To say that hip hop duo A.B. Original have had a massive year is an understatement.
With the release of their first album, Reclaim Australia, Adam 'Briggs' and Daniel Rankine 'Trials' gave the nation a good dose of what they do best - honest, raw, unflinching lyrics and the dopest beats. Staying true to themselves and their creative chemistry, it's no surprise that both the industry and music lovers took notice with the album picking up a swag of awards.
Neither Briggs or Trials anticipated the level of attention that Reclaim Australia would have since the album release. "It's been pretty crazy," says Briggs, "I don’t think we ever planned for the response that it received, we knew we were going to hit a few nerves, but we didn’t expect to hit the main nerve." Trials adds "The hive mind." and they both laugh.
"I’ve got a proof of Aboriginality, so that works...I'll take the top job, I’m way more than qualified. I’m actually from here."
Hit up any social media post comments section and it's clear to see the 'hive mind' has certainly been shook.
Covering issues affecting Indigenous Australia such as youth incarceration, racism, deaths in custody and disparity in health and life expectancy, Reclaim Australia was not an album made for the masses, but the nation's response signals a shift in consciousness. Though there is still a long way to go, it's a promising change in the discourse between Indigenous and Non-Indigenous Australia.
"I think the strangest part for both of us is that we are both so lost in the making of the process, we are so in the middle of the eye of the storm, we haven’t been able to get any perspective on it which is sort of a good thing for us.. we just kind of go with the flow and do what we do without ever thinking about it too much." Trials says.
As artists, both agree that their craft requires a state of momentum, especially when they feel that they are in peak creative mode and there is still much to discuss.
"I feel like artistically - it’s the best place to be cause you just move on and make another thing," says Briggs. "Just stay creative and keep the output up. In our own respective careers we’ve got a lot of output, we’ve got to keep the throttle on it, so we don’t’ really get to stop and look at results too much, but we do hear a few things and see a few awards."
Amongst the most surprising and encouraging aspect of the response to Reclaim Australia was simply that it sparked conversations that were already being had, just not on the scale that was necessary, including changing the date of Australia Day from January 26 to a day of mourning and the celebration of survival for Indigenous Australians.
"I think being a part of the broader conversation about [these issues] right now is something that we hoped to achieve with Reclaim Australia," says Trials.
"Whether we started [the conversations] or not, with things like Australia Day, we are pretty stoked to be a part of that machine, to be a cog in that machine that is driving something forward. That’s been one of the the most encouraging things for us as far as we are on the right track."
The feedback has been a clear indication that the musical force that is A.B.Original needs to keep pushing on and there is still plenty to discuss, with Trials indicating that a second album is in the works.
"When we started thinking about ideas for the second one, we just figured we would distill and make it even more poignant. I think that kind of encouragement from family and friends and community, in particular has been invaluable for us to keep going with this machine."
With the move of Triple J's Hottest 100 countdown from the 26th January after consultation with the youth broadcasters audience and Indigenous community alike, it seems like movement on issues is starting to take place. However in response, commercial broadcaster Triple M has decided to host their own countdown on the same date, with many rightly outraged. A.B.Original have been at the forefront of pushing back against this move, urging fans to vote for their songs. Taking to Instagram Briggs stated, "We should ruin
#TripleM’s redneck countdown and stick @ABOriginalBAM & @dansultan January 26 right in the middle of their cross burning."
As a highly active voice on social media, it's no surprise that Briggs has been approached to get in to formal politics.
"People hit me up all the time to be in politics, to be a part of a party and tow the party line. There’s too much you have to accept and concede for me to stand there and say 'Vote For Me'. It’s too much work." Briggs explains.
Trials jokes that he may not qualify for such a position, alluding to the recent dual citizenship parliament sweep-out,
"I think I’m probably a secret citizen of too many countries as well so I don’t think that is going to work for me either, just got to rely on Briggs."
"I see a lot of new faces who are trying to figure out if we are some kind of art think piece, some kind of absurd Banksy live performance."
And if you were wondering if Prime Minister Briggs is completely out of the question...
"I’ve got a proof of Aboriginality, so that works. Just throw me in mate, I'll take the top job. I’m way more than qualified. I’m actually from here." Briggs chuckles.
2017 has seen the duo hit the stage all around the country, appearing at a ton of festivals and opening for acts such as Midnight Oil, but have they noticed a change in their audience in the past year?
"I see a lot of curious people coming to our shows. I see some people from our shows from before, but I also see a lot of new faces who are trying to figure out if we are some kind of art think piece, some kind of absurd Banksy live performance." Briggs explains as Trials laughs. "Which we are also neither confirming or denying."
Some audience members need help warming up to their kind of show.
"There’s a lot of people that mess with our message, they like our message - but we really have to coach them along. It’s a rap show, you know," said Briggs.
Trials agreed, "There's a lot of people who have never seen what we do on stage before. They might have heard the songs but they have never seen a rap show. It’s meant to be live. It’s meant to be somewhat confronting, and that’s what we are there to do, put these things on the table."
The duo perform their sets in the way they were influenced growing up. Traditionally, as one DJ, Total Eclipse and two emcees, though at times they will bring the party vibes with a full band, but mostly they like to practice what they preach.
Briggs says there are often people in the crowd that look 'shook' which Trials claims are the best kind of audience members.
"They are our absolute favourites. We are not there to convert anyone you know, they are there for a reason, they are there 'cause they enjoy one aspect of our music."
"If they are there, they are already converted...We just take them to church," Briggs said.
Earlier in the year they performed at Splendour in The Grass festival, and it was a turning point for them when they realised the impact their music had been having. The crowd was so involved that they had to stop the set and acknowledge the moment.
"That was the loudest by far we had ever heard the crowd singing. You know, we’ve done so many festivals together now, so many laps around the country, stadium shows and that was a moment by far. We both felt it and we both felt the energy," Trials explained.
"We actually listened back to it recently and it’s still there. I’ve never listened back to anything we’ve ever done live, but that whole set was really special for us and I think it was special for a lot of people there too."
Delivering such high energy sets requires a unique method for the pair to get psyched up before hitting the stage and with cheeky banter explain.
"With some hardcore trap music, Slayer or Metallica mostly," Briggs says with just a little sarcasm.
"Yeah we are usually listening to "Reign in Blood" really loud," laughs Trials, "We are mostly just cracking jokes on each other right up until the second we go on stage."
"Yeah we’ll go to our separate corners, we’ll prepare and then we go on stage and we form Voltron - we go in." says Briggs with a chuckle.
Navigating the social issues that are close to them can be hard going, but they say that the act of creating and producing music helps them to stay focused, inspired and energised.
"I just like creating stuff. I like to be in the moment of creating. The end product isn’t the goal for me, it’s not so much the result as much as I love being in that world and that’s where like Trials really shines and comes in to make it all adhere and sound right," Briggs explained.
Trials shares the sentiment. "Yeah, that whole process of actually making it is always cathartic for us. The album was so effortless cause these are the things we discuss anyway and it was just us putting them on beats and it’s our favourite thing in the world to do is make shut down songs, so there was always that."
"We are both fathers now so we recognise that if there is anything that we can do with the platform that we‘ve been afforded to spur change and start these conversations, it’s our duty to do that with this machine that is A.B. Original."
Fans will be excited to learn that their creative process has not stopped and new material is on the way, though no clear dates have been given.
Briggs explains that the pair have a drop box that is continually being filled with shared ideas. "We are so busy in our respective careers as well. things will happen when they are meant to happen. Relax."
"Yep, it's the same way the first album came about. We do this all the time so there’s no point in trying to fit in schedules." adds Trials.
And just in case you're waiting in anticipation, here's some advice from the deadly duo.
"Just listen to the first record. It’s really good. it’s got way more longevity than most other stuff out there just keep listening to that one."
To keep up with A.B.Original, follow them here.