Wednesday, December 21st, 2016

A.B. Original – January 26

If your thoughts are already turning to next month…


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[7.56]

William John: Most of the time, Australian hip hop barely manages to clamber above the “listenable” bar; when someone thrilling like Tkay Maidza comes along, we are wont to advocate with atypical fervour, but mostly our jowly vowels are unsuited to the genre. The A. B. Original project is about so much more than sonics, however; a national holiday on the day which marks the commencement of more than two hundred years of systematic oppression and genocide is untenable, and essentially, I support the amplification of this message. Also, Dan Sultan can still get it.
[9]

Edward Okulicz: January 26 is Australia Day, our “national day,” but increasingly younger Australians tend to reject the date not as a day to party, but to reflect on the ills of colonialism in an age of gross jingoism. “Invasion Day,” some have taken to calling it, myself included. Doing so feels good, it’s one in the eye of Anglo privilege, and it really peeves off crying manbabies who think any encouragement to self-reflection is an attack on everything they hold dear, like the idea that the colonising English weren’t a pack of genocidal cunts who built an empire off raping, robbing, enserfing and enslaving their conquests. “January 26” is a very sharp, angry poke indeed — it lays out with a little flair, some humour and a lot of confidence what the day means to many Indigenous people. This sort of political track is a hard balance to get right — one must confront and encourage people to confront their own thoughts and prejudices, but you don’t want to come across as confronting. I think Briggs and Trial thread the needle very well here, and the very 90s production is a decent party-starter as much as the lyrics would be a barbecue-stopper if you said them in certain quarters. Like any political pop song I like, it strokes my sense of moral correctness, but where’s the harm? Dan Sultan’s chorus sounds like Patrick Stump too, which makes it fun to be angry to.
[8]

Jonathan Bradley: I’ve been critical of Australian hip-hop in the past, and with good cause: of the form’s many sins as manifested locally, one of the most injurious has been its unremitting whiteness. Even though, since its inception, local artists of colour — from Curse Ov Dialect to 1200 Techniques — have been making rap music, as a cultural and commercial force, Australian rap has been predominantly Anglo. MCs here took the racial marginalisation that underpins American hip-hop’s power as an oppositional force and reconfigured it on to frameworks of implicitly white class conflict. Sensitive to accusations of inauthenticity, they embraced community fealty and ascetic adherence to deracialised cultural codes — the “four elements” — as proof of realness. Even though the Australian MC was nominally progressive, he also defined himself in reactive terms to the perceived performativity of hegemonic American culture, meaning he was not flamboyant, not boastful, and — it is usually unspoken — not black. Australia had already covered the territory between Macklemore and Mac Miller before either picked up a microphone. This is an awful lot of discussion about white people for a song by two Aboriginal men, but whiteness plays a big role in “January 26”: the complacent and incurious whiteness that celebrates national pride by commemorating the invasion and attempted destruction of a 40,000-year-old culture, and tries to play off those two centuries since as ancient history. Briggs and Trials are not constrained by the defensive sense of trespass and guilt that shaped white Australian MCs into stiff, reflexively studied rhymers, and each explores timbre and expression in ways that immediately distinguish them from the likes of, say, 360 or Pez. Briggs, whose humour never detracts from his resolve, allows his weighty tones to fall nimbly into the rhythm in the same way Biggie used to, even if he lacks Big’s talent for densely layered wordplay. Instead he favors forceful staccato declarations, like the barrage of plosives in the scene-setting opener, “Hey Briggs, pick a date.” Trials is rangier, rendering colonialism not just immoral but gauche: “That’s the date for them suckers doing that sucker shit/That’s that land-taking, flag-waving attitude.” Who needs it; Briggs and Trials have the better party anyway. As they exit, they skewer nationalism to the tune of “California Love”: “wave that, wave that flaggy.”
[9]

Alfred Soto: Infatuated with the whistles and percussion breaks of The Chronic, this Australian hip hop duo see no point in “celebrating days made of misery.” We know what you mean, man.
[6]

Ramzi Awn: “Flaggy” is a word I haven’t heard before, and I don’t hate it. Good fodder for radio filler, A.B. Original deftly delivers a humorous joint with a catchy vocal. 
[6]

Brad Shoup: G-funk sproing with hyphy’s sense of dead-serious play. So the form follows the function. Like “The Magic Clap,” the history is incontrovertible, the injustice clear, and the fists pound.
[8]

Anthony Easton: Hip-hop has always been an act of post-colonial resistance; it is a welcome gift how international it has become among indigenous peoples. A bouncy funk beat and a solid flow lifts a righteously furious narrative, with some solid one liners. The politics are as moral as the music is tight.
[8]

Josh Langhoff: I’m such a sucker for West Coast Dreity I’m still flirting with the notion that the Daz-N-Snoop album isn’t terrible. So this is marvelous: righteous protest rap that creates dance moves (the “Captain Cook dance,” plus one where you wave the flag and eat it) and lands couplets stinging in their hilarity. And it’s not just the rappers; producer Trials has excellent comic timing, as when he kicks the beat in on Briggs’s bright-eyed “How ’bout March 8?” Please supply every resistance movement with lead synth squeals and flexatones.
[9]

Will Adams: As an American whose scope might be somewhat closed off from the rest of the world, I’d love to hear more about political issues in Australia and the perspectives of their marginalized groups. As an American whose radio offerings might be restricted to Top 40 and Hot AC, I’d love to hear less of discount Adam Levine singing hooks.
[5]

Reader average: [5.66] (3 votes)

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