BRIGGS – Too Strong

THREE ALBUMS IN AND SUDDENLY EVERYONE’S INTERESTED IN EVERYTHING ABOUT HIM, INCLUDING HIS SOCKS. RIP NICHOLSON RAPS WITH BIG ADAM BRIGGS ABOUT HIS INFLUENCES.

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BRIGGS interviewed @ 13:40 AEST – Thursday 18th September, 2014
For Street Press Australia [READ HERE].

Words by RIP NICHOLSON

[Conversation below]

Actually, Briggs is more interested in giving us the most brutal punch-in-the-face slice of Sheplife we can handle, his legacy all on this new album.

The Briggasaurus, as some dare call him, hails from Victoria’s Shepparton area representing a strong rural Aboriginal community. Discovered by Reason for Obese, Hilltops took the MC in at Golden Era Records in 2009. “When you’re in a community like (Shepparton) and part of a movement and a part of something bigger than yourself, you don’t get to waive the weight of responsibility, you know?” The brutality of Sheplife’s punch is felt hard on his very real, very wounding track, Late Night Calls, in which Briggs illustrates just how real it is where he’s from. “Being from the kind of community that I grew up in, you get a few of these calls. You know that when that phone rings at one or two in the morning, it’s from your Mum…” He pauses. “You know exactly what the fuck these calls are about.

“My cousin got stabbed, murdered. I knew I was gonna write about it, I didn’t know when and I didn’t know how. It wasn’t until I went to the shops one morning to get my breakfast and his face was on the front of the newspapers. That’s when I knew how I was going to write about it. I’m looking at my cousin looking back at me from an article. Over nothing. That’s the worst part. The other side of that is the family of the dude who did it. They have to live with this as well. It’s not a great situation for anyone to be in.”

Briggs supports community-led workshops and believes in first instilling a sense of self-esteem in children. “I had two good parents who told me I could. Some of these kids don’t have that.” This spirit carries into his music, also. Through every neck-snapping banger, Briggs aspires to the influences of Public Enemy’s Too Black, Too Strong presence in pop culture. “Tupac had that on every record – a very strong, black influence. Public Enemy had it on every record, Ice Cube, every record. And that’s what I intend to deliver, also. Not every track, but in everything that I do and everything that I am, that is my identity,” Briggs affirms. “I’m bringing it to the table the way I grew up among the politics. My father sat down in meetings with (Professor) Pat Dodson while I was drawing on paper next to him. I’m not new to this.”

What defines the album’s purpose and sense of identity, Briggs details, is evidenced by the track Bad Apples.

“That is the core of everything. It’s the spirit, the heart of the whole album. If you wanted honesty, if you wanted truth, here it is on a fucking platter. People talk about what they want in music. If you wanna hear the real side to an artist, then there you go, you know? Welcome to Sheplife.”

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Briggs [Oct14]Conversation with BRIGGS

Running a little overtime on media day, for Briggs today is all about the Q & A of recent album drop and subsequent upcoming national tour. However, when it’s your third album out and you’re a force in the scene to be reckoning with, people are interested in everything about the man. From the colour of his socks to what his daily routine is. Only Briggs is more interested in giving us the most brutal punch-in-the-face slice of Sheplife we can handle.

The Briggasaurus, as some dare call him, hails from Victoria’s Shepparton area representing a strong rural Aboriginal community. Discovered by Reason for Obese, Hilltops took the MC in at Golden Era Records in 2009 and in 2014 he aims to etch his legacy all over this album. Wounds run deep on this tell-all affair, on tracks such as ‘Late Night Call’ and ‘Bad Apples’ both of which drive home the brutality of his honesty that he wants us to know. Or, in his own words; “If you wanna hear the real side to an artist, then there you go… Welcome to Sheplife.”

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RIP: How’s things shaping up for Briggs these days?

BRIGGS: Sorry I’m a little late man, a couple of interviews ran overtime. They wanted to know what kinda socks I had on.

Well, that’s the level you’re at now. Three albums out and people wanna know this shit. I definitely don’t wanna know what colour your socks are. But I am interested in your last album. Been out for a month or so now. How’s the feedback been?

It’s been positive man, it’s been real good. I really don’t take time to sit back and wait to see what people say. I’ve got a pretty good work ethic, I like to be on to the next thing. I don’t like to mill about too much unless I’m sitting down to watch a movie, you know what I mean? Other than that, I’m working on the next project. All the positive reviews and the four stars here and there is great, from what I’ve heard. When I’m making an album I don’t really think of that stuff.

I guess you probably get that satisfaction that feedback can provide off a live performance, rather than reviews.

My shows are a little different to most. I really enjoy interaction, talking to the crowd. Finding individuals in the crowd, wearing strange things. Sometimes they crack me up, they’ll be doing a weird dance. But, it’s hard to step outside of the work that you’re doing. I don’t look at it from any other way than as a project I’m doing, because I’m so involved in the process of it.

OK, I’m with you, somewhat.

Well, it’s like you’re building something from the inside out. And, because you see it at every different level and every different layer its hard to appreciate it as a whole, and not for the stages you’re going through. And somewhat critical of every stage, also. You know, does this knock hard enough. Is my point across on here. It’s hard to recognise a song as a song when you’re building it.

It’s like if your friends and fam come over to visit and they are surprised at how much your kids have grown since they last saw them. You don’t notice that because you see them everyday, right? I dig. Do you wish sometimes that you could experience your work, as if you were not the creator?

Nah, too involved in my stuff to step away from it. I listen to other people’s music. That’s where I get that enjoyment, you know what I mean? When I hear a Pusha T record.

Dude, King Push?! Love anything he does.

Yeah, he’s the man. But that’s where I get the fan’s perspective. I’m too involved, too critical of my shit to see it any other way.

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Well from an outside perspective, after playing the new album, Sheplife, Snoop’s (1995) Source Awards rant is a fucking dope way to bring the album in. I had the scene pictured perfectly as the beat kicked. That reps one of the hottest periods in hip-hop. Good call.

I don’t know for how long I’ve been saying consciously ‘let it be known’ but probably ever since then when I was a kid.  I’ve got it tattooed across my chest. That moment with Snoop doing that was one of the catalysts for my interest in hip-hop, you know? I grew up in the ’90s and that was the strongest and most outrageous thing I’d seen. “You’ll don’t love us?! You’ll don’t love Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg?! You ain’t got no love for the West coast?!.. Well let it be known, then!”  

Snoop had the baseball bat he was waving with a chain on it too. Then you had the crowd thick with East coast heads and in the middle, big Suge and his entourage of Bloods. Fuckin’ gauntlet thrown down!

Huge diss on Bad Boy, too when Suge Knight came up, like “If you don’t want your executive producer to be.. all in the video..” Just raised the roof on hip hop. That was the shit I was down with back then. For me to bring that to the table, not to make comparison to that in a matter of importance like when Public Enemy used Malcolm X (speeches), but that was a moment when I was a kid and I was like, “wow! This guy doesn’t give a fuck!” I mean, Snoop acting up at an awards is minimal in comparison to Public Enemy’s ‘Too Black, Too Strong’ but it is a tribute to my favourite rappers and the era I came up in. It’s a tribute to Snoop, and I just wanted that style of opening and it really explains that genre, you know what I mean?  I like to pay respect to rap as I go. I make rap music. I don’t try and hide this idea that I’m something more than what rap means. I make rap music.

Similar to Game’s ‘The Documentary’ where he raps, ‘I am Ready To Die without Reasonable Doubt, smoke Chronic and hit it Doggystyle before I go out.’ Illmatic to Death Certificate, paying respects to all the dope albums that we, our generation grew up on. That, I feel is a parallel to the homage you’re paying here.

You see, out here as well, we’d shy away from that Gangsta rap influence but that’s what I grew up on. I grew up with Gangsta rap – not to say that I didn’t appreciate other styles.

I grew up on West coast rap. All the kings of L.A. reality rap scene.

Yeah, from King Tee, Ice Cube, Westside Connection, Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, Eastsidaz, Dogg Pound, E-40.

The Bay Area too, for sure.

All that, even down South. The UGK, Bun B, Cash Money Click, Juvenile and No Limit. I was a huge No Limit Records fan. That’s what I grew up on and the only really east coast rap squad I heard growing up was Gravediggaz.

For me it was Naughty By Nature. And Das EFX.

My brother was really into Naughty By Nature. Also, LL Cool J was another favourite and one of the first CDs I ever had. I think my love for rap was Ice Cube.

Ha, word! Me too. In my Walkman I had the Predator cassette or Ice-T’s Home Invasion.

‘South Central L.A. fool! Where the Crips and the Bloods play!’ You know what I mean? Ice-T was the man. My favourite Cube album was Lethal Injection.

Yes. ‘Really Doe’.

You know, ‘Ghetto Bird,’ ‘Cave Bitch’. When someone asked me what top ten albums that have influenced me, you know, a lot of people wouldn’t say 50 Cent Get Rich or Die Tryin’ but man, I’m not gonna front. Get Rich or Die Tryin’ was one of the biggest albums when I was a teenager. You couldn’t avoid that.

You couldn’t not have heard it.

And I love it. I still listen to it today. Doggystyle, Lethal Injection, Gravediggaz, Westside Connection. All this stuff; Dr Dre’s Chronic, 2001, Marshall Mathers LP. These were the records that were around when I was formulating my style. My favourite rappers were Ill Bill, Xzibit, Kururpt, you know what I mean? 50 Cent, Ice Cube, Biggie and Big Pun. These were the guys in the early to mid 2000s when I was 13 or 14 that I was listening to non-stop. And growing up in the country that was the music that was accessible to me. We weren’t getting any underground rap. A lot of Melbourne guys came up on English hip-hop.That just wasn’t hap’nin’ in Shep!

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Haha, That just wasn’t hap’nin’ in Shep!

Nah! It just wasn’t. Like, my cousins are all black kids. You know. They’re not gonna put on an English hip-hop album.

True. They’re not gonna relate to that.

They don’t wanna hear it. They wanna hear 50 Cent. You know, my cousins wanna hear Ludacris. They want Juvenile, they want Lil Wayne. You know? And I love that. It’s cool. People have this idea of what hip-hop is, you see? You can’t tell me that these dudes don’t influence with.

Well, let me ask you; as an artist in the industry, and I know that you’re in some esteemed company, Hilltop, Funkoars, but more so, to the younger MCs with deals – what’s up with some of them not owning up, and I choose those words, not owning up to admitting that Gangsta rap had an influence on them growing up? Do they think they have to shy away from the stereotype of ’90s reality rap?

I was talking to someone about this the other day. I don’t know if it’s fear of having Aussie hip-hop injected with American hip-hop so much or if it’s their fear of just admitting that they listen to gangsta rap. To me it sounds strange. If you walked into a club in 2006 you were listening to ‘Disco Inferno’ by 50 Cent or ‘Candy Shop’ or whatever. You know? Stop acting like you weren’t listening to it.

Yeah, try avoiding it.

For me I’ve just embraced that honesty. Go listen to my music collection.

You represent where you’re from. And you do obviously, your shit’s called Sheplife. And that’s number one in hip-hop; Rep what brought you here. Be real. Number two is, use what has influenced you, because that’s being real too. If you grew up on that hood shit, that west coast gangsta, then embrace it, put that G-funk in your music, style it like that because that’s what you grew up with. Don’t disconnect from it because you think, you’re Australian and you can’t do that. Nah, if you’re honest with what made you who you are as an artist then respect the shit you grew up on and use that to shape your music. That’s being real, I feel.

Of course man, you know, there are rappers out there that are scared to call themselves rappers. Or they’re scared to say that they make rap music. They might squirm out if it, and say, ‘it has elements of pop and blues with a little hip-hop beat thrown in’ Man, rap’s been doing that since forever! That’s what rap music’s built on. It’s taking elements of other music and turning it into rap music. Like, I’m proud to be a rapper, I’m proud of rap music. I love it and it’s given me a platform where I can feed myself and help my community and spread my word and deliver a message as well.

Love the video for ‘Bad Apples’ the kids you had there must have loved being in it.

Yeah man, they loved it. They loved the fact that they were in a rap video. One of my nieces missed out. She wanted to be in it but couldn’t.

She would have been spewin’ right?

Man, she’s only young, She’s in prep. She’s like, ‘where am I?’ I felt so bad man. I gotta put her in the next one.

Tell me about what’s behind the song. Pretty important track for the album, I would imagine.

‘Bad Apples’ is like the core of everything. it’s the spirit, the heart of the whole album. ‘Bad Apples’ is what this whole album is about. If you wanted honesty, if you wanted truth, here it is on a fucking platter. People talk about what they want in music. if you wanna hear the real side to an artist, then there you go, you know? Welcome to Sheplife.

‘Late Night Calls’ sounds like quite an honest grind in itself. Really sounds like you poured out some liquor on that one.

Yeah, man. My cousin got stabbed, murdered. I knew I was gonna write about it, I didn’t know when and I didn’t know how. This was done on the same week. It wasn’t until I went to the shops one morning to get my breakfast and his face was on the front of the newspapers. That’s when I clicked, you know what I mean? That’s when I knew how I was going to write about it. I’m looking at my cousin looking back at me from an article. This was my cousin’s son.  My second cousin. He was just 20. Over nothing. That’s the worst part. To get murdered, being my cousin or being anyone, and these dudes that are getting punched in the face for no reason. And there’s no second chance. There’s no coming back from that. The other side of that is the family of the dude who did it. They have to live with this as well. It’s not a great situation for anyone to be in.  That’s what I took on board when I wrote ‘Late Night Calls’. Me and my cousin were home and being from the kind of community that I grew up in, you get a few of these calls.  You know that when that phone rings at one or two in the morning, it’s from your Mum. Or it’s from your Auntie. You know exactly what the fuck these calls are about. So, that’s what that song is about.

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To go off the title and completely misunderstand it, it seems more the Too $hort-style booty call song.

Haha, that’s my other joint, ‘Late Night Texts’.

But that’s the reality of it, man. That’s why I say late night call, because it turns something so meaningless, you know, a phone call into something symbolic of a heart-dropping, big moment. And that’s what I tried to portray in that song. Some people wouldn’t understand that when that phone rings at night, because my phone is on silent except for my Mum, Dad and my baby’s mother, that’s when you know something is up.

You certainly conveyed that weight of emotion in the song, man.

Cheers. The idea was just to tell a story, as I said, man with Sheplife all I wanted to do was deliver an honesty of my life in an album. Who I am as a person with all these things that make up my life. In this record you have ‘Late Night Calls’ with ‘Bigger Picture’ which is the birth of my daughter. These are the facets that make up the daily life that I live. And I’m not trying to pretend that I am something special.But my visions, my goal was the fact that I have a platform to say something. So I used it to say something that was real and needed to be said.

That’s always the power of an artist, is to use it for a better cause or message. And you’ve done that. These communities do get forgotten about and I’d assume police don’t run beats through these areas to keep shit safe as much they would a higher class of suburb in the cities.

Police are always gonna be police, man. I don’t like anyone who is allowed to shoot me. As long as I don’t talk smack to them. And I got a rule; Don’t talk smack to someone who is allowed to shoot me.

Smart rule, man.

That’s just the way I live, you know? I just tried to hold no punches on this record or album with trying to deliver a true sense of my story and the fact that I said to myself; ‘Alright, if this was the last album I ever did, how do I wanna deliver it?’ That’s not to say I’m quittin’ but that was my mindset going in on this. Imagine this is the last thing you ever say on an album. Or, this is the album last you will ever do. It wasn’t about making a third album anymore. It was about leaving a legacy.

That’s the trend like Biggie and Pac’s last album titles. They recorded their last ones like it was their last. Like, Ready To Die, Life After Death or Makaveli. Their demise was their theme.

That’s the way I live it, man. I’m working on the next one right now and I don’t just wanna come out with some whatever-whatever rap. I can do that for a mixtape. But I have this mindset that, whenever I deliver an album, I deliver a part of my legacy.  When my daughter is older and she looks back I want her to be proud of something that Dad did, rather than be embarrassed. She probably will anyway, haha.

They all do to an extent, haha.

But, I want a legacy that’s meaningful.

You’re an open book, on this LP at least. Have you got anything left for your next album?

I had so much pain and anger and just, disdain built up inside me that once I deliver this  record that goes through this disenfranchisement of the community where I grew up that I felt like I was going to lift some weight off my shoulders. But, when you’re in a community like this and when you’re a part of a movement and a part of something bigger than yourself, you don’t get to release the weight, you know? You put it all on the table and look at it. And now I’m looking at it and just because i spoke about ‘Bad Apples’ doesn’t mean that the story’s told. That part of the story is told, it’s like, do I have to drum this into your head every fucking album, until people take notice? Tupac had that on every record. A very strong, black influence. Public Enemy, had it on every record, Ice Cube, every record. And that’s what I intend to deliver, also. Not every track, but in everything that I do and everything that I am, that is my identity, you know? The other thing is, no-one is doing it in Australian hip-hop – on this level. So, I’m bringing it to the table the way I grew up among the politics. My father  sat down in meetings with (Professor) Pat Dodson while I was drawing on paper next to him. I’m not new to this.

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These are the influences that made Tupac such a soldier for social change in hip-hop. The awareness he grew up in, around Black Panthers, Mutulu Shakur, Geronimo Pratt, his Mother. Then the street and gang culture he picked up when he moved to the Bay Area as a teen. It’s the awareness he developed that fed him the intelligence for hip-hop.

That’s the thing man. I’m still doing workshops. I am still in touch with kids in communities. I’m an accessible person.  If you email me, nine times out of ten I’ll email you back. That keeps me honest. I have to keep my feet and my ears in the community. it takes fuck-all for me to drop in to the workshop and give ‘em some dap and a few pointers and bail out and for them it means the world. That’s the thing with these kids, you only have to give a little bit of a fuck to make the biggest difference to their lives.

They will remember you, too. man. And hey, let’s face it, when you’re already hard up against it as is, and no-one else is looking after you, you gotta do your bit I would imagine?

What I try and teach in these workshops is the fact that you don’t have to be a rap star, this is about you coming in and building the self confidence to pursue the interests that are right for you. If you want to be a writer, or photographer, dancer or if you like building fucking cabinets and laying floorboards, whatever you’re passionate about, you can. It’s giving them a sense of self esteem about themselves.

That’s it. That’s setting foundations for the kids to grow.

Exactly. I had two good parents who told me I could. Some of these kids don’t have that. I’m not gonna say I’m trying to be parents to these kids, but the kids that I can reach, the ones I can sit down with to make music I’m gonna tell them they can be whatever they like. They can. And I wholeheartedly believe that.

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“when we hooked up, you put the national treasure with the national problem.”

Something else that you’ve done for the community and I don’t believe anyone  else has, you bought out Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu. Very intriguing collab. ‘The Hunt’ was dope, his vocals add a timeless authority to the track. Not to downplay your part.

Trust me, man I know that when we hooked up, you put the national treasure with the national problem. That dude, is that dude. He is the voice of Australia. He is The voice. So when they invited me to do a track I was taken aback.

Oh, so they reached out to you?

Yeah! That’s when it went haywire, you know? I thought, ‘OK, I’m doing something right.’ Having Gurrumul at the start was a conscious move. It was conscious, because what I wanted to push back and push forward to really drive home was that collaboration. That, this is not just Aboriginal stories or issues, this is Australia. This is your culture as well. They just need to be patient.

Yeah. That’s a big step.

It is, shouldn’t be. But it is. Triple J really championed the single and really put it on blast for me.  Trials produced it, who’s like, the unsung genius. Probably the best producer in the country. You know, he’s got plaques galore, man. He could make a coffee table out of plaques, this kid.

He doesn’t look it, though.

Oh, he’s a shoeless, dread-havin’, free t-shirt wearin’ motherfucker.

He makes you look clean-cut, bro.

Bro, he makes me look a million bucks. but his talent, man is unsurpassed. The fact that he can work between the Hilltop Hoods, Drapht, Ash Grunwald and Gurrumul and countless other rappers, artists he’s worked with, to even making music for that ‘Housos’ show.

When I first watched that show, everything sounded Funkoars-like. And of course, I find out someone let Trials spin the music.

That’s the thing, Trials isn’t about wearin’ shoes but this dude is something special.

Haha, yea. They said the same shit about Rick Rubin. Look at the dude. But wouldn’t you fuck with him in the studio as much as you could?!

You know what I mean? From LL, Run DMC to Beastie Boys to Danzig. To the joint with Jay-Z, you know? Forget about it.

Fuckin’ forget about it.

What else do you need to say to that. Just off the top of my head, all that?

Bro we gotta end this, we can rap forever on these topics. No wonder your interviews are going over time.

But, one last mention I will make; Love the Mike Tyson joint! First time I bet anyone’s thought of singing Tyson’s crazy rants so beautifully in the hook. I’d love for him to be front and centre at one of your show bellowing out the hook – only finishing the rest of his crazy ass rant.

Tyson, is that excitable too. I showed him my Tyson tattoo of him, my portrait when I met him in Melbourne. He flipped! ‘Baby, baby, you gotta see this. This is beautiful. Oh my god!’ Insane, man. He’s wide too. Dude has massive feet and massive hands. He’s short too.

He’s got perfect leverage. It was his perfect height that gave him that great bob ‘n weave style.

And those powerful legs, up and under those guards. Boom. He was the best, dude.

Forget about it.

Fuckin’ forget about it.

Dude, October 5th, you’re up in Brissy, my hometown. I won’t be up front like Tyson, but I’ll be at the show, look forward to it, Cheers for your time, man.

Cheers bro, see you there.

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