Sunday, March 24, 2013

Challenging hip-hop, The Herd has something to say to the listening

Written by Peyton S. Owen

Courtesy - The Herd

An eight-piece group called The Herd, from Sydney, Australia formed in 2001, when they signed to Elefant Traks Records. The record label then decided to latch on and put together several compilation albums, featuring their very first single “Scallops.” This was the first of many from this dynamic hip-hop group who have a tendency to stir up controversy, intentional or not.

As the group moved forward with their career, playing show after show and touring for several years, The Herd came out with one of their most popular tracks, “I Was Only 19.” The song was originally by Redgum, but The Herd made transformed it to become purely theirs. Eventually this song turned out to be one of the most requested songs on the Triple J radio in Australia. The connection was instant.

“I Was Only 19” is an anti-war track, out of the Vietnam War era, about a young man’s experience with Agent Orange, bombs exploding, friends dying all around him, all while trying to get home and get out of the terrorizing jungle. Basically, it comes down to how this man became numb to death, whether he wanted to or not. That's a part of war. 

It may seem as though this is an extremely depressing song, yet The Herd, with their full instrumental band playing right along with them, give “I Was Only 19” a sense of hope for the character in the story. They also share hope for Australian's a a whole, and who were invaded by Iraqi forces around this time. Massive brush fires consumed the country. The Herd does this through calming yet upbeat melodies that don’t have too somber of undertones. Instead they have more of a “looking on the bright side” feel to it. They make a point to also show the robotic repetition of having to go through the same experiences over and over again, while praying to make it home alive. It’s catchy and became very popular for that reason. People were able to relate to it on a more personal level as well.

Their success only continued to explode from there. Don't forget petty controversy that comes along with it. Although many critics would say that The Herd is a politically motivated hip-hop group due to how prevalent it may be interpreted in many of their songs, this isn't necessarily true. If you dig too deep into any metaphor, poem, song, etc. people can make up whatever they want based on things they create in their own minds...True or not. 

Politics aside though, The Herd has a message/opinion about a particular issue and metaphorically as well as directly challenge the opposition. In reality and slightly cliche, any kind of press/exposure is good press/exposure. True fans also don’t necessarily abandon a group that has been a part of their life for years (that is, unless you are a Metallica fan from the beginning, and once they cut their hair, and constantly complain about pirating music a departure is made…Metallica fans, you made the right decision. Old Metallica was pretty good though).

According to The Herd’s website, “In an unconventional set-up, The Herd perform with two MCs, two singers, an acoustic and an electric guitar, bass, piano, accordion, clarinet, laptops and MPC 1000s. It’s big!”

Courtesy - The Herd
That right there makes The Herd and their music something truly special. Who have you heard of with that vibrant of a sound which actually sounds good? Not too many...

Imagine watching them performing live. It would be incredible to see how all of the members flow together when there is so much happening on stage. That's talent. A few tracks that show just how unique they are as hip-hop artists are would be, “Unpredictable,” “Sum of it All" off their latest album Future Shade, "77%," and recently released "Signs of Life." 

"77%" is about how racist and politically backwards Australia truly is, according to The Herd (See chart). Although many can say there is racism all over the world, no matter where you go, their relentlessness on the track makes you wonder about what else is going on in Australian politics and social world that we aren't aware of. However, unless you have been to Australia (not on vacation), are Australian, or studied the culture then you can't say too much about this topic without eventually looking like an idiot. Either way, The Herd has something to say, so they let it out.

All of their albums are available to download by donation (screw you Lars Ulrich) on their website. 

The Herd continues to tour all across Australia as well as having their spots in line ups for various major music festivals in places such as Sydney. The Herd let their opinions be known to the masses, and it doesn't look like much is going to stop them. Whether you love them or hate them, they could care less because they are going to continue staying true to their beliefs and music. That’s something to admire, except when a hip-hop or other music type becomes so political that it starts to alienate the listener, which in turn pushes fans away from the music. 

You be the judge, but remember...You never can truly get the feel of a band until you see them live. Their next scheduled performance is April 20th with Hermitude of The Herd at the Big Pineapple Music Festival on the Sunshine Coast in Australia. If you are out there, grab some tickets before they sell out! It's already almost April! 

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