Friday, 21 November 2014 / TRUTH-OUT.ORG

Provocalz, a Provocative Vocalist

Thursday, 21 February 2013 14:33 By Mat Ward, Green Left | Report

"Every time you see in the media someone's been killed by police it always just happens to be an Aboriginal," says radical rapper Provocalz.

It's 9.30 on a Saturday morning and the south-west Sydney spitter is telling Green Left why he made his hard-hitting horrorcore track, "Cop Shot".

"That was just like a stand-up, like, stop fucking killing our children, because they're killing our kids," says the Indigenous emcee. "It's not like it's soldier versus soldier. It's not warrior shit, it's like killing innocent kids for doing petty shit."

As he speaks, the sun climbs ever higher, pulling up the temperature and the intensity of the conversation with it. Our interview will end with the two of us - interviewer and interviewee, being questioned by the police. But more about that later.

"Look at them kids in Kings Cross," says Provocalz. "You've got a huge fucking police officer. Are you telling me you couldn't drag that kid out the window instead ofshooting him in the neck and then punching him in the head while he was on the ground? They're big lads and they still can't hold down a small lad, you know what I mean? And then you've got how TJ Hickey got murdered by them coppers - they ended up getting awards and shit. The lad in Palm Island got bashed to death. It's just fucking filthy. I was just letting the coppers know, stop fucking with us, or we're going to start shooting back, you know what I mean? An eye for an eye."

The claustrophobic clip for the song features Provocalz pacing a dimly-lit underground car park and barking his lines through a balaclava.

Two shots finished her off
then there's blood on my Maxes
Just remember motherfuckers
That your wage is our taxes

The clip ends with an eerie synth, a tolling bell and splatter of blood.

As we stand on the roof of a slightly less claustrophobic car park than that featured in his violent video, Provocalz peers from under his baseball cap and asks me: "What do you think of the clip for 'Cop Shot', brah?"

I search for the right words. "It was... in your face," I say.

He laughs a round, satisfied laugh.

From the top of the car park, three stories into the sun-bleached sky, we can see over the Airport & East Hills rail line to Holsworthy army barracks. Directly to the east lies bushland holding numerous Aboriginal artefacts. The relics have given Holsworthy the nickname of "Sydney's Kakadu", after the rock art-galleried Northern Territory national park of the same name. It was while Provocalz was working in Holsworthy's bushland among those artefacts - as part of the government's scrapped Community Development Employment Projects program for Indigenous job seekers - that he came up with one of his most lyrical lyrics.

This whole society's like a Banksia seed
Need ta let it all burn for life to be released

"I used to do CDEP there and we used to do ranger sort of stuff, learn about all the plants," says the rapper, who now works in a car supplies factory. "I found it interesting that Australia is the only country where the plants need fire to regrow. The bush needs to be on fire. It's why our people used to backburn and all that, you know."

Overwhelming evidence suggests Aboriginal people farmed the entire country through the selective use of fire. Some fireproof flora have even evolved to promote fire, dropping turpentine-laden bark that easily catches alight, razing the fire-prone competition.

"The Banksia seed, I saw it when they germinate seeds in the greenhouse," says Provocalz. "They'd blow it with a blowtorch to make it pop, so they pop out and just float around. I just thought, 'Fuck, that's what needs to happen to this world.' It's gotta take violence to get to the peace. Because at the moment, there are so many people being fucked over in every country. With all this credit and home loans, how they destroyed the unions and workers' rights movements, now everyone's locked in. You can't go on strike next week because you've gotta pay your mortgage.

"At the end of the day, if it wasn't for unions, we'd still be getting $5 a day. Everyone always talks shit about them, but if it wasn't for them, you wouldn't be getting annual leave, you wouldn't be getting sick pay, there would be no unfair dismissal or anything like that, you wouldn't be getting anything."

The Banksia lyric lights up "One Land", the track that rips open the rapper's ripper of an album, Verbal Reality Volume One. Rightly wary of the media, Provocalz has agreed to talk only because he is trying to promote the fact that for the next few weeks, he is donating all sales of the album to the daughter of another Aboriginal rapper.

"All the proceeds from Verbal Reality are going to be helping this girl compete in the national races at Perth," he says. "It's Felon from DTA Mob's daughter. He posted up a thing on his site saying that he's a single parent and, especially as he's got other kids, it's hard for him to get the funding for his daughter - like it would be for all of us - to go over to Perth. So then I thought, what better? Pretty much until the last day I'm gonna contribute everything I get for it to them."

His compassion for his comrades was nurtured in Provocalz from a young age. "My real father, he used to go to protests when he was younger and he got me into that and my brother as well," says the rapper. "Then I just got interested in the struggle of the people worldwide."

He rolls up his sleeve.

"I've got Che Guevara tattooed on my arm right there, brah," he says. Then he picks at it. "It's peeling a bit, because I caught the sun the other day."

The sun is beating down on us and pushing the temperature up further. It's the kind of blinding white heat that washes all the colour from your vision. I peer through the rays at Provocalz and can't make out his form, never mind his colour. He is of Scottish, Irish, French and Aboriginal descent and raps that he has "white skin, black blood".

"I represent for my people. That's how I was brought up since I was a kid, by my mum, uncles and aunties and everyone. I acknowledge the rest of my history and that as well, but that's how I was raised, with a lot of the Aboriginal stuff, you know what I mean?"

The rapper says once a person has been raised that way, there's little chance they can see themselves as anything other than Aboriginal.

"Then you take it back to the Stolen Generation and the White Australia policy," he says. "That was their plan with us, to breed us out of the fucking country, you know? That's why we don’t say quarter-caste, half-caste, this and that, because that's the terminology they used to use and then they'd consider you not Aboriginal, you know what I mean? That's why, in my eyes anyway, that we don't say anything like that. I'm Aboriginal, full stop.

"They get upset about it. 'You're not Aboriginal, you're rah, rah, rah.' Like, I get some cunts on my site all the time trying to say shit like that. They'd never say it to anyone's face. They'd never come out and stand up for it. So many of them, if they saw you on the street, they wouldn't even look you in the eye, let alone say anything to you, you know what I mean? It's just fucking sad, but that's the internet for ya. Look at the comments on half my videos, you know, it's, 'You fucking ugly cunt, rah, rah, rah.' You know, I didn't realise I was trying to sign up for a model competition or something, you know, this is hip-hop, I’m a rapper, I ain't no fucking model."

Provocalz laughs at the ignorance of most rap fans. He is only 29, but talks about young hip-hop heads like they are light years behind.

"Young people these days, they don't learn shit. When I was a kid I used to be reading Marxist books, Communism, guerrilla warfare shit, I used to real be into that. And these kids, they don't learn nothing. That taught me about things in life, but they've got no idea. They're just saturated with sex, violence and money."

On "One Land", he raps:

I'll rip a few emcees ‘cause this whole Aussie rap scene is pitiful
Rockin' a union jack, who ya fuckin' kidding, fool?
Garbage rhymes only a redneck’ll listen to
Bleeding heart yuppies, all ya fans voted Liberal

"That shit pisses me off," says Provocalz. "They should know the history of that flag and to Indigenous people it's not a good fucking symbol, you know what I mean? Waving it in our face: 'Here, you got invaded by these people.’ All right, it's the Australian flag, but if you're into hip-hop, you should know your history, you should know the history of your country and the history of Indigenous people."

Concern about the nationalism surrounding Australian hip-hop led pop culture publication The Vine to run a piece last year titled, "Does Aussie hip-hop have a problem with racism?"

Provocalz blames amnesia.

"At the end of the day, it's a black music form from the Bronx and Queens," he says. "But these lads, they throw 'Aussie Hip-Hop' in front of it and they forget about that. You know, on stage, wearing a union jack and shit. Anyone that considers themselves Aussie Hip-Hop, you look at what else they listen to. They don't listen to no black artists. The other music they listen to is just radio music. For example, a guy at my work the other day, he was listening to that 360. Then the other day he was listening to Taylor Swift or something, you know what I mean?"

He laughs.

"They don't listen to hip-hop, brah, they just listen to whatever the radio tells them to."

When Green Left tried to get an interview with the ARIA-award winning 360 because he closed his latest album with a climate song, his publicist tentatively agreed, "as long as it's not going to be in any way politically swayed".

Provocalz laughs. "That's garbage," he says.

It is hard to believe such rappers share the same genre as Provocalz. His Facebook profile picture is a poster of the Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front that his father gave to him. On his album, he shouts out the Sandinistas and gives props to the Black Panthers.

"Well, you know, the Black Panther and Black Rights movement in the '60s and '70s, and probably a bit earlier in America, helped a long way to us getting rights here," he says. "Until '67, when they gave us citizenship, we were considered as fauna. Same as them over there, you know, like 'negro' and 'black object', you know what I mean? I've always respected them. I'd read books by Huey P Newton and stuff like that, you know? That's really empowering stuff, for a lad. Fifty brothers rocking up with shotguns, like, no-one's fucking with our neighbourhood, you know what I mean? You can imagine that shit going on in Redfern and western Sydney, the coppers would shit, brah.

"And then look what they done to them, they bring in crack, they bring in all this other bullshit and fucked the whole thing over, you know? Same with here with the drugs and everything, what they did with Redfern, because they knew that was our political centre back in the days, you know? They looked for any excuse to knock it down and take that land back, because that's prime real estate. You've got Redfern and then you've got all the surrounding little suburbs, brah, that's all million-dollar houses around there, eh."

Provocalz contributed some of the most radical bars on a mixtape released on Invasion Day this year to show solidarity with the Idle No More movement for Indigenous Canadians. On the track "Evil Monarchy", he raps:

They living off the spoils of war, they call 'em Royals
Brah, I call em my enemy, stand on blood-soaked soil
They're murdering our people, fuck tha regal bloodlines
Catch me in a balaclava you can only see my eyes and the fire inside
Blood boiling so it's time that I load up this rifle 'n' a Royal fucking dies
Time to pay for their crimes 'cause we do all the time
Filling up their prisons, so my mission is survive
Hook up with the IRA 'n' burn them fuckers alive
Two wrongs don’t make a right, but come on bruz, pass the light
Let me torch this bitch and we can watch 'em all fry
In their mason-built palace from slavery to genocide
And it wasn’t just us, brah, they done it worldwide
So I'm looking for justice heavy metal jacket kind
Talking fully automatic with my sisters 'n' brothers
And I'd never hit a woman, but I'll slap the Queen Mother

So what did Provocalz make of Prince William being greeted by cheering crowds when he visited Redfern in 2010?

"Sydney all got caught up in the hype, brah," he laughs. "Like Flavor Flav said, 'Don't believe the hype.' They're just pieces of shit, brah, royal families worldwide, you know? They've been living off the people's backs for centuries and centuries, you know what I mean? They don't give a fuck. They might come and shake your hand and smile in your face, but they're going back to their palace and their billions of dollars while you're going back to your fucking struggle. As I said, brah, I just want to empty a fucking clip at them, you know what I mean?"

On that same visit, Prince William emptied a clip at the Holsworthy army barracks when he joined Australian paratroopers on a firing range there.

Holsworthy was named after the English marriage place of New South Wales governor Lachlan Macquarie. By 1815, he had declared a state of open warfare against Aboriginal people in the area and forbade them carrying weapons within a mile of any British settlement. Holsworthy's roads have names that seem to bark from the street signs like a drill sergeant: Anzac, Light Horse, Infantry, Cavalry, Tarakan, Bardia, Wewak, Lae, Brunei, Finschhafen, Madang, Gona, Sabre, Gunners Row and Trooper Row. This is the suburb where Provocalz lives. With a neighbourhood like that, it is little wonder that on "Ain't Feelin Your Shit", he raps:

P.R.O. devastate the east coast like a tsunami
Shut Australia down like the Japanese army

"Just showing a bit of the history to them again, brah," he says. "Because a lot of them don't even remember that shit, you know. Without Papua New Guinea and the Koori soldiers in the Top End, they would have got fucked over a lot worse. And then they called them 'the Fuzzy Wuzzys' for helping them, you know what I mean, another derogatory term - and they were dying for them."

In contrast, many of the white soldiers were rewarded with Aboriginal land when they returned.

"Exactly," says Provocalz. "And the Kooris did their service and all that and they couldn't even get a drink in the pub. They couldn't even get served in their own fucking country that they just went and fought for."

Provocalz calls himself "Provokes" for short, and a lot of his vocals, like the Japanese army line, seem designed to provoke. "Yeah, that's what my name means, provoking vocals," he says. "I just put them both together one day at home and thought, 'Provocalz, that's perfect,' because I try to provoke you to think a bit. I'm not just talking random shit with nothing to say."

Provocalz credits his hip-hop heroes Wu-Tang Clan for the intelligent inspiration.

"Wu-Tang was probably one of the main factors that made me crave knowledge about the world, 'cause they always had that in there with that 5 percenter sort of stuff, you know? You've got the 85% that are dumb, deaf and blind, you've got the 10% that are in control and then you've got the 5% that are trying to fucking wake everyone else up."

Provocalz got a rude awakening early on in life, when his parents divorced and he ended up with a junkie stepfather.

"He used to take me doing that shit, so that affected me as a kid," he says. "He wasn't giving it to me, but he was taking me with him. I'd have to wake him up in the car when he fell asleep at the lights and shit like that, you know. That was when I was about 12, 13, maybe even younger.

"I remember when I was a kid, my little sister was still in nappies and I'd be holding the cord around his arm while he was banging up in the toilet, you know what I mean? That shit fucked me up in the head when I was a kid. It taught me a lesson never to touch that shit at the same time, you know what I mean? He ended up dying, passed away. That was when I was still young, so I had a lot of anger towards him, for shit he'd done."

Provocalz raps about his stepfather on the closing track on his album, "I Need You":

I got my first pair of Airs off my stepdad's corpse
Because he needed Harry more than he wanted his own daughter

"To me, brah, that's a deep song. It's pretty much, what do you want and what do you need? Like, did I really need those things? He only wanted his daughter, he didn't need her, when it should have been the other way around. He sacrificed his life and his daughter's future to fucking stick something up his arm, you know what I mean? I need a fresh pair of Airs, but I don't.

"It's just coming to terms with what we really need and what we want. I was breaking down and I just thought I'd analyse myself with that. Everyone's got their thing that they think they need, but they don't really need it, at the end of the day. Food, clothing and shelter, brah, that's what they say, eh?"

Because people's basic needs are so easily met, corporations spend nearly half a trillion dollars a year fostering false needs and wants, from Nike Airs to drugs.

"Exactly," says Provocalz. "That was my point exactly. There's a lot of things that you think you fucking need, but you don't really fucking need them."

But he feels there are genuine needs besides food, clothing and shelter - as he raps on the Idle No More mixtape song "Freedom":

Without the dark there ain't light, 'n' you've never known the fight
So there's a difference between your freedom 'n' mine
'Cause mine ain't really mine, it's ours, I'll draw a line in the sand
And watch 'em all jump the fence, like damn
It's time for revolution, not pollution of the lands
No more looking for solutions, brah, it's time to take a stand
I'll snatch all that food out ya greedy lil' hands
Slap the taste out ya mouth, hit the brakes on ya plans
The chants of freedom leave you bleeding in advance Australia was never fair
Used to lock us up in chains or murder us right there
And they still do it today
These pigs fucking shoot us, DOCS take our kids away
Over-representation in the prison population
When it comes to politics, never heard from, just hated
By most of this bloody racist country, come on face it
You call us all these names but never say it to our face, bitch

"That's a big part of everyone's lives, freedom, brah, and we don't really have our freedom at the end of the day, you know? Like, you can't really do what you want and it's always the thing that you need. That's what our culture's were back in the day, were free, you know what I mean? And we've lost that and people are always claiming our freedom, whether it's lads that are locked up for years, you know, they've got no control over their life and freedom is just being able to have control over your own life, being able to do what you want. “

Provocalz also seethes at the daily denial of freedom to refugees.

“Everyone always gets so upset about refugees and it comes back to low education and ignorance, because that's all they hear in the media, 'These fucking boat people.' These poor people are coming from a country where they had no reason but to leave otherwise they're gonna be fucking murdered, you know what I mean? And then we're over in their countries fucking them over in the first place anyway.

"You know, you spend two, three weeks in a boat just to come here and get locked up, you know, you've just spent, you've come that far, everything, you've just survived that shit and then, bang, straight to prison, there you go, cunt, there's some freedom for ya. Freedom's always been a very important word to me, brah."

I look at Provocalz, then look over to the army barracks. I suggest that we go over and take a few ironic photographs of the Aboriginal rapper in his neighbourhood, Sydney's Kakadu, next to the army signs saying: "AUSTRALIAN GOVERNMENT LAND. TRESPASSING ON THIS LAND IS PROHIBITED."

We drop into the low-slung bucket seats of his low-key 1992 Commodore and he hands me a CD copy of his album. The artwork, in the colours of the Aboriginal flag, reads: "Dedicated to the incarcerated." The centrefold features a picture of GBO, a member of his original rap crew, the South West Royals. It is emblazoned with the words, "FREE GBO".

"He got locked up," says Provocalz. "He's actually got out now, so it worked."

He laughs. There is a pause. Then I ask: "What did he get locked up for?"

"Ah, just dumb shit, brah," he says. "We don't wanna go too much into that."

We drive down a level and walk over to the barracks, then start snapping off shots with the camera. We don't intend to hang around, but when you are talking to the ever-engaging Provocalz, time stands still - along with everything else. We are soon motionless, deep in conversation about outspoken Aboriginal world boxing champion Anthony Mundine, who Provocalz met at the Indigenous music festival Yabun on Invasion Day.

"The media ask him dumb questions, you know," says the rapper. "What are you doing asking a boxer about 9/11 for? They love him because he sells papers for them, you know? They love him 'cause then they can say all Aboriginals are like that, you know what I mean? He believes in what he's saying, good on the lad. At the end of the day, he stands for what he believes in, he boycotted the national anthem at the last fight..."

Provocalz suddenly breaks off.

"Here comes your lad now..."

I look over my shoulder, half-expecting to see Mundine, but am greeted by his antithesis - a white, overweight, security guard in fluoro gear.

"You're going to have to delete those photos," says the security guard. "This is government land, owned by the army. Anything that's taken that side, facing that way, is all right, but we've got a lot of work going on inside and we've got the Australian Federal Police here."

He demands that we delete the photos.

We walk back to the car on the second floor of the car park. We are deep in conversation again when a red police patrol car approaches. The window glides down as the car glides to a halt. I begin to walk away.

"Were you just taking photos over at the barracks?"

"Yeah it's all sorted," I say over my shoulder.

"IDs, please," says the driver, as he and his partner get out of the car.

I turn back. We both take out our drivers' licences and hand them over.

"You do know why we're taking your details, don't you," he says.

Holsworthy barracks was alleged to be the target of a foiled terrorist attack in 2009, even though the police admitted the defendants had no access to weapons. Government ministers, police and the media have repeatedly used the foiled attack on the army base to say that terrorists threaten Australia. A popular image of Aboriginal resistance flashes through my mind: a group of spear-holding warriors under the slogan, "Homeland security: Fighting Terrorism since 1770."

I turn to the cop and say: "Terrorism."

"Yes," says the cop.

Provocalz bursts out laughing. "We ain't terrorists though," he says, mockingly.

"That's what they all say!" chorus the cops, in bizarre union. Then the driver adds: "You're not going to walk around with a sign on you, saying 'terrorist', are you?"

Provocalz shakes his head. "Nah, we ain't terrorists, though," he says. "I'm a rapper. This guy was just interviewing me, that's why he was taking photos of me."

The cop looks him up and down and says: "A rapper, eh?"

Provocalz beams. "Yep," he says.

The cop pauses. "Oh," he says. "Good stuff."

The cops hand back our IDs, get back in the car and drive off.

Provocalz turns to me and grins.

***

...ON GROWING UP KOORI IN SOUTH-WEST SYDNEY

The world media don't know shit about Kooris. They probably think we ride around on kangaroos or some shit. They don't realise that a lot of shit goes down out here in our lives. This is real life and it's a struggle. When I was growing up my sister's father was a junkie, you know what I mean? You know you're always trying to fit in and be normal, but you've got that shit going on at home, domestic violence, the typical crime shit that's going on around here. Just trying to get through that and come out the other side, you know what I mean? I grew up pretty much south-west Sydney my whole life. I was born around Georges Hall. I lived there with my parents and when they got divorced I moved out with my dad to Leichardt for a few years - one or two years - and then my mum got pregnant with my little sister, so I moved back with her, back to Georges Hall. Then we moved around a lot since then, you know changing schools, this and that, from Liverpool, Moorebank, Ashfield, Georges Hall, back there and that you know what I mean? And then moved out Liverpool way and been out here ever since. I've lived here [in Holsworthy] for a while, got a house with my missus, my missus is pregnant with my kid, first one. She's got about two weeks to go now. I share the house with my little sister and she's got two kids as well, so... family's important to me, brah, I'd do anything for them. My mum's still around, she lives locally as well, that's why I sorta stayed in the area because my family's all round here. Plus with my sister so I can stay in contact and get helped out or whatever. Two kids, one's only one-year-old and the other's off three weeks old, so it's a handful.

...ON HIS ROOTS

My grandfather - that's who I lived with when shit was going on too much, I'd move in with him, you know? He was like, Irish-Scottish, you know, cooking mad stews and potatoes and shit like that. And then on my dad's side that's probably got Pommy, Scottish, Irish as well. Then my mum's side is where the Aboriginal comes from - and that's Irish, Aboriginal, maybe a bit of Scottish, French was thrown in there too, you know, everything.

...ON HIS SONG 'ONE LAND'

I just sort of wanted to set the record straight because I get a lot of people through Hustle Hard TV and that that just look at me and think that I'm just white, some Aussie cunt. So I just set the record straight: "This always was and always will be our land. And if you don't stop fucking with us, this is what's going to happen." That was just a pretty much warning, and also it's a unity song as well - all one people, one land at the end of the day.

...ON WORKING WITH SOLOMON CHILD FROM WU-TANG CLAN

That was one of the high points for me, brah. I'm still sitting on that song. I'm gonna throw that song on my next mixtape. I'm with a crew SWR, South West Royals, and we did an Australian Gangster mixtape a long time ago, maybe 2005 or something and just after that we were gonna do an album and we got A-Alikes on one track and Solomon Child on one track. We had to pay them. you can expect that because you can imagine how many people were trying to hit them up. They've got no way of weeding out who's shit and who's garbage. A-Alikes was pretty cheap. Solomon Child wanted a bit. We reached out to him. Gunsta who runs Hustle Hard TV organised all that, you know what I mean? [Gunsta is also known as] Malek Sukkar, that's my brother. He does everything for the love. Look at all these artists that are coming up through Hustle Hard TV - they're not paying him. He's got no job, trying to support himself, this and that, you know? He puts the effort in, brah. People are always asking me to hook him up. That's why I feel bad asking him for shit because he does so much shit for other people, even though that's my brother, I still feel bad because he's gotta go home and edit it all at the end of the day. You know, people don't understand what goes into them clips you know, brah. Now with A-Alikes we've built up a bit of a relationship and he'll jump on something for free now. Solomon Child is another story.

...ON RADIO PLAYLISTS

What does the radio play? Other than Koori FM? In my career, bro, the highest point I ever thought in my mind for radio was Koori FM, you know, I don't wanna be played on fucking - I don't even know what their frequencies are. They're never going to play anything by anyone that's really got something to say because they're all just part of the machine.

...ON HIS SONG 'SO BROKE'

I'd run out of instrumentals to use. So I found this one and it was by Akon called "So Paid". I thought, fuck that, every mate of mine is so broke, so it's all these different parts of my life that I went through, from just being a broke cunt. I say "All my people locked up, time to get free, braz." Cos a lot of my cousins are going in and out of jail, you know what I mean? It's not the way to be living, you know, we've got all kids and that, bro, you don't wanna worry about their future. In hip-hop before Wu-Tang everyone was getting fucked in the industry. Then every artist had their own label. But then mp3s killed that shit, you know. I remember when I was a kid, bro, you used to be waiting for the CD to come out. You'd have that shit pre-booked and go into the store to pick it up. But back then you could listen to whole albums. These days they're just putting out garbage. There's a couple of good rappers out there, but the majority of them, even the good ones these days, they've only got three, four good tracks on the album, it sorta gets disappointing.

...ON HIS SKIT 'DISCIPLINE'

No-one's disciplined these days. These young kids, they don't read nothing, they don't know nothing, then you've got the people who are on the gear or in and out of jail. You've gotta discipline yourself, you've gotta know when to stand back and not do it, or you're gonna get trapped in the system again, you know? You're never gonna get out. So I was just like, [mimicks the cracking of a whip] "I'll slap the shit out of you, wake up to yourself. Discipline! Discipline!" And that's a strong word because a lot of people, they've got no discipline. They can't stop themselves from going and scoring that next cap or going smoking that next pipe. So that was just, "Discipline! Wake up to yourself and get some control over your life."

...ON HIS TRACK 'GOOD N EVIL'

That was like there's an unsigned artist and then one of these bullshit rappers that's getting paid millions and it's, like, who's really good and who's really evil? Even though in the song I'm kidnapping and murdering him, this guy's fucking over everyone he knows and making millions and not helping anyone, you know what I mean? So it was just a play on that - who's really good and who's really evil? People might be out here doing dumb shit and crimes and shit like that, but what are they doing? If I was sitting on millions, brah, I'd be helping people, and a lot of them, they ain't doing nothing for no-one but themselves. Everyone's gotta be accountable for their words and actions, you can't just say this and that and then not back it up. Like American mainstream hip-hoppers, you know what I mean? I mean like, look at who's on the radio now, like, fucking Rick Ross and all this garbage like that. He used to be a screw in the jails, and now he's, like, the biggest coke dealer that ever happened, you know what I mean? He's directly influencing teenagers' lives to go out and sell coke, you know what I mean? There's kids getting locked up and shit, because of that cunt. He's not the sole reason for it, but he's a contributing factor. All these bullshit rappers, if you're gonna say something, make sure it's the truth, you know. Don't just bullshit people.

...ON KEVIN RUDD'S 'TOKEN' APOLOGY TO THE STOLEN GENERATION

The way I look at it, all politicians are dickheads at the end of the day, but at least he took a step in the right direction, you know what I mean? Like, it was better than nothing, pretty much, and he got fucked over for it, pretty much, anyway in the end, you know what I mean? But that "Sorry", it was just a token apology, there were no legal ramifications, there was no compensation anyone could get from it or anything like that, you know what I mean? They never really admitted responsibility. It was just a bullshit apology. But for the Stolen Generation, a lot of members, it was at least something to give them, you know what I mean? And then they ended up, like, a year or two later, saying sorry to EVERYONE that went into state care. It sorta just took the whole thing away from it again, you know, like backtracking, backpedalling to white Australia's fucking demands, you know what I mean? They deserved an apology, because a lot of people got fucked over in state care, abused, everything, you know? But just that whole thing, it was a bullshit apology, brah. Like, "I'm sorry, but it wasn't really my fault." You know what I mean? "Let's all get over it." Everyone always says, when you talk about Australia being like that, they're always, like, "Ah, I never done it. Rah, rah, rah." Did I say you'd done it? I'm not pointing at you and saying, "You're guilty of killing my people." Nah, I'm saying your ancestors, and you're living wealthy in this country because of what happened to Aboriginal people here. Until you acknowledge that fact - everyone always gets so defensive, like racists always do, that old saying "I'm not racist, but..." It's like saying, "I'm not vegetarian but I only eat vegetables." It's just selfish, that's why society is the way it is these days. Everyone's just selfish, brah, everyone's looking out for themselves. And they only know what they've been taught, you know what I mean? At the end of the day a lot of it stems from ignorance and not knowing anything else. They'll talk shit about Kooris, this and that, and then they'll meet one and they're like, "Fuck, he's exactly the same as me, he's a human, too." You know, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure that out, brah, but they don't meet them, you know what I mean? Like I said, they've never read books about things or tried to educate themselves about things. Because once you have a bit of education, your ignorance is gone, because you know the truth behind it, we're all fucking humans, you know what I mean? Race is nothing.

...ON SYDNEY BEING 'THE BIRTHPLACE OF THE NATION'

That's what they always call it, "the birthplace of the nation", so I say [on the song "Sydney Sydney"], "welcome to the birthplace of the nation, where at the start of the day it was just invasion" - something like that, you know. That's it. This wasn't a peaceful colonisation of Australia. They didn't come here and swap some necklaces and shit for land. They came here and murdered, enslaved, with biological warfare, and colonised this country. And they came here with the plan of doing that. They didn't just accidentally find Australia, they had maps from the Dutch and all that, you know what I mean? They came here with a plan, they came with, what? More than half of the First Fleet were soldiers, you know what I mean, so they came here to purposefully do that shit. Back when I was learning in school, they never taught you about that. It was always, they came here, everyone got along and it just turned into Australia. These days they might teach a little bit more of that in the school system, but that was just for my generation, saying, "Look, cunts, this is what really happened." It's all bullshit, brah. I remember when I was in school a teacher tried to say something and I just had to pull her up, like, "You don't even know what you're talking about, miss. Don't try to educate these kids about that, you know what I mean? Because if you don't know what you're talking about, you're just going to make everyone more ignorant than what they were in the first place."

...ON HIS SONG 'COEYS'

Coeys, ah, it's just some old Sydney slang, when we were growing up in the 1990s. Just your co-offender. Back when we were boys, with graff crews, this and that, you know? They were all cunts going out doing crime or whatever. Just dumb shit, you know what I mean? Just, you know, a bit of crime here and there or whatever. The older boys used to take me to steal cars when I was, like, eight or nine years old around Bass Hill Plaza, you know what I mean? When you're a kid, you don't realise. You're just going out doing dumb shit, trying to fucking fit in with the older boys. And then once you get a bit older, it sorts you a bit, you know. It was always "your coey", you know what I mean? That was with After Market, that's my other crew, my other mate, he's a Cook Islander, Robdan. I've known him since I was a little kid, brah, he took me under, he sort of taught me how to rap and everything, you know what I mean? He was my brother's friend, and then they put me on to Wu-Tang and all that. He was a mad rapper back then, I'm talking, like, nineties, '91, '92, you know what I mean, '93. Then he showed me.

...ON HIS TRACK 'CHOP, PACK, PUNCH'

That's pretty self-explanatory, that one. That's just chop, pack, punch, you know what I mean? I've spent a lot of my life, you know, fucking smoking weed and doing this and that with it, you know what I mean? I don't do it as much these days because I've got a kid on the way, I'm just trying to cut everything down and that. So yeah, brah, I used to sit in the garage all day and every day, just smoking and that, writing rhymes, doing this and that, you know what I mean? So yeah, that was just for all the potheads in Australia. And then the lyrics don't really have anything to do with that. It's just the chorus, and then I sorta went a bit political and put a bit of knowledge in the lyrics as well, you know, just to sort of suck them in, you know what I mean? Suck the suckers in and then feed them a bit of knowledge without them knowing.

...ON POLITICIANS ACTING LIKE KIDS

Look at the fucking federal parliament question time, it's like being back in fucking Year Three: "Yaaa! Boooo!" Talking shit, this and that. It's a fucking waste of everyone's time, you know? What issues are they really solving? Nothing. They're just talking shit, hating out on each other. You look at, say, if one politician comes up with a good idea, it might be a mad idea, but this guy's just gonna disagree with it just because he's in the other party, you know what I mean? Like, look at Obama in America, he's just got fucked over his whole first term because no-one agreed with nothing, even though he had all the Senate power. So it was like, "Whatever you're gonna do, cunt, we're blocking it." You know, I'm not saying he's a mad president. It was good to see a black president and that's a good role model for young kids and all that, you know what I mean? But America's a machine. It doesn't matter who the puppet is in the front of it, it's going to keep on turning.

...ON JULIA GILLARD AND TONY ABBOTT

Ohhhh, fuck, man! I'd like to line both of them two up and execute them. They're just pieces of shit, brah, Tony Abbott especially, you know, who does he think he is? Fucking... it's bullshit, all this "refugees", they always talk about, brah. Everyone always gets so upset about refugees and it comes back to low education and ignorance, because that's all they hear in the media, "These fucking boat people". Though the majority of illegal immigrants in Australia, like overstaying visas, is Pommies and New Zealanders. You never hear that, brah. You watch, fucking, "Border Control" [Border Security], they're arresting busloads of Asians and that. Just like "Cops" in America, they're always chasing some black guy, you know what I mean? That's what they wanna feed people. We always big-note ourselves as this big fucking country that's down with America and that, so we have to take a certain number of refugees, you know what I mean? That's when they decide to listen to the UN, because they don't listen to the UN when it comes to Indigenous people, they just ignore whatever they say when it comes to that shit, you know? Same with America. America used to be the UN's... they used to love them, and then Afghanistan and Iraq happened and the UN was like, don't do that, and America was like, "Fuck the UN". They started vilifying them and making them look like dickheads and then we saw how much power the UN really had. None.

...ON JULIA GILLARD REPLACING KEVIN RUDD

Imagine if that happened in any other country, a democratically elected - I'm not going to get started on democracy - but a democratically elected leader ousted by his own fucking government and then phone in some other cunt. There would have been riots - imagine if it happened in France or something, brah, it'd be going off. Here, everyone was just like, "Oh well, back to work tomorrow." You know what I mean? It's bullshit. I don't like Rudd the most, but he's better than fucking Gillard. Gillard's just a - she's a backbencher puppet, that's all she is. All them lads, they're the ones that got her in power, she never got herself there. And just looking at her, she seems like a stuck-up bitch, just from how she turns and how she looks at people, you know what I mean. Usually just from looking at someone you can tell what they're like... Not to say you should judge a book by its cover. [Laughs] But you can usually tell 'em, you know what I mean?

...ON HIS VIDEO FOR 'THIS IS HOW I'M LIVING'

I was actually going to pick my missus up from work and I saw that spot and I thought, "Fuck, this place would look pretty good in a video." You know what I mean? Underneath the bridge with the trees that sorta look like neon lights or something. And erm... Yeah, I just hit up Hustle Hard [TV] and we went and done it the next week, straight away after, we recorded it. I say "I treat beats like hitch-hikers at Belanglo, you'll find it in a stranglehold, lifeless", you know what I mean, like Ivan Milat picking up hitch-hikers and taking them out to Belanglo, sorta thing, and then that as well, "Life's a cemetery, you may as well be dead" you know what I mean, cos no-one gives a fuck about ya, at the end of the day. That was my brother that I was pretending to bury [laughs], my brother Justin, stepbrother. It was just to make, not your standard clip, you know what I mean? Something with a little bit extra, you know?

...ON HOW 'THE SYSTEM SETS PEOPLE UP TO FAIL FROM THE JAILS TO THE MISSION'

Yeah, that's just like, the percentage of the population in jail that Indigenous people are and the way they threw us onto missions with no education, with no... you know you go back in them days there's no plumbing or nothing. It was out on the mission Third World conditions in a First World country, you know? And they still keep us there today. Like, so many people suffering and trapped. It's always good for your people to be on land, but you should be on there on your own terms. Not fucking forced there, like, we were forced to the edges of all the towns. You can still go to country towns now and there's a black pub and a white pub, and all the Kooris are on the edge of town. Yeah, it's all set up to fail, brah, worldwide, like you said, from poor people in Britain to poor people in Ireland to South America, south-east Asia, everyone's getting fucked over by the rich people at the end of the day, brah.

This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license. It may not be reproduced in any form without permission or license from the source.

Mat Ward

Mat Ward lives in Australia and writes for Green Left Weekly.


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Provocalz, a Provocative Vocalist

Thursday, 21 February 2013 14:33 By Mat Ward, Green Left | Report

"Every time you see in the media someone's been killed by police it always just happens to be an Aboriginal," says radical rapper Provocalz.

It's 9.30 on a Saturday morning and the south-west Sydney spitter is telling Green Left why he made his hard-hitting horrorcore track, "Cop Shot".

"That was just like a stand-up, like, stop fucking killing our children, because they're killing our kids," says the Indigenous emcee. "It's not like it's soldier versus soldier. It's not warrior shit, it's like killing innocent kids for doing petty shit."

As he speaks, the sun climbs ever higher, pulling up the temperature and the intensity of the conversation with it. Our interview will end with the two of us - interviewer and interviewee, being questioned by the police. But more about that later.

"Look at them kids in Kings Cross," says Provocalz. "You've got a huge fucking police officer. Are you telling me you couldn't drag that kid out the window instead ofshooting him in the neck and then punching him in the head while he was on the ground? They're big lads and they still can't hold down a small lad, you know what I mean? And then you've got how TJ Hickey got murdered by them coppers - they ended up getting awards and shit. The lad in Palm Island got bashed to death. It's just fucking filthy. I was just letting the coppers know, stop fucking with us, or we're going to start shooting back, you know what I mean? An eye for an eye."

The claustrophobic clip for the song features Provocalz pacing a dimly-lit underground car park and barking his lines through a balaclava.

Two shots finished her off
then there's blood on my Maxes
Just remember motherfuckers
That your wage is our taxes

The clip ends with an eerie synth, a tolling bell and splatter of blood.

As we stand on the roof of a slightly less claustrophobic car park than that featured in his violent video, Provocalz peers from under his baseball cap and asks me: "What do you think of the clip for 'Cop Shot', brah?"

I search for the right words. "It was... in your face," I say.

He laughs a round, satisfied laugh.

From the top of the car park, three stories into the sun-bleached sky, we can see over the Airport & East Hills rail line to Holsworthy army barracks. Directly to the east lies bushland holding numerous Aboriginal artefacts. The relics have given Holsworthy the nickname of "Sydney's Kakadu", after the rock art-galleried Northern Territory national park of the same name. It was while Provocalz was working in Holsworthy's bushland among those artefacts - as part of the government's scrapped Community Development Employment Projects program for Indigenous job seekers - that he came up with one of his most lyrical lyrics.

This whole society's like a Banksia seed
Need ta let it all burn for life to be released

"I used to do CDEP there and we used to do ranger sort of stuff, learn about all the plants," says the rapper, who now works in a car supplies factory. "I found it interesting that Australia is the only country where the plants need fire to regrow. The bush needs to be on fire. It's why our people used to backburn and all that, you know."

Overwhelming evidence suggests Aboriginal people farmed the entire country through the selective use of fire. Some fireproof flora have even evolved to promote fire, dropping turpentine-laden bark that easily catches alight, razing the fire-prone competition.

"The Banksia seed, I saw it when they germinate seeds in the greenhouse," says Provocalz. "They'd blow it with a blowtorch to make it pop, so they pop out and just float around. I just thought, 'Fuck, that's what needs to happen to this world.' It's gotta take violence to get to the peace. Because at the moment, there are so many people being fucked over in every country. With all this credit and home loans, how they destroyed the unions and workers' rights movements, now everyone's locked in. You can't go on strike next week because you've gotta pay your mortgage.

"At the end of the day, if it wasn't for unions, we'd still be getting $5 a day. Everyone always talks shit about them, but if it wasn't for them, you wouldn't be getting annual leave, you wouldn't be getting sick pay, there would be no unfair dismissal or anything like that, you wouldn't be getting anything."

The Banksia lyric lights up "One Land", the track that rips open the rapper's ripper of an album, Verbal Reality Volume One. Rightly wary of the media, Provocalz has agreed to talk only because he is trying to promote the fact that for the next few weeks, he is donating all sales of the album to the daughter of another Aboriginal rapper.

"All the proceeds from Verbal Reality are going to be helping this girl compete in the national races at Perth," he says. "It's Felon from DTA Mob's daughter. He posted up a thing on his site saying that he's a single parent and, especially as he's got other kids, it's hard for him to get the funding for his daughter - like it would be for all of us - to go over to Perth. So then I thought, what better? Pretty much until the last day I'm gonna contribute everything I get for it to them."

His compassion for his comrades was nurtured in Provocalz from a young age. "My real father, he used to go to protests when he was younger and he got me into that and my brother as well," says the rapper. "Then I just got interested in the struggle of the people worldwide."

He rolls up his sleeve.

"I've got Che Guevara tattooed on my arm right there, brah," he says. Then he picks at it. "It's peeling a bit, because I caught the sun the other day."

The sun is beating down on us and pushing the temperature up further. It's the kind of blinding white heat that washes all the colour from your vision. I peer through the rays at Provocalz and can't make out his form, never mind his colour. He is of Scottish, Irish, French and Aboriginal descent and raps that he has "white skin, black blood".

"I represent for my people. That's how I was brought up since I was a kid, by my mum, uncles and aunties and everyone. I acknowledge the rest of my history and that as well, but that's how I was raised, with a lot of the Aboriginal stuff, you know what I mean?"

The rapper says once a person has been raised that way, there's little chance they can see themselves as anything other than Aboriginal.

"Then you take it back to the Stolen Generation and the White Australia policy," he says. "That was their plan with us, to breed us out of the fucking country, you know? That's why we don’t say quarter-caste, half-caste, this and that, because that's the terminology they used to use and then they'd consider you not Aboriginal, you know what I mean? That's why, in my eyes anyway, that we don't say anything like that. I'm Aboriginal, full stop.

"They get upset about it. 'You're not Aboriginal, you're rah, rah, rah.' Like, I get some cunts on my site all the time trying to say shit like that. They'd never say it to anyone's face. They'd never come out and stand up for it. So many of them, if they saw you on the street, they wouldn't even look you in the eye, let alone say anything to you, you know what I mean? It's just fucking sad, but that's the internet for ya. Look at the comments on half my videos, you know, it's, 'You fucking ugly cunt, rah, rah, rah.' You know, I didn't realise I was trying to sign up for a model competition or something, you know, this is hip-hop, I’m a rapper, I ain't no fucking model."

Provocalz laughs at the ignorance of most rap fans. He is only 29, but talks about young hip-hop heads like they are light years behind.

"Young people these days, they don't learn shit. When I was a kid I used to be reading Marxist books, Communism, guerrilla warfare shit, I used to real be into that. And these kids, they don't learn nothing. That taught me about things in life, but they've got no idea. They're just saturated with sex, violence and money."

On "One Land", he raps:

I'll rip a few emcees ‘cause this whole Aussie rap scene is pitiful
Rockin' a union jack, who ya fuckin' kidding, fool?
Garbage rhymes only a redneck’ll listen to
Bleeding heart yuppies, all ya fans voted Liberal

"That shit pisses me off," says Provocalz. "They should know the history of that flag and to Indigenous people it's not a good fucking symbol, you know what I mean? Waving it in our face: 'Here, you got invaded by these people.’ All right, it's the Australian flag, but if you're into hip-hop, you should know your history, you should know the history of your country and the history of Indigenous people."

Concern about the nationalism surrounding Australian hip-hop led pop culture publication The Vine to run a piece last year titled, "Does Aussie hip-hop have a problem with racism?"

Provocalz blames amnesia.

"At the end of the day, it's a black music form from the Bronx and Queens," he says. "But these lads, they throw 'Aussie Hip-Hop' in front of it and they forget about that. You know, on stage, wearing a union jack and shit. Anyone that considers themselves Aussie Hip-Hop, you look at what else they listen to. They don't listen to no black artists. The other music they listen to is just radio music. For example, a guy at my work the other day, he was listening to that 360. Then the other day he was listening to Taylor Swift or something, you know what I mean?"

He laughs.

"They don't listen to hip-hop, brah, they just listen to whatever the radio tells them to."

When Green Left tried to get an interview with the ARIA-award winning 360 because he closed his latest album with a climate song, his publicist tentatively agreed, "as long as it's not going to be in any way politically swayed".

Provocalz laughs. "That's garbage," he says.

It is hard to believe such rappers share the same genre as Provocalz. His Facebook profile picture is a poster of the Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front that his father gave to him. On his album, he shouts out the Sandinistas and gives props to the Black Panthers.

"Well, you know, the Black Panther and Black Rights movement in the '60s and '70s, and probably a bit earlier in America, helped a long way to us getting rights here," he says. "Until '67, when they gave us citizenship, we were considered as fauna. Same as them over there, you know, like 'negro' and 'black object', you know what I mean? I've always respected them. I'd read books by Huey P Newton and stuff like that, you know? That's really empowering stuff, for a lad. Fifty brothers rocking up with shotguns, like, no-one's fucking with our neighbourhood, you know what I mean? You can imagine that shit going on in Redfern and western Sydney, the coppers would shit, brah.

"And then look what they done to them, they bring in crack, they bring in all this other bullshit and fucked the whole thing over, you know? Same with here with the drugs and everything, what they did with Redfern, because they knew that was our political centre back in the days, you know? They looked for any excuse to knock it down and take that land back, because that's prime real estate. You've got Redfern and then you've got all the surrounding little suburbs, brah, that's all million-dollar houses around there, eh."

Provocalz contributed some of the most radical bars on a mixtape released on Invasion Day this year to show solidarity with the Idle No More movement for Indigenous Canadians. On the track "Evil Monarchy", he raps:

They living off the spoils of war, they call 'em Royals
Brah, I call em my enemy, stand on blood-soaked soil
They're murdering our people, fuck tha regal bloodlines
Catch me in a balaclava you can only see my eyes and the fire inside
Blood boiling so it's time that I load up this rifle 'n' a Royal fucking dies
Time to pay for their crimes 'cause we do all the time
Filling up their prisons, so my mission is survive
Hook up with the IRA 'n' burn them fuckers alive
Two wrongs don’t make a right, but come on bruz, pass the light
Let me torch this bitch and we can watch 'em all fry
In their mason-built palace from slavery to genocide
And it wasn’t just us, brah, they done it worldwide
So I'm looking for justice heavy metal jacket kind
Talking fully automatic with my sisters 'n' brothers
And I'd never hit a woman, but I'll slap the Queen Mother

So what did Provocalz make of Prince William being greeted by cheering crowds when he visited Redfern in 2010?

"Sydney all got caught up in the hype, brah," he laughs. "Like Flavor Flav said, 'Don't believe the hype.' They're just pieces of shit, brah, royal families worldwide, you know? They've been living off the people's backs for centuries and centuries, you know what I mean? They don't give a fuck. They might come and shake your hand and smile in your face, but they're going back to their palace and their billions of dollars while you're going back to your fucking struggle. As I said, brah, I just want to empty a fucking clip at them, you know what I mean?"

On that same visit, Prince William emptied a clip at the Holsworthy army barracks when he joined Australian paratroopers on a firing range there.

Holsworthy was named after the English marriage place of New South Wales governor Lachlan Macquarie. By 1815, he had declared a state of open warfare against Aboriginal people in the area and forbade them carrying weapons within a mile of any British settlement. Holsworthy's roads have names that seem to bark from the street signs like a drill sergeant: Anzac, Light Horse, Infantry, Cavalry, Tarakan, Bardia, Wewak, Lae, Brunei, Finschhafen, Madang, Gona, Sabre, Gunners Row and Trooper Row. This is the suburb where Provocalz lives. With a neighbourhood like that, it is little wonder that on "Ain't Feelin Your Shit", he raps:

P.R.O. devastate the east coast like a tsunami
Shut Australia down like the Japanese army

"Just showing a bit of the history to them again, brah," he says. "Because a lot of them don't even remember that shit, you know. Without Papua New Guinea and the Koori soldiers in the Top End, they would have got fucked over a lot worse. And then they called them 'the Fuzzy Wuzzys' for helping them, you know what I mean, another derogatory term - and they were dying for them."

In contrast, many of the white soldiers were rewarded with Aboriginal land when they returned.

"Exactly," says Provocalz. "And the Kooris did their service and all that and they couldn't even get a drink in the pub. They couldn't even get served in their own fucking country that they just went and fought for."

Provocalz calls himself "Provokes" for short, and a lot of his vocals, like the Japanese army line, seem designed to provoke. "Yeah, that's what my name means, provoking vocals," he says. "I just put them both together one day at home and thought, 'Provocalz, that's perfect,' because I try to provoke you to think a bit. I'm not just talking random shit with nothing to say."

Provocalz credits his hip-hop heroes Wu-Tang Clan for the intelligent inspiration.

"Wu-Tang was probably one of the main factors that made me crave knowledge about the world, 'cause they always had that in there with that 5 percenter sort of stuff, you know? You've got the 85% that are dumb, deaf and blind, you've got the 10% that are in control and then you've got the 5% that are trying to fucking wake everyone else up."

Provocalz got a rude awakening early on in life, when his parents divorced and he ended up with a junkie stepfather.

"He used to take me doing that shit, so that affected me as a kid," he says. "He wasn't giving it to me, but he was taking me with him. I'd have to wake him up in the car when he fell asleep at the lights and shit like that, you know. That was when I was about 12, 13, maybe even younger.

"I remember when I was a kid, my little sister was still in nappies and I'd be holding the cord around his arm while he was banging up in the toilet, you know what I mean? That shit fucked me up in the head when I was a kid. It taught me a lesson never to touch that shit at the same time, you know what I mean? He ended up dying, passed away. That was when I was still young, so I had a lot of anger towards him, for shit he'd done."

Provocalz raps about his stepfather on the closing track on his album, "I Need You":

I got my first pair of Airs off my stepdad's corpse
Because he needed Harry more than he wanted his own daughter

"To me, brah, that's a deep song. It's pretty much, what do you want and what do you need? Like, did I really need those things? He only wanted his daughter, he didn't need her, when it should have been the other way around. He sacrificed his life and his daughter's future to fucking stick something up his arm, you know what I mean? I need a fresh pair of Airs, but I don't.

"It's just coming to terms with what we really need and what we want. I was breaking down and I just thought I'd analyse myself with that. Everyone's got their thing that they think they need, but they don't really need it, at the end of the day. Food, clothing and shelter, brah, that's what they say, eh?"

Because people's basic needs are so easily met, corporations spend nearly half a trillion dollars a year fostering false needs and wants, from Nike Airs to drugs.

"Exactly," says Provocalz. "That was my point exactly. There's a lot of things that you think you fucking need, but you don't really fucking need them."

But he feels there are genuine needs besides food, clothing and shelter - as he raps on the Idle No More mixtape song "Freedom":

Without the dark there ain't light, 'n' you've never known the fight
So there's a difference between your freedom 'n' mine
'Cause mine ain't really mine, it's ours, I'll draw a line in the sand
And watch 'em all jump the fence, like damn
It's time for revolution, not pollution of the lands
No more looking for solutions, brah, it's time to take a stand
I'll snatch all that food out ya greedy lil' hands
Slap the taste out ya mouth, hit the brakes on ya plans
The chants of freedom leave you bleeding in advance Australia was never fair
Used to lock us up in chains or murder us right there
And they still do it today
These pigs fucking shoot us, DOCS take our kids away
Over-representation in the prison population
When it comes to politics, never heard from, just hated
By most of this bloody racist country, come on face it
You call us all these names but never say it to our face, bitch

"That's a big part of everyone's lives, freedom, brah, and we don't really have our freedom at the end of the day, you know? Like, you can't really do what you want and it's always the thing that you need. That's what our culture's were back in the day, were free, you know what I mean? And we've lost that and people are always claiming our freedom, whether it's lads that are locked up for years, you know, they've got no control over their life and freedom is just being able to have control over your own life, being able to do what you want. “

Provocalz also seethes at the daily denial of freedom to refugees.

“Everyone always gets so upset about refugees and it comes back to low education and ignorance, because that's all they hear in the media, 'These fucking boat people.' These poor people are coming from a country where they had no reason but to leave otherwise they're gonna be fucking murdered, you know what I mean? And then we're over in their countries fucking them over in the first place anyway.

"You know, you spend two, three weeks in a boat just to come here and get locked up, you know, you've just spent, you've come that far, everything, you've just survived that shit and then, bang, straight to prison, there you go, cunt, there's some freedom for ya. Freedom's always been a very important word to me, brah."

I look at Provocalz, then look over to the army barracks. I suggest that we go over and take a few ironic photographs of the Aboriginal rapper in his neighbourhood, Sydney's Kakadu, next to the army signs saying: "AUSTRALIAN GOVERNMENT LAND. TRESPASSING ON THIS LAND IS PROHIBITED."

We drop into the low-slung bucket seats of his low-key 1992 Commodore and he hands me a CD copy of his album. The artwork, in the colours of the Aboriginal flag, reads: "Dedicated to the incarcerated." The centrefold features a picture of GBO, a member of his original rap crew, the South West Royals. It is emblazoned with the words, "FREE GBO".

"He got locked up," says Provocalz. "He's actually got out now, so it worked."

He laughs. There is a pause. Then I ask: "What did he get locked up for?"

"Ah, just dumb shit, brah," he says. "We don't wanna go too much into that."

We drive down a level and walk over to the barracks, then start snapping off shots with the camera. We don't intend to hang around, but when you are talking to the ever-engaging Provocalz, time stands still - along with everything else. We are soon motionless, deep in conversation about outspoken Aboriginal world boxing champion Anthony Mundine, who Provocalz met at the Indigenous music festival Yabun on Invasion Day.

"The media ask him dumb questions, you know," says the rapper. "What are you doing asking a boxer about 9/11 for? They love him because he sells papers for them, you know? They love him 'cause then they can say all Aboriginals are like that, you know what I mean? He believes in what he's saying, good on the lad. At the end of the day, he stands for what he believes in, he boycotted the national anthem at the last fight..."

Provocalz suddenly breaks off.

"Here comes your lad now..."

I look over my shoulder, half-expecting to see Mundine, but am greeted by his antithesis - a white, overweight, security guard in fluoro gear.

"You're going to have to delete those photos," says the security guard. "This is government land, owned by the army. Anything that's taken that side, facing that way, is all right, but we've got a lot of work going on inside and we've got the Australian Federal Police here."

He demands that we delete the photos.

We walk back to the car on the second floor of the car park. We are deep in conversation again when a red police patrol car approaches. The window glides down as the car glides to a halt. I begin to walk away.

"Were you just taking photos over at the barracks?"

"Yeah it's all sorted," I say over my shoulder.

"IDs, please," says the driver, as he and his partner get out of the car.

I turn back. We both take out our drivers' licences and hand them over.

"You do know why we're taking your details, don't you," he says.

Holsworthy barracks was alleged to be the target of a foiled terrorist attack in 2009, even though the police admitted the defendants had no access to weapons. Government ministers, police and the media have repeatedly used the foiled attack on the army base to say that terrorists threaten Australia. A popular image of Aboriginal resistance flashes through my mind: a group of spear-holding warriors under the slogan, "Homeland security: Fighting Terrorism since 1770."

I turn to the cop and say: "Terrorism."

"Yes," says the cop.

Provocalz bursts out laughing. "We ain't terrorists though," he says, mockingly.

"That's what they all say!" chorus the cops, in bizarre union. Then the driver adds: "You're not going to walk around with a sign on you, saying 'terrorist', are you?"

Provocalz shakes his head. "Nah, we ain't terrorists, though," he says. "I'm a rapper. This guy was just interviewing me, that's why he was taking photos of me."

The cop looks him up and down and says: "A rapper, eh?"

Provocalz beams. "Yep," he says.

The cop pauses. "Oh," he says. "Good stuff."

The cops hand back our IDs, get back in the car and drive off.

Provocalz turns to me and grins.

***

...ON GROWING UP KOORI IN SOUTH-WEST SYDNEY

The world media don't know shit about Kooris. They probably think we ride around on kangaroos or some shit. They don't realise that a lot of shit goes down out here in our lives. This is real life and it's a struggle. When I was growing up my sister's father was a junkie, you know what I mean? You know you're always trying to fit in and be normal, but you've got that shit going on at home, domestic violence, the typical crime shit that's going on around here. Just trying to get through that and come out the other side, you know what I mean? I grew up pretty much south-west Sydney my whole life. I was born around Georges Hall. I lived there with my parents and when they got divorced I moved out with my dad to Leichardt for a few years - one or two years - and then my mum got pregnant with my little sister, so I moved back with her, back to Georges Hall. Then we moved around a lot since then, you know changing schools, this and that, from Liverpool, Moorebank, Ashfield, Georges Hall, back there and that you know what I mean? And then moved out Liverpool way and been out here ever since. I've lived here [in Holsworthy] for a while, got a house with my missus, my missus is pregnant with my kid, first one. She's got about two weeks to go now. I share the house with my little sister and she's got two kids as well, so... family's important to me, brah, I'd do anything for them. My mum's still around, she lives locally as well, that's why I sorta stayed in the area because my family's all round here. Plus with my sister so I can stay in contact and get helped out or whatever. Two kids, one's only one-year-old and the other's off three weeks old, so it's a handful.

...ON HIS ROOTS

My grandfather - that's who I lived with when shit was going on too much, I'd move in with him, you know? He was like, Irish-Scottish, you know, cooking mad stews and potatoes and shit like that. And then on my dad's side that's probably got Pommy, Scottish, Irish as well. Then my mum's side is where the Aboriginal comes from - and that's Irish, Aboriginal, maybe a bit of Scottish, French was thrown in there too, you know, everything.

...ON HIS SONG 'ONE LAND'

I just sort of wanted to set the record straight because I get a lot of people through Hustle Hard TV and that that just look at me and think that I'm just white, some Aussie cunt. So I just set the record straight: "This always was and always will be our land. And if you don't stop fucking with us, this is what's going to happen." That was just a pretty much warning, and also it's a unity song as well - all one people, one land at the end of the day.

...ON WORKING WITH SOLOMON CHILD FROM WU-TANG CLAN

That was one of the high points for me, brah. I'm still sitting on that song. I'm gonna throw that song on my next mixtape. I'm with a crew SWR, South West Royals, and we did an Australian Gangster mixtape a long time ago, maybe 2005 or something and just after that we were gonna do an album and we got A-Alikes on one track and Solomon Child on one track. We had to pay them. you can expect that because you can imagine how many people were trying to hit them up. They've got no way of weeding out who's shit and who's garbage. A-Alikes was pretty cheap. Solomon Child wanted a bit. We reached out to him. Gunsta who runs Hustle Hard TV organised all that, you know what I mean? [Gunsta is also known as] Malek Sukkar, that's my brother. He does everything for the love. Look at all these artists that are coming up through Hustle Hard TV - they're not paying him. He's got no job, trying to support himself, this and that, you know? He puts the effort in, brah. People are always asking me to hook him up. That's why I feel bad asking him for shit because he does so much shit for other people, even though that's my brother, I still feel bad because he's gotta go home and edit it all at the end of the day. You know, people don't understand what goes into them clips you know, brah. Now with A-Alikes we've built up a bit of a relationship and he'll jump on something for free now. Solomon Child is another story.

...ON RADIO PLAYLISTS

What does the radio play? Other than Koori FM? In my career, bro, the highest point I ever thought in my mind for radio was Koori FM, you know, I don't wanna be played on fucking - I don't even know what their frequencies are. They're never going to play anything by anyone that's really got something to say because they're all just part of the machine.

...ON HIS SONG 'SO BROKE'

I'd run out of instrumentals to use. So I found this one and it was by Akon called "So Paid". I thought, fuck that, every mate of mine is so broke, so it's all these different parts of my life that I went through, from just being a broke cunt. I say "All my people locked up, time to get free, braz." Cos a lot of my cousins are going in and out of jail, you know what I mean? It's not the way to be living, you know, we've got all kids and that, bro, you don't wanna worry about their future. In hip-hop before Wu-Tang everyone was getting fucked in the industry. Then every artist had their own label. But then mp3s killed that shit, you know. I remember when I was a kid, bro, you used to be waiting for the CD to come out. You'd have that shit pre-booked and go into the store to pick it up. But back then you could listen to whole albums. These days they're just putting out garbage. There's a couple of good rappers out there, but the majority of them, even the good ones these days, they've only got three, four good tracks on the album, it sorta gets disappointing.

...ON HIS SKIT 'DISCIPLINE'

No-one's disciplined these days. These young kids, they don't read nothing, they don't know nothing, then you've got the people who are on the gear or in and out of jail. You've gotta discipline yourself, you've gotta know when to stand back and not do it, or you're gonna get trapped in the system again, you know? You're never gonna get out. So I was just like, [mimicks the cracking of a whip] "I'll slap the shit out of you, wake up to yourself. Discipline! Discipline!" And that's a strong word because a lot of people, they've got no discipline. They can't stop themselves from going and scoring that next cap or going smoking that next pipe. So that was just, "Discipline! Wake up to yourself and get some control over your life."

...ON HIS TRACK 'GOOD N EVIL'

That was like there's an unsigned artist and then one of these bullshit rappers that's getting paid millions and it's, like, who's really good and who's really evil? Even though in the song I'm kidnapping and murdering him, this guy's fucking over everyone he knows and making millions and not helping anyone, you know what I mean? So it was just a play on that - who's really good and who's really evil? People might be out here doing dumb shit and crimes and shit like that, but what are they doing? If I was sitting on millions, brah, I'd be helping people, and a lot of them, they ain't doing nothing for no-one but themselves. Everyone's gotta be accountable for their words and actions, you can't just say this and that and then not back it up. Like American mainstream hip-hoppers, you know what I mean? I mean like, look at who's on the radio now, like, fucking Rick Ross and all this garbage like that. He used to be a screw in the jails, and now he's, like, the biggest coke dealer that ever happened, you know what I mean? He's directly influencing teenagers' lives to go out and sell coke, you know what I mean? There's kids getting locked up and shit, because of that cunt. He's not the sole reason for it, but he's a contributing factor. All these bullshit rappers, if you're gonna say something, make sure it's the truth, you know. Don't just bullshit people.

...ON KEVIN RUDD'S 'TOKEN' APOLOGY TO THE STOLEN GENERATION

The way I look at it, all politicians are dickheads at the end of the day, but at least he took a step in the right direction, you know what I mean? Like, it was better than nothing, pretty much, and he got fucked over for it, pretty much, anyway in the end, you know what I mean? But that "Sorry", it was just a token apology, there were no legal ramifications, there was no compensation anyone could get from it or anything like that, you know what I mean? They never really admitted responsibility. It was just a bullshit apology. But for the Stolen Generation, a lot of members, it was at least something to give them, you know what I mean? And then they ended up, like, a year or two later, saying sorry to EVERYONE that went into state care. It sorta just took the whole thing away from it again, you know, like backtracking, backpedalling to white Australia's fucking demands, you know what I mean? They deserved an apology, because a lot of people got fucked over in state care, abused, everything, you know? But just that whole thing, it was a bullshit apology, brah. Like, "I'm sorry, but it wasn't really my fault." You know what I mean? "Let's all get over it." Everyone always says, when you talk about Australia being like that, they're always, like, "Ah, I never done it. Rah, rah, rah." Did I say you'd done it? I'm not pointing at you and saying, "You're guilty of killing my people." Nah, I'm saying your ancestors, and you're living wealthy in this country because of what happened to Aboriginal people here. Until you acknowledge that fact - everyone always gets so defensive, like racists always do, that old saying "I'm not racist, but..." It's like saying, "I'm not vegetarian but I only eat vegetables." It's just selfish, that's why society is the way it is these days. Everyone's just selfish, brah, everyone's looking out for themselves. And they only know what they've been taught, you know what I mean? At the end of the day a lot of it stems from ignorance and not knowing anything else. They'll talk shit about Kooris, this and that, and then they'll meet one and they're like, "Fuck, he's exactly the same as me, he's a human, too." You know, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure that out, brah, but they don't meet them, you know what I mean? Like I said, they've never read books about things or tried to educate themselves about things. Because once you have a bit of education, your ignorance is gone, because you know the truth behind it, we're all fucking humans, you know what I mean? Race is nothing.

...ON SYDNEY BEING 'THE BIRTHPLACE OF THE NATION'

That's what they always call it, "the birthplace of the nation", so I say [on the song "Sydney Sydney"], "welcome to the birthplace of the nation, where at the start of the day it was just invasion" - something like that, you know. That's it. This wasn't a peaceful colonisation of Australia. They didn't come here and swap some necklaces and shit for land. They came here and murdered, enslaved, with biological warfare, and colonised this country. And they came here with the plan of doing that. They didn't just accidentally find Australia, they had maps from the Dutch and all that, you know what I mean? They came here with a plan, they came with, what? More than half of the First Fleet were soldiers, you know what I mean, so they came here to purposefully do that shit. Back when I was learning in school, they never taught you about that. It was always, they came here, everyone got along and it just turned into Australia. These days they might teach a little bit more of that in the school system, but that was just for my generation, saying, "Look, cunts, this is what really happened." It's all bullshit, brah. I remember when I was in school a teacher tried to say something and I just had to pull her up, like, "You don't even know what you're talking about, miss. Don't try to educate these kids about that, you know what I mean? Because if you don't know what you're talking about, you're just going to make everyone more ignorant than what they were in the first place."

...ON HIS SONG 'COEYS'

Coeys, ah, it's just some old Sydney slang, when we were growing up in the 1990s. Just your co-offender. Back when we were boys, with graff crews, this and that, you know? They were all cunts going out doing crime or whatever. Just dumb shit, you know what I mean? Just, you know, a bit of crime here and there or whatever. The older boys used to take me to steal cars when I was, like, eight or nine years old around Bass Hill Plaza, you know what I mean? When you're a kid, you don't realise. You're just going out doing dumb shit, trying to fucking fit in with the older boys. And then once you get a bit older, it sorts you a bit, you know. It was always "your coey", you know what I mean? That was with After Market, that's my other crew, my other mate, he's a Cook Islander, Robdan. I've known him since I was a little kid, brah, he took me under, he sort of taught me how to rap and everything, you know what I mean? He was my brother's friend, and then they put me on to Wu-Tang and all that. He was a mad rapper back then, I'm talking, like, nineties, '91, '92, you know what I mean, '93. Then he showed me.

...ON HIS TRACK 'CHOP, PACK, PUNCH'

That's pretty self-explanatory, that one. That's just chop, pack, punch, you know what I mean? I've spent a lot of my life, you know, fucking smoking weed and doing this and that with it, you know what I mean? I don't do it as much these days because I've got a kid on the way, I'm just trying to cut everything down and that. So yeah, brah, I used to sit in the garage all day and every day, just smoking and that, writing rhymes, doing this and that, you know what I mean? So yeah, that was just for all the potheads in Australia. And then the lyrics don't really have anything to do with that. It's just the chorus, and then I sorta went a bit political and put a bit of knowledge in the lyrics as well, you know, just to sort of suck them in, you know what I mean? Suck the suckers in and then feed them a bit of knowledge without them knowing.

...ON POLITICIANS ACTING LIKE KIDS

Look at the fucking federal parliament question time, it's like being back in fucking Year Three: "Yaaa! Boooo!" Talking shit, this and that. It's a fucking waste of everyone's time, you know? What issues are they really solving? Nothing. They're just talking shit, hating out on each other. You look at, say, if one politician comes up with a good idea, it might be a mad idea, but this guy's just gonna disagree with it just because he's in the other party, you know what I mean? Like, look at Obama in America, he's just got fucked over his whole first term because no-one agreed with nothing, even though he had all the Senate power. So it was like, "Whatever you're gonna do, cunt, we're blocking it." You know, I'm not saying he's a mad president. It was good to see a black president and that's a good role model for young kids and all that, you know what I mean? But America's a machine. It doesn't matter who the puppet is in the front of it, it's going to keep on turning.

...ON JULIA GILLARD AND TONY ABBOTT

Ohhhh, fuck, man! I'd like to line both of them two up and execute them. They're just pieces of shit, brah, Tony Abbott especially, you know, who does he think he is? Fucking... it's bullshit, all this "refugees", they always talk about, brah. Everyone always gets so upset about refugees and it comes back to low education and ignorance, because that's all they hear in the media, "These fucking boat people". Though the majority of illegal immigrants in Australia, like overstaying visas, is Pommies and New Zealanders. You never hear that, brah. You watch, fucking, "Border Control" [Border Security], they're arresting busloads of Asians and that. Just like "Cops" in America, they're always chasing some black guy, you know what I mean? That's what they wanna feed people. We always big-note ourselves as this big fucking country that's down with America and that, so we have to take a certain number of refugees, you know what I mean? That's when they decide to listen to the UN, because they don't listen to the UN when it comes to Indigenous people, they just ignore whatever they say when it comes to that shit, you know? Same with America. America used to be the UN's... they used to love them, and then Afghanistan and Iraq happened and the UN was like, don't do that, and America was like, "Fuck the UN". They started vilifying them and making them look like dickheads and then we saw how much power the UN really had. None.

...ON JULIA GILLARD REPLACING KEVIN RUDD

Imagine if that happened in any other country, a democratically elected - I'm not going to get started on democracy - but a democratically elected leader ousted by his own fucking government and then phone in some other cunt. There would have been riots - imagine if it happened in France or something, brah, it'd be going off. Here, everyone was just like, "Oh well, back to work tomorrow." You know what I mean? It's bullshit. I don't like Rudd the most, but he's better than fucking Gillard. Gillard's just a - she's a backbencher puppet, that's all she is. All them lads, they're the ones that got her in power, she never got herself there. And just looking at her, she seems like a stuck-up bitch, just from how she turns and how she looks at people, you know what I mean. Usually just from looking at someone you can tell what they're like... Not to say you should judge a book by its cover. [Laughs] But you can usually tell 'em, you know what I mean?

...ON HIS VIDEO FOR 'THIS IS HOW I'M LIVING'

I was actually going to pick my missus up from work and I saw that spot and I thought, "Fuck, this place would look pretty good in a video." You know what I mean? Underneath the bridge with the trees that sorta look like neon lights or something. And erm... Yeah, I just hit up Hustle Hard [TV] and we went and done it the next week, straight away after, we recorded it. I say "I treat beats like hitch-hikers at Belanglo, you'll find it in a stranglehold, lifeless", you know what I mean, like Ivan Milat picking up hitch-hikers and taking them out to Belanglo, sorta thing, and then that as well, "Life's a cemetery, you may as well be dead" you know what I mean, cos no-one gives a fuck about ya, at the end of the day. That was my brother that I was pretending to bury [laughs], my brother Justin, stepbrother. It was just to make, not your standard clip, you know what I mean? Something with a little bit extra, you know?

...ON HOW 'THE SYSTEM SETS PEOPLE UP TO FAIL FROM THE JAILS TO THE MISSION'

Yeah, that's just like, the percentage of the population in jail that Indigenous people are and the way they threw us onto missions with no education, with no... you know you go back in them days there's no plumbing or nothing. It was out on the mission Third World conditions in a First World country, you know? And they still keep us there today. Like, so many people suffering and trapped. It's always good for your people to be on land, but you should be on there on your own terms. Not fucking forced there, like, we were forced to the edges of all the towns. You can still go to country towns now and there's a black pub and a white pub, and all the Kooris are on the edge of town. Yeah, it's all set up to fail, brah, worldwide, like you said, from poor people in Britain to poor people in Ireland to South America, south-east Asia, everyone's getting fucked over by the rich people at the end of the day, brah.

This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license. It may not be reproduced in any form without permission or license from the source.

Mat Ward

Mat Ward lives in Australia and writes for Green Left Weekly.


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