In a time of resistance and protest around the world, the Australian Music Prize has been awarded to an indigenous duo whose album is a raised middle finger to a complacent middle Australia.
Reclaim Australia, by hip hop duo A.B Original - Yorta Yorta man Briggs and Ngarrindjeri man Trials - is an angry, funny, plainspoken and brutal take on racism, police behaviour, political doublespeak and what it means to be something other than white, safe and in power.
Taking its name by appropriating the favourite phrase of white supremacists, the A. B Original album is anything but safe music. In fact, Briggs confessed he thought the record “was career suicide”.
But that didn’t deter them from either the humour or the anger and while paying tribute to those who had gone before them such as the Warumpi Band and Archie Roach, for giving them the platform to “be the artists that we are”, he said A.B.Original saw a need for something beyond “poignant but also polite”.
“You don’t protest once and go back to work,” said Briggs. “I noticed there was a definite gap of angry black voices. And there needed to be those voices heard. But this is fun now and what the rednecks worry about is this is our hobby now, antagonising them for sport.”
There wasn’t anything new in what they were saying, said Trials, and that in itself was worth reporting.
“In 2017 to think we’re discussing things that have been around for a long, long time – that’s probably why this [album] resonates so deeply. It’s a multi-generational experience and this has brought these conversations to light.”
Briggs and Trials will share $30000, the biggest prize for an album in Australia now in its 12th year. And their award, announced in Melbourne on Thursday, was not lightly won.
More than 300 albums were initially considered in a multi-stage process before the shortlist of nine was announced in January. The styles ranged from home recorded dance music and free flowing jazz to new punk and hard rock.
Among the candidates were outstanding releases such as the first recordings in 16 years from pioneering electronic magpies The Avalanches, Nick Cave's grief-soaked album, made after the death of one of his sons, and a pointed, generation-defining indie rock album by Camp Cope.
Although proud to have won the AMP, both Briggs and Trials hope that Reclaim Australia is “severely dated by 2027”.
“Each time Briggs and I would write a verse we would laugh at the absurdity of how f….d up it is that we’re still discussing this kind of shit,” said Trials. “Hopefully people in 2027 will listen and think, wow, this is how it was in 2017?”
For now though, they’ve got some provoking to do with a second album already recorded, and they’ve got no reason to hold back.
“We have minus f…s to give. We’d have to save f…s up to give any f…s,” laughed Briggs.