Controversial Australian hip-hop artist Briggs was selected to headline the billing for the pre-game entertainment ahead of game one of the State of Origin series at Brisbane’s Suncorp Stadium. Briggs, a self-confessed rugby league fan and increasingly successful Australian rapper, took part in a special performance which also included a tribute to some of the most talented players ever to represent Queensland.
The display included a “lights-out spectacular,” involving immersive lasers and pyrotechnics to enchant the crowd. A further 500 Queensland Maroon Members were also welcomed onto the stage to take part in the pre-match show on the pitch. Nevertheless, the performance from Briggs has come in for significant criticism from Aussie rugby league fans, slamming the show as the worst build-up to a major Australian sporting event since Meatloaf’s questionable performance ahead of the 2011 AFL Grand Final.
There was a sense that the sell-out crowd at the Suncorp Stadium had completely disengaged from Briggs’ performance. During his hit song “Life Is Incredible,” the cameras panned to hundreds of fans that were chatting amongst themselves and had opted not to watch and take in the show. The atmosphere was certainly not as electric as the show’s organisers would have hoped, with fans taking to social media to voice their displeasure at the choice of Briggs to headline the proceedings.
Some rugby league fans admitted to having to “hit the mute button” while others complained of not being able to understand Briggs’ lyrics, saying that he “mumbled” his way through his performance. Ray Hadley, popular radio host of the 2GB station, said that he felt the biggest issue was that not enough of the crowd knew of Briggs. “I’ve asked any number of people much younger than me if they’ve heard of him and I couldn’t find one,” said Hadley.
Historically, rock bands have been used to pump up the crowd before the series opener of the State of Origin games. In 2018, Bernard Fanning, frontman of the likes of Powderfinger, Birds of Tokyo and Grinspoon, appeared at all three State of Origin games. What will be most disappointing for Briggs is that he is a self-confessed rugby league fan. In the NRL’s press release regarding the State of Origin series opener, Briggs said that he and his family “drove two-and-a-half hours from Shepparton” to Melbourne for the State of Origin games in Melbourne back in 1994. He appeared to be hugely excited at the opportunity to perform at one of “the greatest events on Australia’s sporting calendar.”
So, who is Briggs?
Adam Briggs, who performs on-stage as Briggs, is 32 years old and shot to fame as a solo rapper back in 2009. Briggs secured a record deal with Golden Era Records, which saw him release an early EP in the same year, titled Homemade Bongs, followed by two albums in 2010 and 2014, titled The Catlist and Sheplife respectively. Just two years after his latest solo album, Briggs also co-founded a hip-hop duo group called A.B. Original featuring him and fellow indigenous Australian Trials.
Their first single, “January 26,” commented on the use of the date for Australia Day. The duo criticise the celebratory commemoration of British settlement, standing up for the rights of indigenous Australians in one of the year’s most polarising songs. Unsurprisingly, “January 26” won Song of the Year at the 2017 National Indigenous Music Awards, as well as Film Clip of the Year for the song’s subsequent video.
Briggs also formed his very own record label back in 2015, specialising in attracting indigenous Australian hip-hop talent to his Bad Apples Music label. Artists Philly, Birdz and Nooky were quickly signed. Briggs also launched music involving his duo group A.B. Original on the Bad Apples Music label. Their polarising debut album, ‘Reclaim Australia’, made it to the top ten of the iTunes charts among Australian listeners. The album collaborates with a host of indigenous Australian artists, namely Thelma Plum, Dan Sultan and Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu.
In the past, Briggs has cited Kanye West as being one of his biggest musical influences. When recording his second solo album, Sheplife, Briggs described his own songwriting methods as somewhat “sporadic.” He said that inspiration for his polarising tracks “can come from anywhere.” Alongside his controversial lyrics, Briggs also has a reputation for pairing those lyrics with hostile and aggressive beats and sounds too. Briggs was brought up in the Yorta-Yorta culture, which he says makes him one of the newest in a “long line of storytellers.”
What will have surprised most about Briggs’ selection to headline the State of Origin series opener is that the artist hasn’t been in the limelight for the last four to five years. Given that Briggs already tapped into a niche demographic, it’s also unsurprising that mainstream music fans within the Suncorp Stadium would have struggled to remember him.
What is the State of Origin series?
The State of Origin series is a three-game series involving two Australian state representative teams, the Queensland Maroons and the South Wales Blues. Established in 1980, it has since become one of the biggest sporting events down under, shining the spotlight on one of the most intense sporting rivalries in Australia. In recent times, the Maroons have enjoyed significant dominance over the Blues. Since 2006, the Maroons have won ten of the last 12 series.
However, you can toss a coin as to which side will take the overall series in 2019. The Blues thrashed Queensland 6-38 to level the series at 1-1. Given that the Blues now have the momentum, it’s unsurprising that they are now significantly odds-on in the State of Origin betting to make it back-to-back series wins.
Selection for the two teams is based on where players first played a senior rugby league game. Players that played their first game in Queensland could represent the state in the State of Origin series and so forth. It has therefore become the pinnacle of rugby leagues in Australia, with comparisons often drawn between this and international events such as the Six Nations and the British Lions tours.