Sydney artist Ziggy Ramo was in hospital, on suicide watch, when he began working on his debut album, Black Thoughts. “I wanted to document my thoughts so that our stories could be heard after I was gone,” he shared on Instagram the day of its release, five years later. But it’s not just his own story that the singer—who was born in Arnhem Land to a Scottish mother and Indigenous father whose wedding day is depicted on the cover—sets out to tell. His album is filled with themes and ideas that align with the country’s ongoing protests in response to the rising rate of Indigenous deaths in police custody and the Black Lives Matter movement growing around the world.
With musical nods to New York hip-hop (“Stand for Something”) and a husky, mellifluous flow, Black Thoughts also examines the role of Anzac mythology in Australian nationalism (“April 25th”) and celebrates Indigenous Australians being “the oldest people on the map” (“Empire”). “My people in the deathbed by preventable heart disease/Served through rations brought from overseas/On ships full of convicts and common thieves/Same ships the one that brought my mother’s genes,” he raps on the title track. He grapples with his complex feelings throughout, giving way to anger on “Secondary” and “Good Things” and delivering facts via political and news-reporter sound bites on “White Lies” and “Black Face”. The 18-minute closer, “Final Thoughts” (in which Ramo is interviewed by ABC Radio National’s Daniel Browning), ends with a period of purposeful silence, offering a moment for listeners to process and reflect.