Go To War (feat. Thelma Plum)
Good Morning (feat. Muki)
“Doing anything and being Black in Australia is political,” Briggs tells Apple Music. “You don’t really get to take time off.” But that’s not the overriding concern of Always Was. “Even Ice Cube has ‘you can do it, put your back into it’—and this is from the guy who wrote ‘Fuck tha Police’ and ‘Alive on Arrival.’” The hip-hop artist’s first solo outing since 2014’s Sheplife is more personal than his highly political 2016 collaboration with Trials, A.B. Original, but the title–adapted from the phrase “always was, always will be Aboriginal land”–is a reminder that separating the personal from the political isn’t easy. Still, the booming old-school beats of Always Was feel fun, complete with pop culture references that name-check everything from John Cena and Mortal Kombat to Apollo Creed and Apocalypse Now. Briggs even tips his hat to his love of heavy metal on “Extra Extra” with the line “Peace sells, but who’s payin’,” a twist on the title track from the classic Megadeth album Peace Sells... But Who’s Buying?
While the Indigenous rapper has spent the six years since Sheplife scratching myriad artistic itches–from scriptwriting animated series Disenchantment with The Simpsons creator Matt Groening to starring on Charlie Pickering’s The Weekly, from authoring the children’s book Our Home, Our Heartbeat to acting in shows like Cleverman and Black Comedy–he’s also used that time to evolve his approach to his music. “Just trying to write more songs,” he says. “Not just rapping, rapping, rapping. Actually trying to take the time to craft the song, so it’s a little bit more interesting.” Here Briggs shares a track-by-track guide to Always Was.
“Me and [producer] Trials were in the studio and we were like, remember intro songs to albums? We were thinking about Biggie singing ‘Things Done Changed’ from Ready to Die. That’s where it really stemmed from. That old-school kind of rap stuff that we love and grew up on. And just talking about how things have changed–music moves very fast, technology moves very fast, and I’m for it, I love it. But I’m not going to bend my style to fit in. It’s very much a Briggs track.”
“Trials sent me a beat and I was on one of my patented late-night walks. I go for walks late at night or early in the morning, and I just start humming tunes. I look like a crazy person because I’m walking along rapping to myself, and I’ve got AirPods in and wearing a hoodie, so I just look like a fucking idiot. I started writing this track about substance abuse, and people succumbing to their demons. But it’s not just about substances, it’s about anything you’re addicted to that can be overwhelming. For me it would be work.”
“Everything I do is over the top. I feel like I have to throw it as far as I can throw it to get it near to where I want it to be. So ‘Extra Extra’ is just about that, about the work ethic. It was done in the studio with Trials, same session as ‘Apollo,’ same energy in the room.”
Go to War (feat. Thelma Plum)
“It’s a pretty heavy track, and we needed to offset it. I’m a big believer in balance. It’s a really interesting chord progression and melody and really lent itself to Thelma’s voice and style. I said to Thelly, ‘What if we write a song where we’re just like, ‘Fuck everyone.’ Let’s just do a ‘fuck you’ track, a balls-out hard track, but we’ll offset it with this really soft and nice mellow feel sonically.”
“It’s just a good party-starter. It’s a real simple concept: enjoying money. But the other side of it is, like, the idea of worth and knowing what your worth is. And money doesn’t always equate to dollars in the bank, it’s about how you operate. You can bet on me because I pay off. That’s the idea.”
Good Morning (feat. Muki)
“We were in the studio in LA and Trials was making this beat and I started humming the hook and the words just came. It’s an ironic take on ‘good morning,’ because you don’t go to sleep. You haven’t been to sleep because you’re working. I’d worked with Muki a couple of times and I’d already written the hook, but I wanted that kind of Sesame Street female vocal that she could do. She’s really cool and really quick and did all these cool ad-libs and took my melody and made it listenable.”