Djarmbi Supreme: Changing scenery, keeping up a persona, and winding up rednecks
Updated: Jun 3, 2019
Djarmbi Supreme is a guitar player and lapsed rapper. He was born in Gladstone, (Queensland) and raised in Warrnambool, Portland, and finally Melbourne (Victoria) where he currently resides. Djarmbi has released four mixtapes, an EP, and an album as a rapper, juxtaposing piss-taking hilarity, scholarly references, and unflinching brutality, all beset by lo-fi production and unexpected visuals. There are levels upon levels to the lyrics and the persona. His music is not for the surface listener or those offended by abrasive language. Djarmbi is now putting together music as the guitar player of the new Melbourne-based band 'Grey Mare'. He is also a serial agitator, dedicated advocate for fellow Aboriginal Australians, the creator of the ubiquitous 'Black Flag' clothing design, and one-time sparring partner of Australia's most shook man, Andrew Bolt. Djarmbi is one of the more unique characters of independent music. So where does he get his fire from, and how does music fit in with who he is? Djarmbi Supreme speaks to BEAT CONTEXT.
Music in the house
We had a lot of music in the house growing up. It was an important thing. Tonnes of records, and super diverse. We learnt about playing songs and making mixtapes, then I was given a fucked old nylon string when I was about 8 or 9 and started figuring out that making music is pretty good too. I taught myself how to play drums on a pile of cardboard boxes and buckets. I taught myself how to make beat loops on Windows Audio Recorder. And I used to make little songs that way. The first rap song I ever made was a remixed version of So Fresh by Will Smith. I chopped out Will and Biz and made it just Slick Rick and me. I spent a lot of time just mucking around with music and recording.
‘…my step-dad had a few radio shows, and he was always putting sets together
and making mixtapes. He’s a DJ now still…’
My family built me as a music lover, and an artist, my whole childhood. We went to heaps of gigs, and we had an extensive music collection at home. My step-dad had a few radio shows, and he was always putting sets together and making mixtapes. He’s a DJ now still. I think I was about 10 when I got my first guitar...I started lessons and became a guitar kid. That was that. I eventually got upgraded to one of those Samick Strat starter packs and as soon as I found distortion and feedback all the good rock n roll I’d heard my whole life seemed like a shining pathway... so I learned every Greenday song haha.
‘…I’m searching for those hours I spent as a kid in the bush
who built a drum kit out of buckets and boxes…’
Throughout childhood, my youth, and now as a grown man, I’ve kept music as a place to go. It’s an environment I can disappear into, with a language I can use to speak to myself. I’ve never wanted to speak to others, but sometimes people tell me I’ve said or done something in art that has spoken to them, and I guess that’s pretty cool. Even if it’s not the goal. I’m doing it for me. I’m searching for those hours I spent as a kid in the bush who built a drum kit out of buckets and boxes. Or the day I found out about Tom Morello and realised I could just fucking play guitar in any way. Or hearing Ras Kass Soul on Ice and being completely tripped out by the intelligence. It’s these emotional milestones that I seek. Just a visit.
A change of scenery
‘…just can’t be fucked doing this selfish shit at the moment…’
I’m barely active with hip hop these days. Putting my energy into playing guitar and working. I play rock n roll I suppose. Got a new band going. I’ve always hated the scene. It’s a pile of shit. I just made heaps of rap songs and got to a point where it didn’t feel hard enough. I’ve got heaps of tracks recorded and sitting on Flu’s hard drive. A stack of demos in my Dropbox. Just can’t be fucked doing this selfish shit at the moment... being a rapper is a selfish process. It’s all about the individual. With a few exceptions. I’ve loved that aspect of it as an escape method, but now I want to make music as a group… I want to make music. As an activity. An event. I’ve played guitar since I was about 9, but left it alone for years. Now I’m back in love with it and remembering why I first became a guitar kid…it’s just a more collaborative process where nobody is in charge. It’s a six piece and we all have a say. I want to see what they all think of my ideas, then improve the ideas. And I want their ideas, so I can work with them too. Writing lyrics and choosing beats is so fkn simple, I just stopped being satisfied by it. I used to spend hours just writing challenging and conceptual rhymes, but I ran out of challenges and started writing nothing but over-complicated shit.
'...maybe I’ll change my name again and start fresh...'
The scene is just a wanking competition. I can’t do it. I love to support my friends and watch them killing it, but I’m not trying to be that cunt anymore. Not for now anyway. Maybe I’ll change my name again and start fresh.
NOT WHAT YOU EXPECTED
'...I’ve built a persona and an identity in music that isn’t exactly me IRL, and I’ve done that on purpose...'
I remember when I moved to the city I got introduced to the Rigorous boys and one of them said “man I expected you to be a huge black dude!”, coz I have fair skin and at that time I was like 70kg from a 24/7 bong habit. These days I’m 100kg and covered in tattoos and my hair is long as fuck and I actually think people get it more haha. But yeah heaps of rednecks can’t handle how Black I am compared to how black my skin isn’t. Plus, I’ve built a persona and an identity in music that isn’t exactly me IRL, and I’ve done that on purpose. It’s a character platform that lets me switch on and off. It’s me. It’s all me. But it’s not the complete me, or the me who has an important career. In actual fact, it was a while ago now, and I chose anonymity as a way of deleting my previous work and affiliations, because I wanted a clean slate. But now I’m less worries about remaining anonymous, and more interested in just maintaining a simple delineation between this artistic endeavour and my professional life. Although fucken heaps of people know about it, and understand it.
'...I’ve deleted as much as possible,
simply because it was full of problematic language and it was pretty toxic.
These days, I’m still not exactly Michael Bublé,
but I’ve matured and progressed...'
I’m not exactly playing the same persona these days either. When I started, I was a full on alcoholic on a self-destruction trajectory. All the music and public behaviour then was brutal and just fucking juvenile. I’ve deleted as much as possible, simply because it was full of problematic language and it was pretty toxic. These days, I’m still not exactly Michael Bublé, but I’ve matured and progressed to a more intellectual and more progressive place. In my professional career I’m a recognised smart person and advocate. And the recent music reflects that, but it’s where I channel the aggression and mental health issues that have no place to go at work. It has actually become a pretty good balance. Although I’m not writing raps lately. The guitar is doing the job for now.
Operating in two worlds
'...someone with street smarts needs to be behind the scenes too...'
My work is social research and consultancy. It spans a lot of areas but essentially my expertise is in evaluating and redesigning Aboriginal-specific programs and services. It’s a senior national role, and something I generally keep separate from the Djarmbi profile, although it’s all a big part of who I am and what I do. I worked in education and health. With kids, teachers, families, health staff, patients, etc. and just always leaned toward investigation and analysis. Advocacy through evaluation and system change. It’s just where my talents fell. I prefer to be frontline as much as possible but someone with street smarts needs to be behind the scenes too.
‘…. I tend to blur the lines sometimes when I annoy the conservatives online…’
I tend to blur the lines sometimes when I annoy the conservatives online, who assume I’m just some nobody Aboriginal rap guy on the Internet, but I’ll usually be sitting somewhere performing complex research informing large-scale systemic change whilst calling someone a dog dick cunt on Twitter. My boss called me a trailblazer. I managed to annoy Andrew Bolt a few years ago by posting an open letter to him saying some funny shit. He found me because I’d replied to Aunty Marcia Langton on Twitter when she announced she was going on Q&A with him. I wrote “Oooh flog him, Aunt!”, and of course the wankers chose to take it literally. So all my posts got read and he wrote an article about me, and it had all the usual racist taunts and calls for his legions of losers (The Bolt-Ons) to attack me. It lasted a couple of weeks. They didn’t even get close to harming me. All the weak death threats and racist abuse. Water X Duck’s Back. Piece of piss… The intellectual quality of the Status Quo Hegemony is simultaneously an absolute joy and a fucking curse. Stupid arseholes with power.
‘…all these frothing gnashing rednecks trying to come for me…’
The Bolt thing was fucken fun. I get energy from that shit. All these frothing gnashing rednecks trying to come for me, thinking they were gonna destroy me or something. Only to realise I was enjoying it. It was a real blast. It always is. They (the stupid arsehole white supremacist loser babies) think they’re really clever, but they’re predictable and just fucking pissweak. There’s heaps of them in the hip hop scene too, if you scratch the surface. All these stagnant and bland white dudes who’ve lost all relevance and influence. The only place they’re got to turn to now is the festering shadows of the internet, with their cowardly loser role models supplying constant streams of incorrect garbage masked as philosophy, scrawled on a crusty bed sheet and sticky taped to a Tiki torch…
'...EVERYONE in the scene knows who these fuckheads are.
And pretty much NOBODY does anything about it...'
I accept that there will always be arseholes and rednecks. Always. But, what I really fucking hate is the fact that EVERYONE in the scene knows who these fuckheads are. And pretty much NOBODY does anything about it. As if an Ostrich Complex is a satisfactory solution for systemic racism and general bigotry. Must be nice to have the choice to just ignore that shit…They need to be stopped. I don’t care if they’ve got issues. That broadcasted hate is pure poison.
Djarmbi Supreme was kind enough to play what he describes as 'a psychedelic trip...through a bin' for BEAT CONTEXT. Enjoy!
You can listen to Djarmbi Supreme's music HERE. Well, that which he hasn't deleted from the internet anyway.