Monday, May 28, 2012

The Big Payback (1989-2010)

Written by Luke Warm

In compiling the rich history of hip-hop culture in the Illawarra region, the most appropriate place to start would be a radio show which, prior to its' death in late 2010, was one of the longest-running hip-hop radio shows in the country. That show was The Big Payback.

Since the eve of 1990, The Big Payback helped unite the local hip-hop loving public via community radio station 106.9 VOX FM, aka 2VOX.

Originally broadcast on a Saturday night for four hours, the show was quickly moved to Tuesday night due to a complaint about the ‘swearing music.’ It suffered numerous time changes back and forth due to this over used and indefinitely outdated attitude held by station management. Prior to its cancellation it had been on-air Tuesday nights between 8pm and 10pm. The issue of swearing in its music was ultimately the reason given by management to shut The Big Payback down mid-program.

The Big Payback was first conceived as The Funkin' Lesson by Skoop (from the local group Brotherhood of Justice), with fellow UOW student Hadjir Naghdy, with the premise of playing ‘black music’. This ‘black music’ would cover hip-hop as well as R&B, jazz and world music, in an attempt to encapsulate a multitude of cultures and compress it even further into a four hour, weekly show. Skoop, (at that time known as The Egyptian Prince) and Hadjir, both avid fans of the groups Boogie Down Productions, Public Enemy, X-clan and the Juice Crew were there to talk and play hip-hop.

VOXFM office
The ‘black music’ theme was soon ditched along with the departure of Naghdy. The Funkin' Lesson then became Edutainment, and joining Skoop was his Brotherhood of Justice partner in rhyme, Slap (618), then known as ASG. As a show, Edutainment soon garnered a loyal following of like-minded people in the area, which saw the want and need for some live music to match this demand. After a series of shows throughout 1993 organized by local promoters Brothers for Life, the idea of a gig night at Wollongong Youth Centre called The Big Payback was conceived. On the bill were the ‘ducks nuts’ of Aussie hip-hop, Def Wish Cast. The line-up also included Knoble Savages, Cultur, 2 Jacks and A King, Sound Advice, Spoonful with DJ’s King D Soul, and Blaze. Skoop and Slap, who were now known as Spoken Thought when performing, were also on the bill.

This gig is remembered by many as a night that was an ode to hip-hop, through and through. Sean Sheap, member of the group Sound Advice (which later became Audio) remembers Skoop rushing the stage, taking the needle off one particular (playing) record because it was R&B and not hip-hop. This attitude had become the theme of the radio show long before, so Skoop and Slap decided to adapt The Big Payback title for their weekly radio show.

With the explosion of grunge and g-funk on a popular music level, The Big Payback aimed to provide a broader spectrum of hip-hop for its listeners which in that time, was impossible for youth of the Illawarra to access. In the year of 1993 also, saw the commencement of a short-lived local street-press named Kickdown, put together by a large number of the artists from the line-up mentioned above. It lasted around 7 or 8 issues, over 2 years.

“You gotta think, this was before the internet, before Facebook, before Photoshop, message boards, forums, we were making our street press with photocopiers and glue.” Sean Sheap.

Sean Sheap
This was a different time without the wealth of information at our fingertips that most of us take for granted today. You had to physically find what music you wanted, to almost impossible odds, or tune into The Big Payback, and press record. Grass roots, word of mouth promotion were the only viral media on offer at that stage. Despite this, along with inevitable evolution of its main ingredients, The Big Payback line-up altered in the mid-nineties with Skoop leaving, and Slap continuing on with F4vessence and Spunta. Around that same time, the members of Audio were hosting a radio show through a Youth Centre program. Slap, who worked at the youth centre, soon recruited the Audio team (Sean Sheap, Absorb, Brenden, DJ Fury) as part of The Big Payback.

After the turn of the century and the explosion of Eminem, The Big Payback changed direction a little by including all kinds of hip-hop and not just that produced by Dr Dre. (No disrespect to Dr Dre). Around this time, Slap moved to Melbourne to focus on other prospects and his group Myspherical with fellow local artists and The Big Payback contributors Cable and F4vessance. This left the reigns of the show to be taken over by the Audio guys (joined by a young MC Enroe/Jimmy Dirt) along with local personality and the very long serving contributor Rob Tha Rich. As family responsibilities kicked in for the majority of the members of Audio, Jimmy Dirt and Rob tha Rich took over and invited Mr Honz to join them. During this time the line-up alternated and hosting the show on a regular basis was handled by Rob tha Rich. In the final few years Luke Warm along with Jimmy Dirt and Mr Honz would occasionally co-host the show on a fortnightly basis so the long serving Rob tha Rich could get to a trivia night for once. The show maintained it's original ethos of playing good music and promoting the local scene.

Free Agent Crew
In recent years there has been a resurgence in the local Wollongong hip-hop scene with The Free Agent Crew, Equal Elements (Common Grounds/Dlinkwnt), Mass Effect, Cass Clay, Mighty Ash, J-Ill, V-Def, Elemont, 3KD and D-Liva amongst others. The Big Payback promoted these artists and these artists used the show as a platform for extending their audience. Admittedly, the shape of society today is somewhat different to that of the heyday of the show, and one could probably argue that radio isn’t an important medium anymore.

These new artists have MySpace pages, Facebook pages, Soundcloud accounts, and probably use various other mediums I haven’t even heard of, in which to promote their music and get it straight to you the listener, without me, the middle man talking shit about the weather and playing ads between songs whilst complaining about being censored by the man. It really is a different day and age, but one can’t help feel sad about the fact a show that ran for 20 years was brought to its knees by the one defining feature setting itself apart from most other forms of contemporary music; freedom of speech. 

Many thanks to Sean Sheap, Skoop and Steel City Sound for the assistance.

1 comment:

  1. Awesome, love your work fellas. You hip hop boys gave us rock heads a great education. We were ignorant and thought all music without guitars was shit. You were patient with our ignorance and set about educating us. You taught us that the hip hop on commercial radio wan't really hip hop at all and you didn't like it either, just like we didn't like mainstream rock. The hip hop you guys listen to and create has an edge, even we could see that. The mid late 90's in the gong was great for many reasons, the best being that hip hoppers, punkers and rockers all hung out together and respected each other. I recall one night at 156 Corrimal st when I took on the mic and threw out some freestyle rhymin, it was killer, in fact it was just like a singer jammin in a rock band. Our commonalities are much greater than our differences. Remember Dinky Crash and BOJ in the Youth Centre forecourt, That my friends is history worth knowing about. SLAP 618 IS KING!!!! Respect. DC