The finest in middle-aged hip-hop.
This one sentence disclaimer serves as the entire description on the bandcamp page for Sitting Music, the latest album from charismatic Toronto emcee Abdominal. Strictly speaking, as a 38 year old white dude who’s been a lifelong hip hop enthusiast, anything described as “middle-aged hip hop” should be 100% up my alley.
However, when I first heard about this album – with Abs stepping back from “traditional” hip hop and exploring a different storytelling style with backing from a two-man live band (The Obliques), I didn’t want to like it. Don’t get me wrong, I like Abdominal plenty. I pretty much loved his last album, and he seems like a really down to earth, sensible dude. And he loves chicken wings. I also love chicken wings! But my natural contrarian tendencies and my Cool Dad-ness had me feeling like his new steez (cool dad word!) wasn’t for me. Well you can likely guess where we are heading here: once I actually listened to Sitting Music, I liked it.
I liked it right from the jump off, getting drawn in by the organic Peter Piper-esque sounds of opener Inoutro, where Abs breaks down the long history hip hop has as a main component in his life. Frankly, the notion of an “unplugged” hip hop album has always been as appealing to me as watching Drake battle-rap his reflection for two hours, but Abdominal is the kind of MC that can carry a track on the strength of his lyrics and delivery alone. He could likely make the songs on offer here appealing even if there was no backing music at all (which is impressive when you consider that there’s songs about organizing his sock drawer and the history of chicken wings). The instrumentation is key on this record though, as the well-placed guitar licks and sparse percussion elements (credited as a literal wooden box on the Bandcamp details) set the mood for Abs’ laid back lamentations of failed love on songs like Broken or Hot Cross Buns.
So yeah, this is a mellow album, with Abs singing on a couple tracks and also bringing his Mom on board for a feature verse on Courage – not something you’re gonna see on the average hip hop record. But, Abdominal doesn’t want you to forget the MC portion of his stage name as he brings the lyrical gymnastics back to the fore on Don’t Get It Twisted (parts 1 & 2), and teams up with everyone’s fave Jurassic 1, Chali 2na for a traditional tag-team jam on Balance Both.
Yes, Sitting Music is different. But if you’re over 35 and there aren’t times when you’d welcome a step back from current, mainstream hip hop, then I am concerned for you. Take a break, put this record on and contemplate the condition of your own sock drawer for a while. It might do you some good.