Straight outta Inverell, making good on the promise he’s been touting for years, hip hop artist DukeBox Bailey is psyched to announce the release of his debut LP Big Kitty Life. As the news breaks that he’s been invited to play this year’s Woodford Festival, and freshly signed with respected Queensland Indigenous label Impossible Odds, DukeBox spits his original rhymes with trusty side man Terse MC, unafraid to ruminate on the largess of capitalism and materialism and the microcosm of life in a small town. His lyrics speak of a man much older than his 23 years, dealing with issues affecting him and his community and his view of the world.
DukeBox has been on the hip hop scene for almost a decade, appearing with N-Sayne Entertainment and later forming the Vital Heights duo before branching out on his own to create debut EP What’s In The Box. Featuring Indigenous hip hop pioneer Munkimuk, Deadly Award-winning Stiff Gins and legendary blues guitarist Buddy Knox the EP was termed a “powerful introduction to his solo career” and saw DukeBox, a proud Birri-Gubba/Tanna Islander man, play Yabun in Sydney the past two years for the annual Yabun festival.
Bounce hints at the depth showcased on the debut LP: while working with Radical Son, DJ Ntarprize and Indigenous hip hop pioneer, Munkimuk, this album solidifies DukeBox’s place as a super-talented rising star. It’s not been a straight up trajectory. Named Duke Wayne Bailey by his John Wayne-mad mum, Duke was raised by his grandparents when his early home life fell apart.
Although strengthened by the steady hand and care of his nan and pop, Duke Bailey openly admits he “was pretty wild as a kid – just pretty angry. A lot of things fell into place when I discovered my Indigenous heritage and now I’m taking that journey to meet family and walk on country. Music has basically been my saviour. It’s given me the opportunity to express myself, tell my stories and become a better, saner person.”
The depth of discovery about his ancestry opened up a lot of new concepts and paths for Duke. He has organised and taken part in community events and activities ranging from the first-ever Summer Sun Youth Fest to the Love Bites Domestic Violence program and Kick the Habit smoking campaign as well as many charity events throughout NSW.
Balancing his musical output and goals as DukeBox with his work as a direct care worker and teacher’s aide, Duke works hard in his community of northern NSW and is also utilised as a role model, songwriting workshop facilitator and community capacity building engineer for various organisations around the country. Kicking stereotypes to the wall, he’s taken the higher mantel, waxing lyrical about being a strong black man of Australia and champion of youth empowerment.
Big Kitty Life is out now.