Various Artists: 20 Years Of Hydrofunk

- Brisbane based, Aussie hip-hop institution Hydrofunk Records is Australia's longest running, independent hip-hop label. In its twenty plus year history there's absolutely no denying its part helping heavily shape the landscape of the Australian hip-hop scene. The label pushed experimentation and a DIY attitude just as our big red rock was still very much trying to distinguish itself from its American counterparts.

Hydrofunk's inception arose as DJ Katch and Dave Atkins came together to showcase local talent in the mid-nineties, before the two hooked up as the -now legendary- hip-hop outfit the Resin Dogs. It wasn't long before Hydrofunk took things to the next level, turning its attention to releasing records for the world at large to consume, starting with the release of Blunted Stlyus's debut on wax in '97 and then with Resin Dogs' debut a year later. This early traction allowed the pair to represent emerging Australian artists as well select overseas acts that aligned with their musical ideals.

While other heavyweight Aussie hip-hop labels such as Obese Records and Elefant Traks have either shut up shop or slowed to a crawl, Hydrofunk has remained a stalwart musical institution, continuing to focus on and embracing a genre that has never ceased to evolve and morph with each passing year. The label consistently finds a way to stay in touch despite avoiding what's trendy and "cool", instead continuing their boundary pushing ways. Now, twenty years since their first official release, they find themselves looking back as they push forward, with their new and meaty compilation, 20 Years Of Hydrofunk, covering just about every nook and cranny spanning their entire catalogue to date.

On this almighty collection, eclectic is definitely an understatement, especially considering Hydrofunk's image as a hip-hop focused label. Rap runs alongside neo-soul, modern funk, blunted beats, a little jazz and even the occasional electronic-infused, intergalactic trip. The collection is curated with a deft touch and unwavering flow firmly in the front of mind. Despite being relatively familiar with about half the Hydrofunk roster, my favourite moments here are usually the ones coinciding with the deeper cuts and the artists and aural landscapes unbeknownst to me due to either my age or ignorance. Tracks from the likes of Shin Ki RowMad Dr X and Red Bantoo force my hand into a little posthumous crate digging, while jams from the Resin Dogs, Bankrupt Billionaires and Tigermoth remind me what drew me towards those artists the first time 'round. For those looking towards the future, the debut single from intriguing upstarts Indigenoise, shows there's plenty of creative fire left burning in the hearts of the Hydrofunk crew.

20 Years Of Hydrofunk can be a slight timewarp, but it's an undeniably pleasant and rewarding one at that. While there's no denying there's a certain throwback quality to the affair as a whole, it's a glorious mix of new and old, reflection and anticipation. With the digital version coming in at thirty tracks and over two hours of music, it's a musical journey of beats, rhymes and life. 20 Years Of Hydrofunk is an essential trip for any hip-hop head looking for a little inspiration and soundtrack for the ongoing side-hustle that is modern life.

- Jay Edwards.

Album Details

Album Title: 20 Years Of Hydrofunk
Artist: Various Artists
Record Label: (Hydrofunk)