The state of Australian music is no longer one-note. Thank god. Anyone that's had their ear to the ground these past few years will have heard the shift for themselves. Hip Hop is finally having its day in the sun, and rap is getting the recognition it deserves, most importantly its being made by local talent.
Championing this shift is the newly minted radio platform CADA. Having launched in March, the station has quickly built a reputation as Australia's new home of R&B and Hip Hop, with some of the country's most exciting voices attached to the platform. If you've tuned in, you've definitely heard from Dijok and Soju Gang.
Both successful DJ's in their own right, the two have joined forces for your listening pleasure. Their show PENG airs every Thursday night, from 6pm to 8pm, where Dijok and Soju Gang take listeners on a sonic tour of Hip Hop and R&B and its many interpretations across the globe. Together they go deep to unearth a delicious mix of freshly shucked tracks, with a heavy focus on Afrobeat, Afrofusion, Afroswing, Dancehall and Reggaeton.
Here at RUSSH we caught up with Dijok and Soju Gang to talk about their show PENG and the changing soundscape of Australian music. Below the pair open up about their synergy as hosts, the Australian designers they've loving and the artist that will always get them up and dancing.
What's the first thing we should know about you?
Dijok: I am not as intimidating as I look. I promise.
Soju: The first thing you should know about me is that I’m a talker. I can talk to anybody (which includes myself) about anything for the longest time.
How did you get involved with CADA?
Soju: I actually got involved with CADA via Dijok…
Dijok: A few years ago I DJ’d at the inaugural Red Bull Music festival in Melbourne. Our current head of content at CADA, Marty Doyle, was working at Red Bull and booked me for SIMMA – a party dedicated to Afrobeats, Hip Hop and Dancehall. The lineup included DJ’s/Artists that were championing and driving the Afro-Caribbean sound in Australia. The event was a hit and left us all feeling inspired and driven to continue our work in pushing this sound in Australia. It was a much needed platform to enable Afrobeats/Dancehall to be recognised in the wider Australian music scene. Fast forward a few years and it all came full circle when Marty reached out to me to be a part of CADA. A station dedicated to Hip Hop, R&B and all its subgenres. This was really exciting for me as it meant that I now had a national, multi-platform vessel in which I could continue to share the sounds I love.
When it came to thinking about who I wanted to do a show with, I immediately thought of Soju. She's someone that has always been an inspiration to me in the way she carries herself through life and her career: with love, poise and authenticity. From then, PENG was born.
What do you think the station adds to the Australian music landscape?
Dijok: I believe what CADA adds to the Australian music landscape is a fresh and exciting new way to listen to radio. Not only is the station multi-platform but the content is relatable and relevant. The station has, in the grandest way, added a much needed element to the Australian music scene. The CADA team directly reflects the community, something that is so important to us, and we think is important for our audience – they can see themselves represented and heard.
Soju: I think it’s hard to deny R&B and Hip Hop’s position in the world not just on a music playing field but as a genre as a part of culture and community.
There is so much art that imitates real life (and vice versa) when it comes to Hip Hop and how it is seamlessly intertwined with not only people's history here in this country, but also as a form of inclusion and love as well. Music really does bring others together in so many different ways.
How do you think the concept of ‘Australian music’ has changed in the past five years?
Dijok: If you had asked me 5 years ago what I thought Australian music was, I would immediately land at the alternative, indie-rock realm. While I believe Australia is diverse musically – many genres have stayed underground and niche while others like Rock, Indie & EDM have remained in the spotlight and as drivers of Australian music.
The concept of Australian music has become more eclectic, opening up space for other genres to thrive and rise from their dormant states. We have always mirrored America and the UK when it comes to our music taste and I feel like through exclusively supporting Hip Hop/R&B acts from abroad, we have hindered the same kind of music from rising in our own backyard. Five years ago I could see that the only time an Australian Hip Hop or R&B or Pop artist would be appreciated is when they left and gained traction overseas. Once the world followed, Australia would follow. I’m happy to see that this notion has changed. As a nation, we are gaining much more independence musically – there's been more of a focus on local talent which has opened up space for development and a much needed rejuvenation to our music scene.
Why do you think R&B and Hip Hop are getting a mainstream platform in Australia now?
Dijok: I believe that there are many factors at play when it comes to the rise of Hip Hop and R&B in Australia. What I recognise the most is the rapidly growing local talent pool of amazing producers and artists making Hip Hop and R&B music. As with any genre of music there's always going to be an incubation period that starts with inspiration first (America, UK etc), then development and most importantly recalibration of cultural themes within the music to fit with what is happening locally. The end result is what we're seeing now with a lot of the music being released. Hip Hop and R&B reimagined, transcended and filtered through Aussie culture.
Take Western Sydney’s ONEFOUR rise to stardom – we never knew Drill until they pioneered the sound in their own way. They paved the way for so many other Hip Hop artists and were a big catalyst in re-sparking the Australian Hip Hop/Rap scene. I’m seeing this pattern in the R&B and Afro-caribbean scenes. All in all, I think this shows that in order for any genre of music to gain traction in a new market we first must appreciate and uplift our local artists. As humans we gravitate towards what is familiar and relevant to us. Hip Hop, R&B and all its sub-genres are being championed so authentically by our local creatives and I believe this is one of the big reasons why these genres are making their way to a more mainstream position now.
Can you tell me about your show PENG?
Dijok: The most beautiful thing about music is that while many genres can be traced back to their origins, they have traveled the world many times over. Re-imagined and evolved in every new country/city it courses through. From this sub-genres are born.
PENG is all about discovering and uncovering these branches of Hip Hop and R&B. With a big focus on Afrobeats, Afrofusion, Afroswing, Dancehall and Reggaeton. Something that has always been very important to me as a DJ is ensuring my sets are not only fun and lively but also allow for new music discovery. While we will be bopping to some known classics in the studio, expect to be taken away by the array of quality talent both locally and globally. It’s so exhilarating to see how a genre is influenced by culture – breaking out further and further each time it passes through a new nation. What you can expect when you listen to PENG is a unique auditory adventure all around the world.
Soju: PENG originally was about looking at very specific sub-genres of Hip Hop and R&B that included Afrobeats, Afro, Reggae, etc. But as Dijok and I are both big lovers of music, we wanted to open that up even more and explore Hip Hop and its sub-genres globally. PENG to me is about opening up people to how Hip Hop has made its mark all over the world, and how that sound and practice (as an art form) has been shaped by other experiences and cultures.
What are your star signs? Do you relate to them?
Soju: I am a Capricorn and I have no idea what that means.
Dijok: Aries. I’m not too big on star signs but have been curious from time to time. From what I know, being an Aries means you’re ambitious, an innovator, unique, fierce and relentless when it comes to pursuing anything. In some ways, I can relate to some of the traits. I feel like the more I'm coming into myself the more I see that fiery ram within me.
How do you two complement each other?
Soju: Dijok and I have had a history that has crossed over so many times in the past couple years and I think that plays a big part in who we are and how we work together. I really do believe that we gravitate towards people who are not just like us but that sort of carry the same values in life and, for me and Dijok, I think that rings true.
Dijok: We both have individual strengths that we excel at and I feel like in moments where I may be lacking, Soju is able to pick me up and vice versa. For instance, Soju is a big talker – I can be at times but there's other times I may need someone or something to spark it in me. Soju can do that for me 100% of the time. Taking on our role at CADA has been a very big step for both of us as it's a completely new world. Having come from similar backgrounds in music, fashion, events and just being bad bitches, it's really solidified our partnership in PENG. We’re two Peng Black girls destined for greatness. Together.
Is there a song or artist that will always get you up and dancing?
Soju: My all time favourite artist that will get me out of the chair wherever is obviously the illustrious, the Queen, Ms Whitney Houston.
Do you have any style icons?
Soju: My style icons vary but it is very 80s and 90s influenced. As a kid I really loved Will Smith and Salt N Pepa, and what crews like Public Enemy, NWA, Bad Boy Records and Lil’ Kim used to wear. But on the other side of that I also loved Lisa Bonet, Outkast and Janet Jackson too, who had more Afrocentric/Afro-futuristic/earthy styles. But also people like Michael Jordan, Dennis Rodman and Busta Rhymes had some hugely iconic looks as well. I guess it’s all the spectrums of streetwear – and how people made it their own.
Dijok: I am my own style icon.
Are there any local designers that you’re loving at the moment?
Dijok: YES! Khirzad Femme (Perth, WA). If I was a fashion brand, I would be Khirzad Femme. This brand through its eclectic designs define what it is to be elegant, flamboyant and confident. Her designs are all about complimenting and highlighting the female form. Flowy fabrics, high slits, bold colours etc. I'm obsessed. The ever fabulous Afghan-Australian Mariam Seddiq, A brand dedicated to empowering women through carefully thought out designs. Bold shoulders, daring colours, tailored silhouettes are all elements that bring power to whoever is wearing MS. I will forever be in awe of MS. OBIRI, An upcoming fashion house reigning from the streets of Sydney led by Ghanaian designer Obi. OBIRI teased its first collection recently through a gallery showcase and the pieces were divine. The brand has already positioned itself as grassroots lead by music, culture and the people. I’m intrigued and very much looking forward to securing some pieces once they launch. Apres Studio, A Melbourne-based brand with ethics and respect for the environment at the forefront of its minds. SUPER important. I love their exploration of texture, colour and the creation of timeless pieces.
What’s been inspiring you and your world?
Soju: Just being thankful. Thankful for the people in my life. The opportunities I have. The lessons I have to learn from my L’s. And giving time and space to reflect and rest.
Dijok: Traveling. There's nothing that inspires and opens up my mind the way traveling does. Experiencing new cultures, meeting new people and just appreciating the vastness of this world.