Late last year I spent a couple of days rolling up and down the freeway between my quiet, vanilla flavoured hilltop suburb, and The Wood, aka Woodridge, which is more of a Hilltop Hoods suburb. Indeed I was hanging out with a couple of rappers Mad Mike and Junior Finau, subjects of an SBS doco going to air on 26 Jan.
I don't do a lot of this kind of work these days, mostly because I can't escape the gravity well of Planet Parenthood. Even the few days I spent in the Wood were a challenge to fit in with everyone else's end of term schedule.
Still, I'm very glad to have had the opportunity. Columns and blogs they come and go, but this sort of work can resonate for a long time. It was a rare privlege to meet the artists too. Something else I don't do as much of these days.
Junior’s parents were forever reminding him of the sacrifices they had made to get the family to Australia, of the opportunities and future that awaited him now he was here. He repaid them early, with a 10-day suspension from school for fighting in the car park. He explains that he was protecting his cousin and his rep. Yes. He understands it was dumb.
During the interview to talk his way back into school, he told the deputy principal he was going to be school captain. Everyone laughed at him, but he turned that back on them in his final year, when he was duly elected to the position.
He heard the same laughter a few years later in court, during those wild years, when he was explaining to judge why he should go free after he’d been pursued through the city by helicopters and police dogs.
He’d gone to Southbank looking for a fight. Some homies had told him some other homies, who’d done this thing, that disrespected the other thing, they were in the city, in the tourist and entertainment precinct. Payback time. Junior was up for that, but the cops had his number. And they had helicopters and dogs. Junior’s backup was missing in action. He laughs it off, now that he can.
“People be like, ‘yeah, you a legend, bro, I got your back, I got your back for life, bro’. And I’m looking around thinking, ‘well, where the fuck are you now?’.