WL 374 – Sunday, August 5 – 12am
Purveyors of: Lung collapsing lyrics
Abdominal has been rhyming for a minute now, and after releasing records with DJ’s Fase and Format has finally released his first solo record. With many stories to tell and tracks featuring production from some of the best of Toronto’s underground and the usual collaborators DJ’s Fase and Format, the new record is receiving critical praise from all corners. About to embark on his umpteenth European tour, Abdominal speaks to Malcolm Smith about the new record and his overseas adventures.
Your new album is called Escape From The Pigeon Hole; do you feel you’ve been pigeon holed?
Yeah somewhat. I guess from past work; I did stuff with DJ Fase – we did a couple songs that revolved around food. I was amazed at how quickly I was the ‘food’ rapper – particularly with media people. I did stuff with DJ Format from the UK. The nature of his stuff tends to be more uptempo, old school. Again, suddenly I’m the ‘old-school’ rapper. All those things are big parts of what I do, but they’re not the end all be all. Because this is my first solo record I wanted to show a bigger picture of what I was about. There’s some food stuff, some uptempo stuff, but there’s also hopefully some other stuff on there as well. In fairness I guess it’s easier to sell or present something if you can fit it neatly into a category.
Your first record blew up in England – is it still the case where you’re more popular overseas than at home?
I think so. Thus far I’ve been pleasantly surprised. I’ve seen more critical praise this time. I don’t know if it’s translating into any sales, but at least some good reviews in Canada. So it’s been nice to get some love in my own back yard. Not that I’ve been shunned in the past but it’s been the most I’ve ever experienced. Prior to that it’s been more Europe – specifically the UK. I think that was also because I was doing more stuff with DJ Format, who’s based there. We were touring there and doing more stuff compared to over here.
We’ll play club shows there, we also got a chance to play some of the festivals. We did Glastonbury two times, we also did Leeds and Redding, that’s a whole different ball game altogether – Glastonbury we had a crowd of eight thousand to nine thousand people, I’ve never done anything close to that here!
How many times have you toured overseas?
I’ve been overseas a bunch. Since Format’s first record came out until now, to England about 16-17 times. Some of those were good month long or five week tours, so I’ve been over there quite a bit. The first tour I did with DJ Format was five weeks touring the UK and Europe opening for Jurassic 5. We’ve done all of Europe, Australia – I just did Japan for the new record, which was cool. I’d never gotten over there on the Format stuff so that was my first time there. I didn’t really know what to expect but it was cool – a lot of people were holding up the old Format record, some people holding up the Abs & Fase stuff, so people knew the stuff. It was kind of wierd – people got into it, but I couldn’t tell how much they were just getting into the music versus how much the lyrics were sinking in. In between songs I normally do some talking to the crowd but I couldn’t really gauge whether it was falling on deaf ears or not.
How do you build a following in Canada?
It’s tough because it’s so spread out. That’s the beauty of England; it’s so densely populated in such a small area. It’s so easy to tour. You can play a major city in front of a good size crowd – travel 40 minutes literally and you’re in another major city. For those people it’s unheard of that they would make that 40 minute trip to see you in the previous town, they’ll wait for you to come to their town. It’s so easy to set up a tour of like 16 dates. In Canada you do your Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal, and then to go anywhere else substantial – no offence to the Guelphs and the Kitcheners and whatnot – but to hit like Winnipeg or Halifax or something it’s major driving, and touring is such a big part unless you’re signed to a label with some serious resources to take out ads and do that kind of marketing. For me it’s all about ‘hit the trenches’ and get out and start touring.
A little while back Toronto had In Divine Style – a goto show for local hip hop – but nothing has really stepped up to replace it. Is Toronto hip hop missing this?
I kind of grew up in the whole Planet Mars era – which kind of predated In Divine Style. My boy Planet P ran this night called Planet Mars which was a weekly or monthly show that would always have five or six local acts. It has kind of achieved legendary status. There’s all kinds of Toronto groups now that came up from that time. Brassmunk was at it a whole bunch, myself, all the Monolith guys, Dan-E-O…. everyone coming from that era, maybe Kardinal and Saukrates were already a bit too big, but the people that came directly after those dudes, we were all down at Planet Mars. I agree there’s sort of a lack of that. That was kind of like a central meeting point – there were performers from Scarborough, from the west end, from downtown, all converging at Planet Mars. Whereas it seems now that Toronto is still busy as far as hip hop, but it feels more like isolated camps.
When did you first get into rap and what were you listening to?
First album I ever bought was ‘Raising Hell’ by Run DMC, so it was kind of late 80’s when I got into it. Then I really got into it heavy in the early 90’s – the so called golden era, it seemed like every week there was another classic album coming out. I started rhyming when I was 19; one day DJ Serious showed up – we skate boarded together – and was like “I got some turntables and a little sampler I’m gonna start making beats, you wanna spit some raps on it?”, so we started dabbling and made some of the worst music ever. It kind of snowballed from there.
The last verse on the track ‘Breathe Later’ off the new album – which you rap with a single breath – is a ridiculous feat. How did you prepare for that?
For two months I would wake up and the first thing I would do is practice that verse over and over. When it was time to record it at the studio it took hundreds of takes. I can do it more consistently now though.
Is DJ Fase going to be with you for the Wavelength show?
Yup, Fase will be there.