HOW B WISE UNITED THE HIP-HOP SCENE ON THE MAMMOTH REMIX OF 'THE CODE'
Words by Christopher Kevin Au // Photography by Chris Loutfy
Last week, B Wise became the first rapper to take out the 'Album of the Year' category at FBi Radio's SMAC Awards with Area Famous, a sonic homage to his upbringing in South-West Sydney. And while he may have sipped on some fine liquors to commemorate the achievement, the real celebration arrived the next day when Wise dropped 'The Code (Remix)'. One of the more hard-hitting and ominous singles from Area Famous, the new remix arrived with a lengthy grocery list of guest features: Manu Crooks, Kerser, Anfa Rose, Pistol Pete & Enzo, Jesswar, Ay Huncho and Nooky.
It's one of the most ambitious, extensive and diverse rap remixes we've heard from Australia, drawing upon a range of emcees who fall somewhere under the ever-expanding hip-hop umbrella. But if there ever was a time to unite the scene on a single song, it's now: Manu Crooks will be performing at Rolling Loud Miami in May, the world's biggest hip-hop showcase. Kerser is dropping his new album Lifestyle this Friday, and just kickstarted an official partnership with Nautica. Jesswar just became the first artist on 64 Bars, a new video series from Red Bull aimed at rap fans. There's more attention being thrust on the local hip-hop scene than ever; from festivals, promoters, radio, streaming services and commercial music channels.
And if there ever was an emcee to do undertake such a sprawling remix, it's Wise: He came to prominence on Hustle Hard TV, the gritty YouTube channel that also featured abrasive street emcees like NTER and Gravy Baby. He then released Area Famous on Elefant Traks, a label known for its organic sound and political commentary. And for years, he shared a studio with Manu Crooks, who's been delivering bass-heavy, club-ready anthems. Over the past decade, it seems like Wise has been everywhere, in different cliques and sub-genres, soaking up all of his surroundings and injecting them into his own unique sound.
The idea for 'The Code (Remix)' came from a conversation between Wise and his producer Dopamine, inspired by Krept & Konan's star-studded rework of 'Don't Waste My Time.' The two looked at that massive UK effort, and started thinking about potential players for 'The Code (Remix)' in Australia, as Wise explains; "When we were making the original song, we thought, "Wouldn't it be crazy if we could make this song a lot bigger?'"
"I could have easily got four or five of the squad, or the team that I usually work with. But I'm also cool with other rappers from the Australian scene, who might have a different following," he says. "I wanted to put people from different walks of life, but within the same country. What you see on the remix, you're not going to think of having those two artists next to each other, ever." And more than being a banging track, 'The Code (Remix)' may go some way in removing the cliquey nature surrounding local rap. "I work with people because I respect what they do, and I see that they're serious about their craft. That's just what I gravitate to: Anyone who works," he says. "I don't like to say 'I'm this' or 'I'm that' in the Australian rap scene, you know? I'm from Australia, and I rap. That's all it is."
While 'The Code (Remix)' features Wise's usual collaborators like Anfa Rose and Manu Crooks, there's also more unique pairings; like Nowra rapper Nooky alongside Pistol Pete & Enzo, the steam-rolling duo from South-West Sydney. Despite their differences, they all stamp their own flavour on the remix, name-dropping their own postcodes and hometowns with booming pride. "It was hard to get everyone to get it done at first. But then I explained how I think it will be a moment - not just for each individual, but more so for the culture itself, to see all these people in one place, at one time," he says. "Of course, some people might be hesitant, because they're thinking about their particular brands. But I think overall, you still hold your own, it's under this one umbrella of this remix. Let's get it done, and let's push forward."
And of all the guest verses, the most eyebrow-raising addition is Kerser, the underground rapper turned chart-dominating anti-hero of Australian hip-hop. While Wise spent most of his formative years in Liverpool, he did spend time in Kerser's stomping ground of Campbelltown, and the two also share some common musical ground. "The first music videos I put up were through Hustle Hard TV, and that was also the same deal for Kerser. We shared a mutual friend called Malek, and we knew the same group of people, like Fortay. We just met, shook hands, all that," Wise says. "We don't hang out together, but we just knew of each other. And then when I reached out, it was just like, 'This is the idea. Boom.' I was surprised because his reaction was just, 'Let's do it'. And he just got it done, straight on."
Now that 'The Code (Remix)' has been released into the world, the next logical step is a live performance with every artist crammed onstage. "We made a live version of the instrumental, so hopefully we can play it at one of my Sydney shows," he says. "When there's a moment, when all our schedules are free and we can all be together in one place. Definitely, I want to make that happen."