Listen Out Melbourne 2022: AJ Tracey, Roddy Ricch, JID, Barkaa and more bring the heat

The first stop of the beloved Australian festival brought together titans of the hip-hop, dance and pop worlds

In partnership with Listen Out

After two years off due to the global pandemic, Australian hip-hop/dance/pop festival Listen Out made its triumphant return in Melbourne on September 23, ahead of dates in Perth, Sydney and Brisbane. The weather was overcast, but no one’s spirits were dampened – judging by the number of ponchos on display, people were prepared for anything.

The festival’s line-up marked the return of artists like JID and Disclosure to Australia, while this tour was the first time Roddy Ricch, Central Cee, Nia Archives and more performed for audiences Down Under. The anticipation was high for acts both old and new, and they didn’t disappoint.


Here’s NME’s roundup of what happened at Listen Out Melbourne 2022.


Mulalo at Listen Out Festival Melbourne 2022. (Photo: Michelle Pitiris/She Is Aphrodite for NME)

The triple j Unearthed winner for Melbourne, Mulalo, delivers a short but sweet set that sees her take aim at bum exes and declare herself “iconic”. It’s hard to disagree with that statement given how she holds the crowd’s attention from go to whoa despite only having a handful of songs out in the world.

2021’s ‘M31 (Racing down the Hume)’ is one of the highlights of the set (this writer spends a fair bit of time on the Hume Highway, so this song definitely hits home), while she performs recent single ‘Tracey Grimshaw’ with the charm and charisma befitting the countless cheeky references littered throughout the track. Extra points must go to Mulalo for performing her most recent release, ‘DOUBT IT! (demo)’, which features production from frequent collaborator Nerve and references her performance at Listen Out. Life imitates art.


Barkaa at Listen Out Festival Melbourne 2022. (Photo: Michelle Pitiris/She Is Aphrodite for NME)

Playing her first show in a while, Barkaa repeatedly expresses just how happy she is to perform again – and she puts up a show that proves it. Her gripping renditions of tracks like ‘King Brown’ and ‘Blak Matriarchy’ energise the crowd, and the Malyangapa and Barkindji MC feeds off their enthusiasm in turn. It’s clearly a proud moment for Barkaa, and we’re glad we’re there to witness a milestone in her artistic journey.


Barkaa’s on-stage banter is just as captivating as her performance, asking the crowd whether they have subpar exes and declaring “fuck the colony, fuck the government and fuck the police”. Her energy is infectious, and there’s no doubt that she’s deserving of bigger and later slots going forward. If you’ve got a chance to see Barkaa perform, then you owe it to yourself to check her out.


JessB at Listen Out Festival Melbourne 2022. (Photo: Michelle Pitiris/She Is Aphrodite for NME)

The unfortunate news that Floridian MC Doechii had contracted COVID-19 came a mere day before Listen Out, and it meant that organisers’ flexibility was once again put to the test. Thankfully, Auckland rapper JessB answered their last-minute call. She’s backed by Barkaa’s DJ Fly Waves, who pulls double-duty to help bring JessB’s energetic set, capped by recent single ‘Can’t Fake It’, to life. We’re hoping to see her on more Australian festival line-ups in the near future – and not as a last-minute addition, either.


bbno$ at Listen Out Festival Melbourne 2022. (Photo: Michelle Pitiris/She Is Aphrodite for NME)

Also subbing in for Doechii, bbno$ takes to the stage for an extended 50-minute set, which turns out to be a highlight of the festival. Part circus ringmaster, part hype man and part comedian, bbno$’s back catalogue is packed full of hits like ‘Mathematics’ (which he introduces by asking the crowd some maths problems leading to the number 69), ‘Lalala’ and ‘Nursery’.

Nostalgic musical interludes pepper his high-energy performance – at one point, he teases an unreleased song before bait-and-switching with The Veronicas’ ‘Untouched’, and also throws in Crazy Frog’s ‘Axel F’. He also gives away a cookbook, a staple of his live shows and something that more artists should do.


Nia Archives
Nia Archives at Listen Out Festival Melbourne 2022. (Photo: Michelle Pitiris/She Is Aphrodite for NME)

Yuggera woman and acclaimed producer and DJ Dameeeela’s been at the forefront of Australian dance music in recent times, and her early afternoon set at Listen Out lights a fuse that burns throughout the rest of the day. She also proves that bbno$ wasn’t off his rocker by playing ‘Axel F’ – when Dameeeela drops a festival-ready version of the Crazy Frog classic during her set, the crowd goes off.

If you close your eyes during Nia Archives’ set then you might momentarily forget that you were in Melbourne. The UK producer’s set gets the Prophet Tent moving, turning it once again into a heaving and sweaty dancefloor. Her set weaves together her own jungle productions with massive dance staples, providing a chance for everyone to let go of their worries and dance. The crowd does exactly that.

Prior to their Australian tour, Disclosure’s Howard Lawrence announced that he wouldn’t be present, explaining that he “need[ed] to take some time to look after myself”. His brother, Guy, is at Listen Out flying the Disclosure flag, and though they are one man down his performance is more than worthy of the headline slot at the 909 Stage. A cinematic introduction gives the set some extra gravitas, reminding us all of the lack of live music over the last two years. This salient reminder, combined with the fact that Disclosure have over a decade’s worth of fire-starting tracks at their disposal, means that the crowd is hooked the moment the opening track ‘White Noise’ drops.


Central Cee
Central Cee at Listen Out Festival Melbourne 2022. (Photo: Michelle Pitiris/She Is Aphrodite for NME)

If you talked to any punter in the first few hours of Listen Out, then you’d have known there was one set in particular everyone was looking forward to: Central Cee. You definitely know the rapper from TikTok-viral track ‘Doja’, but there’s a lot more in the tank – especially from his mixtapes ‘Wild West’ and ‘23’.

Cench’s confident, rapid-fire set features a seriously enviable amount of hits, including ‘Day In The Life’, ‘Retail Therapy’ and ‘Commitment Issues’, and finishes with a one-two punch of ‘Obsessed With You’ and ‘Doja’. Next time Central Cee’s in Australia for a festival run, he’ll be closing stages.


AJ Tracey
AJ Tracey at Listen Out Festival Melbourne 2022. (Photo: Michelle Pitiris/She Is Aphrodite for NME)

Despite some initial technical difficulties, AJ Tracey’s performance is one of the high points of Listen Out. Pumping through tracks like ‘Ladbroke Grove’, ‘Rain’ and closer ‘Thiago Silva’ (which features a guest appearance from a superfan who played Dave’s role to perfection), the veteran MC shows why he’s held in such high regard by fans both in the UK and overseas. As he raps during ‘Ladbroke Grove’, “the microphone champ is live and direct” – and his charisma and skill are both undeniable.


JID at Listen Out Festival Melbourne 2022. (Photo: Michelle Pitiris/She Is Aphrodite for NME)

When an American rapper plots their world tour, Australia is not often front of mind on the itinerary. That’s partly why JID, the last-minute replacement for Polo G, was such an exciting addition to the Listen Out line-up. He released his acclaimed album ‘The Forever Story’ just a month ago, which makes fans at Listen Out Melbourne among the first in the world to hear him perform tracks like ‘Surround Sound’ – which went off.

In JID’s career-spanning set, he runs through tracks from 2018’s ‘DiCaprio2’ and more, bringing his dexterous rhyme schemes to life. Arguably the highlight of the set is the energetic ‘Stick’ (which also features J. Cole, Kenny Mason and Sheck Wes), thanks to its instantly memorable (and repeatable) chorus.


Roddy Ricch
Roddy Ricch at Listen Out Festival Melbourne 2022. (Photo: Michelle Pitiris/She Is Aphrodite for NME)

Roddy Ricch didn’t come to play. This is his first performance in Australia, and despite admitting that he was still adjusting to the different timezone, he delivers a set that had something for everyone. It features slower songs (‘Late At Night’), a tribute to the late Nipsey Hussle (their Grammy-winning ‘Racks In The Middle’) and high-energy tracks like ‘Lemonade’ and ‘Rockstar’. Regularly speaking to the crowd, Roddy Ricch is everything you’d want from a headliner, proving himself a fitting substitute for the currently-incarcerated Young Thug.

Of course, there were a couple of tracks that people had been clamouring to hear live from the moment they walked through the gates. Throughout the day, countless people had been walking around making the “eeh-ooh” sound from the start of ‘The Box’, so it’s no surprise that gets one of the biggest reactions of the night. The final song for the set, ‘Ballin’, gets an equally rapturous response – and then it’s over. Until next year, Listen Out.

Listen Out 2022 continues October 1 in Sydney and October 2 in Brisbane, while Listen In 2022 takes place September 30 in Auckland and October 3 in Adelaide. More info here

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