PRODUCER SPOTLIGHT: Domba, Charlotte Adelle, Jay Orient & Willstah
With producers consistently serving as the undeniable backbone to the momentum of the Australian hip-hop scene, we’re returning with our newest ‘Producer Spotlight’ segment. Featured this week are four producers whose roles in shaping Australian hip-hop and R&B cannot be understated. West Sydney’s Domba has set himself apart from the crowd by embracing an industrial and experimental hip-hop sound that is pushing the local scene out of its comfort zone, whilst fellow Sydneysider Charlotte Adelle has been critical to the development of a stack of local acts who continue to traverse the boundaries outside of genre definitions. Western Sydney producer Willstah has solidified his name within Australia’s hip-hop history through his work with acts such as ONEFOUR, Hp Boyz and Section60, alongside North Coast “beat junky” Jay Orient who continually proves himself to be a producer unbound by a creative ceiling.
Instantly recognisable through his distinct merging of industrial hip-hop and EDM stylings, Sydney producer Domba has a presence in Australian hip-hop like no other. Whilst Domba is undeniably versatile, one is always able to recognise his work on a track, a factor which ultimately demonstrates his clear vision and artistic integrity. Rooted in esoteric soundscapes, Domba often embraces a brooding and menacing aesthetic within his production, savouring the uncanny integration of industrial hip-hop and electronic sounds over traditional musical styles. His artistic partnership with Boston-born, Sydney-based artist Raj Mahal is unlike any other in Australian hip-hop, with their stack of collaborative efforts continually proving to be ahead of their time within an Australian scene craving an unapologetically head-banging and abrasive hip-hop sound. ‘RACKS’ from Raj Mahal and Danté Knows remains one of the catchiest releases in Australian rap in recent years, with the bravado of Raj and Danté perfectly suited to the chest-thumping beat by Domba.
Producer, singer, songwriter and engineer Charlotte Adelle has been a pivotal and underrated influence on the Australian hip-hop, R&B and soul scene for some time now. Having worked with an immense array of original and unique local acts such as Chelsea Warner, ANGE, L-FRESH THE LION, Turquoise Prince and Thundamentals, Charlotte has consistently proven herself to be versatile across pop, hip-hop, R&B and electronic music. Originally hailing from Melbourne but now based in Sydney at Studios 301, Charlotte has immersed herself in the Australian scene and has been a substantial driving force for the country’s new wave of genre-bending talents. Typified by a freeform approach to her vocal production work, Charlotte displays a clear love for the classic elements of soul and R&B – namely melodies, harmonies and grooves – throughout her work. A forward-thinking musical all-rounder, Charlotte’s remarkable work has ranged from credits on L-FRESH THE LION and Mirrah’s powerful track ‘Mother Tongue’ to Turquoise Prince’s infectious ‘Gypsy Love’, which both thoroughly exhibit her musical dynamism.
North Coast producer, artist and self-described “beat junky” Jay Orient is a standout cog in the Australian hip-hop machine. Adaptable across a variety of hip-hop sounds and rap offshoots, Jay’s intent as a producer is always to elevate the energy of the listener in order to fully allow them to encompass themselves into the music. A quick scroll-through Jay’s Instagram alone will give immediate insight into the wizard production brain he possesses, where something as nondescript as a clang from a metal bottle can serve as the basis for a beat. Jay is an individual who forgoes the desire to box himself in, from his dreamy solo release ‘Elizabeth’ which speaks to his desire to make music to relieve and warm the listener’s soul, to Huskii’s ‘Cape Fear Big Wave Contest’ which showcases his love for trickling chimes and a reverberating beat. Furthermore, his work on perennial collaborator JK-47’s sole 2021 release ‘Healing’ demonstrates his capacity for balancing delicate and sensitive vocals with JK’s eloquent and introspective bars.
Despite the Australian hip-hop scene being relatively young, Grammy-nominated producer Willstah has already solidified his top-tier status within the scene in just a few years. Most notably, Willstah’s efforts to help cultivate, nurture and develop some of Australia’s finest hip-hop frontrunners – including ONEFOUR, Hp Boyz and Section60 among others – has been integral to pushing the scene’s momentum forward. His production on ONEFOUR’s ‘Home and Away’ will forever remain a historic occasion for the Australian rap scene, as it saw the Mount Druitt group continue to evolve their drill sound with i.amsolo, Khaled Rohaim and of course Willstah serving up a backbone of orchestral, cinematic music. From here though, Willstah hasn’t slowed down, with his work on ‘Roll Like That’ (which he produced alongside Brandon Jonak and Wreckah) bringing together Lisi and HP ONIT on a cruisy rap beat that allows both artists to shine. Without a doubt Willstah has been pivotal in shaping the Australian sound, and will continue to be in future.
Charlotte Adelle Photo 1 @liamwallis, Willstah Photos by @tristan_edouard, Jay Orient Photos by @joeybailey
Words by Matthew Badrov