After the depressing and, in truth, devastating re-affirmation of the kind of country Australia really is at the weekend, Yorta Yorta rapper/writer/comedian/activist, Briggs – who already had asked “What’s the point in truth telling if only Blackfullas are telling the truth?” – made a quietly powerful point in a tweet.
“The thing is with white people in Aus. You think Blackfullas haven’t faced this depravity before. We’ve faced it everyday. For the “No” it was a SuperBowl. For me it was Saturday.”
At a time when an acquaintance who no doubt believes (for which we can read “deludes herself”) that she is a compassionate conservative could post in defence of the referendum vote that “This is a very sad day. NO voters want positive change in the lives of Indigenous Australians as much as anyone else … . They are entitled to respectfully hold their opinion without enduring abuse.” it seems appropriate for Wind Back Wednesday to take a trip back to 2016 when A.B. Original, the foot-forward/full-force duo of Briggs and Ngarrindjeri man Trials, released the album, Reclaim Australia.
It was before Yes, but at its root it asked much the same question.
Maybe that compassionate conservative will listen this time. After all, she wants positive change as much as anyone else, right? Well that's what she said, and surely they are all honourable people. Right?
RECLAIM AUSTRALIA (Golden Era)
In subtle and hardly subtle ways, from PMs (and ex-PMs) down to the cab driver who won’t turn Ray Hadley off, there is a clear message: there are appropriate ways to protest. Politely. Neatly. Go home afterwards and put Master Chef on. Otherwise you may upset people, make them worried about access to the shops, cause some discomfort to the comfortable.
And that JUST WON’T DO, OK?
After all, change has come from asking sweetly before hasn’t it? Because attention will be paid to the letter writer rather than the footballer chained to the road-blocking tractor; to the hand in the air at the Q&A instead of the women turning their backs on a politician during a speech; to the private report for a government department instead of the national current affairs show expose.
Don’t be angry, be conciliatory; don’t be wild, be mild, don’t swear, share.
To this, A.B. Original, the pairing of Yorta Yorta man Briggs and Ngarrindjeri man, Trials, say unequivocally, fuck that for a game of soldiers. To which you could add fuck the police, fuck the 18C warriors, fuck the Hansonites and Bernardi-ites, the Hancock/Rineharts and IPA/Bolt-ites, and fuck you if you think this is too much.
“They told me looking out for justice was outdated, deal with it/We trust the judges/News flash motherfucker, I don’t respect ya/And knowing that is easy when it won’t even affect ya.”
Yes, Reclaim Australia is an album of anger. Focused anger, and unashamed anger. The kind of strong feeling that takes not just the intense, almost overwhelming sound of 1980s west coast hip hop but the driven, socially-grounded tone and language of that protest which was dismissively cast as gangsta rap.
This is an approach that says to those who like to have a “conversation” with Australia - when they mean ventilate the outrageous to prepare the ground for the slightly milder compromise which follows - that talk is fine but responses will follow. And not everyone plays the polite game in response.
So, “if you aren’t helping the conversation then don’t be starting it”.
And why should Briggs and Trials be polite? Why should they have “answers” for that matter? “I could be dead in a minute,” sings Caiti Baker in Dead In A Minute; “You can come and wave your flag it don’t mean a thing to me,” sings Dan Sultan in January 26.
Trials, who as a producer has worked the more pop end of local hip hop with artists such as Illy and Hilltop Hoods, and Briggs aren’t afraid to bring hooks and tunes. To that end guest vocalists such as Baker, Sultan, Thelma Plum and Gurrumul work the line between sweetening and enhancing smartly. Whatever else, you can’t dismiss this as just grumpy blokes shouting at you.
But Reclaim Australia is no pop record. Report The Mist is a thick-skinned tonic, a head ram to the chest with a nerve-pressing claustrophobic sound that rarely changes and never lets you free. The Feast, with guest voice from King T, has a lope like a jacked up car taking a cruise down a country town’s main street but there’s menace in every step.
And while Take Me Home, which closes the album, has the otherworldly voice of Gurrumul and some Spanish-style guitar and trumpet bringing a kind of above-it-all calmness, it charges with the energy and fire of the anything-but-rested.
If it’s true as Briggs and Trials say that “they want to put us all back in the pigpen”, not everyone is going to let that happen quietly. And if you don’t like that? Well too fucking bad.