NotesSharlene 'Spice' Bezzina purchased this jacket in the mid 1980s, "I used to live in it" and wore it while touring with Ice T in 1989.
Hip Hop was an underground, non mainstream scene in the early 1980s in Australia and was heavily influenced by the sounds and style from America, where the movement originated. Like many teenagers, Spice initially became exposed to Hip Hop through the music when she was about eleven years old. "Basically me and my brother were both doing everything together.... We started hearing a certain type of music and you started seeing break dancing in a few clips. The music I think is what first grabbed me. My brother's five years older than me so he sort of got to clubs and stuff and would bring a whole lot of music home. I'd say "Wow this is so me!" It just really grabbed me. It was such a futuristic sound, just very different to anything you would have heard on radio. I started to get into the breakdance which was the main aspect of it as well, and me being such a bad tomboy I just absorbed it. I thought breakdancing was you know "Yep" that was it for me. It just sort of grew from there. You don't realise that you are sinking in this whole culture back then - but it was just a thing you did every day."
1980s Hip Hop style in Australia was heavily influenced by America and American sports brands. Known as B Boy style, in the early days of the movement there was little difference between male and female dress. "There weren't really that many girls in the same period to have a really distinct look between a female and a male of the B Boy style." Sports wear, in particular name brand track suits, hooded sweat shirts and sneakers were worn, with Adidas, Nike and Puma the preferred brands. "If you had a hood, it was kinda cool, you know, people used to put it on when they would breakdance, cover part of their face. When they were breakdancing it would be a good protection with the hair. With the sneakers, we used to have these what we called fat laces in the sneakers and that was one way we could always identify someone who was into Hip Hop by looking at their shoes." Customisation was a significant aspect of the dress style, with clothes altered and jewellery featuring a person's graffitti or MC name. "People would paint their clothes up and things like that. The jewellery, you would have your name. It was about showing your name in a way. I think that's why graffitti is still such a big thing. The MC has a name rather than just using your own. Your name was your alter ego."
Grafitti was also an integral part of the Hip Hop scene and as Spice loved to draw she also embraced this aspect of the culture. "When I started doing graffiti I was the drawer. I wasn't allowed to go out a lot, my mum was strict to let me go out at night when a lot of the stuff would happen. Daytime we would be out 'bombing' the trains which would be out tagging the trains all the time, but to do the main pieces, if it was canals you used to go out and do that in the day, but as far as the night-time thing, like painting outside of the trains and stuff, I didn't really get to do that early-on because I was under lock and key at home. But I was the drawer, I used to do outlines for people and then the guys would go out and paint them. They used to come back and show me the photo, and say "go and have a look, it's been done."
MCing (rapping) was another component of the culture. "I think when I became about fifteen, I started to get into lyric writing. I never really told anyone, I just would be at home doing it, and then when friends found out, that was it - trying to get me into the Studio and it just blew up from there. Me being shy, that was a hard step for me to get in front of people and do that...I was comfortable recording in a studio but wasn't so cool about doing live shows. I ended up having to do many and once you are up there, it's not so bad" Spice's first live show was in a club in Kings Cross when she was fifteen, "it was one of the first Hip-Hop nights that happened. If you were an MC they wanted you there to do it." In 1988 Virgin Records released 'Down Under By Law', the first commercially released Australian Hip Hop album. Spice's song 'Hard-Core Love' was selected for the album. Spice had appeared on ABC television in a pieces about 'rap music' and she theorised that this brought her to the attention of the company putting together the album. "The whole reason I was asked to contribute to this album was my name got around that I was MC'ing, and the people from 2SER, on a radio show called 'Back to Funk', Heidi Pascall - she really embraced the stuff and tried to get people together...It was a big thing for how young we all were and being asked to do that." 'Hard-Core Love' is the song that Spice is best known for.
Spice's involvement in the Hip Hop compilation album led to more gigs and a request to join Ice T's tour to Australia in 1989. "He specifically asked for a female MC to do his support act, and obviously I was asked and got to meet him. That was a dream come true because I used to really love his stuff and to have someone say "I want to meet you", 'he wants to meet me?' So that was all really cool.
"I got him to sign it. Actually I think the first person to sign it was Jam Master J from Run DMC which would have been '86 I think they came out to Australia, their first tour. And I remember I wouldn't let Run sign it because he was arrogant and I didn't want him to sign it! It's signed by Spin Master Hen Gee, Darlene, which was Ice T's wife at the time, and Ice t of course. It marks that whole …. down here... .love always Ice T. This is Evil E. This is 'to the playgirls take care Darlene'. This is when I was doing his tour. I made a friend from school just jump up on stage with me, and we had to give ourselves a name so we called ourselves the playgirls. Hen Gee was one of the Djers that was touring with Ice T. It was a funny time. It marked one of the highlights of my life but it was also when my mum died, not long after this and was in hospital the night of the show. She couldnt watch so yeah it kinda marks a lot of, you know.... a big moment in my life, this jacket."
With the death of her mother in 1989, Spice wound down her music career but her grafitti (street art) continues.
Interview with Spice (Sharlene Bezzina) 2009.