Five women to watch (and listen to) in Australian hip hop

  • Written by GJ Breyley, Adjunct Senior Research Fellow in the Sir Zelman Cowen School of Music, Monash University
Five women to watch (and listen to) in Australian hip hop

Sampa the Great (Sampa Tembo), a hip hop artist, poet and singer-songwriter, won the Australian Music Prize this year. She was the first female hip hop artist to do so, despite the fact that Australian women from Maya Jupiter and MC Trey to Empress MC and Jesswar have been making this music since the 1980s.

Until recently, few were popularly acclaimed. Indeed, the most commercially successful had moved overseas. Things are now gradually changing, with Australia home to a diverse and successful range of women in hip hop. Here are five artists at the peak of their craft.


An Egyptian Australian hip hop artist, poet and singer-songwriter from western Sydney, Nardean (Nardine Gharsa) recently released her debut EP Creatress. Tracks include songs such as Awareness, Adamantium (addressing survival of sexual abuse and women’s strength), Creatress and Relinquish.

Read more: Should white Australian fans rap along to the n-word at a Kendrick Lamar concert?

Nardean’s lyrics poetically reflect on self and other, responsibility and control, gender relations and creativity, but most of all they explore emotion. As she suggests in Relinquish, “give me pain over numb any day”.

Musically, Nardean creates a range of melodies and rhythms, sometimes drawing from neo-soul, Arabic modes or Western art music, but more often using trap beats under evocative vocals. On this EP, she collaborates with fellow women artists ALPHAMAMA, Alice Night and Georgia Frew.

Kaylah Truth

Brisbane’s Kaylah Truth (Kaylah Tyson, also previously known as Kayemtee) has been creating hip hop for more than a decade. Kaylah is a Meerooni woman of the Gurang nation and also connected with the Ngugi people of Queensland’s Quandamooka area – or, as she explains while rapping on the track BlackSistaz by Indigenous hip hop group The Last Kinection:

Kayemtee on this beat

Gonna rip this up easily

When I step I rep Brissy

Blood is Ngugi with South Sea

Spanish, Indian, some Pom

Meerooni’s where my nan’s from…

Kaylah Truth combines elements of pop, neo-soul, grime and smooth beats with her solid hip hop style and honest lyrics addressing personal, national and transnational politics. Her song Wave, written while visiting Numbulwar on the Gulf of Carpentaria, asserts pride in hard-earned freedoms and release from the thoughtless judgments of “haters”.

Tkay Maidza

Tkay Maidza (Takudzwa Victoria Rosa Maidza), a Zimbabwe-born hip hop artist and singer-songwriter from Adelaide, has collaborated not only in Australia, but also with leading artists in hip hop and dance music around the world, such as Killer Mike, Martin Solveig, Holychild, Troye Sivan, Bok Bok, Charli XCX and Years & Years.

Tkay is loved for her energetic performances and dance style, as well as her infectious music and lyrical creativity. She migrated with her family to Western Australia at the age of five, before moving to South Australia. Her lyrics are broadly positive in tone, addressing the realities of relationships, presenting truth, communication and humour as solutions, and providing soundtracks for celebration and connection. Musically, she draws on grime and trap, experiments with percussive rhythms and melodies, and shifts smoothly between different tempos and moods.


Melbourne’s Kaiit (Waup) produces innovative music grounded in hip hop. Chicago rapper/slam poet Noname is one of her primary influences, along with the late Amy Winehouse for her lyrical honesty.

Kaiit, who was born in Papua New Guinea, describes her genre as “neo-soul, hip-hop, jazz” and brings stylistic elements from all three to her work. At just 20, she has released three successful singles (Natural Woman, 2000 N Somethin and OG Luv Kush p.2) supported acts such as Joey Bada$$, Chance The Rapper and The Internet and is about to release her debut EP, Live From Her Room. She collaborates widely, having started out performing with DJ MzRizk, and credits her artist parents and childhood spent between PNG and Australia as inspirations for her visual style, which is an important part of her act.

Kaiit too writes reflective, poetic and candid lyrics, full of emotion and humour. In Natural Woman she raps and sings:

Didn’t know that I was keen on jazz could rappity rap or street tappity tap

Quit when I was 11 to work on my tennis

Now all I do is run from love

And now I guess I’m Galileo coz all I do is reach for the stars

And Mars

And Venus


Sampa the Great

Finally, of course, Sampa the Great, born in Zambia, raised mostly in Botswana and now based in Australia, draws on a broad range of musical, lyrical and performance styles to produce smooth, complex music with wide appeal.

Sampa grew up loving African beats, reggae, soul and gospel before moving on to hip hop, jazz and neo-soul. With a degree in audio production, she uses electronic and acoustic sounds in her work, as well as various languages, such as Nyanja (her father’s language), Bemba (her mother’s), Setswana (the principal language of Botswana), Pitjantjatjara and Yankunytjatjara.

Sampa’s performance style engages her audience with humour, personal interactions and call and response pieces, as well as impressive dance moves. Her lyrics, while broad-ranging, articulate injustices and anger, but poetically celebrate those who struggle. Sampa’s track Inner Voice (featuring her sister Mwanje Tembo) includes these lines:

Hear through the pain

A symphony is crying

You’ve been complex

Hated cos you’re complex

Simply your song is

Harder in the sonics

But you’re smiling

Now you’re out here smiling

Only now you know you’re

Complex by designing…

Still, these five artists are just the tip of the iceberg. Other women to look out for in Australian hip hop include Sophiegrophy, Miss Blanks, Fresh Violet, Kween G, MC Thorn, A-Love, Miss Hood, Class A, Mirrah, Muma Doesa, Chelsea Jane, Coda Conduct, Mistress Of Ceremony, SHE REX, Zeadala, Stretchy, Blaq Carrie, Netti and Imbi the Girl.

Authors: GJ Breyley, Adjunct Senior Research Fellow in the Sir Zelman Cowen School of Music, Monash University

Read more

Australia Today

10 Unmissable Attractions for first time visitors to Melbourne

News Company

Melbourne, the most fantastic city in Australia! If this is your first ever travel experience in Melbourne, well it is guaranteed that you are never going to forget it. The metropolitan hub has a lot to offer to its visors, both within the city and the outskirts. There are so many attractions tha...

Read more

Grass trees aren't a grass (and they're not trees)

John Patykowski, Plant ecologist, Deakin University

Xanthorrhoea have no real trunk – just tightly packed leaves. CC BY-SASign up to the Beating Around the Bush newsletter here, and suggest a plant we should cover at trees (genus Xanthorrhoea) look like they were imagined by Dr Seuss. An unmistakable tuft of wi...

Read more

Peter Grimes is a thrilling and moving staging of the great English opera

Trevor Jones, Lecturer in Musical Theatre, Griffith University

Stuart Skelton in the title role of Peter Grimes.Brisbane FestivalReview: Peter Grimes, Brisbane FestivalPeter Grimes, one of the centrepiece events of this year’s Brisbane Festival, is a remarkable collaboration between the festival, Opera Queensland, Philip Bacon AM, the Queensland Performin...

Read more

Michelle Grattan on strawberries, Sudmalis, schools, and the au pair affair

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

Michelle Grattan speaks with University of Canberra Vice-Chancellor Deep Saini about the week in politics. They discuss rushed legislation on strawberry contamination, the Liberals continued women problem with Ann Sudmalis’ announcement she won’t recontest her seat, the government’...

Read more

Super. If Labor really wanted to help women in retirement, it would do something else

Brendan Coates, Fellow, Grattan Institute

Labor's plan to pay super to women on paid parental leave would barely boost their retirement incomes.ShutterstockWhen it comes to the gender gap in retirement incomes, symbolism appears to matter more than actually achieving something.Labor’s plan to add super contributions to government-fund...

Read more

Is it time for Australia to be more open about research involving animals?

Tyler Paytas, Research Fellow in Philosophy, Australian Catholic University

Most people never have the chance to see how animals live in laboratories.from The use of animals in scientific research is a complex ethical issue, and these studies typically take place behind closed doors.But since 2012, more than 120 of Britain’s universities, research...

Read more

Holidays & Travel

Things to Do and See in Ballina, Australia

The intricate coastline of New South Wales is renowned for its sumptuous, decadent beaches, hidden resorts and secret camping spots. A long and slow ride down the winding highway that...

Guide to Travel Necessities for 2018

Sure, it sounds like quite an adventure to hit an open road with nothing but a one-way ticket and an open mind, but the harsh reality is – you won’t...

Top Sightseeing Spots in New Zealand

New Zealand is one of the most fascinating locations for anyone to visit in the world. After all, it’s a place with a variety of unique landscapes, but it isn’t...

Must-Pack Items for a Travel Blogging Boss

As a travel blogger, you get to see and explore so many wonderful destinations and meet various interesting people, but before you embark on a new adventure you need to...

Luxury Camping Adventures Around the World

Perhaps in direct response to the dominance of technology in the modern world, many travelers are feeling a strong draw towards nature. While some are able to fully embrace their...

Dredging works underway Plantation Island

Tourists and workers travelling to popular tourist destination Plantation Island, Fiji, are set to benefit from safer access when marine channel dredging is completed at the end of June 2018...

Top 5 Tips for Traveling With Dogs

Travelling with your dog can be thrilling, but sometimes it can turn into a real nuisance. Unless you know how to properly restrain the pooch, whether it’ll be able to...

Top Island Destinations for 2018

When we picture island destinations in our minds, we often imagine a tropical beach of white sand, a sun lounger laid out in the shade of a line of palm...

Why Car Rental Excess Insurance is a Smart Choice

Some car rental agencies include basic damage cover in the standard rental fee, with the option to add on liability reduction, or excess insurance. The addition of excess insurance normally...

Fashion & Beauty

Groom To Do List

Sorry Aussie Men, you no longer just pay for the alcohol, flowers and marriage license. Times have certainly changed. Wedding Expert shares what Australian Grooms are now expected to do before...

Simple Secrets To A More Confident Smile

We all know just how important first impressions are. After a handshake, what’s one of the first things people will notice about you? It’s your smile. A friendly smile is...

Improve Your Body Confidence and Feel Great

No matter how good you feel about yourself, sometimes you just can’t help but see a few little flaws that seem gigantic to you and make you feel self-conscious. Whether...

First-Timer Tips For Your First Lip Filler Appointment

Getting injectable lip fillers can be a quick and effective way to plump up your smile with minimal drama. They’re a cost-effective and safe way to boost the natural shape...

The Most Common Skin Conditions and How to Deal with Them

We often underestimate the importance of our skin, but as the largest organ in our body, and our primary layer of defense, it is constantly affected by many environmental factors...

Beach Babe Basics: Everything You Need to Look Stylish at the Beach

Summer is right around the corner, and this year, we all should make the best of it. Right now, it is not just about looking stylish on the streets, it...


Virectin Reviews and Results (LATEST) - Honest Review

Virectin is a potent, natural male enhancement supplement, recommended to all those who are interested in improving their sexual performance. According to the manufacturers, it can provide a positive effect...

How to Choose the Best Lasik Surgeon?? It’s as easy as it can get!

Whether you have had a vision problem since childhood, or you have developed one recently, eye surgeries are the answer to all your problems. It can be anything, ranging from...

Laser Liposuction: The Myths and Facts

Laser liposuction is a revolutionary new way to get rid of unwanted fat without the downtime experienced with traditional liposuction. This procedure offers a number of amazing benefits and is...

How To Show Your Elderly Relatives Love

At every stage of our lives, there’s one thing we truly need above all else: love. As our elderly parents, grandparents, or other relatives we care about grow older, it...

9 Ways to Recognize the Early Signs of Dementia

Dementia is a condition that is, unfortunately, very present among our elderly population. What makes this fact even worse is that, in spite of our best intentions and will to...

Co-Occurring Disorders and Overcoming Addiction

Co-occurring disorders, also known as dual diagnosis, refer to the combination of substance abuse and the presence of a mental disorder.  Many individuals who enter treatment for substance abuse are...


Should You Repair Or Replace Your Air Conditioning Unit?

Whenever the summer arrives to the hilt and you feel that your air conditioning isn’t up to the mark, there is always one question that pops up into your mind...

6 Rug Trends That Will Boost Style and Comfort in Your Home

If you want to break up that boring and colorless look of your home, one of the easiest and quickest ways is to throw in a rug! Check out these...

Put your problems to rest with Antenna Genie

When the idea of television was first being tested, Darryl Zanuck of 20th Century Fox famously remarked that “no one would want to stare at a plywood box every night”...

Top 5 Design Trends in Commercial Interior

Commercial buildings include offices, restaurants, hotels, etc. and their design can play a crucial role in all the important aspects of a business such as brand reinforcement, customer engagement and...

Add a little colour to your move - and life!

How a little ‘colour’ and planning can take your Move, and make it a more enjoyable one Colour plays a huge role in our lives, it can take us up, or...

6 Simple Rules for Redesigning Your Kitchen

How do you feel about your kitchen? Well, if you feel like your home needs a bit of lifting up, one of the best and most effective places to start...


Morning greens: the breakfast skincare regime

It’s safe to assume that most Aussies fail to eat enough greens. Although this was momentarily resolved with the rise and popularity of the green juice movement, the lack of...

Best Hidden Gem Hong Kong Restaurants

You finally find yourself enjoying the endless beauties of China and this fascinating city. In a place with so much variety, all your senses will be wide awake, and your...


Johnny Di Francesco, world champion pizzaiolo and owner of Melbourne’s Gradi Group of restaurants, is excited to announce he has been named official ambassador for Eat Street Melbourne 2018. As Ambassador...

The best Mother's Day gift EVER!

Whether it’s to celebrate a special occasion, or just wind down at the end of a long day, there’s nothing much better than pouring yourself a glass (or two…) of...

Sing for Your Supper at Chargrill Charlie’s

To celebrate the final curtain call of the Barden Bellas, Chargrill Charlie’s is giving you the chance to Sing for your Supper! Show off your best acapella vocals to win...


Whether it’s to celebrate a special occasion, or just wind down at the end of a long day, there’s nothing much better than pouring yourself a glass (or two…) of...