TORONTO - It’s refreshing to speak with a rapper who proudly claims to be “the antithesis of cool” and who isn’t shy about making music for the mature hip-hop fan.
Abdominal has always impressed with his wit, humour, intelligence and flow and all these traits are evidenced on Abdominal & The Obliques’ new CD, Sitting Music.
It’s a bluesy affair, musically and lyrically, and reminds me of the records Spearhead and Everlast have released. The music is engaging and thoughtful and does justice to the album’s title.
“The three of us (guitarist Andrew Frost and percussionist Colin Kingsmore) sit when we perform,” Abs says of the disc’s title. “But it’s also meant to indicate that this isn’t really dancefloor hip-hop. It’s quiet, introspective music that’s best listened to sitting down although if people feel inclined to dance to it, they’re more than welcome to.
Abs says he was ready to switch musical directions because he was getting tired of feeling he had to compete with big beats just to be heard. Considering his favourite rappers’ intricate wordplay drew him to hip-hop, he says it didn’t make sense to make music where you couldn’t hear the lyrics.
“So I knew I wanted something quieter, and the very stripped-down, minimal band I put together is a direct result of that.”
The warm, acoustic vibe aside, Abs said he felt compelled to address some issues you won’t hear on the average hip-hop record.
“Fairly bluesy things like heartbreak, feeling vulnerable and dealing with pain,” he explains. “I’m not exactly a young man anymore, so I wanted my music to better reflect some of things I’ve been going through during the past few years, and this slower, quieter sound seemed to fit a lot better with the subject matter than your typical bumping rap beat.”
Abs says some of the tunes were inspired by a girl who broke his heart and by some health issues he’s been grappling with.
“Nothing life-threatening, but certainly life-affecting,” he says. “It’s forced me to accept the reality that sometimes you don’t really have much control over things in life, and you have to just do your best to roll with the curve balls that are occasionally thrown your way.”
So, what happened to the time when rappers placed a premium on lyrics, I ask?
“Man, I wish I knew!” Abs replies. “It seems like there’s been this almost intentional dumbing down of lyrics. Hip-hop, as I learned it back in the late ’80s and early ’90s, is all about being original, finding your own voice, and expressing it.
“So ideally, everyone should stand apart from each other. My music has always been a direct extension of who I am. Also, no other T.O. rappers talk about their sock drawer!”
Abs feels it’s not considered cool to make thinking man’s hip-hop these days but says, “I like to think that one can make that kind of music but still inject enough humour and edge into it that it doesn’t become too earnest or sappy.
“That’s what I aspire to.”
NOTE: Abdominal & The Obliques celebrate the release of Sitting Music on Oct. 11 at Supermarket, 268 Augusta Ave., in Kensington Market. You can buy the CD at the gig or at iTunes, Amazon or at mcabdominal.com