Tag Archives: Hip-Hop

Album of the Day: DJ Format & Abdominal, “Still Hungry”

Brighton’s DJ Format and the Toronto MC Abdominal first teamed up back in 2001, for the single “Ill Culinary Behaviour.” That song, with its acrobatic lyricism and boom-bap classicism, put them squarely in the “bringing-real-shit-back” mode that was running rampant in edge-of-the-century indie rap. DJ Format winkingly acknowledged this revivalist spirit in the title of his 2003 album, Music for the Mature B-Boy, which included “Culinary” alongside two other songs with Abdominal that celebrated the hip-hop sound of ’88.

That fire remains intact on Still Hungry and, when you’re a rapper in your 40s, that’s no small feat. Abdominal’s Kane-meets-Serch flow and lacerating agility are on full display. He still nails traditional underground rap targets: sanitized, overprocessed culture (“Dirt”), his need to be respectful of hip-hop as an outsider (“White Rapper”), and the day-to-day schlep of working as a touring musician (“Behind the Scenes”). He delivers all of these with a knowing, aw-hell charisma and a flow that clicks masterfully with Format’s distinctly Golden Age production. Put ’em in front of a crowd starving for ’90s vibes—whether or not they were around for them the first time or not—and let Format & Abdominal do the rest.

Nate Patrin

Malik Abdul-Rahmaan’s Beat Tapes Are For Crate-Diggers

Malik Abdul Rahmaan


Malik Abdul-Rahmaan
is a truly global citizen. Born in Texas, Abdul-Rahmaan spent his early adult years in the Air Force, stationed in Japan. Frequenting the legendary club Harlem in Tokyo’s Shibuya district, Abdul-Rahmaan found himself immersed in Japan’s rich and energetic hip-hop scene. After cutting his teeth producing soulful, dusty sample-based tracks for various Japanese rap acts, Abdul-Rahmaan returned to the U.S. and continued building up an impressive résumé that includes work with heavyweights like Ghostface Killah and progressive hip-hop label Paxico Records. Inspired by his time abroad, Abdul-Rahmaan conceived the Field Research project, a series of instrumental albums in which he captures the sound and essence of a specific country that he has visited, absorbing the local culture, digging up obscure vinyl and creating a beat tape inspired by each trip. Field Research: Malaysia, the first in the series, is an impressive start to this ambitious project, pulling from steamy Southeast Asian funk, Bollywood-style soundtracks, garage rock obscurities, and more. Abdul-Rahmaan has created a rich and kaleidoscopic listening experience that translates Malaysia’s deep musical traditions into cutting-edge future beats while still honoring the original source material.

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Brother Ali Finds the Middle Ground Between the Personal and the Political

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Brother Ali knows that times are tough. He’s been spending most of this young century wrestling with that reality—not only as a musician, but as an activist. The five years since his previous album, 2012’s Mourning in America and Dreaming in Color, have brought no shortage of new topics for him to tackle: the rising profile of Minneapolis representative and fellow Muslim Keith Ellison, to the killings of Jamar Clark and Philando Castile in his Twin Cities home.

This sort of environment might herald a new Brother Ali album as a potential call to action for what might feel like trying times. But All The Beauty in This Whole Life has a different dimension to it. Ali doesn’t shy away from politics, of course: “Dear Black Son” is a father-to-child conversation about racism; on “Uncle Usi Taught Me,” he contrasts the respect he received while lecturing in Iran to the TSA’s dehumanizing treatment of him on the return trip; “Before They Called You White” examines the ways European-Americans have become pawns of white supremacy. But as we spoke with Ali, he returned, again and again, to the idea of balance—of listening to fans as much as he speaks to them, and of acknowledging not only the world’s problems, but the moments of beauty and divinity that exist, and that we all need to fight for.

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DIY in The River City: Richmond’s Thriving Underground Hip-hop Scene

BSTFRND

BSTFRND

Sitting almost perfectly in the center of Virginia, Richmond is a city of dual identities. On one side, it is home to a host of Fortune 500 companies; on the other, more than 25 percent of its population lives below the poverty line. Known as ‘The River City,’ the music of Richmond has a similar duality. Home to influential rapper Mad Skillz and the source of whatever divine supernatural forces brought D’Angelo into this world, the city also gave us Lamb of God and cosplay-chic shock rockers GWAR. With a population of just over 200,000, Richmond punches far beyond its musical weight. But in hip-hop circles, the city is largely ignored. Still, as MCs like Fly Anakin and the André 3000-heralded Divine Council rep the RVA, behind the scenes, a new generation of genre-spanning producers are slowly amassing a humbling body of work. “In Richmond, it’s all about a group of people and how hard their talent is,” says Tuamie, a musician and Richmond native now living in Georgia. “That’s what kept me creating while I was there, and what keeps me doing it when I’m not. Richmond will never stop, that’s a guarantee.”

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Hanni El Khatib on Embracing Multi-Racial Identity and Being Famous in France

Hanni El Khatib

Although he’s already four records deep into a successful career, Hanni El Khatib was looking forward to taking a break after he wrapped an extensive tour. But it wasn’t long before he found himself in the studio, banging out material in a series of low-stakes sessions that would end up on a series of EPs he released over the course of 2016. Now, those five EPs have been collected into full-length, Savage Times, released this past February on Innovative Leisure, the label he co-owns.

The album’s 17 tracks showcase El Khatib at his most diverse, each song pushing his signature take on rock and roll in a different direction. The album moves from the uptempo swagger of “Paralyzed” to the stark, hymn-like “Miracle,” to the rebellious “Mondo and His Makeup,” referencing a range of musical eras and movements along the way. Lyrically, El Khatib reflects on his experiences as a first generation American (“Born Brown”), considers his own bad habits (“Hold Me Back”) and embraces individuality (“Freak Freely”)

The child of immigrant parents from Palestine and the Philippines, El Khatib grew up in San Francisco, and has called Los Angeles home for nearly a decade (though he’s often away, perpetually on tour across the States and abroad, most frequently, in France). We met up with El Khatib during a one-week break in his touring schedule to talk about the challenge of self-reflection, how the immediacy of releasing songs as he finished them enabled him to be more honest, the value of personal freedom, and why the cycle of culture dictates that rappers are the new rock stars.

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