Review: Spanian’s ‘The Unfiltered Hood Life’

Get the latest from Beat


Review: Spanian’s ‘The Unfiltered Hood Life’

Photo: Cole Bennetts
Words by Tammy Walters

“With Spanian, it’s crystal clear that he really does not give two fucks about what anybody thinks” presents co-author, Christopher Kevin Au, in his foreword.

He further offers the sociological analysis, “Spanian’s story is inherently a socio-economic statement, one born and brewed in the inner-city suburbs of Sydney among crime ridden housing commissions and streets littered with syringes. But while it belongs distinctly to Sydney city, Spanian’s story transcends postcodes and geographical borders.”

The Unfiltered Hood Life is a one-point perspective on the trials and tribulations of Spanian’s whirlwind life, told in the crime-lord turn rapper/social media personality’s nonchalant first-person voice; emphasis is given to the ‘unfiltered’ title. Paired with the casual writing style of journalist and fellow hip hop musician, Christopher Kevin Au, The Unfiltered Hood Life embarks on a mission to memoir the boyhood to hood life to ‘Hood Oos’ journey, whilst making subtle assessments on socio-economic disadvantage, poverty and polarisation, Australia’s criminal and social systems, along with institutionalisation inevitability.

Helpfully providing map keys of New South Wales Prison System, and prominent Greater Sydney Inner Sydney—Woolloomooloo is central to the story—The Unfiltered Hood Life begins with a crime-based anecdote involving a car seat stolen from Jimmy Barnes, and ultimately ends with the prospect of continued criminal activity, unpacking the uneasy, barely sliding decline into delinquency in between.

Keen for more Melbourne reads? For the latest news and reviews, head here.

Spanian discusses his relationship with his mum and her struggles as a young mother trying to raise not only Spanian in the absence of his father, but also his teen-aged Uncle Tony; the latter, dad and uncle, instigators for his introduction into the criminal world. Interestingly in his recollection, Spanian never forces blame for this or makes excuses. He is simply retelling his youth and life, like a friend would over a beer, throwing a tangent into the mix every so often with stories of ghosts, the traumatic experience of watching Chucky, and Pink Floyd’s ‘Another Brick in the Wall’ music videos that stuck with him.

In fact, he doesn’t seem fazed by his surroundings or see them as impactful in shaping his being, noting that “Some would say that my childhood was really dysfunctional, but I wouldn’t say it was any more dangerous than any other circumstances… Like most things you’re exposed to as a kid, it just becomes normal. It’s all you know.”

This is further emphasised by his passing comments surrounding his mental health and casual admittance of crimes and murderous mindset. The concept of good versus bad seems foreign, which from a psychological gaze, borders on disturbing.

“It was the same for me to swear at you as it was for me to hit you with a brick,” he writes. “The same thing! I had no real, conscious separation of those things as a kid who was trying to be cool. Stabbing Otto, I felt nothing. It didn’t affect me at all. Later on, I was told that I’m a high-range psychopath, which probably has something to do with it.”

Spanians telling is so matter-of-fact and without repentance that the story edges on fiction, but without the glamorisation or dramatisation. It is purposely blunt to maintain Spanian’s authentic voice. There are some eye opening and jarring windows into his mistreatment in the justice system. Readers be advised that Spanian discusses being the victim of sexual abuse as both a minor and adult. This delicate subject is laid out as matter-of-factly as the rest of his life, stating, “It happened to a lot of kids like me who were in and out of juvie. I guess no one would have believed us if we had spoken out.” It is a huge indication of Spanian’s acceptance of this behaviour and the abnormal circumstances he has faced.

This shocking authenticity has garnered Spanian hundreds-of-thousands of followers on social media, and more than 11 million views on YouTube. It’s seen Spanian heralded as a counter-culture icon since the release of his first album, ONE OUT, and garnered significant publicity as he turns his back on the glorification of violence within Australian hip-hop culture.

The story ends back at the slippery slope beginning, with Spanian saying if it all ends tomorrow, he will “spend the rest of my life selling pot from my living room, maybe with some Fortnite intermissions. But I promise I won’t stab anybody.”

The Unfiltered Hood Life by Spanian (with Christopher Kevin Au) is out from Hachette Australia.