HOOLIGAN HEFS: A SIX-MONTH WAKE-UP CALL & HIS FRESH START WITH ‘THE PARTY’
Words by Christopher Kevin Au // Photographs by Chris Loutfy
When we meet with Hooligan Hefs on his home turf of Doonside, he looks happy and healthy, and he has plenty of reasons to celebrate. His spirited single 'The Party' has clocked well over 100,000 views in just over a fortnight, which is a considerable feat for an independent artist from West Sydney's niche rap underground. Still, 'The Party' is just one of Hefs' singles that have picked up heavy traction: The more ominous 'Gang Life' and 'Not Guilty' freestyles have established Hefs as one of the area's most beloved voices, all at his tender age of 21.
For the Samoan/Chinese emcee, rapping began at The Square, a local carpark where his friends would gather to listen to music, dance and sip on the definitive drink of adolescent Australiana: "A $10 goon sack, Fruity Lexia mixed with lemonade." It's these alcohol-fuelled freestyles that laid the foundations for a more serious career. "That was our spot, from Friday to Saturday and Sunday. We used to be young, we would go get a goon sack," he says. "Someone would have their car blasting, and whatever come to the mind, we'd just bust freestyles."
Soon enough, the online world began witnessing Hefs in action, even if he was none the wiser. "My brother uploaded a freestyle on Facebook. I didn't know. He recorded it four months prior, and then uploaded it four months later," Hefs says. "Got a few views and that, I was like, 'Fuck. I could do something with this.'" After linking with producer S.P, Hefs took his set-up from a bedroom to a small studio, and 'The Party' marks yet another pivotal step in establishing himself as an artist. "I was just uploading onto SoundCloud, or sometimes just YouTube. But now, 'The Party' is on everywhere, on platforms and it's actually full proper," he says.
While Hefs' previous work is filled with narratives about crime and conflict, 'The Party' is a more jovial affair, the type of track you could imagine blasting at club nights and major festivals. It still retains Hefs' hard-nosed bars, spat over production by MNTYMVDEMUSIK that oozes with UK garage and grime flavour. But the track's biggest surprise comes courtesy of a drop that picks up the BPM into hard dance territory. There's no hook, just a beat that'll inspire a gabber. "I like hip-hop, R&B, rap. But everyone down here at The Square, we used to always play techno and all that hardstyle," he says. "We used to gabber all through the night and to the morning. We loved that shit."
It's clear that 'The Party' serves as a homage to Hefs' younger years, and those foundational nights at The Square. "We had our good times, we ran amuck, and it makes you just wanna do something with it, you know? Our story of what we done then and ran then, I like to put it in my music," he says. "Just so we can listen to it, and be like, 'Fuck, I remember that time.' I only rap real shit, man. Otherwise I won't say it at all." And you can hear the happy nostalgia in his voice when he again recalls those all-nighters that 'The Party' commemorates. "It was like Defqon down at The Square! Even some of the big Islander boys couldn't gabber, but they just felt the beat and done something close to it," he laughs.
And in many ways, 'The Party' makes perfect sense for a Doonside rapper: Combining assertive bars and a rave-worthy drop, the song unites all of the most favoured sounds of West Sydney youths, especially the sportswear and Air Max afficianados that populate the area. "I'm trying to do rap and techno, EDM, dubstep, all of that. Hopefully, this is the new Australian sound," he says. "All of the area is getting behind us, Western Sydney. This music is slowly starting to pop off in Australia. I'm thankful for everyone that's come through and showed love."
While 'The Party' might get the most spins on a Friday night on the town, the song still honours Hefs' friends who are currently incarcerated; "Pour a shot for my brothers in lock." Hefs himself was recently released from a six-month prison sentence, and has treated the experience as a stern life lesson. "I had a quick holiday, just under six months. That six months just made me think that there's no life there. There's more to life than me being inside," he says. "I'm a firm believer that everything happens for a reason. Before then, I was going back to the old ways, being in the street. That six months was a wake up call, just to stick to your music. So, I'm fuckin' glad that it happened, you know?"
Littered all over Hefs' social media accounts is a line that reads, "Tell 'em I’m doing eetswa." With the rapid success of 'The Party' and a fresh start for the young rapper, it seems like that quote is ringing truer than ever in 2019.