Western Sydney grime duo Slim Set give us a glimpse into Aussie hip-hop's future and prove the cultural validity of their project with sophomore EP, Feed.
Cultural exchange is tricky territory to try and navigate. On the one hand, the local contexts and idiosyncrasies that define a scene often don’t translate easily to an overseas setting. On the other, the onus is being placed on you to establish why you have an authentic claim to this culture in the first place. This tension makes the relative success of the grime-influenced Western Sydney duo SLIM SET feel particularly special. On their recently released sophomore EP, Feed, they set out to make their case with four tracks that take the framework of grime and apply it to everyday life in Sydney’s west.
From start to finish, the EP is an exhilarating ride through a possible future for Australian hip-hop. It’s a future where the genre sounds and looks more diverse than ever, centring previously unheard voices, extending the cultural catchment beyond the capital cities.
Across the EP, DJ Atro crafts a consist sound palette, building his dark productions around 140bpm’s, skittering percussion, cavernous bass subs, harsh brass, futuristic electronics and eerie atmospherics. The ensuing sonic direction is more club-orientated than their debut EP, Teething, with the British dance and grime influences growing more and more notable. The fingerprints of his cultural acuity for tapping into relevant underground club sounds and repackaging them for hip-hop fans is all over the EP, inviting comparisons to Vince Staples’ 2017 record, Big Fish Theory.
Plug into the latest music with our FREE weekly newsletter
The most striking moment arrives towards the end of ‘Gatorade’, with barely a minute left on the EP: over a nocturnal soundscape of ambient synths, Atro introduces a wordless, warping choral section that instantly invokes the likes of Burial or James Blake. It’s a promising insight into where Slim Set’s sound might evolve into from here.
Meanwhile, emcee Dev’s flows and lyrical subject matter are both hyperactive and restless, never able to sit too still for too long. But it ultimately speaks to his versatility as an emcee – he’s agile when dropping the names of “Camperdown to Granville / Marayong to Ashfield,” rolling the syllables off in rapid-fire succession on ‘Lazy’, and then he’s appropriately blasé on the hook not even a minute later.
It would be easy to note that there’s more of a focus on the charisma and energy of Dev’s performances here, but that would be to underestimate what he’s also achieving in his lyrical work. Often functioning as a sort of stream-of-consciousness narration over Atro’s production, the realities of life shine through in Dev’s lyrics in moments of lucid perception, before they recede once more into a haze of substances and everyday monotony:
“All these apartments look like ant hills / Why are all my girls fuckin’ sad still? / Wish I was a bigger kid so I could dismantle / My nanny state, cityscape / Think how my mates is on the sad pills / On the tin can back to Fairfield cause Pat’s got bud so I can just chill”
When he’s at his best, no one balances this duality better than Future; moments of recognition with police brutality and guilt cut through all the talk of lean and lavish lifestyles on ‘March Madness’. A similar impulse to tackle heavier themes makes itself known throughout Dev’s lyrics, like when he alludes to the racial discourse around the war on drugs (“Yeah I’m brown / But them whites on schamckos, meth and ice”) or the marginalisation of Western Sydney (“My city not not on the map”) on ‘Cooked’, while ‘Lazy’, is about the suburban segregation of Sydney. It’s a point of difference which will continue to set him apart in a growing field of very talented Australian emcees.
With Feed, Slim Set have given us a glimpse into the future of Australian hip-hop, stamping their authority and singularity on the genre’s landscape, and validating their project in the process.
Feed is out now - you can purchase it here.
Slim Set will be performing at Club 4A on February 23 alongside Rainbow Chan, Jikuroux and more - grab tickets here.
IMAGE: Jonno Revanche