First you get the fame, then you set up a label and put all your mates on.
While this has served as an almost compulsory path for hip-hop artists (hell, even DMX briefly ran his own imprint), the rappers-to-label-bosses transition has consistently been utilised as a graduation program, ensuring both a continual guard-change and the genre's creative evolvement.
For Australian rapper Briggs, the decision to set up his own label, Bad Apples, is something he simply says was the "next logical thing for [him] to do", yet he's also quick to point out it serves primarily as a reaction to the local scene becoming a bit of an echo chamber.
"I was quite bored with the landscape, so I figured I'd change it", the Shepparton MC bluntly states, before adding that in his view Australian hip-hop had become stagnant in recent times, with "a lot of the same stories".
"There hasn't been a wide spectrum of ideas and stories, especially from a black point of view".
Following accolades at the most recent National Indigenous Music Awards — where he took home Best Album for last year's Sheplife, as well as Best Film Clip — Briggs is the ideal candidate to lead the local indigenous hip-hop community. It's a responsibility he seems happy to take on as well, aiming for Bad Apples to be as much a method of empowerment as a business.
"The thing is, a lot of black kids didn't feel like Aussie hip-hop was their platform, where they belong. For whatever reason. I'm trying to give them a platform that they can aspire to and know that their point of view is much-needed and very relevant."
The Bad Apples starting line-up. From left: Nooky, Philly and Birdz. Credit: Michelle Grace Hunder.
The label will start with four acts — Birdz, Nooky, Philly and A.B. Original, Briggs' own collaborative project with Trials. The latter's debut album — initially planned as just an EP before it "got its own life" — is set to be the label's first release, currently scheduled for sometime early 2016.
The decision to keep it a fairly small operation at this initial stage is something Briggs says is mostly to ensure he's able to "keep an eye on things", stressing that quality is the primary focus. "If someone comes along that really impresses me and i feel like I'm in a position where i can help them, then I'll certainly jump at it", he says, before adding "but right now I feel like I've got a good group."
Although conceding that it's a "bit of a 'boys club'" and that he'd like to add a female MC at some stage, Briggs has nothing but high raise for his starting roster, animatedly exclaiming that "these guys aren't just rappers, they're not just artists and every-day-of-the-week [rappers], they're community leaders, they're guys that do put in the extra work and go the extra mile."
Bad Apples also has the backing of Golden Era Records — the independent label, founded by the Hilltop Hoods, that gave Briggs his own start — with all releases to be distributed by the imprint through its partnership with Universal. Yet, despite this start-up support, Briggs remains a realist, joking that "anyone that is selling music knows this isn't about money", before stressing again the importance of developing his roster as both artists and role models: "this is about the idea, the art and wanting someone to want more and to know that they deserve it."
While pessimistically viewable as simply the CEO sales pitch, it's evidently more than just talk and, despite employing a fairly casual recording process — "these guys can come around to my house for a BBQ and we can chop it up and kick it" — the label's first recordings stay loyal to the boss' mantra, while also stylistically covering the full spectrum of the genre. From the soulful reflection on Birdz's minimal acoustic-led, "We Still Strive", to the infectious fist-raised force of Philly's "Vision In Rhymes", to Nooky's seemingly endless stream of punctuated brain-sticking linguistics ("these piss-weak little pipsqueaks") on club track "The Greatest". And yet, throughout, that singular constant: pride.
Bad Apples will be unveiled to the world at Briggs' headline Live Lodge show this Friday, October 2nd at the Newtown Social Club in Sydney.
"They're just good fun, a good vibe", says Briggs, who was involved in last year's Golden Era/Live Lodge showcase in Melbourne, cheekily adding that they're a "great event to bring the boys together and go out [and] run amok."
Tickets for the Live Lodge show are available now via Ticketscout.
Top photo: A.B. Original, Trials (left) and Briggs (right). Credit: Michelle Grace Hunder.