Write. Record. Repeat. It’s these three words that now define Briggs’ existence.
You can see it on his Facebook page with the random images of studio time. And also his Twitter account, which through the “#ShepLife” hashtag is peppered with evidence of both inspiration and procrastination.
“That’s been my motto over the last few months,” Briggs says with a chuckle. The larger-than-life Victorian MC is actually chatting to me from Brisbane – he’s in town to visit the 750 Crew while taking some time out to receive a new tattoo.
“I was set to bring out another album this year, but life gets in the way. But I’m well on the way to knocking out a new record for early next year. I’m in a different place with my music just at the moment: normally I’d be like, ‘Let’s get it done, let’s get it out’. But on this one, I’m reaching out to different people and different talent and really trying to put something a bit different together. And it’s really starting to feel like a labour of love, a real personal record that touches on things that I’ve never really spoken about. In that sense, I didn’t want to rush it – the stuff I’m talking about is personal, so I wanted to do it justice.”
Briggs describes his albums as time capsules, markers of personality and struggle at particular points in his life. ‘The Blacklist’, his 2010 debut record, was a bracing, streetwise listen, but with little in the way of explanation behind the firepower.
“It was a pretty aggressive record. I said to Jay[tee Hazard, Briggs’ production partner] when I was working on stuff for the ‘ShepLife’ album, ‘if ‘The Blacklist’ was the punch in the face, ‘ShepLife’ is why I punched you in the face’. ‘Shep Life’’s kinda like the prequel,” he laughs.
‘ShepLife’ has become a working title for Briggs’ sophomore record, although the way he continually drops it into the conversation you suspect it’s only a matter of time before it becomes official. It’s the rapper’s typically arch abbreviation of day-to-day goings-on in Shepparton, the Victorian town two hours north of Melbourne that Briggs calls home.
“A lot of significant people have come out of there,” he says. “Not just musos with Augie March and Killing Heidi, but footballers as well: Garry Lyon is from the area. [But] it’s pretty much like any country town: it’s almost on the cusp of being a city but it hasn’t figured it out yet. It’s slowly getting there, but to do what I’ve done you have to be pretty ingrained with your DIY and take the setbacks.
“Like when I’m doing my #ShepLife stuff, I’ll get people reaching out saying, ‘Man, that’s just like Broken Hill!’ or ‘That’s just like Coffs, man’ or ‘That’s exactly the same as Newcastle!’ You know what I mean?”
Indeed, Briggs marks as essential an extended early period he spent in Melbourne, refining his craft and learning the art of hip hop hustle.
“Melbourne is where I learnt the ropes of the industry and the scene, I guess, for lack of a better word – just meeting people and knowing how to carry oneself. Just really putting in the work: hitting the open mics and doing that show for near nothing. Melbourne was really the turning point in where I decided if I was going to do it, I had to be there – in the middle of it. And then I got to a point where I’d made my mark, I had some momentum and I could go home for a minute, and kick it. And I like being back home, with all my cousins and my friends who I grew up with – they keep me honest.”
But Briggs also has an affinity for Brisbane. He might be chatting during a brief weekend visit, but he’ll be back in town within the month for Sprung Festival.
“Oh yeah, man. People are hanging to play it. All these dudes who claim to hate festivals want to play Sprung,” he says, laughing. “Sprung is a real showcase event, in a sense: ‘We can do it on this stage, at this level’. Everyone wants to play it, everyone wants to be a part of it, and that’s a good sign of where our industry and our scene is going, and going to be.
“The weather’s nice, you’re in a nice part of the world, and you’re coming up here with all your mates – it definitely offers an illusion of a holiday. There’s a vibe around it: ‘You’re coming up for Sprung? I’ll see ya at Sprung!’ It’s going to be a real special occasion.”
Briggs Plays Sprung Festival, Rna Showgrounds, November 10.