Album Walkthrough: Birdz breaks down his triumphant second album, LEGACY
On his sophomore record, the Butchulla rapper circles around the concept of legacy in an album that's sure to cement his name for the ages.
BIRDZ was always going to leave a lasting legacy through his art. The Butchulla rapper's debut album - 2017's Train Of Thought - was a striking collection of tracks that introduced the Northern Territory rapper as a glistening new addition to Australian hip-hop, placed upon a pedestal that would later inform an entirely new generation of emerging rappers. Furthermore, to do so as an Indigenous rapper - and an early signing to Bad Apples Music (Briggs, Alice Skye, BARKAA) - would become paramount to Indigenous music and art as a whole, influencing some of today's now-established First Nations heavyweights, regardless of genre.
Four years following his debut, the Melbourne-via-Katherine rapper's imprint is felt across much of Australian music, from the growing Bad Apples crew itself - especially in signees like Kobie Dee and Nooky - to emerging pioneers such as Tasman Keith, Genesis Owusu, Baker Boy and Jesswar; artists becoming recognised for their forward-thinking art that spotlights identity in its sound, lyrics and greater vision - something BIRDZ has long emphasised. As a multi-dimensional artist in both genre and themes, BIRDZ's influence is ever-present - and will likely remain to be for years to come.
It makes an incredible amount of sense then, to learn that BIRDZ's long-awaited sophomore record is Legacy - a victorious, yet intimate 10-track display that presents a heightened version of BIRDZ's long-arching vision to the world. As BIRDZ explains, Legacy is an album that articulates the strength and power of identity, and the ingraining of legacy present not just within BIRDZ's life both inside and out of music, but also within Indigenous culture as a whole, through BIRDZ's presence in hip-hop and Australian art as a whole.
"I think the way I approach music and creating really shifted around the time I made a song called BLACK CHILD which was on my last project," he explains, the Mo'Ju-featuring single featuring on 2019's Place of Dreams EP. "When I made that video, I really wanted to portray the strength and beauty in who we are as proud Aboriginal people. Moving forward I realise how much that experience impacted me as a father, and as an artist, and becoming more and more conscious of what I’m leaving behind for my son and the future generations. I feel like that’s where the concept for LEGACY was born."
The idea of legacy is ingrained into the fibres of LEGACY, both in its meaning and sonics. Lyrically, the album is a dizzying pursuit through topics and experiences that have stuck with BIRDZ through his journey, from his connection to Indigenous culture on the Ngaiire-assisted Fly right through to songs like Aussie Aussie and Caught Up, which explore the darker edges of BIRDZ's journey thus far, depicting his experiences navigating the music industry - and Australian culture as a whole - as an Indigenous man. Then, there's LEGACY - a touching, two-part title-track that speaks to the generations to come; "a moment of clarity" that ties the entire record together.
Then, there's the album's sonic journey, capturing the versatility within BIRDZ's sound that was initially shown on his debut album four years ago, but has evolved tremendously in the years since. Over the course of LEGACY's 10 tracks, BIRDZ explores the many outer edges of his wide-ranging musical background, from the anthemic rush of songs like Caught Up and Fly right through to those moments more subtle, in which BIRDZ's songwriting takes the lead amongst a production which prefers to sit at bay. However, regardless of which sound BIRDZ attempts throughout the album's duration, there's not a single one that he has difficulty navigating, in a true testament to his ever-evolving talent.
From his emergence years back, BIRDZ was always someone with a legacy ahead of him, but now, years into his career with aptly-named second album centralising it all, BIRDZ's legacy is more clear than ever - and it's likely to last the ages. Dive into the album below, and underneath, read BIRDZ's track by track walkthrough of the album, breaking down its themes and creation one song at a time.
LEGACY Pt. 1 ft. Fred Leone
This is probably one of the most vulnerable songs I’ve ever written. It’s confronting my demons on record and coming to the realisation that there’s so much more to live for. Music has always been my outlet that helps to get through tough times, and I feel like this is definitely an example of that and how Hip Hop has saved me time and time again. The lyric towards the end of the song, “I want you to know, this is my legacy…” is speaking to my family and my son - letting them know that what’s to follow on the album is my honest truth. As soon as I finished recording the demo, I knew straight away that it needed to be the first thing you hear on the album.
FLY ft. Ngaiire
Stepping out of the darkness and uncertainty of Legacy Part 1, FLY captures a moment of realising my self-worth and a reminder that family and culture is what really matters. I really wanted to highlight the beauty and strength that we inherit as descendants of the oldest living cultures on the planet and how special that is. As proud Aboriginal people, there’s a level of connection that no one can ever take from us. Despite how much they’ve tried to erase us from the picture already, we’re still here. FLY is about harnessing our fire and wanting to empower future generations.
When I wrote the initial demo, I knew it needed a soulful touch to really take that feeling to the next level. I’ve always been a massive fan of Ngaiire and I was so excited to work with her. In my opinion, she’s top 5 voices in the country and it was an honour to have her bless the record.
I love this joint. This is a song Trials and I have had in the stash for a while and I actually wrote it just after I completed my last EP (Place Of Dreams). I always loved the demo and whenever I went back to it, it always hit the same. There’s something powerful about the juxtaposition of the light-hearted music and lyrics that address the harsh realities Blakfullas are forced to endure on a daily basis - Blak deaths in custody, police brutality, institualised racism...
As an artist, I’m always trying to explore new and creative ways to get the message out there and generate more awareness around ongoing issues that need immediate attention. This one is definitely a personal favourite of mine.
HIGHS AND LOWS
Banger. This was a product of a week-long studio session that Trials and I had at his spot in Adelaide. At the top of the year, there was a gap in lockdowns and the borders opened up. I flew to Adelaide with a bag full of album demos and a plan to finish the album. When I got there, T and I realised that due to Covid and restrictions, it was the first time we’d been able to link up in person for ages. So we put the demos back in the stash and started creating from scratch. Highs and Lows was one of those instant moments of pressing play on the beat and I just started writing straight away. I think we finished it in a couple of hours. Just having fun in the studio and on some classic rap shit.
And at the same time, I think it really captures me in the present moment as an artist and the roller coaster we go through as creatives.
THEY DON’T KNOW ft. Thom Crawford
They Don’t Know is about my experience of trying to navigate the music industry and basically learning by trial and error. For a long time I was self-managing and to be honest I found it quite overwhelming at times, having a lot of different voices coming at you and trying to balance the business side of things with creative output. They Don’t Know is basically my response to that pressure and turning frustrations into a positive. I’m fortunate enough now to be working with a great team and management that’s really helped elevate everything over the past year.
Also musically, I really wanted to show people my diversity as an artist and what I’m into sonically - and somehow still marry that with a strong empowering message. For me, that’s exactly what They Don’t Know represents. It’s a banger you can ride to with the windows down and still gain some substance from.
In terms of subject matter, Caught Up feels like the evil twin of They Don’t Know. It’s exploring the darker side of my experience in the industry as a proud Butchulla man trying to navigate my way through all the smoke and mirrors and still remain true to myself. I think creating music has always been a very personal experience for me and the stories I share in my songs are very real. These are stories that impact me personally but I also realise they can relate to Blakfullas all over. I always try to keep that in mind when releasing music to ensure that it’s an accurate representation of what we go through.
Also in terms of production, this absolutely slaps. Trials killed it (again). The drops and synths are insane.
PLAY THE GAME
Another one from the Adelaide sessions. That week of creating in the studio again was definitely a highlight of the year for me. Play The Game was one of the last songs we recorded before I cruised back to Melbourne and it was just like the icing on the cake. This beat is ridiculously dope and I love how it comes in after Caught Up and They Don’t Know, adding some final thoughts on life as a Blak artist in the Australian music scene right now. Ending with a call to the Mob to keep doing what we do best. Stand up, speak out, and run shit. Definitely, one to play at high volumes in the whip whilst driving around and disturbing the neighbourhood.
KNOW YOUR TRUTH
Know Your Truth was the last song I recorded before handing in the album. For me, this was the missing piece to the puzzle and the one that really made me feel like the album was complete. I released a song on my first album called Black Lives Matter, and I feel like this is the 2021 version of that. Just hard-hitting facts and unapologetic Blakness. The verses are speaking on issues like Blak deaths in custody and shining light on matters that are still unresolved and impact us on a daily basis. Exploring how Australia’s violent past continues to haunt our present with over-incarceration rates and child removal. And even against all those odds we still manage to find hope in our young mob. The Blak future is real.
LEGACY Pt. 2 ft. Missy Higgins
LEGACY, Pt. 2 is like an open letter to my son and a moment of clarity for me. I feel like in a lot of ways he saved me and gave me a new purpose. I want him to be proud of where we come from - to be connected to those that came before him and aware of the fight that we’ve all endured to get to this point. It’s about letting him know that he can succeed in whatever he wants to succeed in, and give him the knowledge and tools to be able to stand tall no matter where he is.
Collaborating with Missy was amazing. She wrote the chorus first, which really helped set the tone for the record. As a songwriter I learnt so much from Missy and working with her has definitely been a career highlight for me.
BAGI-LA-M BARGAN ft. Fred Leone
This is my favourite song I’ve ever been a part of. We got approached to be a part of a documentary that was talking about the anniversary of Captain Cook arriving here, and the filmmakers really wanted to make a film about Indigenous perspectives on that anniversary and on that history. We got given a brief to write a song from a specific perspective, and mine was as a Butchulla warrior “standing on the shoreline” of K’gari and witnessing Captain Cook sail past. There are actual stories that have been passed down about Mob witnessing that moment. I really wanted to push the envelope and tap into the mindset of someone preparing for war. How would you feel and what would you do if you’re in that position where you know everything is going to be taken away from you? Your people and your family are under threat.
The whole experience of creating the song and working with my family Trials and Fred is something I’ll remember forever. This is a story of where it all began. We come from a long line of warriors, kings and queens and I really wanted to capture that sense of pride and strength.
Friday, 1 April - The Lansdowne, Sydney NSW
Saturday, 2 April - The Brightside, Brisbane QLD
Friday, 8 April - The Lab, Adelaide SA
Saturday, 9 April - Land Of Plenty Festival, Shepparton VIC
Friday, 22 April - The Gaso, Melbourne VIC