Around the turn of the century, a handful of rap groups from Australia jumped ahead of the pack with albums that were essentially considered the full package.
It sparked a shift in the way local releases were viewed. No longer were people saying this is “good for an Australian.” The masses understood that good Hip-Hop came out of Australian culture and could hang with anyone in the world. If you ask anyone their top 5 Australian releases of all time, you will notice Lyrical Commission’s The Stage Is Set is somewhere towards the top of the majority of lists. The 43-minute release is one of the landmark releases in Hip-Hop from Melbourne and Australia, released on the highly influential Unkut Recordings label.
“Our sole focus was to be as good as Big L, Lord Finesse, O.C., Nas…” – Trem
Lyrical Commission are no strangers to the worldwide rap scene. Their members have worked on tracks with the likes of Sean Price (RIP), Action Bronson, Q-Unique, Celph Titled, DJ Revolution, Beat Butcha, Jehst and Outerspace amongst others. Rewind to December 2002, rappers Trem One, Brad Strut, Bob Balans and DJ J-Red who had all made their marks on the scene prior in their own ways had come together as a supergroup of sorts for this album and aside from a couple of songs on important compilations, this was officially the debut release. From the moment you hit play it was clear that the sound quality and production was on par with their New York contemporaries and lyrically there was no room for a weak link as all 3 MC’s made every verse count and had quotables to rival anyone else you could bring to the table. A perfect example of quality over quantity, the 14-track offering doesn’t steer off the path of good beats, good verses and good cuts and takes the listener on a journey of brash and dark sounds in a smooth and highly appealing to the ear package.
With tales of Melbourne streets on “Carlton United Tragedy” to the ode to the DJ “Custom Made” to the braggadocio battle rhymes of “Got A Problem With Balans” and “Hate The Scene”, every track was crafted to the highest standard possible. The whole record was produced in-house (primarily by Trem), giving it the continuity and consistency of some the great albums that stuck by their own producers, there was no need to chase big name production credits or guest spots. The UK’s Lil Angry Man chimes in on the Walkabout Remix as the only guest aside from the late infamous Australian criminal Mark Brandon ‘Chopper’ Read on the last skit. With additional mixdown and mastering credits to Prowla, the release is one of the best all-round albums to check if you have never heard hip-hop from Australia yet.
In the 15 years since its release, it has acted as an inspiration and a benchmark for up and comers and established artists alike and served as a gateway for a follow-up EP Murderous Metaphors and also solo albums from Brad Strut and Trem that both continued with the legacy that The Stage Is Set started. It’s still a sought-after album that fetches hundreds of dollars on the re-sale vinyl market, which is an ode and a testament to the respect that it holds with the fans.
The wheel doesn’t need to be reinvented for it to be of a high calibre. Lyrical Commission have left their lasting mark on hip-hop in Australia and beyond, inspiring a generation of emerging rappers, producers and deejays both now and well into the future to deliver Quality Over Quantity.