By Kate Wilson
I remember the day Hunter died.
As an avid Triple J listener in 2011, the news of the death of a respected Aussie rapper was impossible to miss.
Tributes rolled in on the radio and on YouTube from a hip-hop community celebrating the life and legacy of one of their own. Hunter was admired by fans and fellow rappers, especially in the final rounds of his fight with cancer.
The documentary, Hunter for the Record, is one of the films showing for free at Bunbury Library this weekend as part of annual film festival, Cinefest Oz.
The first part of the doco was an introduction to Robert Hunter through interviews with various hip-hop artists and a few of his family and friends. Hunter grew up in Yokine and joined Perth's small hip-hop scene around 1994 when he was in his late teens. He was part of establishing Perth hip-hop collective Syllabolix (SBX), and became notorious for his somewhat bogan-ish demeanour, his distinctively Aussie voice and his unashamedly honest lyrics about crime, drugs and Perth life in general.
There's a lot of great footage in the film of hip-hop gigs from the 90s right through to Hunter's last gigs in 2011. I found it really interesting that the basic vibe of live Aussie hip-hop hasn't changed much in the last decade and a half; it's still predominantly a bunch of sweaty, boozy, hyperactive men yelling and putting their hands in the air. The essence of rap is a passion and intensity that has a very powerful effect. As a poet, I'm fully aware of the way spoken words can make a room echo with meaning. Add a beat and you have the recipe for an explosive experience. But I digress.
I'm not full bottle on my cinematographic lingo, so forgive me if I don't have the right words for the parts of a film, but I've never seen a documentary that changes style so much from the exposition to the main body of the story. After meeting this outgoing, wild and free rapper through interviews and friends' videos, we then step directly into Hunter's personal world when we're introduced to footage from his own video camera, with which he began to blog in 2010 shortly after finding out about his fatal tumors.
What struck me throughout the film was Hunter's honesty. He spoke openly about his experiences, filmed various parts of his treatment, and shared the way his perspective on life changed when he knew his days were numbered. For me the most touching videos were the ones where he recorded messages for his little boy, Marley.
While Hunter for the Record isn't a film that sets out to send a moral message, it certainly reminds you that this life is an opportunity to live for others. In the face of terminal illness, Hunter's work ethic skyrocketed, as did his drive to make a lasting impact with his rap. With the support of the Aussie hip-hop community, he worked through his pain to create a compilation album which has raised over $100 000 for the cancer charity, Canteen. In one of his personal videos, Hunter said that when he first got sick he asked himself, "What kind of superpower do I have?" His answer was that he knew a lot of people in the hip-hop world, so he set about organising the charity album. Inspiring stuff.
Don't see this documentary if you can't handle a lot of swearing (Hunter's early work includes lavish helpings of the 'c' word), but if you can, it's worthwhile to see the up-close and personal transformation of this brave and unexpectedly insightful man who made a lasting contribution to Australian music.