Reviews:: Abdominal - Escape From The Pigeon Hole

All right, so I did my big fancy 10 best hip hop gimmicks list a couple weeks ago, but then totally forgot to review the album that inspired it in the first place. Forgetfulness is certainly par for the course with me, but I thought I'd try and get in a quick review of the album anyway. As you no doubt realize, if you were clever enough to read the title of this post, the album in question is Escape From The Pigeon Hole by Toronto's own Abdominal. I know what you're all not asking next - what's his gimmick!?! Well yer man MC Abdominal claims to have peerless breath control that he has cultivated from years and years of riding here there and everywhere on his bike. So advanced are his rappin' lungs that he claims to be able to spit an entire 16 bar verse without taking a breath.

I suppose the whole "bike-riding-MC" angle could also be considered a gimmick too, so Abdominal is that rarest of modern MC species, the double gimmick MC. In fact, Abs used to be a bike messenger in T.O., so in fact the biking thing probably isn't a gimmick. But we won't hold that against him. I keed, I keed. Abdominal got himself hooked up with the UK's DJ Format and appeared on two of Format's albums, 2003's Music For the Mature B-Boy and If You Can't Join 'em... Beat 'em in 2005. Format's got quite the following across the pond, so like Ron Burgundy in San Diego, Abdominal is kind of a big deal in the UK. He's lesser known here at home though, I actually hadn't heard of him until I caught him on CBC radio.

Escape From The Pigeon Hole is an enjoyable album. Well I should qualify that, it's enjoyable if you're looking for an honest, mature hip hop album that you might actually be able to relate too. If you're looking for some club bangers or coke raps, a guy from the Danforth who zips around Toronto on his 10 speed (perhaps more than 10!) probably isn't for you. Thankfully Abdominal doesn't rely too heavily on the super lungs gimmick, with Breathe Later being the only song actually dedicated to the topic. The final verse finds Ab kicking 16 bars without taking a breath and also sounding like he's about to pass out. He makes it, but he's kind of dying at the end and I think he must've done mucho takes to get through it.

T. Ode is an, ahem, ode to Abs hometown and features Toronto Mayor David Miller doing perhaps the whitest intro to a rap song ever. "T.Ode from Abdominal featuring Notes To Self, you know I got to hear that! Check it out!" Well ok, I will Mr. Mayor! All mayor ball busting aside, I like the song. The handclaps and funky horns comprise perhaps the most traditional hip hop beat you'll get on the album. The song isn't too over the top in it's Toronto love, more of a everyday look at the city. Toronto group Notes To Self make a cameo as well. The f-bomb laced, and ironically named, Radio Friendly finds Abdominal on a hyper drum track listing the many things he does and does not give a fack about. It also contains the line "I do give a huge fuck about chicken wings, you could say they're one of my favorite things", which is a line I enjoyed because I it found humorous, yet it also made me hungry.

Pedal Pusher is about all things cycling and is produced by Young Einstein from Ugly Duckling. Kind of appropriate that Einstein contributes a track, as this album reminds me a lot of Ugly Duckling. The double time raps over fast paced drum breaks is very Duckling-esque, and Ab has a sense of humor similar to Dizzy Dustin and Andy cooper. Abdominal Workout is a catchy track with Ab flexing his fast rap muscles over a big, bouncy bassline. I believe it is also the first hip hop song I can recall with a Mezuzah reference.

Open Relationship is for sure the only hip hop song I know of about a mutually open relationship. There are plenty of jams about rappers going for theirs on the DL, but this one is something new. If the song is to be believed, it seems Ab and his lady agreed to a 1 year trial of a relationship where they both do the do with other folks, so he crafted that experience into a song. Not many rappers would be willing to put something so personal out there, but it makes for an interesting song, so kudos to Ab for taking a risk.

If you find yourself looking for some bike-messenger hip hop, or you're curious just how long someone can rap without breathing, the Escape From The Pigeon Hole is for you. In fact, Abs fast rap steez could almost make this album tri-gimmick worthy, but I'll digress on that front. The gimmick angle is really just to help me come up with something to write, as this is an enjoyable album on it's own merits. As I said before, it's a mature album with a sense of humor, and that's not always easy to find. Plus Ab has the verbal gymnastics to keep your attention, and the production is solid, so rather than escape, make your way into the pigeon hole.

mp3:: Breathe Later

mp3:: Abdominal Workout

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