63. Dex

28 Mar


You can count the number of Viewbank locals who’ve filmed music videos in Hong Kong on one hand. Okay, probably just one finger. That’s Dex.

Dexter Cairns, known by his stage name Dex, is fresh from a national tour with Aussie hip-hop royalty Bliss N Esso. Despite glowing endorsements from the likes of Triple J’s Matt Okine off the back of his debut LP Young Zen, Dex remains humble about his journey.

When we spoke just before the tour, the eighteen-year-old deflects industry insider talk that he is on the cusp of ‘breaking’. With rap music playing in the background, he keeps bringing the conversation back to thanking his fans and mentors who helped him get to where he is today.

“I guess that a lot of people don’t want to help you in creative industries, but a lot of people will. You’ve just got to find the right people.”

“I think mentors are definitely important, because like literally if you want to learn something go to someone who is in that position. If you want to be at they are going to help you get there.”

Dex started listening to rap earlier than most. By the time he was six or seven, the highlights of long car trips with his dad and older brother Max was listening to new local and international artists.

By the time secondary school rolled around, Dex had well and truly immersed himself in the local hip-hop scene. He’d sometimes wag school to write lyrics.

“I was bored in class and I was writing raps. School wasn’t really my cup of tea.

I just wanted to be outside running around being crazy, and to write lyrics.”

“When I started putting things down I found I was getting lots of shit for it because at the start of highschool everyone’s sort of judging each other. Everyone is trying to find themselves, and for me the music was like the thing that made me find myself,” he says.

“It’s funny, people’s attitudes change a lot. I’ve seen people out and about now, and they go ‘oh you’re doing so well now!’ I’m just thinking, you used to give me shit three or fours years ago. I don’t really let it get to me, I just laugh to myself about how fake people can be”.

Dex says he doesn’t think too deeply about the writing process. He just puts on a beat and starts writing, which helps him process what’s going on around him.

His work touches on everything from normal growing pains like fake friends, dating and dreaming of the future. His LP ‘16’ is compelling listening, highly relatable and catchy. His most recent work, like singles ‘Rooftops’ and ‘Limitless’ from Young Zen, focuses on what happens when you achieve your dreams.

All of Dex’s tracks are honest, but ‘I’m Sorry’ about his Dad is heartbreaking. He deals with the “dark times” after his father’s death a few years ago in a lot of his earlier work.

“It really helped me, especially when I lost my dad, to get something out rather than just doing lots of stupid shit. I did do that as well, I did go off and do some pretty stupid shit with my mates, but that’s just normal growing up stuff.”

“It just really feels like [rap] is the thing that got me through that stage when I was 15 or 16”, he says. “I feel like I’ve grown a lot since, it’s good to talk about it but not let it define who I am today.”

Despite, maybe due to, his success, Dex is just as likely to post a tribute to a fan who got his autograph tattooed on his arm as he is to post ironic photo of himself eating a Callipo. Take a scroll through Instagram and you’ll find thousands of fans screaming at local gigs, as well as snaps from his tours in South-East Asia.

“You just take a step out of yourself and go, wow. This was the shit I was dreaming about four or five years ago.

“Now I want it more and more. I want to do bigger and better things. You just keep pushing yourself.”

Something tells me he’ll do just that.

Words: Rachael Ward

Photo: Sean Porter




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