‘I’m proud to say I come from there’: Youngn Lipz is taking southwest Sydney to the world

For years now the ever-fertile creative landscape that is southwest Sydney has been at the vanguard of local hiphop and R&B, driving the genre forward with offerings both stylistically and culturally diverse.

But with his unique charm and breakout online success, Youngn Lipz is among the most impressive yet. His melodic delivery and casually raw perspective provide an edge that mainstream R&B has rarely, if ever, displayed in Australia.

“It’s true, bro, you don’t really get that sound here,” he says. “But I’ll tell you what, it shows a lot of people can relate to that, because otherwise people wouldn’t be listening to my music.”

Western Sydney musician, Youngn Lipz.Credit:Cole Bennetts

Since debuting his single Misunderstood in 2019, the singer’s accumulated almost 200 million streams across his work. Earlier this year Misunderstood won an APRA award for most performed hiphop/rap work.

It’s amid such accolades that the 22-year-old has dropped his debut album, Area Baby. Born in Miller and raised in Cabramatta, the title nods to the outer suburbs that made him.

“If you’ve grown up around these areas you can see it’s not really riches; for a long time it wasn’t even decent,” he says. “Now the council and the community have come together and they’ve done up a few nice spots, things are looking a bit better.

“But before, when I was running amok, there was not too much going on – a lot of police harassment, a lot of homeless people. That’s why I’m proud to say I come from there, because not too long ago it wasn’t all that.”

Life in “the areas” threatened to derail Lipz long before a music career even seemed a possibility. Songs like Broken Home, Silent, Stuck and Falcons, with lyrics about being “caught in the system” and friends doing time, depict a troubled youth.

“I was just careless with my decisions,” he says. “Back then, I’ll be honest, I didn’t really have no purpose. I didn’t give two f—s about nothing. I was reckless.”

Broken Home, in particular, is affecting in its introspection, highlighting both love and compassion for where he’s from and the people he grew up with but also questioning the hand he was dealt.

Such self-reflection was a new approach to his writing, he says – and the vulnerability so immediate he requested his real name not be disclosed in an effort to protect some aspect of his privacy.

“I’ve never really wanted to put myself out there like that, because I’ve never walked around with my emotions on my sleeve,” he says. “But music just felt like my way out, like how I could just be me and not care about what’s going on around me.

“Bro, I just expressed how I felt,” he says of Broken Home. “I looked at the situation and said what I felt.”

The opportunities afforded by music have offered a focus away from his past troubles.

“Just being on a plane to, say, Melbourne – that hit me that there’s a lot more to life, you know?” he says. “I can’t help but want to express that to other people, especially people I grew up with. There’s more to life than just being in and out, or stuck in the same habits.“

The album isn’t just brooding contemplation, though; it’s also fun. Say It, with its playful bounce, should be a global summertime hit, while Misunderstood and Everyday (produced by Western Sydney fixture Open Til L8) trade in sensitive thug romance.

“I’ll tell you right now, bro – there’s a lot of Gs out there that can’t really express their feelings, but when they hear my music I bet you they’re telling their missus that shit, you know?” Lipz laughs.

“You’ll see some big dude that just got out of a 10-year lag, face tatts and all, and the things I’m saying are probably the same things he wants to express to his woman.”

While he never took singing seriously until recently, Lipz says music’s long been a part of his life. Various members of his extended Samoan family played in underground bands, and when he was barely a toddler his mum, Rebekah LaVauney, appeared on the premiere season of Australian Idol where she finished 7th.

“Bro, I was still f—ing picking my nose, ay!” he recalls of the experience. “I remember cameras, lights and backstages. But I don’t remember too much of my childhood; it was full on.”

While two decades ago shows like Australian Idol might’ve been a legitimate avenue for performers pursuing music careers, technology has allowed a generation of hiphop and R&B artists to do it themselves through platforms such as Soundcloud.

“100 per cent,” says Lipz. “I’m not saying you don’t need those kinda shows, but if you’ve got something you believe in, like, f—, you don’t need somebody else to tell you they want you just to able to pursue it.”

The singer drops his album at an interesting time for Sydney hiphop and R&B, when the massive success of The Kid Laroi (who’s currently number one on the US Billboard 200), OneFour and Hooligan Hefs has turned overseas attention to the local scene.

Earlier this year western Sydney record label Biordi Music, which Lipz is signed to, sealed a partnership deal with Virgin Music that sees its releases pushed globally. It’s already attracted attention from the likes of Drake’s OVO Sound and Birdman’s Cash Money Records.

“It’s a big move, bro, a good avenue to have going forward, just building foundations and shit,” Lipz says of the distribution deal. He’s more considered about the “Laroi effect”.

“No doubt Kid’s put on a lot for the country,” he says. “But I feel like everyone in the scene has put in their own work to make that happen, too.”

He’s adamant that his music continues to speak for his “ends” across southwest Sydney.

“If I’m not representing the people who supported me, I’m no one. I want them to know, like, be proud of where you’re from and that this is not just my journey, let’s make this our journey. Let’s get it.”

Youngn Lipz’s Area Baby is out now via Biordi Music/Virgin Music Australia.

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