Briggs and Trials, long term friends and now collaborators as duo A.B. Original, bring the angry back to rap with Reclaim Australia, an in-your-face, no-holds-barred look at Australian race relations. Musically, the duo channels NWA / Public Enemy with aggressive rhetoric (and a sprinkle of police-baiting) set to hard-hitting beats more usually reserved for the US west coast 90s rap scene than the more generally laid back modern Aussie hip hop. “We want to make rap scary again,” said Briggs during an interview at the 2016 BIGSOUND in Brisbane. They have succeeded. Drawing on some of the worst aspects of 200 years of Australia’s white occupation for lyrical inspiration, the album is already drawing both praise and criticism for its unflinching messages.
Stand out tracks include single Jan 26 feat Dan Sultan, an impassioned plea to change the date that Australia celebrates what most Indigenous people consider to be Survival Day, or Invasion Day. (Seriously, why the fuck hasn’t this happened yet?). “You can call it what you want, it don’t mean a thing to me” dismisses Sultan in the chorus. Lyrics such as:
They screamin’, “love it or leave it”
I got more reason to be here, if you could believe it
Won’t salute a constitution or who’s underneath it
Turn that flag to a noose, put a cease to your breathin’
don’t leave much to the imagination. And that’s the point. This isn’t some esoteric, placatory attempt at joining hands and singing Kumbayah. A.B. Original is providing a platform for both historical and current Aboriginal grievances to be aired with all the attendant anger and hurt that accompanies them. The whole album is an emotional piece of work, but Caiti Baker’s searing vocals on the chorus of Dead in a Minute definitely hit a nerve, while Reclaim Australia feat Gurrumul gave me goosebumps. As a white Australian I found part of the album uncomfortable, part devastating and part eye-opening. As an old school rap fan it gets two big thumbs up.