Record labels come and go — that’s just the way it works, especially for many of the independent labels out there. However, to be a presence across multiple decades and in multiple countries is a milestone reserved for a select few. Enter Nuffsaid Records.
The Melbourne-based imprint has been home to raw underground hip-hop since 1993, way before radio play, most national tours, video clips and even CDs really entered the hip-hop landscapes Down Under. Nuffsaid Records implemented its strong international reputation by working with the likes of Esoteric of Czarface, DJ Kool Herc, Milano, Psycho Les of The Beatnuts, DJ Noize from Denmark, Murs, the UK’s Mark B (RIP), Skinnyman and British hip-hop producer Mr. Thing. Outside of label releases, NS artists released further international collaborations with the likes of Thirstin Howl III — a winner of The Source‘s Unsigned Hype Award back in 1997 — Rack-Lo, MF Grimm, and Celph Titled, along with albums from New Jersey’s own Shawn Lov and South African wordsmith Tumi.
Above everything though, Nuffsaid provided a key link to the development of quality hip-hop music in Australia that can never be understated. The first few years of the label’s existence saw the release of four important cassettes: Prowla’s debut Tha Prowls and MC Que’s Telling It Like It Is in 1995, followed in 1996 by Prowla’s sophomore LP Recognition and Raise’s Tha Essence — our first introduction to Rob Natrule, Trem and Bob Balans of the now legendary Lyrical Commission crew. The DIY work ethic and no-frills marketing really set the tone of Nuffsaid as one with no gimmicks or filters to hide behind. It was straight up rap music for pure rap heads.
1997 was a significant level up for both the label and hip-hop music in Australia, when Prowla released his LP Money Walks. Prowla, along with Dedlee and Jase behind the boards, shaped the sound of what the Nuffsaid logo went on to represent as a quintessential part of Australian hip-hop listening. It also marked the year Prowla started to receive recognition overseas, as a young Boston duo by the name of 7L & Esoteric (now members of Czarface with Wu-Tang’s Inspectah Deck) released “Protocol” to his production credit.
Nuffsaid has always had a close relationship with the graffiti world, predating the days before the label was even a tangible business. But in 1999, they released Rock Da City, an 11-track compilation record that coincided with a limited edition magazine showcasing the work of various graffiti writers. This compilation made waves through the country and played host to Dedlee’s “32 Lines” – a track so revered that Suffa of the Hilltop Hoods eventually re-flipped it as a tribute on the Golden Era Records Mixtape in 2013.
By the turn of the decade, it was clear that this label wasn’t a flash in the pan by any means. Nuffsaid went on to release the first two solo projects by producer Plutonic Lab, who now handles tour drummer duties for the ultra-successful Hilltop Hoods. Plutonic pushed boundaries as far as sampling and sound use is concerned, particularly with Give Me Sabotage Shell (2001) and Collision Of Days (2004). Both were some of the first instrumental hip-hop albums to gain notoriety in the local scene, with help from Nuffsaid’s guerilla style of marketing that included samplers, split EPs and compilations distributed to graffiti and hip-hop stores around the country. As a result, fans were the first to know when up-and-coming releases would drop, like the two-part 2005 compilation series In Case You Didn’t Know / Now You Know that featured Nuffsaid regulars and assorted guests both national and international.
In 2005, the shift in Australia hip-hop from niche to mainstream was well underway. Radio stations were picking up albums and singles, video clips were being put into production, and acts were touring on festival bills. In the midst of it all, one of the countries most decorated and well-known battle MCs was getting ready to release his debut LP. Delta dropped The Lostralian in 2006 through Nuffsaid, giving the label yet another historic benchmark alongside UK producer Mark B. The album featured UK legend Skinnyman, L.A. underground head-of-state Murs and a closing posse cut that saw Prowla back on the microphone with Trem and Motion. The label also put out Delta’s next two albums that featured D.I.T.C.-affiliate Milano, Psycho Les of The Beatnuts, M-Phazes (producer for Eminem, Talib Kweli and Logic), Lazy Grey and more. Delta has gone on to release two more albums on Nuffsaid, with a fourth currently in the works.
In the 20-plus years that Nuffsaid has been releasing music, the label has raised the bar several times over and proved that you don’t need “the next big thing”; you just need consistently dope product. You would be hard-pressed to find an established Australian artist that doesn’t somehow fit into this web as either a collaborator or a fan, and the output has definitely influenced your favorite acts.
The pioneering Nuffsaid Records will forever be one of the most respected, important and ultimately influential music labels to emerge from Australia.