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Live Review: Gabreal brutally excavates his story as a child of war with 'On the Beat, True Story'

22 August 2018 | 10:35 am | Kyle Fensom

Sydney rapper Gabreal shares his story of growing up as a child during the Sudanese civil war on the brutally honest 'On the Beat, True Story'

Sydney via Sudan rapper GABREAL has shared the intense, brutally honest single ‘On the Beat, True Story’, the first track to be lifted from his upcoming sophomore EP, Afterparty, which is due to drop on September 28th. Chopping up and condensing down his life experiences into the one track, ‘On the Beat, True Story’ excavates the Western Sydney rapper’s past as it details his harrowing and heartbreaking story as a child of the Sudanese civil war. It’s a story which has seen Gabreal move from South Sudan to Ethiopia to Uganda to Australia, a country where today Peter Dutton, a man whose career has risen to prominence through stoking (false) racial tensions and ostracising migrant communities, threatened to become Prime Minister. It's likely that he'll continue to ride this wave into the nation's highest office. In excavating his own story on ‘On the Beat, True Story’, Gabreal also helps to excavate the humanity behind the headlines, the voices and the stories lost, the damages done. 

“One day I picked up pen and started writing”, Gabreal says of his decision to mine his personal history for artistic inspiration. “I was brainstorming to go back digging for stories and there were these stories and pictures that stuck in my mind. I was living through them, but I wasn’t open to them. It was so hard to talk about personal things. I didn’t think people were ready to hear this type of music but this is my story and its time for me to let people know who I am”.

‘On The Beat, True Story’ opens with Gabreal portentously muttering the words “Ak74” and “M16” over and over again before launching into a trap base of rattling subs and piercing snares, Gabreal playing call-and-response with his own voice during the chorus, modulating between ominous, pitched down vocals and his usual register, bookending each line with bellowing gnarls of “WHAT?”.

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The appropriately intense and cinematic video clip from PJ SVODODA seem to present an allegory of sorts in a series of interrelated visual scenes: a soldier stalks the bush, a child’s teddy bear burns, a snake slithers and a dog menacingly barks, a barren bowl of beans flashes as Gabreal recalls that, growing up, he often had more gun smoke in his lungs than he did food in his stomach, two sides play tug-a-war over a piece of rope until a white interlocutor comes along and violently cuts the rope in half, threatening and intimidating the rope-pullers, laughing and grinning as he does so. It’s all brought together in ‘On The Beat, True Story’ as Gabreal’s story, his history. It’s how he’s organised it and how he remembers and makes sense of it all via. the stories and pictures that have lingered in his consciousness.

Gabreal’s is one of many such stories of the migrant experience in Australia - his, and others like his, are stories worth keeping in mind today, and they’re worth remembering and worth being told over and over again for whatever future lies ahead.  

IMAGE: Supplied