Drapht, Downsyde, Bigredcap & Losty, Knoe @ Oxford Art Factory

KNOE casually took to the Oxford Art Factory’s mainstage, as support for Drapht’s first Sydney headline show of 2019. Playing without a DJ, the Perth native knew the pressure to kick the night off right was on him. Armed with his trusty laptop, KNOE paced the stage back-and-forth, seemingly undeterred by the Thursday crowd’s standoffishness.

That changed when Bigredcap’s bassy, booming British accent cut through the crowd chatter. The bass of his voice foreshadowed his joint set with Losty, as their beats and bass sent literal tremors through the venue. The duo’s continual to-and-fro verses worked remarkably well in the live arena, allowing them time to breathe. With an energy as heavy-hitting as their production, the pair’s performance demanded attention; the crowd offered theirs, dancing and bopping along.

From the onset of their set, it was clear that Sydney were down with Downsyde. While Beni Bjah and Optamus focused on MCing and working the crowd, Dazastah rapped as well as drummed, illustrating just how accomplished a performer he is. As Dazastah focused on that balancing act, the group’s co-founder, MC Optamus, demonstrated how far he is able to push himself technically on stage, spitting rapidfire rhymes and engaging their audience in the evening’s first bit of crowd participation. Then, Bjah took a moment to perform his history-making track Survivors, which was the first song by a First Nations artist to ever win WAM Song of the Year. The song features the striking line, “They would rather compensate us then give us recognition.” Bjah ended the song on a positive note, sharing that even though we’ve had a “dark past”, we have “got a bright future”. Optamus thanked the audience to being “so receptive” to the song’s important message, before they rounded out their set with their greatest hits.

Then came the headliner, the man with arguably the most recognisable voice in Australian hip hop, Drapht. Emerging onto a stage lit by red fresnels, he interacted with his adoring fans from the moment he kicked into the first song of the night, Work It Out. When Drapht mused that “every day is a holiday” during his performance of Mexico, the entire crowd responded with enthusiasm, as if the icon’s words were gospel. “Thanks for coming out on a Thursday, truly”, Drapht said, gazing out at his passionate fanbase, some of whom were able to recite his back catalogue word for word. His fans had well and truly let their “hair down” by the time his 2010 hit single, Rapunzel, brought his set to a close. After some standard post-show chanting for more, Drapht reemerged for a reimagined rendition of Bali Party, which had appropriately been dubbed ‘Sydney Party’.

He may not have been christened Jimmy Recard, “the king of the bar”, but Drapht still seamlessly sets the bar for live performers the world over.