If you're a hip-hop fan in Australia, then chances are you're familiar with ONEFOUR. The Mount Druitt-based hip-hop group has been growing their Australian fanbase over the last couple of years thanks to a string of huge singles, as well as a lot of media coverage, partly as a result of unwanted and undeserved police scrutiny.
At the start of 2020, it was up to members JM and Spenny to carry the group forward. They'd already secured their spot as one of Australia's biggest hip-hop artists - but with the rise of drill globally, there was the scope to become global stars.
As 2020's gone on, they've featured on tracks alongside the likes of A$AP Ferg, Manu Crooks, Stormzy, Dutchavelli and many, many more. They've not only released a couple of singles of their own but featured on a couple of huge remixes - and they're getting the right people's attention. ONEFOUR are here to take over the world, and here's how they're doing it.
What's that sound?
ONEFOUR wanted to make a statement with their first single of 2020, and Welcome To Prison was a huge diversion from the sound we were used to from the group. It was written before members YP and Lekks were sentenced to four years in prison for their part in a July 2018 brawl. In many ways, Welcome To Prison served as a reset for the next chapter of ONEFOUR's music.
Just three months earlier, ONEFOUR introduced the world to YP through the music video for In The Beginning, a track that defined their 2019. They'd been building up to the cinematics and sound of In The Beginning through different releases - and Welcome To Prison flipped things on their head. Their intent for the song is reflected in this excerpt from an interview with GQ in January when asked about new music:
"JM: We’ve been experimenting hard.
Spenny: A lot more heartfelt shit. For girl fans ya know.
JM: I wouldn’t say it’s for the girls, it’s just different."
Already, the pieces were in place for a different approach to music in 2020 for ONEFOUR. While they wouldn't continue on the path of Welcome To Prison, it was a sign they were looking to push their sound further. They'd pushed themselves to the forefront of drill music in Australia, helping to pioneer it, then develop it - but it was time for the next step.
"Invite All The Aussie Freaks"
The next step for ONEFOUR in 2020 was to get a feature from none other than A$AP Ferg. While he was here as part of the 2020 Laneway Festival line-up in February (remember festivals?), Ferg linked up with ONEFOUR to record a track together, Say It Again.
Speaking about the collaboration, ONEFOUR manager Ricky Simandjuntak told Red Bull it came together organically. "Hau [Latukefu, host of The Hip-Hop Show on triple j] connected us because Ferg did an interview on Hau’s show and the conversation came naturally to music coming out of Australia and One Four. Ferg had heard some stuff about us, he reached out and asked if we could meet." They chopped it up, and the result is Say It Again.
Rather than trying to mould their sound to Ferg's, Ferg enters their world. The beat for Say It Again was made by i.amsolo and UK producer Gotcha, who's worked with ONEFOUR in the past. If you ask us, JM and Spenny (JM in particular) outshine Ferg on the track. Not a bad effort for a couple of boys from Western Sydney.
"Out here we at war with the cops like Brax"
When you're trying to make it on a global stage, it can be tempting to stray away from your origin story. However, ONEFOUR re-established their connection to Mount Druitt with Home And Away, the first taste of their upcoming debut EP.
The track doesn't shy away from the realities of life in Western Sydney. Mount Druit is “a far cry from the sun-soaked sceneries that dominate mainstream depictions of Australia on television screens and tourism brochures.”
The track sits sonically in the middle of tracks like In The Beginning and Welcome To Prison. Rather than sounding like drill, it leans towards more traditional hip-hop sounds - more proof that the group is evolving before our very eyes.
In the span of a few days, ONEFOUR have been a part of two global remixes - Dutchavelli's Bando Diaries remix, and Headie One's Aint It Different remix. Both tracks feature global stars, and are further proof that ONEFOUR are leading the charge when it comes to Australian drill. A few years ago, collaborations with the likes of Stormzy, AJ Tracey and more would have been pure fantasy for an Australian artist - yet that's exactly what ONEFOUR have just achieved.
The Bando Diaries remix is particularly interesting, as it brought together drill rappers from different countries. ONEFOUR are billed as Australia's representative, while French rapper Kekra, Albanian driller Noizy and Indian MC DIVINE all appear on the track. For many, this will be their first exposure to hip-hop acts from Australia - and to them (as well as many others), ONEFOUR are leading the way.
You scratch my back, I scratch yours
What do you do when you get a feature from A$AP Ferg? You return the favour. ONEFOUR feature on Ferg's new project, Floor Seats II, on the track Aussie Freaks. The name comes from a line from Say It Again, and also features Fivio Foreign. It's the spiritual successor to Say It Again, but this time the group is on Ferg's turf.
Released on the same day as their Ain't It Different remix, Aussie Freaks confirms their status as global stars, if it wasn't locked in already. Also featured on Floor Seats II are Lil Wayne and Nicki Minaj, and being featured on such a high-profile project will open the group to a whole new audience of hip-hop fans.
ONEFOUR's debut EP is on the way, and they've positioned themselves perfectly for it to be one of the biggest hip-hop releases of the year. While the group has historically been prevented from performing live, they've managed to make a name for themselves through working with some of the biggest rappers on the planet.
ONEFOUR, along with The Kid LAROI, are helping to change the image internationally of what it means to be a hip-hop artist from Australia, and it's exciting to see their growth. You don't want to mess with Sydney's realest - especially when they continue to drop some serious heat.