ONEFOUR's Unfinished Legacy

After a tumultuous journey, ONEFOUR are looking forward, and they’re adamant that their musical journey is far from over.

Three musicians, all wearing hoodies and chains, pose together. The person in the middle is dressed in black, with their face concealed by a hood
Tristan Stefan Edouard
Three musicians, all wearing hoodies and chains, pose together. The person in the middle is dressed in black, with their face concealed by a hood

Despite being Australia's most significant hip-hop act, Mount Druitt's ONEFOUR has never performed a headline show in Melbourne and only just performed their first international headline show in Bali last month. This will change on June 8, as group members J Emz, Spenny, and Lekks will take the stage as the headliners of RISING festival, alongside co-headliners Snoh Alegra and Yasiin Bey.

As pioneers of the local drill scene, ONEFOUR has left an indelible mark on Australia's hip-hop landscape. Songs like 2019's "The Message," "Spot The Difference," and "In The Beginning" have influenced the sound of an entire emerging class of Australian rappers. They gave fans, critics, and global audiences insight into this journey in their Netflix documentary Against All Odds, released in October last year. 

View this video on YouTube

The group, whose original lineup included J Emz, Celly, YP, Spenny, and Lekks, has experienced a chaotic rise over the last six years. A sharp binary characterises their story: they've achieved unprecedented success for an Australian rap group, and their music has transcended AUNZ borders. However, they've also encountered serious legal troubles. Most notably, members Celly, Lekks, and YP faced severe legal repercussions for a violent assault committed in 2019. 

ONEFOUR's legal troubles over the years have resulted in frequent lineup changes, and YP also formally left the group in February this year after becoming an ordained priest. Regarding where the group is currently, it's J Emz, Lekks, and Spenny holding the group down—and they're adamant the group's story is far from over. On May 20, ONEFOUR released their highly-anticipated track "Natural Habitat"—which they've been teasing fans with for over a year—featuring verses from Lekks, Spenny, and J Emz. The group has also just announced a tour. 

Complex Australia sat down with J Emz, who spoke on behalf of the group, to talk about ONEFOUR's legacy, their upcoming headlining show at RISING, the Against All Odds documentary, and their upcoming tour. 

The Netflix doc feels like a good starting point—massive congrats. How did it feel putting it out into the world?
It was a relief to get it out. It was a good feeling to be able to tell our side of the story and that. But yeah, after the release, we went straight back to the music. We’re just locked in with the studio. 

Nobody gets a Netflix doc, so that was sick. Was there a main takeaway you wanted people to take from it? Particularly the fans? 
If there was something I wanted people to hear from me or take away from that documentary, it would be to stay down. Our story isn't finished yet. We're still grinding it out, still trying to mature, still trying to better ourselves. There’s always room for improvement. 

The group recently released “Natural Habitat,” which features verses from you, Spenny, and Lekks. The song has been teased for over a year, and fans have asked for it for ages. Why did you guys decide to release it now?
It was a highly-anticipated song, but we were just waiting for the right time, which felt like now. Obviously, it’s pretty shit that YP isn’t with us anymore. So we adjusted the song by taking him off, and I reckon it’s still hard.

The group is headlining RISING festival in Melbourne on June 8. It’s the group’s first-ever show in Melbourne. How are you guys feeling going into that show?
Yeah, we're ready to go. Spenny and I have been rehearsing every week we can. We just returned from a show in Bali, which was a good experience. But yeah, we're ready to give the fans in Melbourne what they deserve and put on a good show. It’s well overdue. 

We’re looking forward to it. As you’ve said, you’ve had many changes recently as a group; how does that affect live show prep?
Well, over time, having to perform without the boys—without the members who have gone to jail and stuff—we’ve always made do with whoever's out and been able to perform without them, so it’s not an issue. We still always make sure that everyone who shows up has a good time and gets their money's worth. 

In recent years, the group has experienced numerous interventions from NSW Police that have unfairly impacted your ability to perform shows. You guys haven't spoken to the media much about it; is there anything you want to tell people about this?
At the end of the day, it’s been happening ever since we started doing music. I won’t say it doesn’t bother us, but when it happens, we’re the type of people that keep it moving—we don’t let it hold us back. We’ve never sat down with our hands in our heads crying about it; you can’t be like that, or else you won’t reach where you want to be. I’m sure if Spenny or Lekks were on here, they’d say the same thing. 

It's indisputable that a significant part of the group's legacy is revolutionising the Australian hip-hop scene. At this stage in the group's story, how do you see ONEFOUR's legacy?
At the moment, it's just being against all odds—having your back against the wall—and having to keep pushing through the struggle. That’s it. We’re trying to show people that there’s another way: that music is a way to make money and get out of whatever problems they have. In my opinion, that’s the story, and that’s what we’re tryna prove here. Things have eased up for us, but it’s not over yet. 

Do you have final messages for the fans?
I don’t really like talking too much, but I just want to thank everyone for waiting patiently, you know? We’re coming, and you’ll finally get what you guys want.

You can purchase tickets to ONEFOUR's RISING festival show here.

Latest in Music