Take rapper and Indigenous mentor Briggs, Funkoars member and producer Trials, hard-hitting 90s style beats and a helluva lotta attitude, and you’ll come up with A.B Original. This take-no-prisoners duo have decided to bring the scary back to rap with their debut album Reclaim Australia, packed to the brim with Indigenous empowerment and a healthy dose of outrage over the racial issues being faced by Australian Aborigines. Prior to the album’s release, A.B. Original performed and spoke at Brisbane’s BIGSOUND conference. Mella Lahina sat down with Adam Briggs for a more in depth chat.
At this stage their controversial single, January 26 feat Dan Sultan had just hit the airwaves. With lyrics such as:
That’s that land takin’, flag wavin’ attitude
Got this new Captain Cook dance to show you how to move
How you wanna raise a flag with a rifle
To make us want to celebrate anything but survival?
Nah, you watchin’ tele for The Bachelor
But wouldn’t read a book about a fuckload of massacres?
I remember all the blood and what carried us
They remember twenty recipes for lamingtons
Yeah, their ancestors got a boatride
Both mine saw them comin’ until they both died
Fuck celebratin’ days made of misery
White Oz still got the black history,
we figured the guys were experiencing some kind of backlash.
“People were pissed off,” said Briggs.
“But that’s just the nature of it though, when you question the Australian way, white Australians get their nose severely out of joint. And that’s the nature of this record.”
Briggs shrugs. “We are who we are and these songs are a reflection of who we are.”
Education from the Indigenous perspective, uncomfortable conversations and change are the themes behind the music of A.B Original. For Briggs, who grew up watching friends and family die, the guilt over succeeding is getting better. For him it’s important not to waste the platform he has been given and that it’s okay to want more, it’s not being greedy. He does however, want to give back.
Hence the creation of Bad Apples, Briggs’ own record label. The objective of Bad Apples is to genuinely nurture, develop and provide structure and opportunity for emerging and established Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists. We ask who is currently exciting him on the scene.
“Indigenous artists like Birdz, Philly and Nookie are great artists but also leaders themselves and those guys, we are hoping will have a big 2017 and the launch of A.B Original is to help those guys so they can have a platform and support us on tour.”
And the recent rise of women rappers such as Sampa the Great, Tkay Maidza and Ecca Vandal?
“Sampa the Great is awesome,” Briggs declares.
“It’s important, we need more girls. We are influencing and creating paths for indigenous artists and those girls are creating paths for the female audience. Sampa and the others aren’t just good for girls but they are good for music full stop.”
“In Indigenous communities mediocrity is accepted so often that it becomes the benchmark. When I created Bad Apples I said mediocrity is not gonna cut it.”
Briggs is clear on his goals, messages and ideals. Yet many white Australians still seem confused about where to stand on issues of racism and patriotism, even educated ones. Briggs is quick to correct my idea of ‘education’.
“These guys are not educated. What I mean they are not educated correctly. I’ve met educated racists… What I’m talking about is real education, the conversations that have to be had and the facts that need to be shared and understood. And the lack of empathy and the kind of attitude that Australia has toward its indigenous people, who want to talk about pulling up your fucking bootstraps, well how do you do that when you don’t have any bootstraps?”
Whether you’re a fan of A.B Original’s west coast/Aussie hybrid hip hop style is subjective. It’s the message behind the music that is critical for Australians to engage with because, as Briggs stated during our interview and in the conference, these conversations need to be occurring, especially now with the raised awareness of the continued mistreatment of Indigenous people in Australia.
You can catch A.B Original at Laneway Festival in January, and Reclaim Australia is available now. Click here to read our review.