New Music Reviews

A.B. Original’s King Billy Cokebottle: Privilege and Performative Activism

It has been six years since A.B. Original’s breakthrough record Reclaim Australia dropped in Australia. Since then Briggs and Trials have been producing, running Bad Apple Records, doing solo projects and performing around Australia. All along I found myself lighting candles underneath my Briggs / Trials stained glass window…wishing….praying…for a new record. In an interview with Triple J radio in Australia, Briggs stated that King Billy Cokebottle signals a new record coming out later in the year. Let that great news sink in! Let’s get into who King Billy Cokebottle is and how it applies to current society.

For those not from, or living in, Australia, “King Billy Cokebottle” was a comedian named Louis Beers who performed in blackface. He had an extremely racist act performing jokes about Indigenous people while in blackface. Yikes. You may think, “Oh. Well, that was the 70s and 80s right?” First, people knew blackface was racist and not right in the 70s and 80s. Also, King Billy was performing this blackface act into the 2000s! With that as the backdrop, let’s get into the track.

The track opens with part of Beer’s act and then launches into exclaiming “Why the fuck would I welcome the oppressor / When four out of five say that we’re lesser?” For Briggs and Trials, the effort should not be for them to invite and welcome racists, but for them to be held accountable. They take on racist jokes, black face and performative activism – “Can people be at the march without streaming it?” One bar from Briggs is about how white people can use their privilege to engage in being “woke” when they like and avoid facing up to the casual racism around them. King Billy Cokebottle is a dense song about land rights, the impact of casual racism, privilege and Indigenous pride that will take multiple listens to fully unpack.

Musically, the track is more removed from the 80s / 90s vibe of their previous record and more grounded with modern stripped back, bass heavy, asymmetric hip hop. The track has a heaviness to it that matches the napalm Briggs and Trials are dropping. I love how aggressive A.B. Original’s arrangements / beat are, because they wake you up and demand attention. Moreover, the stripped back nature of the track gives everyone room to set the track on fire.

I think Briggs and Trials are an excellent hip hop duo on the level of Run the Jewels, Run D.M.C., or Black Star, which is difficult to pull off. It’s challenging for each member to have enough room to get their bars off without steamrolling over the other person, but Briggs and Trials truly strengthen each other. In reality, white people who hide behind their privilege and only engage in Indigenous rights when it suits them are no better than King Billy. They appear to be an ally on the surface, but they are the same ones who are laughing at a white man in blackface. A.B. Original is back and the six years away from the studio has sharpened their message into a weapon against white privilege.

Listen to King Billy Cokebottle

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