Briggs and Trials are two long-time friends and rappers of Indigenous heritage – both with successful solo careers – who’ve been steadily rocking the foundations of Australia’s hip hop scene with political releases like ‘January 26’ and ‘2 Black 2 Strong’. Their debut album is just as provocative, playfully named Reclaim Australia. Friend and fan Nick Bryant-Smith, aka Solo from hip hop outfit Horrorshow, sits down for a drink with A.B. Original.
Solo: I love the album title. I chuckled so hard to myself when I read it. Have you had any response from the turkeys behind [political party] Reclaim Australia?
Trials: They followed us on Twitter and that was the end of it.
Briggs: They ‘unfollowed’ us. I think they were like “Oh, they’re black. They’ve got a better claim than us!”
There’s a real West Coast vibe to Reclaim Australia…
Briggs: Everything we did with this record is a throwback to the things that embodied our love for music, from our logo looking like the Gravediggaz to the cover looking like Death Row stuff and that West Coast sound. That’s the music we grew up on. That’s what sparked our love for rap music.
It’s been labelled a political record by the media. What do you think of that?
Trials: It’s weird because it’s us standing up and being fucking proud of ourselves and proud of our communities.
Briggs: It’s really grassroots politics at its most organic, for sure. What we’re talking about is the stuff that affects us directly. Growing up, I was terrified of police because I knew that they flogged my cousins, so that was a real fear for me and it still is. When I see the police in my rear-view mirror they make me nervous as shit, because they’re allowed to shoot me – and I couldn’t do shit about it.
Trials: A lot of political rappers will weigh in on politics in general, whereas we’re weighing in on our reality, what it is to be us, to grow up as us. We talking about it on an everyday level – for our cousins, nieces and nephews… it’s the same shit they’re going to go through in the next couple years. It doesn’t take an album to change the landscape. It’s there so the next person can do the same, and so on.
Let me ask you about the title of the group, because I know some people don’t like the word aboriginal because it means ‘not original’…
Briggs: Always Black. It's just ‘A, B’ and I think we really wanted to spell out ‘original’. There are a lot of things on this record that won't line up with other Indigenous peoples’ opinions, but we’re saying this is our point of view. We made this album for the kids that we were. We wanted to make something that was for us. So, with everything about this record, it was about being so defiant, so proud, and so strong in our message. That’s why we can do songs with Archie [Roach] – it’s coming from a different genre and style of song writing, but the experience is the same. We’re family.
I’ve been listening to you both rap for a long time… I hope you don't mind me saying so, but from a listener’s point of view it feels like as you’ve grown more confident in your abilities and more confident in talking being Indigenous.
Trials: Absolutely! And as someone who is never (until recently) confident of my abilities as a rapper, or as a producer… I feel like if we [had] started doing a record like this when we first met, we wouldn’t have done it justice. Creatively, aesthetically, fucking sonically… we would have fucked it up.
Briggs: We grew up seeing real leaders, so it was hard to reconcile ourselves as leaders when we were still fucking around, doing dumb shit. We’ve always been proud. I’ve always been whole-heartedly Yorta Yorta. A lot of artists are scared of their fans and scared of their wallets. I want people who are 100 per cent by me and I’ll give them the real deal.
How are you feeling about Laneway? About having that platform?
Briggs: Fucking stoked. We’re hosting, too, so we’re gonna be in people’s faces all day… It’s going to be a bad festival if you’re racist!
Trials: The very first one is on January 26, so it’s like the stars are aligned. It’s quite serendipitous that we get to do what we do, talk our shit. I feel like the industry is ready. I feel like the country is ready.
A.B Original are hosting and performing at Laneway in February. Their album Reclaim Australia is available now via Golden Era Records.