Newcomer First Nations Hip-Hop and R&B Artists dominate the ARIAs

‘Wash My Sorrows Away’ Budjerah debut EP. Courtesy of Budjerah’s Twitter (Elliot Lauren Ryan), 2021.

This year, the ARIA Awards have seen newcomer First Nations Hip-Hop and R&B artists take home a plethora of awards and nominations. Amongst these artists were The Kid LAROI and budding superstar, Budjerah. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the 35th annual ARIA Awards were held at Sydney’s Taronga Zoo and live-streamed via Youtube (The Sydney Morning Herald, 2021).

Coming as a surprise to no one, the international sensation, The Kid LAROI, took home the awards of Best Artist and Best Pop Release for his 3x platinum single 'Stay' (feat. Justin Bieber) (SBS, 2021). LAROI was also nominated for Best Hip Hop Release and Song of the Year. In The Kid LAROI’s (2021) acceptance speech, he gushed:

"How good is Australian music? Tonight has been such an incredible night. I feel so blessed and overwhelmed with the love and support and it's incredible that I'm getting this much love especially from home. That means the world to me. Starting this, that's all I ever wanted to do, bring up the culture and show the world how good Australian music was."

Afterwards, the Kamilaroi sensation performed the multi-platinum hit at the ceremony, presented by Youtube Music.

Announced by Ed Sheeran, 19-year-old Coodjinburra man and singer-songwriter, Budjerah, took home the Michael Gudinski Breakthrough Artist of the Year ARIA Award for his eponymous debut EP. This award honours the late Gudinski, a leading Australian record executive and long-time supporter of First Nations musicians. Hailing from the Bundjalung nation, more specifically Fingal Head/Booninybah in New South Wales, Budjerah Slabb only premiered his debut single in October last year! (The Sydney Morning Herald, 2021). The  Coodjinburra artist (2021) describes his style of music as “chill and breezy, with a mixture of old soul, gospel and modern R’n’B.” 


Budjerah knocked it out of the park, receiving 5 ARIA nominations for the Best Artist, Best Soul/R&B Release, Best Video, Best Australian Live Act, and the Michael Gudinski Breakthrough Artist Award, in which he won (SBS, 2021). At the ceremony, he performed his award-winning debut single “Missing You” live.

In an interview with The Sydney Morning Herald, Budjerah (2021) reflected on his success at the ARIA Awards:

“I used to tell people at school I’m gonna get nominated for an award and everyone would be like, ‘yeah, alright’. And now this, it’s crazy...It’s only been a year since I put my first song out. I’m just so grateful.”

At Yarn, we are passionate about sharing the stories of First Nations artists, shining a light on their creative journeys and how they give back to their communities. So, as Budjerah and The Kid LAROI’s success continues to reach even greater heights, we hope that their stories inspire a new generation of young mob to get out there and pursue their music career dreams, and embrace their culture and heritage through their music.