‘Antihero’ is the truest reflection of Huskii the artist
Updated: Feb 18
Self-awareness has long been a trademark of those we revere most, and Wollongong-born artist Huskii has continually demonstrated that he is certainly one to embrace vulnerability in order to be able to best express himself. For the past decade, Huskii has grown in stature as a standout among Australia’s rap underground, existing in his own anti-commercial space with a raw, true-to-himself sound. An antihero not just in his own life, but in an Australian rap scene craving something fresh, Huskii’s come-up has inspired plenty of local acts to carve out their own lane regardless of what’s trending. Never self-pitying, rather he’s always been frank about the world and life he grew up with throughout his discography, and this has stayed true with the release of his latest album ‘Antihero’.
Not only does ‘Antihero’ fulfill the promises of Huskii and long-time collaborators like Chillinit of being a project to shake-up the scene, it’s an album that is sure to captivate listeners beyond the domestic scene. With executive production by Sydney’s Caleb Tasker, and featuring a stacked set of contributions from Australia’s wealth of producing talent, including: Jay Orient, David Versace, TURBO CHOOK and Lewis Hosie, ‘Antihero’ exists in its own echelon. Gritty, expertly-crafted and refreshing, the technical capabilities of each of these production maestros is pushed to the limits throughout the 19-minute runtime.
Despite admitting to experiencing "nerves" ahead of the album’s release, Huskii expresses his contentedness with the final product, before further attesting to feelings of malaise towards navigating the soul-sucking void that is the music industry and the heightened anxiety that comes from greater fame.
Having a label back his work undoubtedly relieves him of the stress of distribution, but even he admits to knowing our interview – in and amongst the other interviews he’s had to do ahead of release – is a “necessary evil”.
“I feel like I’m happy with the music, I just can’t really navigate the industry. I just feel like it’s not made for someone who doesn’t want the fame really. And it’s hard to get around that. Like I love that people listen to my music, and I love money – like there’s nothing wrong with money – but the other stuff that comes with being known and shit like that, I hate it. Like I’m worried that this is gonna cause mad dramas in my life.”
Being so authentic to himself in his music has had its downsides, most notably the criticism Huskii’s received across his whole career has led him to embrace the ‘Antihero’ tag for this album to remind people that he’s never glorified his lifestyle growing up, rather he’s used music as an outlet for his trauma.
“I’ve copped it my whole career, people saying I’m a bad influence and this and that. It is what it is, it’s not me, like life imitates art I suppose. I’ve been around it my whole life and it’s been happening, it’s not like I made it happen. I’ve obviously talked about it from experiences that I’ve had and people relate to it because it is what it is. It’s maybe foreign to some people but it’s more common than people expect.”
Huskii tackles addiction and seeing his relationships affected by these vices on album opener ‘Heroin Rap’. The antihero theme is tied intimately into this opening track, as Huskii samples news clippings of media outlets sensationalising music as justification for violent actions committed by individuals. Inherently, art, artists and music have always been reissued as the cause of society’s problems by a media circus desiring a reliable scapegoat to suppress the masses with. Further amplifying Huskii’s stance against this is the emphatic delivery of “I’m the antihero this is heroin rap”, a line tailor-made to scare away any listeners unprepared for the candid and unrestrained 19 minutes that is set to unfold. The production from Jay Orient and Tasker is masterful, with the solemn piano acting as the undercurrent of melancholy that feels inherent to Huskii’s personality. The pair proceed to slow the beat down to emulate the drowning Huskii feels in a life that overwhelms him, a facet reflected in the evocative video clip for this track, before finishing with the literal distortion that is set to pervade the entire album.
Ruin My Life
The album’s lead single instantly hooks you in through Huskii’s lyrically snappy approach and his threats to call out the fronting and phoniness he sees in the scene around him, “Most these rappers are dummies lad, I could actually expose ‘em, like I ain’t GPS-tracking them Cali’ packs through the post”. He’s also typically self-critical, speaking to his own struggles with letting go of the internal conflict that he feels with a loyal fanbase: “I'm just a fuck up I don't know how these people listen to me, I grind my way to the top then it's back to prison and breach”. The use of aggressive, distorted synths speak to the frustrations Huskii feels, but on top of that they’re unlike anything that’s been done in this scene before. The beat switch-up subsequently speeds the track up as Huskii relents and unleashes his innermost ruminative thoughts, tackling worries over returning to a life of trapping and seeing his loved ones leave as he admits: “It's a disease, made this way but I wish I was free”.
To cap it off ‘Ruin My Life’ features the now-infamous line, “Brittany Murphy talking dirty through a Ouija board”, an unexpectedly vicariously-lived-through bar Huskii admits to feeling misunderstood by in hindsight, much like Murphy herself following her passing.
“I don’t know bro; I think that line full cursed me. I watched this documentary about her boyfriend and how she died, it’s deeper than people think. When she died a lot of people blamed her boyfriend because he looked like Harvey Weinstein, it was just unexpected and he looked like an overpowering dude who used to be a dodgy scammer. But they just sat in the house and did nothing in a fucking mansion. And I literally can relate to that because I’ve been at stages with my girlfriend where – and I love this girl so much, I would never do anything to hurt her – but the way that I’m living my life is affecting her. So, I’m not eating, I’m doing drugs, I’m sleeping until 3:00. And she’s doing the same thing. So, within a year of being with me she’s lost 15 kilos and looks like a junkie. I remember being young and feeling guilty for this like what the fuck man. And I started correcting things in my life and she did too. And she wasn’t even on drugs, she was just living the same lifestyle. This is when I was like 18,” he explains.
“Watching that documentary made me realise that a lot of people don’t understand that that’s possible. A lot of people say “he killed her, he definitely made her stay in the house”, but he probably didn’t bro. They were probably just madly in love and laid in a bed together and did nothing else. And she got pneumonia and malnourished, and then she died. And people think that he killed her. But he died a year later from the same thing, I think they had pneumonia on their lungs and they lived in this mansion that had all this mold through it. And they just sat there and wore themselves away. No one really understood. She was like forty kilos when she died, like I can relate to that. And I feel like – and I’m not saying I did the right thing; he should’ve done more to help his girlfriend and himself – they were stuck in the cycle and they were just in love. But not many people out there can understand that, especially the media they were just beating him up. And maybe his influence did kill her but I don’t think it was his intention.”
Pulp Fiction ft Grubbo
The dichotomy expressed by the two sides of ‘Pulp Fiction’ is astounding. Tasker’s first half is packed with layers of live drums and knocking instrumentation, whereas Jay Orient’s second half carries the type of sailing bravado that gives Huskii the room to spit on. Huskii’s delivery on this track’s opening half is incessant and his lyrics are honest, as he goes on to identify his avoidant, self-sabotaging nature and the effect that has on those around him. By contrast, the second half is packed with Huskii simply not giving a fuck and expressing a willingness to move on after this album with the mantle to be carried on by Skem. UK rapper Grubbo features on ‘Pulp Fiction’, with his verse injecting a gritty aesthetic that adds to the distortive, penetrative synths that remind one of John Carpenter’s updated score in David Gordon Green’s “Halloween” sequels, with references to that film series’ iconic central figure coming from Huskii and Grubbo. The nonsensicality of Huskii’s alliterative off-the-cuff opening adlibs – “Marsellus Wallace’s missus munted in the Maserati music” / “Mike Myers on a massacre in Marrickville type shit” – is in of itself tongue-in-cheek, but also ties into his inspirations for this track.
Sitting behind Huskii when we chat are posters celebrating the films and music he loves, one of which is Quentin Tarantino’s iconic “Pulp Fiction” poster featuring Uma Thurman’s Mia Wallace beckoning audiences into a world full of temptations. Undeniably, nostalgia has an important role to play in Huskii’s music.
“Bro I love that shit. That bass in that first part of that song it just rode out. I was watching “Pulp Fiction” and thinking “man, this shit is hard”. I was watching it as I was writing that song and thinking “what the fuck is going on here?”. I feel like I’m in this car with this motherfucker overdosing and shit, I thought “this is hectic”. I grew up around that shit. I’m always trying to drag things from my life into my music because it’s the only way to tell people who I am.”
There’s something continually infectious about this track that always has me coming back. Huskii’s delivery of confident bars over a luscious soul sample thrives because of how natural it feels to him, and that in-turn leaves the listener swept up in the music. The song sees Huskii wishing to break the cycles he was made to endure as a child by speaking to the resilience he’s had to maintain in his pursuit of musical dominance. It also features a stunning, echoey electric guitar that oozes with a charismatic, psychedelic reverberation, a facet of the song Huskii admits to being unplanned.
“It’s more about the music, most of them instruments are just live instruments as well. Seamus (Coyle) on the guitar from Sticky Fingers, he was just there and it happened. We were just in the studio and it wasn’t planned. That first line I say something about Jimi Hendrix, and I wanted him to just do an adlib instead of me going “skrrt” or something, I just wanted him to go “beow” with the guitar and he just jammed through the whole song. We were sitting there with ten people in the studio, some of them tracks have like four producers on it. Tasker’s the puppet master but there’s a lot of cunts working on that shit,” Huskii says.
“And I was just trying to have as much input as I could, but it’s hard trying to make a new sound when I don’t even know what I’m doing. I don’t think anyone does. People say “you’re dropping an album”, really, I’m dropping my whole life from the last couple of years. It’s way bigger than a few tracks. For me, it’s my whole life on them tracks. So, to release that shit when I haven’t really been talking is hectic.”
Cape Fear Big Wave Contest ft Mic Pompeii, Ides & Shadow
‘Cape Fear Big Wave Contest’ is steeped in pure talk of a life filled with temptations, desperation and drug-dealing. Huskii taps an imposing mix of features for this track including Perth artist Shadow, and Sydney artists Ides and Mic Pompeii. Each verse sees the four artists taking turns to express the struggles and challenges they face on a day-to-day basis with the constant lurking paranoia of police interference in their lives if they opt to go down a path of criminality. All of this runs around a cheeky reference to Australia’s Schapelle Corby that speaks to the tongue-in-cheek nature of this collaborative track.
Be warned, going into ‘Hellevator’ you won’t be expecting the epic interlude that is set to come. The first half is a sophisticated concoction of looming drums, g-funk synths and samples of classic movies. The latter half is an explosion of altered synths that crescendo and screech that feels almost euphoric for Huskii and the listener just as it perfectly transitions into final track ‘Toxic’. This is without a doubt Tasker illustrating the full unrelenting extent of his powers as a producer and instrumentalist, and I love it.
A painful, vulnerable and desperately self-aware track that sees Huskii striving to move beyond the life he’s been taught to accept as the only one he’s allowed to live, ‘Toxic’ arguably is the crux of ‘Antihero’. Huskii uses this song to speak on fighting his demons solo and the tendencies that have persisted with him his whole life. His melancholic, raw vocals adhere to this feeling that ignorance isn’t the cause of his woes, rather it is awareness which leaves him continually facing internal turmoil. Fundamentally, ‘Toxic’ is the crux of ‘Antihero’ because it shows Huskii outside of his comfort zone and pushing the boundaries he’s been wanting to push forever.
“I’ve been rapping and I’ve just been expressing myself on the instrumentals, and doing what’s trending and beats people want to hear me on. That’s what I’ve been doing, until now where I’ve tried to like actually put my foot down and say “this is my sound, I want to do this”. I’ve always been dark; I’ve always done that and people don’t make the beats like this on YouTube. I’ve got to sit in a room and tell people what I want. It takes weeks sometimes.
"‘Toxic’, I did that song all by myself. We were alone, me and Tasker, I couldn’t’ve done that if there was anyone else in the room. It was just one of them tracks. I wouldn’t’ve been able to sing around anyone else. But for some reason Tasker is a sick cunt and it happened. I don’t know, it was when I was doing that Nirvana shit. Like, I just started being weak, to say the least. And went in there and did that shit man, it just come out of me. I wouldn’t have done if, let’s say I was just three days deep on this mad bender and then I ended up in the studio randomly and just wasn’t caring about being embarrassed so I tried to sing. It’s natural, and working people who bring that out of you, it’s hard to find. That took me a while to find.”
As far as making that smart, intricately-balanced and progressive piece of hip-hop that leaves listeners in awe goes, Huskii has emphatically delivered on ‘Antihero’. Never braggadocious to a point where the bravado clouds his deeply vulnerable lyrics, Huskii remains unapologetically himself and draped in an anti-establishment visage throughout the 7-song track list. As for the inspiration he drew from when making this album, he acknowledges the impact of old-school Melbourne hip-hop from the likes of Trem on him, and the feeling he’s been striving to recreate in his own way over the past few years as he’s undergone tough circumstances.
“I wanted to just make new music bro. I’m inspired by a lot of shit from overseas, even Tyler, The Creator the way he just like has weird formats and no structure. I’m all about that shit. I don’t really listen to him but I love that shit.
“I wanted to be rapping like old school Melbourne shit, that’s when I remember Aussie hip-hop being real good. Ever since that shit died, I kind of like didn’t really think anything was good. I respect everyone but I just wasn’t into it. I want to bring back that shit but you can’t really go back in time. I had to figure out how to do that properly, and hopefully I did it right, I don’t know. I’ll hit him up when he hears it.”
For the young, aspiring artists who will no doubt take inspiration from ‘Antihero’ for years to come, Huskii wishes that they simply make what they want, rather than what’s trending or cool.
“Definitely that. That’s the main thing I wanted to do. And I don’t even like have an objective I just need to do what I do. That’s why with my first couple of tracks I did, it’s really just me expressing myself over instrumentals, I don’t even really know how to rap I just thought you had to rap fast and shit like that. You’ve got to start somewhere."
Huskii’s discography resonates with a lot of listeners who either live, or have lived through similarly traumatic experiences. And his music has always been an avenue for a catharsis that not many other artists can adequately foster.
“Life imitates art kind of thing bro. I was always doing this before, like I would be that guy. I remember, I’ve seen people lose their kids and I was a kid myself and I’m giving them advice and having people breakdown. I was wise, I was very wise as a kid. I could definitely express myself vocally. And that just turned into music. There was always something about me, everywhere I’ve went I’ve just started a fire somewhere and people have just been attracted to me. I don’t know how; I don’t know what I’ve done. Sometimes I’ve been doing the wrong shit like being naughty in school and fighting people and that, it makes you cool at one point. Stupid shit like that. I don’t how it happened but it’s always Vipin, this music shit come later.”
Authenticity, self-awareness and a willingness to call oneself out are distinguishable trademarks of the Huskii brand, and even as he questions why his fans gravitate to him, I pose that these personality traits are that potential explanation for why he has such a strong following.
“I think so bro, you can’t really give people advice without being vulnerable yourself. Some of these situations, like I’m talking heavy situations with people, it’s just the life I grew up in and I thought that was normal. Even now, I still have realisations every day when I talk to people about stories and past things. I just see the reactions and think ‘fuck, I thought I was telling a normal story here’. Obviously, everyone else doesn’t know about this shit I better shut the fuck up. So, you have to kind of learn what you’re doing. Some things you can say they come across as bragging sometimes, you’ve got to learn to communicate it the right way to people. Especially when some of these people can turn in a second, you’ve got to learn to navigate through these conversations,” he says.
“And I think growing up like that, I was just very, very self-aware you know what I mean? I don’t wanna be one of these people. I’ve always been harsh on myself because I don’t want to become a junkie like my parents, and I’ve been told statistics being led down this path like ‘you’re going to go to jail, you’re going to have a hit at this age’. That’s all happened to me bro. And I’ve been getting told this since I was five years old not to let that happen. And I still let it creep up on me. No matter what you’ve always got to be self-aware and I hope I can teach someone else to be doing this shit.”
Words by Matthew Badrov