From Toronto, a hip-hop salute to the chicken wing
How do you like your hip-hop? Mild, medium, hot or suicidal?
You can have it all – with a side of blue cheese – thanks to Toronto hip-hop artists who go by the unlikely name of Abdominal and the Obliques. The group’s new CD, “Sitting Music,” features a four-minute number called “A Brief History of the Chicken Wing.”
Nine years, three months and eight days,
before I was born, something happened that would change the way
my life turned out.
Let me tell you about
exactly what I mean:
The scene, New York State, Buffalo to be exact, 1047 Main St., between Best and North at this bar called the Anchor,
owned by Theresa and Frank Bellissimo and their son,
Dominic, who was working on that one
when his friends came in for a late bite …
Abdominal, 38, declaims these lyrics in a sullen, indifferent voice. But beneath that crunchy exterior is deep tenderness.
“First and foremost, the song’s for myself,” he says on the phone from Toronto. “The subject matter, it resonates for me. I just hope that other people will pick up on it. I just put it out, and so far I’m getting a pretty good response, especially from wing fans, checking in from various places around the world.
“Wings have brought me so much joy over the years,” he adds. “I wanted to do this kind of ode to the inventor of the wing.”
That ode has not yet reached the Anchor Bar. But manager Ivano Toscano likes the idea of it.
“I feel like it means wings have really caught on,” he says. “If somebody writes a song about them, it means Teressa Bellissimo really did the job, when she invented the wing in 1964.”
Or, as Abdominal raps:
She said, “Mmm, hey, hey, hey,
what’s stopping me
from dropping these
in some hot grease,
then tossing the pieces
in hot sauce,
and then serving the lot
with blue cheese dip and stalks
of celery? Nothing that’s what.”
It comes as a shock that Abdominal, for all his crunches, has never been to the Anchor Bar.
“I’m ashamed to admit I haven’t. I’ve eaten their wings,” he says. “I’ve done some shows in Buffalo, and I made it a point to get my promoter to give me takeout, and the T-shirt. I’ve had the wings. But I haven’t had the proper experience.”
No bones about it, though: Abdominal has decades of wings under his belt. He got his name years ago when, sweating in front of an audience, he pulled up his shirt to wipe his face. But that abdomen has seen action.
His wing thing began in high school, which he attended under his given name of Andy Bernstein. Near the school, he explains, was a place called Chicken Deli.
“There was a massive, 15-foot chicken revolving outside the restaurant. We’d go there after school.”
Having whetted his appetite, he went on to attend the Buffalo Chicken Wing Festival and visit Duff’s outlets in Toronto.
“I knew the story, the origin story,” he says. “I did some thorough Google research, kind of got the missing pieces.”
So the recipe it stuck,
and spread around
the world so profoundly
affecting my life,
especially the nights
when wings sell for half price,
drinking beers watching hockey fights.
Chilling with my friends, just kicking back,
stress slips away eating chicken fat.
The song’s fried. But then, Abdominal can stomach humor.
He has joked to the Toronto press about his age, his Jewish roots, and what he calls his “middle-age rap.” Not to mention his literary bent: He has also done condensed hip-hop versions of classics such as “The Scarlet Letter.”
His mother, an English teacher and librarian, even raps with him on the new album. But not in the chicken wing song. “She’s a vegetarian,” Abdominal says.”So she’s not fully supportive.”
One question looms. Might Abdominals decide really to soar on the wings of song? Meaning, might there be a video?
“It would lend itself to good video,” Abdominal muses.
“But we’d probably spend 90 percent of our budget on wings.”