Rapper and producer Dawn Laird is preparing for the release of her first full album, named after her grandmother, Doreen.
She describes it as a “staunchly feminist album which pulls no punches and is full of rage.”
“It’s a pretty aggressive body of work. I didn’t realise it was all catharsis, but I listen back to it now, it’s like, dude, you were angry,” Laird says.
Laird, who’s been rapping for more than 10 years, spends her time between Newcastle (where family lives) and the Mid North Coast (where she works as a graphic designer).
The first release from the album is called Canon. In late November she’ll release it with a locally-made music video.
“It’s a f – – k you song basically,” she says. “In terms of it being a canon, up until very recently there was a particular story and narrative that came with being a female MC in this country. That rage, it feels like a canon. There’s a frustration with the industry. You need to push back and advocate for yourself constantly. It’s an intersection of capitalism and beauty worship, chucking something into a space that may not be a safe one for you. You are throwing art into that, and having it eaten up. It consumes in good ways and bad ways.”
Prior to Canon, Laird produced a three-track EP in 2016. In 2018 Triple J played her song Sandworm.
In 2017 she was among those featured in a documentary on female music artists in Australia, Her Sound Her Story.
“That fleshes out, from so many different perspectives, the difficulties. The morays in the industry,” Laird says.
“It’s interesting that there’s an industry standard and you’ve got funding bodies, the royalties, agents; at an industry level, they’re getting their ducks in a row, so this shit [prejudices and challenges for women] can’t happen. It’s not trickling down so well. In some places it is, but in hip hop it’s not.”
Laird put effort into making a video that is representative of some of these issues. Her team included director Isaac Turier, producer and stylist Belinda Howden, cinematographer Pete McMurray and stylists and conceptualists Shan Turner-Carroll and Morgana Osaki.
Laird applied for grants and received a budget of $10,000 to promote the album and video. People gave hours of pro bono assistance as well.
The video was filmed in Newcastle locations: downstairs at The Grand Hotel (The Underground) and a warehouse on Glebe Road. They filmed a fight scene with professional fighters from local martial arts school Third Eye Muay Thai.
“They did an incredible job. They were shirtless in front of a group of people on a freezing cold day,” Laird says.
Laird can’t wait for the video’s release.
“It’s probably the coolest thing I’ve done in my whole life,” she says. “It’s a dream collaboration.”