music | 10 november 2017

waikato raised, sydney based director Alex bradshaw travels the world shooting hip hop docos. WE GET his LOw-DOWN ON HOW this form of musical expression GIVES PEOPLE A VOICE, and how that voice differs depending on where you are in the world. 


video + photographs: alex bradshaw

words: mitch alison


Hip Hop began on the embattled streets of the Bronx where, as Jeff Chang described it, "…race riots, urban renewal, arson and government neglect wiped out educational and social service programmes, eviscerated housing stock, accelerated white flight and job loss, and created and international symbol of urban despair.” “To the uninitiated…” he continued, “…hip-hop hardly looks or sounds like a brave, new art form. It’s more like a sonic jackhammer, a visual eyesore, and a conceptual nuisance. Critics often call hip-hop materialistic, misogynistic, homophobic, racist, vulgar and violent. It’s a hot mess, the roar of total chaos.”

From the Bronx it rapidly spread around the world. Tricia Rose, in her seminal book ‘The Hip Hop Wars’, writes: Hip Hop gives a ground-level view (though not the only view, or a comprehensive view) of what it might mean to live under what are nearly warlike conditions in communities that face a myriad of daunting circumstances."  She goes on to say, Hip Hop is incredibly accessible. If you have any performing, rhyming or poetic talent – you can tell your life story, your community story, through rapping, background music and accessible means. This makes it globally significant.

In this series of Hip Hop documentaries,  Alex investigates the role Hip Hop plays around the world, from the suburbs of Sydney, to the ghettos of Kashmir and backstreets of Berlin.  


ON THE BRINK - An Australian hiphop story. Cultural Isolation can breed success!


SOUNDS OF THE PEOPLE. "It breeds a lot of rage. it breeds a lot of hopelessness. And you'll see a lot of anger in the youth of kashmir because they are the ones that take the brunt of it." 

hip-hop gives people a voice to talk about inequality within their community, so while there are fluffy stories like berlin kids smoking weed, tagging and running from the cops, the majority of the stories end up being about prejudice. 


A DAY IN BERLIN. Graffiti, Trap concerts, and parties: A day in the life of Berlin based hip-hop group Rapkreations.


MISS BLANKS. "For me, I'm a rapper first and foremost that happens to be a trans woman of colour" 


Where are you from in NZ?

Waikato te iwi! I was born in Australia but moved to Hamilton when I was in primary school. I moved back to Sydney 6 years ago.

Still of Dready Mane from On the Brink

Still of Dready Mane from On the Brink

When did you first pick up a video camera?

Quite late actually. In my 3rd year of uni, I switched my degree to film. It was the first time I'd been exposed to anything creative.

Still of Gustav from Rapkreation - A day in Berlin

Still of Gustav from Rapkreation - A day in Berlin

What’s the earliest thing you remember shooting?

Besides the horrible student projects I shot, I used to go Auckland, borrow a friend's Betacam SP and go to the Auckland domain and film birds. It was a good way to learn how to pan, focus and zoom.

Emcee Ame, Kashmir - Still image from 'Sounds Of The People'

Emcee Ame, Kashmir - Still image from 'Sounds Of The People'

What was your first paying gig behind a camera?

First paying gig behind the camera was doing B camera on a show about gardening. It was scary because the viewfinder was black and white so I didn't know what the final picture was going to look like. It worked out ok in the end.

Kashmir - Still from 'Sounds Of The People'

Kashmir - Still from 'Sounds Of The People'

In your experience how does Hip Hop culture differ around the world?

In my experience hip hop culture mirrors the environment where it is being made. People who are in the most need lean on hip hop the most, as a way to protest or shine a light on inequality.

This was evident in Kashmir India, the most militarized zone in the world, where youth make songs to protest their friend's being killed, raped and imprisoned. They lean on hip hop to try and bring about change, and in return hip hop gives them an alternative to militancy and terrorism.

"They lean on hip hop to try and bring about change, and in return hip hop gives them an alternative to militancy and terrorism."
Kwame, Sydney. Still image from 'On The Brink'

Kwame, Sydney. Still image from 'On The Brink'

This is vastly different to Berlin, where the youth I filmed spend their time making music, graffitiing, drinking and smoking weed. Berlin provides a supportive environment for young artists to flourish. It's party music. Hip hop is used to bring people together to have fun.

Australia is a little different because of racism. A lot of the young African, Australian kids have to regularly deal with racism growing up. Hip hop gives them positive black role models in a place where they are culturally isolated.

Miss Blanks

Miss Blanks

What's it like shooting in a foreign country? Particularly in a place like Kashmir?  What do you need to be aware of? And how does Kashmir differ from Sydney for example?

When filming in a foreign country, you just have to be smart and trust your intuition about whether situations are safe or not. People told me I shouldn't go to Kashmir because of unrest and terrorism. A lot of the time, people judge safety through their limited worldview or biases when in reality, people have more similarities than differences. Kashmiri people I actually found to be the most hospitable people I've met. I felt absolutely safe. One thing that did worry me though was when I was told by one of the artists that if Indian officials knew I had been filming them, they would take my footage. They were worried about me but it worked out. My advice is to keep a low profile, be respectful and trust your gut. I've found that if I smile and laugh with people, they pick up that vibe and end up letting you film what you want. 

Different countries have different rules. I actually think Sydney is the most difficult place to shoot in the world because you need a permit to shoot basically everywhere. Las Vegas is really bad and also hot tourist spots like the Colosseum or Taj Mahal. People just want money. Whenever you are you just have a solid shooting plan or shoot with a really small camera like a DSLR or an iPhone guerilla styles :)

I just love learning about people around the world. Actually, my next overseas hip hop doco will be in New Zealand!

Alex Bradshaw doing what he does best.

Alex Bradshaw doing what he does best.


 Capacite TV:  Facebook

 Alex's Website: 



Capacite TV: @capacitetv

MC Kash: @mc_kash

Aamir Ame: @aamir.ame

Shayan Nabi: @Shayannabi

Mir Imaad: @Music_husteer

Miss Blanks: @miss.blanks

RAPKREATION: @rapkreation

Big Skeez: @big.skeez

Yung Dready Mane: @yungdreadymane



#rap #rapper #rapmusic #alexbradshaw #profile #interview #beats #newmusic #trans #transgender #pansexual #berlin #sydney #kashmir #jammuandkashmir #srinagar #rapkreation #capacitetv #mckash #instamusic #documentary #documentaryphotography #photojournalism #reportage #reportagespotlight #newzealand #loandbehold #loandbeholdnz #newmediafromthenewworld


share this