INTERVIEW: AbJo

abjo-the-art-of-refixing

SF: It’s hard to pick a favourite track but do you have a monumental track in your career so far that still means a lot to you?

A: Haha, it really is hard to say which track really had an impact on me, but right now, the “Murder$ in Grandeur” track kinda changed everything for me. I made it overseas in France after consciously gathering inspiration to basically start anew with my music making. It was a new year (2013) and I wanted to be a new AbJo, and since making that track, I entered a new space for making music I was both excited and oddly familiar with at the same time, if you can believe it…

SF: Do you have a favourite album that you have produced?

A: I have two, actually, and one of them is about to get released on Blu’s New World Color imprint, called The Holyfield, with my man Real J. Wallace from here in San Diego. The other is with his longtime band mate Bam Circa ’86, an album we’re putting out on our own called “Trilly & Truly”…

SF: Sum your musical career up in 5 records that aren’t your own and why?

A: 1) The Roots “Act Too (Love Of My Life)” – The Roots are why I’m here, simply put. I’m a musician (drummer, keyboardist, violinist) and a card-carrying hip hop member, and they fit my whole aesthetic for how music of my generation should be made. This song reads like the story of my life in a way, I’ve always identified with it…

2) Common “Nag Champa” – I wanted to be Common when I didn’t wanna be Questlove (which is technically never), because as a rapper, he’s still an anomaly in the game as far as I’m concerned. He’s not a rapper to me, he’s a poet with the innate ability to make rhythm out of his prose in this uncannily swinging and piercing delivery he’s had since he started blowing up. Also, I think I sound like him when I rap, haha. In any case, this song is why Common is one of the best to me, and it’s easily my most favorite Dilla production…

3) The Pharcyde “Runnin'” – ATCQ’s “Electric Relaxation” could be here just as well, but this is the song that really got me into hip hop, and into music in general. It was the first time, as a kid, I remember hearing hip hop, even though I know I had heard plenty of it before. It was all about identifying with something, and I couldn’t with Dre, The Dogg Pound, or Masta Ace or The Alkaholiks. But I could with The Pharcyde somehow, and this song is why I’m into hip hop at all. Arguably my favorite hip hop song, and my favorite chord progressions, ever…

4) Nujabes “Beat Laments The World” – Nujabes, not Dilla, changed my life. Before I discovered J Dilla (or rather, before I knew Dilla had produced some of my favorite tracks of all time), I discovered Nujabes, like a lot of people I know did. I’m an anime head, and aside from the anime, the soundtracks have always been my favorite parts of them. Nujabes’ music, and the music he’s made with all the artists he collaborated with, inspired me to make music the way I felt like making music, the way I feel about making it now; with quiet, but palpable passion, and without boundaries. This track says all of that to me. Such a dope song…

5) Outkast “Reset” – When I can’t name my favorite song at the time, I say it’s “Reset”, and I mean it every time. “Start over again/everything happens for a reason/good doesn’t come without pain…” And the song starts, and it’s perfection, the whole way through. Wisdom is something I yearn for like I hunger for sustenance, if you’ll allow me to speak semantically, and this track has it in spades. Outkast, whether it’s just Big Boi or just 3000, is always laying down the wisdom. I live by that hook, and Cee-Lo’s verse is one of the most profound verses I’ve heard…

SF: Do you think some of the EDM elements currently infused in mainstream hip-hop production takes away from hip-hop’s essence?

A: Yes, and no. Hip hop music is equal parts Pete Rock and Planet Rock to me. We need the crazy synth and drum machine work as much as the Ahmad Jamal and Eddie Kendrick sample chopping to make it a complete style of music. Those two schools of thought work together, as you’ve seen in my music, and they always will as long as hip hop keeps that open mind that it was born with, you know?

SF: We know you enjoy performing live so what one venue/city/country would you most like to perform in and why?

A: I got a chance to see a show in London, and since then I’ve been meaning to get back to play an ill dance music set out there. You guys over the pond have an appreciation for electronic music I’ve never experienced before, I wanna dive into that whole situation and really get to know the scene out there.

SF: What are your fondest musical memories?

A: All of them are from high school days, band class, after school practice, my prime gigging days playing at jazz clubs/bars, playing for orchestras around town. They’re all kinda jumbled into each other, but those were some of my fondest memories in general. They made me who I am today, cliché as it sounds, haha…

SF: What’s your biggest musical accomplishment and why?

A: I’m not entirely sure, haha! This past year was one big musical accomplishment to me, working with MeLo-X (and now Jesse Boykins III, more on that in the future), aligning myself with Exile and the Dirty Science crew, everything that’s happened because of Soulection; 2013 was my biggest musical accomplishment because I finally feel like I’m AbJo now, and not someone with the name AbJo, making beats and playing sets and what not. AbJo is a real person now, haha…

SF: Favourite label?

A: Stones Throw, hands down. Would say Soulection, but that’s too easy, haha…

SF: Favourite producer and MC?

A: Right now, Mr. Carmack, any other day, Madlib. And Black Thought will always be #1, absolutely…

SF: Who would you most like to work with and why?

A: Mos Def. Because he’s Mos Def. Or Yasiin Bey, I don’t care. As long as he’s still doing Mos Def shit, haha. He’s one of my favorite artists ever, most certainly. Nobody on this planet is like him, and I believe he could take my music to a whole other level without trying.

SF: What are your thoughts on UK Hip Hop and is there anyone in the UK you’d like to work with?

A: I’m still pretty new to UK hip hop, but I’ve heard a handful of dope vocalists from out there. I need to do more diggin’ around, so if you’ve got any suggestions, throw them my way…

SF: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

A: “Just be, my man. Everything else will follow.”

SF: What advice would you give to beginners starting out?

A: Have fun, and don’t ever forget to have fun. Fun is the key to it all. You lose sight of how fun it is, and you lose what makes making music really worth it, plain and simple.