Today, A.B. Original‘s highly anticipated and much publicised debut album Reclaim Australia was officially unleashed on to the public. Over the course of 12 tracks, both Briggs and Trials have made a definite mark on Australian music and as the bigots and uneducated internet trolls have continued to beat their chests and crack their knuckles, ready to take to their keyboards, the strength of the album and its brutally honest nature has stood out above the noise.
Speaking with the duo this week ahead of the album’s release, they reflect on the making of the record and effect it’s continued to have on them as the artists behind it.
“I wrote all my rhymes in the studio, on the spot.” Briggs mentions. “Line up the white like I’m Maradonna – I heard that on the radio and I was like, “Oh shit!”. I think because Trials did the backend and the engineering, he would’ve been privy to more of the wild things that we said.”
“I’m somewhat forensic,” Trials adds. “I’m pretty meticulous with the bits I use and how I use them. I know when the bangers are coming up, I’m like “Well, here we go, this is it”.”
Listening to the album, no single song feels out of place or added for the sake of shock or raw appeal. For A.B. Original, this was a conscious effort.
“Each song had to be representative of the record,” Briggs emphasises. “If anyone heard one song off the album, they would get an idea of what the album was about. It feels like each song is definitely representative of the record, you’d understand what the album was about by hearing the song.”
“We made it like our favourite albums,” Trials furthers. “Which are meant to be listened to, start to finish, and where you could sit there and read the liner notes. That was my favourite thing when I got a new record, just sitting down with it start to finish with a pair of cans and really get the picture. I think we both thought of albums being albums. Being a big breath of sonic styles but with a cohesive, underlying message to it all. I feel like we pulled it off.”
Though the past few months have seen Briggs in particular take on racist furore from all corners surrounding A.B. Original’s music and a general refusal to accept such a style of behaviour, the rapper opens up about the effect Reclaim Australia, as a record, stands to have on the younger generation of Indigenous kids looking for music to relate to and also music to spur on their own creative ideas.
“My favourite part is when I get to see my nephews’ Snapchats of him and the boys back home slamming the tracks at the parties and things like that.” Briggs admits. “They’re finally going to have the whole record that they can play. I think what we created was something that we never had when we were kids and the bigger picture of that is the option, you know? I’m not expecting all these kids to throw out their Young Thug records and have ours, but now they’ve got the option at least, to play ours as well. We never had that when we were kids. That’s what I’m looking forward to.”
“When you play basketball,” he adds. “You dream about playing in the NBA, you know? You want to shoot for the stars because the NBA is the best of the best. When we were kids, you’re drawn to what is the perceived to be the ‘best’ and what we wanted to do was bring that to their world. Bring it home.”
Trials thinks on how his artistry would have changed or would have been influenced, had they had this type of music growing up. How would his style have changed? Would A.B. Original have the urgency to release such an important record, had the music environment (and the access to different sounds) been different?
“One of the things that we really wanted to do was to try and imagine what our records would sound like now, if we had this record when we were getting into rap music.” he explains. “If we’d grown into these positions and [become] these people now and we’re able to make this album with such a concise effort of what we’re trying to achieve with it; imagine if we had this record growing up?”
“Someone mentioned to me before about Brothablack and Wire MC,” Briggs adds. “Shannon is a great friend of mine and ours as well, but even though there was stuff going on, for whatever reason, Brothablack/Wire never made it to my hood. They never made it to Shepparton. Their music never made it to me, being a country kid in a regional area. The only access I had to music was through the popular means, because I didn’t have the internet until much later either. It was always just tapes. Now, with the exposure that you can get and the viral interaction you can have, we can get our music to so many different communities. I think I remember one of the first ever Indigenous rock bands that were new [then] was Nokturnl; that was one of my first introductions to something that was on the way to what I enjoyed. I was piecing together that I could do it from a young age.”
Already today, the support for A.B. Original and Reclaim Australia from elsewhere in the Australian music industry has been immense. The duo’s Like A Version for triple j that saw A.B. Original link up with Paul Kelly, Dan Sultan and Paul and John Bartlett for a reworking of Kelly’s “Dumb Things” drew a divisive response, unsurprisingly, but it proved that A.B. Original’s voice is one that is really hitting home and making people think. As for what Reclaim Australia means for the future of hip hop in Australia, Briggs is positive about where things are heading.
“Things are definitely shifting.” he says. “I said this the other day, someone asked me: “How do you feel about Australian hip hop?”. Australian hip hop, or hip hop in Australia, has a long way to go but it is definitely in the best place it’s ever been. The barriers are coming down and the artists involved and the punters are understanding that this isn’t Australian rap as a standalone genre, this is rap from Australia that is a piece of the world that is hip hop music.”
“We’re getting away from the idea of. “We’re ‘Aussie hip hop’, we’re not like that other stuff”, which is some kind of undercover racism. They’re one step away from, “We’re not like that nigger music,” which I have heard ten thousand times since I was a kid. Australian rap music is definitely in the best place it’s ever been, but it’s still got a fair way to go. It’s moving though and that’s important.”
A.B. Original’s Reclaim Australia is out now.
Photo by John Goodridge.