Hamza - Conference of the Birds (Review)
Updated: Nov 8, 2021
South-West Sydney based rapper Hamza has blessed us with the release of his first project since his 2019 debut EP ‘Trash & Treasure’. Last Thursday, the up-and-coming rapper dropped a 7-track EP entitled ‘Conference of the Birds’, a project which was written and completely self-produced by Hamza, showcasing the full extent of his raw and authentic talent. ‘Conference of the Birds’ is a story, a journey told through the eyes of Hamza.
The MC’s natural creative expression has allowed for him to create a project which flows in an uninterrupted manner and immerses the listener into the life & mind of Hamza. Hamza’s production on the project is equal parts profound and refreshing. From the get go, the manner in which Hamza balances differing extremes of tempos and juggles with a variety of emotions is seemingly effortless for the young rapper. Every sample is intricately chosen in order to provide Hamza with the platform to weave in and out of the beats with his impeccable flow and expertly-crafted bars, allowing for a truly captivating listening experience.
The dark and gloomy production on EP opener ‘Grub’ wrangles your attention from the beginning. The South-West rapper accompanies this with a catchy flow rapping about the hustle and his experiences. The track concludes with the sound of a cassette player being closed and rewound. This is a phenomenal addition, as it allows for a common motif to be naturally present throughout the EP. As the first song on ‘Conference of the Birds’, the track sets the scene and establishes a clear idea of what is to come throughout the project.
The flute instrumental loop used in this track’s production is sensational, providing a sense of uncertainty for the listener, which compliments the lyrics and wordplay chosen by Hamza. ‘Itsha’ explores a common theme throughout the project and that is a clash of cultures. Hamza is having conflicting views between his Muslim religious beliefs and the Australian culture. This is most prevalent as he says "brown kid say a prayer to the mufti (an Islamic jurist), I'm still a slave to the ussie (pussy)". Additionally, Hamza speaks out about Indigenous injustices and acknowledges that the land we are all living on today is stolen land; "there is no common wealth in this commonwealth", a notion very well intertwined with the overall message of the EP. Experiencing ‘Itsha’ is truly powerful, as with every listen I unravelled a new perspective.
This is one of two interludes in the EP. Titled ‘Shaitan’ (‘devil’ in Arabic/Urdu/Hindi), the interlude plays an important role in the narrative that Hamza is building. The vocal sampling is done superbly on this interlude as it provides a melancholic tempo, accompanied with the drums and a grungy electric guitar or synth loop. Hamza is clearly talking about his struggles here, his clashes with the devil and how his habits tend to cause clashes between good and evil. This song perfectly illustrates order and chaos. Hamza finds order in his sinful habits but this in turn causes chaos as he is battling the devil in committing sin; "two hands, I pray to Mecca when I'm lost". The transition between this interlude and the next track is seamless and allows for a beautiful listening experience.
'Pennyz in Drainz'
I was drawn in by the piano instrumental immediately from the offset of ‘Pennyz in Drainz’. It reminded me a lot of the piano instrumental used by Immortal Technique on "Dance with the Devil". The cassette tape sample makes a return in the intro, adding a certain familiarity to the song. The song explores many socio-behavioural topics which allows the listener to ponder and take a minute out of their day to really think about certain aspects of life. A line that really stood out to me was "there is no love without hate", I took my time to let it sink in. As well as this, the wordplay and flow are perfectly suited, allowing for a reflective listen.
A much slower tempo and refrained flow is established on ‘Ringtone’. The phone conversation sample at the start is a wonderful addition, establishing a precedent and setting the tone for the rest of the song. We get great exposure to what South-West culture looks like in this song and Hamza's place within this culture; "open the window, just big billies in Minto". The song is a representation of the hustle and its restless cycle. Hamza touches on the impermanence of the earth and how our existence on this planet is temporary; "selling my soul now, cause this Dunya's (the earth) is getting old now". By having a multitude of metaphors throughout the song that resonate with the listener in a familiar way, Hamza is adding plenty of value to what he is is saying. A great track to reminisce to.
This is the second interlude on the EP entitled "Tasbih", which in Arabic refers to Islamic prayer beads. This interlude plays an important role in providing a deeper insight into the cultural clash that Hamza feels stuck in. He confesses to his vices and talks about praying using the Tasbih. Hamza gets the listener to think between the lines in this interlude and if you don't pay attention, you will miss some multi-faceted bars. For example, through the intricacies of one of his bars he evokes his desire for freedom, stating; "whether it's pastel, pen or pencil, running from stencils", which conveys how to Hamza, free writing tools are better than rigid tools. This is fundamentally a metaphor for Hamza’s life, as he would rather be free than to be stuck in a rigid framework.
I went into a translucent state on my first listen of this song, barely paying attention to what was happening. The initial listen made me want to shoulder charge everybody that gets near me in the death pit. I just want to be present in the mosh pit when Hamza gets on stage and rips this one out. A very upbeat tempo with plenty of heavy-hitting 808s to keep you switched on and ready to rage. ‘Section 10’ contains some of the most raucous and intoxicating ad-libs I have ever heard on a song, especially in the way Hamza screams out "Cracka”. What an absolute gee up. Pure, unadulterated emotion typifies this track which is undoubtedly one of my favourites on the EP.
With ‘Conference of the Birds’, Hamza has released one of the most creative and cohesive EPs to have come out of the Australian rap scene this year. This is not merely a collection of songs that he has packaged and released as an EP, everything in this project has an important meaning and interconnects together. From the sampling, the song names, tempo selection, song transitions and themes, everything is expertly thought through.
Hamza takes the listener on a journey, he tells us a story, he teaches us important life lessons and most significantly does it in an exceptional fashion. The South-West Sydney artist explores themes of culture clashing, the hustle, the unspoken and cements it through his creative wordplay and well executed punchlines. Self-produced and self-written, Hamza has poured his heart and soul out on this project, and by doing so has cemented himself as one of the illest Emcees in the Sydney scene.
Words by Maroun Ghossain
Published April 8th, 2021.