- Sun, 2007-10-21 15:53
Following on from the debut single Pedal Pusher, the critically acclaimed Toronto based rapper Abdominal is back. Instilled with the spirit of DJ Format's chirpy yet dope party funk, the sophomore single from his debut album Escape from the Pigeon Hole, Abdominal Workout is exactly that… a rapping workout.
I Like Music caught up with Abdominal to talk about his Abdominal Workout, his working relationship with DJ Format and the differences and similarities between UK, US and Canadian hip hop.
I Like Music because.... it makes me feel connected to the rest of the world and human beings in it.” Abdominal
ILM: Your debut album, Escape from the Pigeon Hole, is out now. BUY CD here Which track did you have the most fun laying down?
Abdominal: They’re all fun really. Some were technically very difficult. For example, Breathe Later, the last verse is this 15 bar single verse, so that took me a lot of takes in the studio to nail that one, so that was more challenging but I felt fairly proud once I’d finally done it. Verses in a track like Open Relationship are more mellow and chilled but it also meant a lot to me, because it was about something that happened in my life. So they’re all different and enjoyable in their own way.
ILM: Your new single, Abdominal Workout’, is exactly that… a rapping workout. You must practice because flow is flawless; do you do a workout daily?
Abdominal: It’s not like I wake up and have to log my hour of rap training or anything like that, but I’m doing this full time so I guess just in the course of writing raps or doing shows or practising for shows, there’s usually some amount of music in my life every day. So just in the course of doing my career I’m rapping at some point most days.
ILM: Can you describe the vibe and how this track came about?
Abdominal: Similarly to most songs I do, I get the music first, the beat first. Format produced that one, so he sent me over a CD with a couple beats including that one. So I had the music first and sat with the music for a few days. Usually I walk around with the music on my iPod and listen to it for a few days on repeat to see what kind of stuff it can inspire.
To be honest, that track is not the deepest most conceptual track, its not about any inner angst or anything like that. It’s more an up tempo happy go lucky party track and me and Format are known to do sometimes. Because it was so fast it became like a traditional rap show off track, so I wanted to showcase the flow and do some verbal intricacies and some tricks here and there.
ILM: You’re an incredibly talented MC – we first saw you at The Brook in Southampton with DJ Format. It’s a small world because we’ve known DJ Format (Matt) for a while; we’re from Southampton like him and some of our friends went to school with him. What is it about Formats productions that makes you work together so well? You both have this old school happy vibe.
Abdominal: Yeah right. For me I guess it’s more just as a fan of that era of hip hop that I grew up listening to was late 80s early 90s, so naturally when it comes to me picking a beat that I want to rap over I gravitate towards that type of sound. I think it comes down to the drums.
A lot of the newer production is a lot more computerized and chopped up with synths. For me it doesn’t have that raw organic feeling that some of the old funk drum type stuff that Format tends to do, so for me he has that energy really.
ILM: You’ve worked together a lot since Ill Culinary Behaviour – how have you grown together as artists and changed/learned from each other?
Abdominal: Well the funny thing is, I’ve only guested on his albums and he’s guested on mine. Both of us want to branch out and do some more stuff together that’s a little different to what we’ve done thus far and start experimenting. But, because I know I’m only going to be on a few tracks of his album and he’s going to be on just a few of mine, we’re like, this is not the time or place to experiment, we have to give people our classic Abdominal/Format sound, so thus far we’ve kept it pretty close to home.
But we are talking about maybe potentially doing a whole project together, be it an album or an EP. So, if we do that we would do some of our typical up tempo party stuff but also try to dabble with some other stuff as well.
ILM: When did you first get into MCing? You’ve got a talent there, when did you start honing in on that?
Abdominal: I guess before I even picked up a pen, it was more as a fan. I started listening to hip hop in the late 80s and then gradually started rapping along to my favourite artists. I started doing stuff for myself, albeit more amateurish and more like a hobby, about 14 years ago.
ILM: Your songs are funny and catchy about everyday life which makes them relatable. They’re very well crafted too. You mentioned that you usually get the music first and put a rap to that, Is that generally the Abdominal music making process, or does that vary?
Abdominal: 95% of the time I’ll get the music first, and then do the lyrics. The odd one, when I knew I wanted to write about something and I couldn’t even wait for the beat, so I’d just write it to another track that I had or write it to thin air and send it to the producer and they’d build a track around the lyrics.
ILM: Can you give any advice for young people on following their dream career?
Abdominal: Well, I’m paying the bills, but I’m not exactly living lavishly as a hip hop artist. It’s a tough one. There are days when I feel like I’m not meant to be doing anything else, this is what I love and I get to travel the world and make some money doing this. Then there are other days when I see my peers and friends buying houses and I’m still in a shabby apartment, just renting, so there’s a trade off.
They’ve got all that material stuff but maybe they’re not happy doing their 9 to 5 in the office. It just depends on what your priorities are. I guess, ultimately, it just comes down to happiness. If you know there’s something you need to pursue in order to be happy, then you have no choice, you’ve got to do it.
ILM: You’re Canadian but you’ve experienced the UK hip hop scene. What have you noticed to be the main differences?
Abdominal: I’d say the main similarity is that they’re both still in the shadow of the States somewhat, because the States is such a big presence as far as hip hop, it’s where it was born, so both Canada and UK are struggling a bit to find their own individual voices.
But the differences... It looks like the UK are a bit more supportive of their own; there’s more of an infrastructure, there are magazines, radio shows, video shows, kids will go out and buy CDs by the UK artists, whereas in Canada, there’s this weird thing, not just in music but just in general you have to prove yourself elsewhere and then people back home will accept you. I don’t know why that is.
ILM: You’ve opened for Roy Ayers, De La Soul and Blackalicious and supported Jurassic 5’s European tour, and Ugly Duckling. Any amusing or exciting moments you can share with us?
Abdominal: To be honest it all melts into one big blur at this point, just the whole thing has been a whirlwind, it’s been awesome. Jurassic 5 was a proper five week tour, so we got to know them pretty well and they got to show us the touring ropes so that was an amazing experience in my life that I’ll never forget.
The De LA Soul thing was more of a one off. I literally had to fly out and open up for De La in London, so that was one-off show and then I came back. That was a pretty tough one because, normally I can fly out a few days before the show and have time to get over the jet lag, but the De La one came up last minute, so I literally flew out and had to do the show that night, so I was completely bagged. But, that said, it was still an awesome show.
ILM: Lots of songs these days have a focus on relationships because we all have them, be they with partners, family or friends, do you have lyrics relating to relationships that you feel people can relate to (your own songs or songs you’ve heard that have related to you)?
Abdominal: I guess as far as my own stuff, I have a track called Open Relationship, that’s pretty autobiographical, so that one applies, and also the song, Girl Shit, that really happened. Yeah, I mean I do enjoy doing up-tempo party wordplay funk type of stuff, but more and more as I’m getting older I’m doing more introspective stuff where I’m looking at relationships and stuff going on in my life. I’d like to go more down that path as I keep making music.
ILM: Please describe your ideal night out and the friends you’d have with you, and also describe your perfect night in.
Abdominal: These days my ideal night out is a night in. After doing the touring, you’re in clubs so much, by the time I go home the last thing I want to do is go out. So I’m all about chilling with my girl, getting a movie, with my dog, so basically hanging at home and being pretty boring
ILM: That’s nice though; cosy…
Abdominal: Especially in Canada too, because Fall is here and Winter is approaching so everybody tends to get into hibernation mode.