On a torrid summer afternoon, I take the main highway south out of Sydney and descend through the Royal National Park's stands of towering gum trees. The silver bark and shimmering leaves give way to the twisted, rusting, hulking metal of the Bluescope steelworks before I'm spat out on the seaside salt flats of Warilla. 

In this small, sea-level town, where the income isn't much higher than the altitude, I meet Murrawarri rapper Dobby, standing next to a condemned petrol station where he said he'd be. It's where he used to hang out as a teenager, just metres from his childhood home.

Photos: Mat Ward

"Over there's my old school," he says, as we climb the fence and drop into the heavily graffitied forecourt with its corroded fuel pumps. 

"In my first year there, the teacher told my dad he should send me to another school, because the school wasn't good enough for me." His face drops, then he adds: "Which was kind of sad." 

On the street side of the fence, a group of teenagers roll past on rusty mountain bikes while eyeing us. A family walk past, grin at us, and nod hello. No one calls the cops. 

As we push our way into the dangerously decrepit mechanics' workshop, Dobby nods in the direction of his home and says: "We moved a couple of times before mum finally landed here." 

His fun-loving mum had grown up in Tacloban City's Bagacay mines in the Philippines. She'd met and married his dad, a Murrawarri Aboriginal man, in Australia, then they separated. 

"I remember it was a big deal as well for mum, getting news from the housing commission that we could have this place," he says. "All our family came to celebrate."

On his track "2528", made about his postcode eight years earlier when he was just 15, he raps: 

Look at us, look at just how we're living
Almost all of us are living in the housing commission
And don't think that we're one bit proud that we're with them 
We don't own the laundry or the lounge or the kitchen.

The track received such attention that he was interviewed on radio by national broadcaster the Australian Broadcasting Corporation - though the conversation didn't go the way he'd hoped.

"I remember regretting how I handled that interview with the ABC reporter," he says. "I remember thinking, 'Yes, awesome! I'm getting recognised for this song '2528'.' And they had obviously this older generation's perspective of hip-hop - we're going to tie your music practice to all the violence, stabbings and murders that happen in Warilla." 

On his track "Warilla '16", he skilfully recreates the ABC interview with the kind of twisting, comical dialogue and inner turmoil made famous by his early rap hero, Eminem.

"I needed to write that song because I needed that story to be out there, so I could finally let it go," he says. 

"I wasn't advocating or condoning violence, but they tagged me to it, without really looking at the depth of that tune - and I couldn't explain that in words at that time because I was so young."

"Warilla '16" recounts how his dad was shocked to hear him on his car radio being interviewed about making such a song. 

"Yeah. He was like, 'What's going on?!' I just never really told him that I liked making rap music." 

But his father, who recently retired from his job as an Aboriginal Education Officer and head teacher at Nowra TAFE, quickly came to see the empowering qualities of hip-hop. 

"Oh, yeah, he embraces it," says Dobby. "He absolutely, fully embraces it."

Dobby looks down at the debris-strewn floor, then carefully stands next to a large oil drum as I snap a few photos. 

On it is an outline of the map of Australia, embossed with the words: "Chemical specialists." 

The juxtaposition isn't lost on Dobby, whose people are fighting the environmental destruction of the ancient Aboriginal fish trap system in their home town of Brewarrina in north-west New South Wales.

"It's the oldest human-made construction in the world," says Dobby. 

"So this is something that we as a mob and as a community celebrate, but there are a couple of issues that we're dealing with right now. 

"First of all, there was a weir that was put into place by council and it screwed up the entire fish trap system, so weeds are starting to grow up and it's taken it over." 

The state government admits that the fish traps, thought to be have lasted up to 40,000 years, have been badly damaged in just the past few decades. 

"The weir has adversely impacted upon the integrity of the fish traps," says its Office of Environment and Heritage. 

"This change of flow patterns has resulted in the formation of silt banks that have buried portions of the fish traps... Only 5 per cent of the original system survives in a substantially intact form... However... There is great potential to rehabilitate the individual traps to their original condition."

Dobby agrees. "The weir has caused ecological damage that can be reversed," he says. "But no one's doing anything about it. 

"So that's the first issue, and right now we're pushing away from a recent proposal to dump nuclear waste in Brewarrina. So there's a couple of things that we're fighting for." 

His family members have helped set up a campaign group, "No Nuclear BundaBunda on Ngemba Land - bad poison". It's just the latest chapter in Aboriginal peoples' long fight against the nuclear industry.

Dobby's debut EP opens with a recording he made at a Brewarrina music festival named after the fish traps, or "Ngunnhu", which are said to have been made by the creation god Biyame.

"That is members of my area in Brewarrina back in 2014," he says. 

"They were doing a corroboree for my cousin Lily Shearer's festival and the festival was called Biyame's Ngunnhu. I happened to be recording at the time and I turned it into this big trap beat and went back to Lily and said, 'Hey listen, is this OK?!'" 

He laughs. 

"And I went back to the community two years later and said, 'Hey, is this OK?' I was really stressed about it, because you know, you've got to be very careful, particularly about culture. I went up to the main fella, the main corroboree leader and I was waiting for his face to change, and he was like..." 

He pauses. 

"'....Bro! That's hectic!! That's sick!' I was so happy, I couldn't have been more relieved."

Matching Aboriginal rhythms with Western, four-four hip-hop or trap beats is no mean feat. Yet Dobby, a pianist, jazz drummer and music graduate, is well qualified to do it.

I snap a few more photos of him next to a graffitied Aboriginal flag and the words "South Coast Brothers", then we move out of the workshop to my 18-year-old Mazda parked in a side street.

As we roll down the windows to compensate for the broken air conditioning and chattering birds threaten to drown out our interview, Dobby pulls out his constantly-connected Apple Macbook and turns up the volume to play a recording made in the Northern Territory's Milingimbi in 1963.

"If you listen to the way that these people make the music, it's not grouped like Western music," he says as the track, "Clouds North Wind White Cockatoo Brown Hawk Emu Song", plays through his laptop speakers. 

"It's not grouped in your straight average quarter notes. It's like groups of five, sometimes groups of seven - chinck, chick, ch, chink, chick, ch, chinck - the rhythm there is so intricate, without it being written down. Isn't this amazing?" 

You can't loop it that easily, I suggest. 

"Yeah," says Dobby. "Looping it would be... I mean, you could, but it would be as intricate as the music you're looping."

For Dobby, rhythm is as important as the culture he's representing. 

"I used to make these rhythms without saying words," he says. 

"I still do, sometimes I'll just go, 'Labba-gad-ibbu-gud-ji-gabaga' - like scatting! You know, scat is all jazz-based and very rhythmic. 

"I like to make the fact that I'm a drummer very clear in my performance. I drum and I rap and sometimes I drum and rap at the same time." 

Dobby also drums and raps in sun-drenched soul band Jackie Brown Jr. His most popular video, "One Take", shows him drumming live while rapping at breakneck speed in the Royal Botanic Gardens, next to the Sydney Opera House.

Dobby "One Take"

"Rhythm is a really important, integral part of who I am as a musician," he says. 

"I'm not the best drummer and I'm not the best rapper, but combining this idea of drumming and rapping, the way to do that is rhythm. 

"I speak more gibberish than I do English, because I'll just fuck around and figure out the rhythm first and then turn it into words later, because I feel that's a good way of just really freeing yourself from the confines of language." 

Yet he opens his EP with a strong statement about language, rapping in the lingo of his people. 

"I'm rapping in Murrawarri language, which is one of the tribes in Brewarrina, alongside Ngemba, Barkindji, Wiradjuri, Wailwan, etcetera. I'm saying 'Pitara yaan muruwariki', which means 'Murrawarri is good, sweet talk'. So, I'm aiming to do that through rap music, you know."

His favourite part of making music, he says, is "coming up with lyrics that mean something to me and figuring out what rhythms I want" - and his favourite line on the EP is a rhythmical rhyme in "Ode To AD": 

Ain't no one as sick as I, opposition ill advised
Lyrically a different life, living through your middle eye
Revolution televised, never could be recognised
Dharawal, Gadigal, Murrawarri, Birrippi

"To be honest I think that's the line that I was happiest about in the entire album," he says. 

"Yeah, revolution, because, as a drummer, the rhythm is what really attracts and appeals to me and that whole thing is 'da-da-da, da-da-da, revol-ution tele-vised nev-er could be recog-nised, Dhara-wal, Gadi-gal, Murra-warri, Birrip-pi'. 

"And it brings it back to culture, you know, I'm normalising these terms, I'm trying to bring people's attention to Aboriginal tribes and understanding what lands that they're actually living on. 

"But what I'm also saying is we're leading to a movement. 'Never could be recognised' - that's about, when are we going to get constitutional recognition for Indigenous peoples?"

His people, the Murrawarri, hit headlines in 2013 when they declared their independence from Australia. They issued a deadline of 28 days for Queen Elizabeth II to respond, but the deadline passed with no response

Dobby could be bitter, but prefers to leaven his politics with an irrepressible sense of fun, such as when he's mocking his 5-foot, 3-inch height. His friend and fellow multi-instrumentalist Munkimuk, the "grandfather of Aboriginal Hip-Hop" and founder of the Indigenous Hip-Hop Show, works in a similar way. 

"He is very good at putting a little stab in at something quite political, but also either making light of it or kind of putting a hilarious spin on it," says Dobby. 

"I think I'll forever be making references to the fact that I'm a really short person. Like in 'Ode To AD' I say, 'Come and see my show tonight, 18 years and older even though I'm like your shoulder height'. 

"It's the same way that Munkimuk will say, 'Here comes the brother that's looking like a gubba'." Gubba is slang for "government worker" or white person. "You know, he makes light of his situation and I make light of my situation," says Dobby. "But that, in turn, becomes empowering for anyone." In "Ode to AD", Dobby also raps: 

D.O.B.B.Y. how do you identify?
Outside fairly white, inside Vegemite. 

"I love that line," he laughs. "I want to be able to make more lines like that where it's short and it's packed and it's funny and it sticks in people's heads you know, because you get the message and it's also kind of like not quite there as well, there's something wrong about it, like how could there be Vegemite in me? 

"There's a lot in that line. It's obviously about my experience as an Aboriginal person who is subject to a lot of ambiguous perceptions from other people, who are like, 'No, you don't look Aboriginal, you're too white to be Aboriginal', you know, 'Prove that you're Aboriginal'. Stuff like that. And it's like a power line again for those people who feel the same way."

On his laptop, he pulls up a Facebook group called "Relatives of Lily (1897) and George (1893) Shearer of Brewarrina", where his family post photos. 

"The photos are just amazing," he says. "The history that I'm tied to, that I'm connected to. People look at me or they look at my dad and they say, 'You're not Aboriginal' whereas I'm, by blood, tied to these black-as people."

Dobby was born Rhyan Clapham. His childhood taekwondo teacher gave him the nickname Dobby. She was due to compete in the Athens Olympics in 2004, but got cancer. "She passed away in 2005," says Dobby. His rap name is a tribute to her. 

"It's the same reason I wear this as well," he says. He points to a "Livestrong" bracelet on his wrist from the charity foundation founded by Lance Armstrong, the record-smashing cyclist who was exposed as a drug cheat in 2012. 

"She was part of the Livestrong Foundation. It's hard wearing this, because he was a liar." 

Having to justify why he wears it keeps his teacher alive, just like his rap name. Next to it is another bracelet, reading "Black Lives Matter". 

It's also designed to provoke conversation, just like the skits strung throughout his EP. The first one, found at the end of the opening song, is of a crackling campfire and murmured conversation, followed by Dobby saying "my phone is melting". Asked about it, the rapper says: "I wanted people to hear it and say, 'What the hell is this?' So that I get a chance to say, 'Well, this is what it is', you know." 

The recording is of the fire at the Aboriginal Tent Embassy in Canberra, which he visited with Bunna Lawrie from famed Aboriginal rock band Coloured Stone. 

"We were there for a trip as part of the Indigenous Composer's Initiative, that's something else that I was doing, and we got to check out the Tent Embassy with Uncle Bunna from Coloured Stone, just casually," he smiles. 

"We were there and I'm like, 'Hold on guys, I'm just going to record this' and that's why I'm like, 'My phone's melting!' It also paints the picture a lot more as well, the phone is closer than you expected."

It's also a neat metaphor for Dobby's music, which melds ancient traditions with modern technology. He pulls up Apple's Logic software on his laptop, which he used to make all the music on the EP after giving up on collaborations with producers, and plays back one of his latest beats. 

"Beat-making's the hardest part, trying to find the sound that you want because you've got the sound in your head, but you don't know what you need to do in Logic or what samples you need to make that happen," he says. 

Yet his productions are impressive, from the beautiful, bent percussion and bells in "Ode To AD", to the closing track "Peregrine", which flies like polished pop.

Dobby "Peregrine" 

His official debut release was supposed to be a 13-track album, but he settled for a six-track EP because of the prohibitive cost of getting someone else to mix and master the individual songs. The thousands of dollars needed for a full album are unlikely to be recouped - and he's still in debt from completing his music degree. 

On an old track he made about the University of New South Wales, "UNSW I Luva You", he raps: "A $50,000 degree in Sydney should explain why I chose this." He laughs when he's reminded about it. "I think at the time I wrote it I was just thinking, like, far out! There's so much money," he says. "I haven't checked my HECS debt."

The degree paid off in other ways. His thesis, about Aboriginal Hip-Hop, is detailed, insightful and passionate. Reading it, the obvious struck me: it is an Aboriginal person like Dobby, rather than a white colonist like myself, who should be writing a book like Real Talk: Aboriginal Rappers Talk About Their Music And Country, though he claims the book assisted him in completing his degree. 

"The amount of work outweighs the fact that you're white," he says, politely. "It helped me, way more than you realise, finish my thesis in Indigenous Studies Honours focusing on Aboriginal Hip-Hop. Largely, it was your work, because I used a lot of those interviews and it helped me dramatically."

Yet, as I drive back north, past the Royal National Park's towering gum trees, I see only a road through a beautiful national park back towards the comforts of Sydney. 

An Aboriginal person would be more likely to see an ugly asphalt slash through poorly managed land back to invasion ground zero. An Aboriginal person would be more likely to see a whole host of other roads that I haven't even thought of going down. 

It is for this reason that the space occupied by this book should be vacated for any Aboriginal person to write their own book about Aboriginal Hip-Hop. It is for this reason that that this is the final interview in the book Real Talk: Aboriginal Rappers Talk About Their Music And Country.