by Carlin Doyle
Oakbridge is an Aussie hip-hop artist who is unafraid to represent Jesus, hip-hop music and the Australian hip-hop community.
Signed with Krosswerdz Recordings, Oakbridge’s new 7 track EP Ever Present brings wisdom with age and experience from 20 years as an emcee, as well as a distinctly Australian underground feel musically.
What first struck me about Oakbridge’s EP was how distinctly Australian it was; from the hard-hitting intro track Jericho ft. Rezadent, it is easy to notice the integrity in Oak’s roots (see what I did there?). Ever Present has an acoustic hip-hop style and Oakbridge doesn’t shy away from his Aussie accent. The EP is beat-heavy, yet not in an electronic or gangster trap sounding way. Each track blares acoustic drums, bass-piano riffs and occasionally trumpets. I love the combination and it works well to give it a distinct underground, more classic hip-hop feel.
The intro track Jericho ft. Rezadent jumps straight into a heavy beat where Oakbridge and Rezadent share their frustration; rapping with a purpose to bring change, yet in a genre that largely lacks integrity. Oakbridge shares, “And we’re still trying to break down these walls like it’s Jericho, but it’s moving very slow, sit back do nothing, more scary though – round and round like a merry go, the cycle that many know – we chip away at change with a steady flow”.
Oakbridge uses great word play that is not afraid to play around the emphases of his Aussie accent. He uses the inflections and syllables of Australian English to form his verses, something that Australian artists might be tempted to shy away from. He also has a number of Aussie guest features that share some solid verses.
In Look Like ft. Jabs, Oakbridge and guest rapper Jabs deliver excellent lyricism that fits perfectly over an upbeat, trumpet-blaring track. They discuss their uncertainty about the future, “The future’s coming – what’s that look like? If you’re doing what you should… does that mean you’re guaranteed a good life?”
Both “Oaks and Jabs” give brilliant flows sharing their own uncertainty about the future, but it doesn’t end in anxiety. It ends with resting in God’s sovereign control over all things. Jabs shares a line that struck me, and I don’t think I’ve heard anyone say before – “The recession was a blessing if you’re thinking my way”. That is a big and perhaps confronting statement, but wonderfully true in light of God’s sovereignty. Our security in life doesn’t come from our countries’ economic prosperity, but in Jesus’ sovereign care, and peace comes when we seek his kingdom. This was my favourite track on the EP.
His lyrics sound mature with age; he combines clever messages with cryptic flows about Christian living, though some are a little hard to understand. He addresses a number of topics: Can of Worms has some great nuggets of wisdom in it, a loving rebuke to hip-hop culture, with a desire to see it honouring to God.
Chambers of Captivity examines sin making us slaves and the freedom found in Jesus. Sometimes It’s Necessary ft. Marksman Lloyd reflects on suffering and the role it plays in our lives.
Train of Thought ft. Mz-Tanz combines a story of a literal train ride with a metaphor of Oakbridge’s “train of thought” into anxiety. He states, “Often my mind is a mixed up concoction of hopes and fears, inspirations, regrets, if I’m on track or not and what station is next”. It’s a clever rhyme that expresses his struggle to keep his mind centred on reality. To find peace in God rather than wandering anxiously in his mind is a struggle that he faces daily.
Truth Be Told pt. 2 is a celebration of his marriage, a long story-like description of his wedding day. He reflects on the joy and celebration and thanks God for the gift of marriage.
Musically the underground feel does have its drawbacks. While I love the blaring trumpets and fat acoustic drums, sometimes it does seem a little clustered and over-layered, and at times repetitive. As well as this, I did stumble over the Aussie accent; Oakbridge’s accent is particularly strong and it made it difficult sometimes to understand all of his cryptic lyrics.
Overall, lyrically and musically, Oakbridge’s Ever Present has a feel of integrity to it; As a Christian, as an Australian, and as an Australian hip-hop artist, Oakbridge’s lyrics and musical style aren’t copying mainstream. It doesn’t seek to imitate American styles or lyrics, or pretend to be these. Instead, it highlights God’s faithfulness in the life of an Australian Christian man. I give Ever Present three out of five stars.
Ever Present by Oakbridge is available now on Bandcamp.