We wanted to meet as many kids around Australia as possible and collect their stories. Telling the stories of Australians is what the National Museum of Australia is responsible for and that includes the stories of young people, not just famous people, celebrities or explorers.
The Museum also wants to use creative ways to collect stories. Hip hop was perfect for this. In its simplest form, hip hop is spoken word set to a beat, which allows for the telling of rich stories, opinions and perspectives.
Once we knew we were using hip hop we needed to get the best artists on board. Morganics and Wire MC have worked across Australia and have been involved in many projects. We were very excited when they agreed to go on tour. Video artist Finton Mahony was the icing on the cake. He agreed to shoot the music videos. The challenge was huge.
Our team of Museum staff and hip hop artists then set off on a gruelling two months on the road, visiting seven locations in six states and territories, recording rap songs with around 1600 young people from over 60 schools. We reached kids as far north as Saibai Island and from as far south as Tasmania.
The team travelled first to Weipa, Queensland in the Top End - a humid and scenic location that gave us an opportunity to work with many students from Cape York Peninsula and the Torres Strait Islands.
In individual 45-minute sessions, groups of young people were asked to workshop ideas and develop eight lines of lyrics to a pre-prepared rhythm. These were then recorded and filmed. The next group would then add their lyrics and so on creating a kind of hip hop chain letter.
Fourteen original songs were recorded and from these seven music videos were created featuring the young people involved. The diversity of students, both Indigenous and non-Indigenous, and their experiences are reflected in the lyrics to their rap songs. These lyrics include recordings in English, Creole (kriol), pidgin and their local languages.
It was a huge challenge and the result is remarkable. The young people showed extraordinary ability to work together and share their stories.
All schools received copies of the CD and DVD, with a 22-page full-colour booklet, as a box set.