Abdominal - Workout 12" [Antidote / Handcuts / Do Right!]

Abdominal first grabbed the attention of students and hipsters everywhere in 2001, when he appeared on an early release by Brighton-based DJ Format, a painfully retro piece of conceptual kitsch-hop entitled "Ill Culinary Behaviour". That track, and I would imagine the majority of the duo's collaborative efforts since, re-worked the seam of sickly nostalgia already thoroughly mined by Jurassic 5, positing in its every tone and nuance that life was better at some unspecified point in the late Eighties and that we should all go back to wearing Adidas sportswear and spinning on our heads whilst watching Yo! MTV Raps.

Now you may have gathered by this point that I'm not entirely enamoured of the cheery brand of Rap-lite that Jewish Canadian MC Abdominal is pushing, so let me take a moment to focus on the positives. The technical aspects of Abdominal's flow are pretty much flawless… he rhymes fast and assuredly and manages to deliver rhythm and scansion in a variety of patterns without breaking a sweat. He even has a passable singing voice. Equally, I can't argue for a second with the crisp chopping and EQing of Format's production samples, or the slickness of his chorus scratches.

The problem here though is the utter lack of soul and emotion underlying the slick (re-) packaging. When he slows down the pace for more than a second – for example to deliver a twee punchline about not kissing girls under the mistletoe because he's Jewish – Abdominal comes across to my ears as breathtakingly smug and vapid – a swagger-jacker of the worst sort. His persona, far from representing an "Escape From The Pigeon-Hole" as the title of his forthcoming album would have it, is a Frankenstein's monster of unnaturally reanimated cliches, from the brash, cocky attitude to the over-familiar scratched sample of Kool Keith on the chorus.

Let's not kid ourselves – this is no more fit to be compared in a category alongside innovators such as the Ultramagnetic MCs than Bon Jovi is to stand alongside authentic legends such as Hendrix or Dylan. Abdominal and Format produce a highly refined strain of derivative, sweet-and-mushy baby-food rap for those who can't be bothered to struggle with new sounds or simply prefer rap with the grit and realness subtracted. As such, their music will neither nourish nor exercise the listener who has developed anything beyond the most superficial appreciation for Hip-Hop culture and music.

By: Analogue


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