Despite connecting with rappers like Tupac, Snoop Dog, and Ice T growing up, for Briggs and Trials (who make up A.B. Original) there wasn’t really an artist that resonated with them 100 per cent and who captured what it was like growing up indigenous in Australia. And that’s exactly what their new record, Reclaim Australia, is doing for the younger generations.
“We wanted to make the record that we wanted to have as kids. Because when we grew up we identified with black rappers like Public Enemy, Ice T and Ice Cube…We’re getting kids coming up to us and saying this is the new shit that they’re banging on the school bus, that’s what makes us really, really proud that this is a conversation we’re starting,” Trials says.
“We were so hungry for that, that’s all we wanted,” Briggs adds. “There were people doing it and they were doing it cool, but it still wasn’t as good as Tupac or Snoop or some of the underground stuff we were listening to. There was something still amiss. It didn’t quite hit the nail on the head. All we wanted to do was make the tracks that were all the way there, there are no half steps in this record. It’s masterfully produced and mixed, and the whole package itself is international and top notch. We wanted to bring the complete package of this music of the energy and everything. We wanted to bring it home.”
Halfway through the process of creating Reclaim Australia, A.B. Original boarded a plane to Los Angeles and to the home of the music that inspired them as teenagers. “The support in the states is so welcoming and everyone we worked with while we were there was super helpful and gave us heaps of advice. And the whole point of even being there was just being in that world and in that realm. And feeling that energy,” Briggs says.
The visit helped solidify that they were on the right path, and their hopes of getting their logo scrawled across pencil cases alongside the infamous Wu-Tang logo.
“We were in LA for 12 hours and we were in the same studio that Dr Dre made some of our favourite albums that we grew up with,” Trials says. “It’s like okay, this is a real thing. And we’re in here now because of the quality of our music and that’s crazy. This is something that’s recognised worldwide. Talking about things that were applicable to so many different cultures and communities and that we were in the same studios where some of our favourite records was made, was like okay we can make someone else’s favourite record now. And I think that’s what we set out to do.”
In the short time overseas, the duo managed to visit a studio where some of their favourite albums were made, visit an icon and inspiration DJ Pooh, and even to set foot in Snoop Dogg’s house. “Being from a place where you’re not really afforded a lot of dreams, that [visit] would have been so far out of the spectrum of our ideas,” Briggs says.
With a West Coast-influenced style bringing back the hard-hitting rap to Australia, A.B.Original are pushing important conversations to the forefront of topical discussion. Their single ‘January 26′ released earlier this year and featuring Dan Sultan, echoes the lyrics “You can call it what you want/But it just don’t mean a thing/You can come and wave your flag/But it don’t mean a thing to me” and has created a ripple effect in people reconsidering just what Australia Day stands for. Triple j have been one to join the discussion, with talks on potentially moving the hottest 100 from January 26 each year.
“People in Freo aren’t celebrating on the day, and that would have been unheard of five years ago. I really think even the fact that triple j are having the conversation to move the hottest 100 from the day is massive,” Briggs says. “It’s shit that we’re still speaking about this in our record, but it’s definitely moving. You have to build up the momentum, and the best analogy would be a truck pulling. You know what I mean, once it gets going, it’s hard to move at the start but once it gets going the momentum will carry itself and people will follow suit. And the good people will prevail.”
After making a habit of calling out the racism they see on social media, the duo have become a beacon for commentary from the media and those around them. And while it’s a tiresome conversation that has been going on for decades, Briggs and Trials realise they’re in a great position to have those discussions where others mightn’t be.
“I’ve sort of made myself a lightning rod for rednecks and for media outlets, but it’s a blessing and a curse, because it’s good to be able to share my opinion but it’s a tiresome conversation to be having all the time,” Briggs says.
“We’ve said a bunch of times now that we could start blackface monthly, a little magazine. Because it happens so often, we could get a subscription base and start making money of this. Every month we’re guaranteed to get another contestant,” Trials adds.
Ironically, the album title came from one of the biggest sources of racism in Australia, the Reclaim Australia party. “When Briggs threw that out, I pissed myself laughing and rang him and said, ‘We should probably do this’. And that was it,” Trials says. “That was literally the deal-sealer, as soon as we said we were going to mess their Google searches up that was our album title,” Briggs adds.
It’s set to be released shortly, and no doubt some songs will feature in their headline set at NaranaFest in November. While Briggs has played Geelong multiple times, the duo are looking forward to heading down to that “beautiful part of the world”.
Published in Forte Magazine and online.