Fri June 20
Abstract Rude's rhymes stir something spiritual in the otherwise-barren wasteland that is my faith in the preternatural. When I mention this to him, he has a simple explanation: "The first time in my life I picked up a microphone was in a Baptist church, so the origin of me even being on the mic goes back to a spiritual cypher. My roots are in gospel and soul--all that stuff is real spiritual."
Stemming from Goodlife open mic nights, the Project Blowed camp of Los Angeles underground hiphop has long been a mine for talent. Respected emcees like Aceyalone, Medusa, T-Love, and Busdriver all developed their skills through the famous Leimert Park-based open mic. This is also where Abstract Rude sharpened his own cut-baritone style and soulful, clever lyricism. "Freestyle Fellowship and C.V.E. are the Goodlife O.G.s, and all the Afterlife cats and me came into it at the same time. Our tight-knitness comes from our allegiance to style and innovation; we all kinda tweak off people pushing the envelope," he explains. "And when we do a group photo of our crew, it's enormous."
Abstract Tribe Unique is itself a party of four--Ab Rude on the mic, Fat Jack making core beats, Zulu and Irie on dancing duties--and actually, they were a dance crew before Ab ever got into rap, which makes for really unique and, yeah, spiritually engaging performances. They're on some deeper shit. Ab says, "ATU has always been an audio-visual concept, because we really started as just Tribe Unique, a dance crew. My emcee talents sharpened and emerged as the whole hiphop industry started focusing on the rapper up front. But Tribe Unique always kept that whole vibe going, the mentality of hiphop with dance."
As with many of the Goodlife/ Project Blowed emcees, ATU are hiphop veterans, and it's incredible they've been able to stay afloat for so long in a lifestyle whose essential tenets are change and progression. ATU's longevity comes from two points: their dedication to hiphop, and their artistic malleability. "I'm Abstract, meaning I'm on some creative vibe, but I'm also Rude: I was born and raised in the streets in South Central, so don't think I can't relate on your level. I can do a vast range of everything. I can go from hiphop to rock to alternative to jazz, reggae dancehall, freestyle, then drop-of-a-dime to beatboxing and back again," he laughs. "But you can't be a jack of all trades and master of none. That's why the emcee is what I really put out there."
Abstract Rude's new record, Showtyme, is out in August on Battle Axe.