn (trans.). Illuminations. New York: Shocken.

Heaney, Seamus. "Personal Helicon."

Hunter SBX.

Mitchell, Tony. 2005. "Lazy Grey". Local Noise. Sydney: University of Technology.

Toop, David. 2010. Sinister Resonance: The Mediumship of the Listener. New York: The Continuum International Publishing Group Inc.

Williams, Saul. 2008. "The Future of Language". In, Paul D. Miller aka DJ Spooky That Subliminal Kid (ed.). Sound Unbound. Massachusetts: The MIT Press.