Yung MCs

30 May 2012 | 8:45 am | Chris Yates

Tjimba Possum Burns is one half of Indigenous rap duo Yung Warriors. He talks to Chris Yates about the massively important role hip hop can have in the lives of young Indigenous Australians.

Tjimba and his brother D-Boy are making big waves as Yung Warriors, and are excited about bringing their music to audiences throughout Australia. Extensive touring, and the release of their new album Standing Strong is helping them do exactly that. The album is being released on Essendon AFL player Nathan Lovett-Murray's label Payback.

“Do you know hard it was to get a studio when we first wanted to record?” Tjimba asks rhetorically. “Especially in Melbourne, where it's not what you know, it's who you know. Nathan approached me and said, 'Man do you want to get this label together?' and it just kind of happened out of that little idea. Yeah, Nathan has been a big help, we used to go to school together and he's a brother for life, you know? He wanted to get some independent advice about music, and he's clearly a business-minded dude and I know a lot about music so we were sort of teaching each other. Everything just sort of went from there about three years ago. It spins me out with Nathan – he does the business side of things and he plays football, and he's always out in his community as well.”

With family and community being such important parts of Indigenous Australian culture, it's not surprising that Tjimba is well and truly aware of the impact that positive role models can have on the younger generation. He says it's also nice to be acknowledged by his elders, even if it's via the unconventional means of hip hop.

“I come from a close-knit family with kinship values, and it's always about respect,” he says. “We get a lot of elders coming up to us and going, 'You know we don't like hip hop, but we like what you're saying and we can hear what you're saying,' and that makes you proud, having the elders come up to you like that – you know you're doing something right. We do a lot of workshops and stuff for the young ones because they're the next generation. When you get little kids coming up to you saying that you're their hero – I just can't explain the feeling.”

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Tjimba's generation certainly didn't have Indigenous Australians in hip hop to inspire them, although he still got into the music at a young age. “When I first heard Tupac I was in class,” he continues. “One of my boys brought it to me, I was still young as. Before that I was into NWA and that, but Tupac took it to the next level. Then I started to listen to where it really came from, like New York, learning about the producers and their sounds. But it all started with 'Pac.”

It must have been a real kick for the Yung Warriors when they were invited to collaborate with Tupac's old crew Outlawz? “Oh definitely man, I felt like that was a sign,” he says excitedly. “They taught us a lot of things. They were doing a show at Sydney, and people didn't come. They didn't promote it properly. I got on the net and contacted them to see if they wanted to do a show in Melbourne and they were just up for it. We were spinning out that we actually got them to say yes! And what a privilege too, to learn stuff from those guys. It's like, they would write something down, put the paper down, go straight in the booth and 'boom boom'!” Tjimba laughs. “It's their culture and it was just such a good experience being around them.”