~ A. B. Caesar ~

Anthony Bravos Caesar was born to Italian parents in the multi cultural, working class, Melbourne suburb Westmeadows on 12 May 1970. His mother was a cleaner, while his father worked on the assembly line at the Ford Motor Company’s nearby plant. Shortly after the birth of his sister Elizabeth, when Caesar was two years old, his father left the family.  

As a child, Caesar was not only an aspiring athlete, but also excelled academically at Gladstone Park primary school, winning several awards in English, science and mathematics. He was offered a full scholarship to Hume Central Secondary College where he was an honours student and eventually made captain of the school’s football, wrestling and debate teams.

Inspired after seeing rap group Run-D.M.C in the film Krush Groove, Caesar formed the duo SK9 with his break dancing sister when he was 16 and they began sneaking into neighbouring high schools for lunchtime freestyle showdowns. Caesar’s rhyming braggadocio, scathing rebuttals and intimidating 6 ft 2 frame, punctuated by Elizabeth’s power moves and freezes, soon built SK9 a strong following as they established themselves on the burgeoning Melbourne rap battle circuit.

~ Hume SC Debate Team Captain ’86 ~

~ SK9 ~

By the middle of 1987 SK9 dominated the legendary Saturday night open mic contests held at Abby’s Chip Shop on the Hume Highway. Though theses events were intended as respectful duels, several of SK9’s bouts unfortunately ended in violence and Caesar had his first run-in with the law when he was arrested for causing a major gang fight in Abby’s carpark on 15 August 1987.

“Words can sometimes hurt, even for battle rappers.” Caesar said in his defence. “I got dozens of trophies for footy and basketball — none of them are a ‘Best and Fairest’ award. I’ll use whatever gossip I got on my opponent, not to win — but to conquer! It’s not intended to cause tears or violence, but it does happen from time to time.”

SK9 featured on the cover of the Hume Central Secondary College student newspaper’s summer edition. It was in the accompanying article that Caesar first mentioned the term Chugg Life, which he described as his ethos. ‘Chugg Life is dining and dashing from expensive restaurants. Chugg Life is asking for a sip but taking a mouthful!’ He elaborated.

In early 1988, SK9 released their debut cassette No Veggies to local acclaim. Their second tape, Cheeze, was released six months later and performed well in the mixtape charts. Cheeze contained the tracks ‘Glazed Love’ and ‘Cheap Sandwich’, which drew interest from the few record labels who were beginning to show an interest in Hop Hop.

During rehearsals for the recording of SK9’s third cassette, Elizabeth announced she was leaving music in order to pursue university studies. Caesar made plans to emerge as a solo artist and signed to Paedamonte Records in February 1989. He enlisted schoolfriend Tall Dave on turntable and soon entered the studio to record his debut solo album.

~ Abby’s carpark ’87 ~

~ Chesties Studio ’89 ~

Bronson J. Paedamonte would later recount, “I didn’t mind the new Hip Hop thing so I organised to meet this so-called ‘teenage sage from the Western suburbs’ for lunch. When I arrived at Monroe’s Steakhouse I was surprised to find him already seated, into an appetiser and his second daiquiri. I was also surprised by his intelligence. Anthony’s a well read deep thinking guy in the body of a rugby half back! I could tell he was fearless. I agreed to give him three weeks in the studio. Funny thing was — I’m sure he knew I was paying for lunch, but he still excused himself to go for a dump, then disappeared out the side exit before the bill arrived. What a pisser!” 

Declan Kemp, a soft spoken Tasmanian hippy, most noted for his work with The Sunbury Four, had never heard of Hip Hop before being hired to produce the sessions. Kemp’s role was little more than to set up the microphones to capture Tall Dave’s turntables and Caesar’s vocal then hit the record button. The three quickly fell into synch resulting in over a dozen tracks capturing the current frustrations of teenagers and strong criticisms of bad food outlets, all heavily laced with obscene language, being completed five days ahead of schedule. 

On 15 August 1989, Universal Menu became one of the first Australian Hip Hop albums to be released on a major label and immediately received divided reviews from both critics and disc jockeys. While some praised its production and Caesar’s mic skills, others were instantly discouraged by the lyrical content, which they dismissed as indignant, entitled and profane. Many stations refused to play a ‘radio friendly’ edit of the lead single ‘Crunchy’, claiming it was little more than a delinquent’s guidebook to shoplifting from 7-Eleven stores. 

It didn’t help matters when on the ABC programme The Factory on 2 September, Caesar accidentally performed the explicit album version of his controversial single live on Saturday breakfast television. He claims that he wasn’t looking to be controversial or for the media storm that followed, but simply that he was nervous about meeting the show’s hosts Andrew Daddo and Alex Papps, causing him to forget to perform PG.

The ABC received so many calls of complaint that VPAG (The Victorian Parental Advisory Group) now attempted to have Universal Menu banned, warning the album was “A call to arms to the growing angst ridden teen underclass who do not have the privilege of 24 hour food chains in their suburbs.” When VPAG sent news outlets and the Australian Supreme Court recorded excerpts of the tracks ‘Come Get Some’ and ‘KFC City’, Bronson J. Paedamonte responded by suing them for copyright infringement.

Amid such controversy ‘Munchy’ received a complete lack of radio support, but still managed to chart due to the heavy publicity. When the follow-up single, ‘The Double Price’, dropped in October, it did gain heavy airplay on one station thanks solely to the actions of Caesar’s militant non official fan club — The Hungry Boys.

Sean Davis and Evan Roberts, two fans from the suburb Collingwood, had been contacting WPL Radio for over a month in an effort to get Caesar’s music played. After being repeatedly turned down by the chief music director, Davis and Roberts began prank calling various WPL talk back programmes claiming to be “The Hungry Boys”. 

When the station received a petition of 300 hundred signatures and a threat to blow up the music director’s car – signed by “Major Sean Davis – Commander in Chief of The Hungry Boys,” and “Evan Roberts – El Presidente”, WPL began to play Caesar’s tracks. Davis and Roberts continued to prank call various shows and soon listeners started contacting WPL asking how they too could become a Hungry Boy. The Major and El Presidente set up a PO Box and placed ‘enlistment applications’ in various local and international Hip Hop Magazines.

~ Major Davis & Evan Roberts ~

~ first and only performance on ABC television ~

Caesar’s first national tour launched on 12 October 1989. It included a 17 year old homeless rapper named Stick and the break dancing troupe Singing Legs as the opening acts. The tour continued for six weeks through all capital cities and much of regional Australia for 25 club performances. It was during this intensive schedule that Caesar developed a reputation for his off-stage antics. 

Following a show in Brisbane, Caesar became irritable when a Woolworth’s clerk refused to sell him alcohol past 10 pm. After a member of Singing Legs looked at the clerk and yelled, “Don’t you know who this is?” and the clerk replied, “No!” things got ugly. Caesar kicked over and stomped on a rack of nuts before throwing money at the counter and walking out with two cases of beer.

Also, while visiting a Pizza Hut in Toowoomba with Stick, Caesar asked the restaurant’s musician of the evening if he could take to the stage and sing. The musician, Josh Gardner, told him to talk to the Pizza Hut manager. Instead, Caesar heckled Gardner and threw slices of the meat-lovers special at him. When staff told Caesar he couldn’t take his food outside, he tossed the plates against the front door and was arrested for disturbing the peace.

By the tour’s end ‘The Double Price’ had not only reached No 25 in Australia but also hit Top 50 in many parts of Europe. Universal Menu has since attained platinum certification and been internationally classed as one of the defining youth orientated albums of the late 80s.

~ Melbourne Showgrounds ’89 ~

~ The Double Price video shoot ~

Caesar took his first step toward international stardom when he was teamed with producer Dizzy Russell for the making of Fifteen Flavours and the two albums that followed. Russell, a classically trained musician, successful Sydney club deejay and independent record producer had recently relocated to Melbourne. His skills not only at the mixing desk but also as a turntable-ist and scratcher enhanced Tall Dave’s thumping back beats to give Caesar’s new album a heavier, harder and more direct sound.

Released on 1 June 1991, Fifteen Flavours first single ‘For Your Chicken’, promoted by a big-budget music video directed by Doz Williams, cemented Caesar as a known name among international Hip Hop. Fifteen Flavours entered the Top 50 in many European countries peaking at No 25 in Spain. It stayed in the Australian charts for 18 weeks and even made inroads into the US market when ‘For Your Chicken’ was nominated for a Grammy in the Best Hip Hop Category. It did not win.

During Caesar’s first European tour there were again several widely publicised incidents. First, he was arrested and then released at Barcelona International Airport for arriving with a small carry-on filled with icing sugar, which was mistaken by customs for an illicit substance. It was a staged PR stunt. 

Second, at the Toledo Music Festival on 10 December 1991, storms caused a delay at the event during which The Cure’s fans had began clashing with Caesar’s fans. After the rain finally cleared and Caesar stepped up to the microphone, an unimpressed girl in the front row threw a half full Pepsi, which missed him by meters. When Caesar said “You can’t even aim straight – no wonder your grandparents lost the Civil War,” a mini riot broke out resulting in the arrest of 10 goths, 15 Hungry Boys and over one million pesetas worth of damage.

Lastly, Caesar tossed a stolen hot dog cart, owned by the Wienerschnitzel franchise, from the roof of the Sheraton Hotel following his show in Madrid. “Try’d charging me over four dollar for a dog! No onions, no mustard, no justice!” He protested to Spanish police. European music magazine Decibel announced that the artist and his posse were “banned for life” from Spain.

~ Dizzy, Caesar, Tall Dave ~

~ Toledo Music Festival ’91 ~

Caesar’s popularity and controversial headlines continued with Takeaway for Twenty, released on 4 July 1994. The album’s cover-art, using photos of Caesar to create an interpretation of The Last Supper taking place in a Pancake Parlour, had religious groups leading protests outside radio stations and retail outlets. The first single, ‘Potato Cake’, made Top 40 in the US thanks to heavy MTV support and again chartered strongly in many European countries. 

The Takeaway for Twenty world tour began on 10 August 1994, in Portugal and continued  successfully filling theatres through Europe for the next eight weeks surprisingly without incident. Some of these concerts lasted more than two hours, with expanded and improvised versions of Caesar’s repertoire, even including early SK9 tracks. Many of these shows have been preserved on vinyl and video as bootleg recordings.

By the time the Caesar landed in Detroit for his first US shows, his latest single, ‘Eating with the Enemy’, had gone Top 10 on America’s Billboard Charts thanks to MTV. The WW2-themed music video featured then-unknown actors David Duchovny and Matthew Perry as an American fighter pilot and a German military short order cook respectively. The clip lasted three weeks on top of the MTV daily request list.

At the beginning of 1996 Caesar established Spud Gun, a distribution sub label through Paedamonte Records, with the aim of producing up and coming talent. For this purpose he built a recording studio two blocks from his home and named it ‘Butterworth’ after his favourite syrup. Butterworth contained a sixteen-track recording console, a low-ceilinged performance space of roughly 300 square feet, a vocal booth, a kitchen and a basketball court which doubled as a barbecue area.

Spud Gun’s first release was Stick’s debut Floor 22, which won Caesar an ARIA award for Best Producer in 1997. Over the next two years Caesar, Tall Dave and Dizzy Russell were responsible for establishing Australia’s East Coast as a worldwide powerhouse by signing a roster of successful artists including Cookie Wish, Crumplet, Kid Cactaii and Gloss Magnet.

~ Stick ~

~ The World is Yours ~

Westmeadows, a collection of stories from Caesar’s earliest notebooks was released on 23 May 1999, and would go on to be awarded album of the year by American Hip Hop magazine The Source. The single ‘Mouthful’ earned Caesar his first grammy in August. During his acceptance speech he expressed gratitude to every late night independently owned hamburger cart and chicken outlet around the world that had supported him over the years.

The success of Westmeadows with both fans and critics, was briefly soured when MTV had to pull the video for the second single ‘Sizzle’ from high rotation one week after its release. The controversial clip was filmed in New Zealand and featured scenes of Caesar using a blow torch to fry burgers on the hoods of several prestige cars. Mercedes Benz and BMW owners around the world were waking up to find The Hungry Boys had used their bonnet as a barbecue grill and left splattered pickles on their windshields.

At the completion of his fifteen month Westmeadows world tour, Caesar married his lightning technician Kimberly Woodruff on 12 December 2001. Following the birth of his twin boys, Milo and Carlton, two days after the wedding ceremony, he shut the gates on his estate and disappeared from performing life for almost four years.

During this break, Caesar discovered and produced the debut albums of Cheeky Cain and Big Liz the Shipper, which were both successful releases in 1999. He also played trumpet and guest emceed on Julie Danza’s album Rouge Bagoo. Spud Gun’s profits also increased by licensing an array of exclusive tracks to syndicated television shows including Law and Order, Neighbours, The Mentalist and Litte Tom’s Tonka.

~ Dizzy Russel ~

~Slane Castle 2000 ~

Tragedy struck on 7 February 2004, when Dizzy Russel was killed in a jeep accident in Jamaica where he was about to work with Jotty Ritz at Tuff Gong Studios. At Russel’s memorial Caesar performed five tracks, including a new song that he had written during his hiatus in what he called ‘domestic bliss’. Shortly after, it was announced that Caesar would be releasing a new album before Christmas. It would however, be almost two years before the infamous The Elastic hit record store shelves.

For the recording Caesar hired producer Troy Chambers and entered Butterworth with 35 demos in June 2004. Early press reports indicated that The Elastic would take a different direction to Caesar’s past efforts and reflect changes in the artist’s politics, priorities, finances and the ‘message’ he wished to project. Unfortunately Caesar and Chambers fought regularly over how to approach the album and Chambers was fired within one week. 

Ari Singer was hired and produced fully polished versions of all 35 tracks by the middle of August, leaving only Tall Dave’s flourishes to be recorded. Singer quit when he came into the studio one morning to find that Caesar, claiming to be unhappy with all the songs, had microwaved the master tapes and demanded the whole process begin again after lunch.

For the next year, rappers, contributors and musicians came and went from Butterworth faster than anyone could keep track of them. The music press kept readers updated on what they called a troubled production, continually hyping rumours which included: Caesar was dead; Caesar vacationed in Queensland with his family for two months while session musicians were booked and paid for; and that Caesar had become vegan.

Eventually Declan Kemp arrived from Tasmania to spend two months locked in the studio with Caesar, resulting in 22 fully mastered songs that the artist was happy with by new year’s eve. Paedamonte Records was finally able to announce that the album would be released on 15 March 2007.

The Elastic, a hip hop concept double cd, featuring medieval horns, strings and various choirs, with minimalistic cover art and an accompanying 15 page booklet, was presented as a soundtrack to a film that was never made. The lead single ‘Reborn’ was met with complete bewilderment when MTV first aired the track. Many fans found the positive change in lyrical content and the harps confusing.

To make matters worse, having received negative feedback following Bronson J. Paedamonte’s preview of the album, Caesar altered the track sequence to emphasise potential singles ‘Shiny Shiny Dishwasher’ and ‘Lawn Mower Lover Man’, which all but guaranteed the inability of listeners to understand the already muddled storyline. 

Upon its release, critical reaction to The Elastic was more than harsh. Robert Costigan of MSN Music wrote “Our Caesar has indeed fallen and is no longer capable of leading hungry males astray… this over-embellished effort is neither pleasurable nor artistic.” Hit Parader compared the production to listening to a wall of manure, while Chester Davis of Juke Magazine named The Elastic “Worst album ever!”

The Elastic did however receive praise from many of Caesar’s contemporaries including Dr. Dre and Sean Puffy Diddy Daddy Combs. Pauline Rodgers of Time Magazine wrote ‘…too early to tell yet, but probably the best album of the year!’ In online forums and message boards Caesar’s most die hard fans championed the record’s scope and ambition. In a symbolic global gesture of loyalty to their leader, Hungry Boys threw stolen hot dog carts from the top stories of buildings in major cities all around the world on 12 May 2007, Caesars 37th birthday. 

Despite any praise or fan allegiance, The Elastic stalled at No 68 in the US and failed to make Top 20 in the European charts altogether. In Australia it peaked at No 15 within a week of its release, then quickly faded into obscurity. A dismayed Caesar abandoned plans for another world tour and refused to do any performances to promote the album. 

In a 2012 interview with Andrew Denton on the television programme Enough Rope, Caesar stated “Rich people wouldn’t get the struggle that is The Elastic. You gotta understand — where I come from The Colonel shuts his doors at 9pm sharp. You want franchise chicken after that you gotta get to them faraway rich white ‘burbs — if you cant see inequality in this equation then you’re blind. I don’t deem The Elastic a failure, but a vision that may take ignorant people a decade to open their eyes to.”

Before his disappointing year was over, Caesar would manage to make headlines one more time by signing the Perth based rapper Kack to Spud Gun just before Christmas. His contemporaries and associates publicly criticised him for working with the artist who was known to frequently diss the Melbourne Hip Hop scene in his lyrics. “I don’t care if he’s from the West Coast.” Caesar confidently responded to the press. “He can punch it, so I’m working with him.” 

~ ? ~

~ ? ~

After his favourite diner since childhood was demolished to make way for a Starbucks outlet, Caesar returned to his roots on his sixth album Breakfast at Charlies. Released on 23 October 2012, the record contained fifteen unapologetic glorifications of gluttony, street hustle and insults against Starbucks coffee. It also included a cover of Michael Jackson’s You Are Not Alone.

Breakfast at Charlies was self produced by Caesar during several late night sessions at Butterworth over eight months, from which there was enough material to release three albums. Tall Dave sings on two tracks and Caesar’s sister Elizabeth, now his lawyer, appears on “You Can Smoke Inside”. Tall Dave described the recording as “an organic, spontaneous and healing process.”  

Rolling Stone Christmas edition ran an 8-page spread on the artist, and its review declared “Caesar bounces back to the bleak reality of the Western suburbs and resurrects his genius.” Breakfast at Charlies debuted at No 55 on the US Billboard chart with first-week sales of 320,000 copies. The title track was an Australian summer hit, enabling the album to hit No 12 nationally.

Tickets for Caesar’s first tour in over a decade went on sale in June with 6 Australian and a handful of European theatre dates initially announced. Caesar said that the shows, “could very well be my last. I don’t know if I have any fans left. After The Elastic most of them fled. Who cares?”

Booked initially to perform in large clubs and ballrooms, many of Caesar’s shows were relocated to larger auditoriums and theatres, as ticket demand saw the tour eventually expand to include dates in the UK and North America. It would continue until July 2015 for a total of 85 sold out concerts — almost without an incident.

Unfortunately in England at the Castlemorton Common Festival on 13 February 2015, Caesar was angry at the high priced corporate food options available at the event. He caused a riot by ending his set with an extended version of ‘Sizzle’ which led to the looting and destruction several food vans.

~ ? ~

~ ? ~

Currently Caesar continues to rack up a slew of production awards as Spud Gun’s stable of artists maintain consistent platinum selling albums. He won a Grammy in 2014 for his work on Mister Saigon’s debut album Blaster and received a standing ovation when he took to the stage to accept his award.

The biopic 3 part mini-series Hotdogs and Dollars, aired nationally on 14 August 2018. Directed by Fred Marshall, the honest account of the rise of Caesar was a critical success. The script, co-written by Caesar and Major Sean Davis, was nominated for the Australian Logie Award for Most Outstanding Drama, Miniseries or Telemovie, but lost out to Underbelly. However Milo Caesar, who played the teenage version his father in the series, did win the Logie for Most Popular New Male Talent.