Known in hip-hop circles under his moniker Defron, Kieron Byatt is a rapper, writer and poet who is passionate about empowering youth and their communities. Gaining national recognition for his music and poetry on platforms like ABC, Triple J, FBI Radio and the Australian Poetry Slam, Kieron is also a published writer; creating fiction and non-fiction for Voiceworks, Tone Deaf, Kill Your Darlings and more. Having shared the stage with rap heavyweights Odd Future, Illy, Seth Sentry and beyond in his career, Kieron’s artistic drive has always informed his experiences—his hardworking demeanour always depending on music during times of adversity.
Now teaching and working at The Push, Kieron is the Hip-Hop & Electronic Project Coordinator, focusing his passion for music into events, workshops and resources for tomorrow’s leaders and at-risk-youth through hip-hop. From independent lyric writing and rapping workshops, his work with Freeza and The Push has seen him meet face-to-face with rural and metropolitan youth, teaching them to tackle their problems with creative expression and positive resolve. Chatting about his beginnings with The Push before The Collarts Sunset Social, we spoke to Kieron about his work, and the experience of meeting youth in their headspace.
Hey Kieron, thanks so much for chatting. First up, how did you get involved with The Push?
My first exposure to The Push was entering the MC battles back at Push Over and Our Backyard from around 2008 to 2010. I also was a program participant for the 2009 project, City Beatz, where we recorded songs with Mantra about Melbourne City. From there I became an extended member of the team, delivering hip-hop demonstrations and workshops during the Freeza Summits and for various youth work services whenever The Push would recommend my skill set. In 2014, I assisted in project planning for Backing Tracks, a train-line based hip-hop performance project. I came on board as an official team member in late 2015 to early 2016. But, yeah, I’ve always considered myself a member of The Push family.
Totally. Being both a writer and hip-hop artist, what excites you about your role as Hip-Hop & Electronica Coordinator?
It just lets me wear a different hat and allows me to give back to young artists. A lot of my work here is driven by me wanting to deliver what I desperately wished for back when I was a young hip-hop artist just starting out. Resources and opportunities were few and far between and I’m fortunate that not only do I oversee all of my department’s projects, but I also plan and facilitate for most of them. Through my work and networking here, I’ve learned so much about the music and artist industry that not only informs my own artistic endeavours, but also the projects I create and implement. It’s essentially a dream come true, because even on only two days a week where I’m based in an office, hip-hop and music is still the focus at all times. I’m pretty dang lucky.
“I consider myself as a breathing example of what The Push does: we offer young people with an interest in music an industry pathway where they can turn what they love into a vocation, by being exposed to supportive like-minded individuals.”
Has community always been important in your work? How does The Push promote community?
Community and youth work is a field I’ve been involved in since I was a young person myself. Back in high school, I was a member of a buddying program where we mentored primary school students and I’ve just had the bug since then. My journey as a hip-hop artist and as a community youth worker both stem from The Push, so I’ve always considered each the same beast. I consider myself as a breathing example of what The Push does: we offer young people with an interest in music an industry pathway where they can turn what they love into a vocation, by being exposed to supportive like-minded individuals. At all our projects I think it’s fair to say everyone is a student and a teacher, we’re all there to learn but we all have our own wisdom to bestow at the same time.
That’s really nice. Has working in the music industry beyond performing as an artist changed or challenged the way you tackle creative projects?
It’s definitely been both a source of evolution and a challenge in itself. I’ve learned valuable skills and developed incredible networks which wouldn’t have been as accessible just on my lonesome. Some days, when I have a lot on my plate here then I step in the studio at home, it takes some effort to empty the headspace. Last year, for example, my own creative projects were delayed somewhat because I was learning while I was doing when I was in the office. But that said, by being exposed to the industry at such a close level as well as contributing to it, my own creative projects have benefitted and then some.
“I’m a big believer in work smarter, not harder and I think many young people think if they just grind their heart out, that the outcomes will follow. While that isn’t untrue, don’t underestimate the productivity of rest and giving yourself a break.”
Joining us for The Collarts Sunset Social, what can people expect from The Push’s lineup?
We’re putting on a night of up-and-coming young hip-hop and electronica artists, sourced through our own hip-hop school, PushIt! Lab as well as via our community hip-hop project networks. They’re all developing, talented young artists who are hungry for a platform to share their original works. We’ll also have plenty open mic action where young rappers, singers, beatboxers etc. can jump up and perform spontaneously, or bring along a track or two they want to share with a people. The vibe is on that chill, block party tip!
If you could give Collarts students advice for stepping into the industry and following your passion, what would it be?
Don’t get in your own way and set yourself clear goals. I’m a big believer in work smarter, not harder and I think many young people think if they just grind their heart out, that the outcomes will follow. While that isn’t untrue, don’t underestimate the productivity of rest and giving yourself a break. I think a lot of young people tend to be too hard on themselves because they haven’t achieved a certain amount of success, and I was definitely guilty of that. But recognise that you are your own person and artist, comparing yourself to every other person will only breed envy and frustration. Just concentrate on your process, which should stem from the fact that you love what you’re doing. And when it comes to pursuing achievements, be clear. Don’t just have “I wanna make it” or “I wanna be successful” as your end game. Set SMART – Specific Measurable Attainable Realistic Time-Framed – goals.
Passionate about The Push and the work Kieron does? RSVP to The Collarts Sunset Social, featuring a selection of artists co-presented by The Push. Entry is free, but ticket booking is essential!