Rappers Claim Police 'Shutdown' Concert Over Controversial Drill Style
A much-hyped western Sydney group claim police are continually cancelling their concerts, just days after their community was named as a focus of a strike force targeting gang activity.
Rap group OneFour, based in Mount Druitt in Sydney's west, are building notoriety and buzz on the back of their incendiary live show and their controversial lyrics. Their genre of music is billed as 'drill', a loud and gritty style born in Chicago and further developed in London, with lyrics centring on violence, crime and an opposition to police.
OneFour claim they are the "first" Australian group producing music in this style. They have been praised by British grime star Skepta among other international names, amassed a large and rabid social media following, and racked up millions of views for their film clips on Youtube.
Their videos show them massing in large groups on streets, many members wearing hoodies and masks, as flares are set off in the background.
However, the group and the community they come from has also attracted unwanted attention, with NSW Police recently establishing Strike Force Imbala to target gang activity in western Sydney. An officer, quoted by the Daily Telegraph newspaper, said police were specifically looking at how such crime may be influenced by "rap culture".
OneFour share their name with a gang of the same name in western Sydney, but their music videos -- despite their content -- distance the rappers from that activity.
"This video is made for entertainment purposes only. The lyrics and characters of this song are all fictional and should not be taken literal," a disclaimer at the start of one clip states, while another warns "the events that occur are purely symbolic, both and artist and makers do not condone violence."
Now, a scheduled concert in Sydney later this month -- where OneFour were due to play as a support act for British rapper Octavian, at the Max Watt's House of Music -- has been "shutdown" by police, the group allege, with claims officers had "pressured the venue".
"We’re gutted to announce that we won’t be playing the Octavian show... In fact, the whole show has been shutdown," the group posted on Facebook.
"This is the third time the NSW Police have pressured the venue we were due to perform at and it’s getting f*n frustrating. They want us to get us off the street, yet they won’t give us a chance to."
"We’ve played three shows with no problems, yet they’re still trying to shut us down. While we’re trying to work and be productive, they want to flex their authority."
However, in a statement to 10 daily, NSW Police did not directly answer questions on their involvement in the cancellation of the concert.
"NSW Police are responsible for liaising with venues to ensure proper licensing enforcement for all events held at licensed premises," a spokesperson said.
"The decision to hold an event is held by the promoter or venue."
In a statement posted to Facebook, concert promoters BBE said the concert had been cancelled "due to circumstances well outside of our control." BBE said they were "absolutely devastated by this news" but that "this was not a decision we had any say in."
The promoter did not elaborate on the reasons behind the cancellation, but said ticket refunds will be issued.
10 daily has contacted OneFour, BBE, Max Watt's, and Octavian's management for further comment.
NSW Greens MP David Shoebridge criticised police for their response to the group and concert.
"The NSW police won’t be happy until all music festivals, all gigs, anywhere young people go to have fun and let off steam are shut down," he told 10 daily.
"This is serious overreach by police, targeting a local rap group simply because of where they come from and what type of music they make. Young people have the right to have fun, musicians have the right to make music."
In a recently-released documentary produced by VICE, OneFour describe their Mount Druitt home as a "warzone" of crime and violence, and allege their members and friends are regularly visited by police. One of the group's members is said to be in prison.
The group regularly rap about drugs and crime, with one recent track titled 'Shanks And Shivs' referring to improvised weapons, often made in prison.
"At the end of the day, we're not rappers being gangsters," one group member told VICE.
"We've done it and now we're rapping. We're telling our story."