…It was about six years ago I got into my mate Damo’s car, and without ceremony he simply said ‘listen to this’ and pressed play on his car stereo, then, hip-hop changed forever! What I was hearing, was a song called ‘Vicious Battle Raps’, with Abdominal proclaiming ‘I like to rap a lot so permit me to rap a little’ and proceeding to do so, all over your eardrums ‘like a Latin wood percussionist’! If you listen to that song, what you will experience is a swift and defining introduction to the music of Canadian-born Abdominal, backed ever faithfully with loops and beats from Britain’s own turntables wizard DJ Format. The jauntiness, the effortless skill, the words woven together like a fine, complex tapestry, the breakneck-pace, the sniper-like deliverance, the plays, puns, polyrhythm, prestissimo, progression and  perplexing pronunciation of each perfectly picked poetic phrase – all delivered with accuracy and alacrity. Format and Abs were indeed a marriage made in heaven, with Format’s flow complimenting perfectly Abs’ dexterity as a wordsmith and rapper.

   Abdominal climbed his way to a position among my top three rappers with all the celerity and speed his rap dictates. Nestled in there somewhere among Immortal Tech’, Sage Francis, Scroobius Pip, and Lyrics Born, which is some heavyweight company. I defy anyone to listen to ‘Hit Song’, ‘Participation Prerequisite’, ‘Breathe Later’, ‘Pedal Pusher’, ‘Big Mac Track’, ‘Abdominal Workout’ or countless other gems among his coruscating discography and not quickly rearrange their list of favourite rappers to accommodate Abdominal.

   It is the song ‘Breathe Later’, in fact, that solidifies another reason why Abs is in my top faves, his breath control is unparalleled! If you listen to that song he’ll exemplify just that splendidly himself, as he raps every verse for a longer and longer time, until he gets to hitherto unknown territories of lung capacity, oxygen terra incognita aura, that make you gasp for breath just hearing it, an opera singer would be wheezing like an asthmatic, er, sperm whale? For further proof of Abs’ legitimacy, he has collaborated with some greats; from Format to Fase, Chali 2na of J5 to D-Sisive, as well as the incredible Cut Chemist, and many others, all exceptional names in the field in my book.

   So Abs’ proliferation knows no bounds, and imagine how excited I was therefore, to learn that he would be touring the UK with his band The Obliques (relying on live instruments rather than raps over loops), and was even coming as far as Glasgow, unlike some pussy US “punk” groups! When Abs does a tour he leaves no stone unturned, devouring in his wake; Edinburgh, Brighton, Manchester, Dundee, Thurso, Lincoln, Newcastle, Liverpool, Kidderminister, Southampton, Wakefield, Bristol, and of course London! Now that’s a touring schedule!! What’s more, our very own Jade Radley (Littlest Hobo1) would be hosting the Glaswegian leg of the tour with the help of Frogbeats, so NHC were well in there, woohoo! And so was Abs, as they arranged for an appearance for him on STV’s Riverside!

   On top of all this building excitement about me finally getting to see Abdominal LIVE! There was the intrigue of the addition of a live band, because Abdominal is not touring solo, nor is he touring with Format or Fase, because as I mentioned before, he is backed by The Obliques, so I was to be treated to a whole new slant on his music (if you didn’t see what I did there, forget it!).

   And on that night, 6th March 2015, in the small, dungeon-like but intimate and salubrious cavern of Nice N’ Sleazy’s, we all crammed in and were treated to a plethora of local talent for support, in the form of Mark ‘Mywords’ McGhee’s unique spoken word that is akin to a Glaswegian Cooper Clarke meets hip-hop, and everything from beatboxing dubstep to all-out rap freestyles through of a host of acts; Sam Small Beatbox, Bigg Taj Music, Sombadi, Tuscan Whale, JMD (Frogbeats). The Yellow Movement was represented with the Dijancer Dijon spearheading it and strutting his funky moves on the floor, and Gobophotography were down in the pit as always snapping the best possible pictures as only they know how, as well as a host of faces from NHC.

   Abs, always one to mingle with the fans, was in the crowd and we caught up with him and had a chat, about hip hop, and fast food, and Canada, and god knows what else, as the whiskey flowed like from a cornucopia, and i am pleased to report that Abs is every bit as humble and affable as he comes off in his music. It was a pleasure and an honour to meet and converse with someone who is, in my eyes, a bonafide legend for sheer musical talent alone if nothing else.

   Canada and the UK have many affinities, from cold weather, to our love of similar junk foods, to sharing a sovereign, and having similar laws, and also for our mutual love of Abdominal! And Abs’ love seemed reciprocated that night, as he took to the stage and pleased old and new fans alike with his trademark exceptional mike skills and catchy, infectious raps, alloyed as they were with the awesome rootsy rock n’ roll style of The Obliques.

   “Hip hop is always about hip hop”, but not where this man is concerned, another brilliant aspect of his style, is he raps about down to earth material that an audience can relate to, no guns, bitches and bling here, just homely raps about Big Macs, sock drawers, relationships, family, pet peeves, cycling, turkey bacon?, chicken wings, and of course, the ever-present demonstration of unequivocal breath control…bagpipers be proud!.

   ‘And what of the Obliques?’ I hear you say, well they delivered everything I could have wished for and more, so much more, from double bass, to guitar, to wooden box/percussion – it’s hip hop backed by bluesy, folksy, country-playing multi-talented instrumentalists, each profoundly gifted at their individual tools, Colin Kingsmore and Andrew Frost. The band enrich Abs’ rap in genre-melting ways I’ve only heard shades of in artists like Gangstagrass and Transplants. All the songs I heard that night were original and great and fresh to my ears, and Abs’ satisfied the hardcore fans among us with a medley of his past hits, complete with the Obliques’ backing breathing new oxygen into those almighty lungs. Abs could carry off a hip hop show acapella if he had to, so with a tour de force like The Obliques behind him, it is a mond-blowing thing of beauty to see on stage!

   Get Abdominal & The Obliques’ album ‘Sitting Music’ (“middle-aged hip-hop”) from their home page www.abdominal.bandcamp.com it is a unique and incredible musical experience, and like Abs on his Facebook www.facebook.com/mcabdominal he is a truly unsung star in the hip hop world! Thankyou Abdominal for enriching my life with your music and for continuously progressing with passion and pride throughout your career, which one day, will be illustrious in the hip hop hall of fame!

See ya’ in the pit!

                                                 C.T Herron


 Originally published on NHC Music 04/04/2015