Independent Spotlight is a continuing series on Stewart’s blog. The series revolves around independent artists and bands sending their music to Brett to review. No band is promised a positive review, and all music is reviewed honestly in an effort to better independent music.
In this evening’s edition of the Independent Spotlight, we take a look at A-B-E, otherwise known as Abe the Profit. His new record, ‘A South Bronx Tale,’ is an elegant display of raw talent and remarkable lyricism. The album is a life story told through hip hop at its finest, delving into every nook and cranny of Abe’s persona and past. Thus, it’s a compelling record for the Independent Spotlight.
As I’ve mentioned before in the Spotlight, the independent hip hop scene is inundated with crap. Garageband presets, poor production, and shoddy lyrics plague a landscape of subpar hip hop and rap throughout the community. Fortunately, Abe defies all of this stigmas. ‘A South Bronx Tale’ superbly executes itself through inventive production and sharp writing. Let’s dig into it.
‘Like Dat’ opens up the album a painstakingly honest personal tale. Abe recounts his troubled youth, getting bullied and singled out in school and eventually turning to writing for solace. The song doesn’t just meander in its own pity party, though. Abe acknowledges that the assholes who gave him a hard time in his youth clearly have bigger problems to worry about. Toward the end of the tune, Abe turns to God for some level of redemption. The song is something anyone can relate to - many, if not all of us, indulged ourselves in the ‘sins’ of youth to some extent, just like Abe. “We all got a story / Don’t be so quick to judge a book by its cover because one day it could be you.”
‘For The Kids’ harnesses modern culture to its fullest. It’s a referential tune, touching on everything from Obama to Julian Assange to the roots of the n-word before the black community repurposed it through music. Abe even touches on reverse-racism, affirmative action, and just about every other hypocritical and ironic aspect of modern American culture in regard to race, class, sexuality, or economic status. He absolutely nails everything that’s so terrible wrong with our society. “Do the right thing even when nobody looking,’ Abe proclaims over a simplistic, but effective soundscape.
‘Disconnected’ is a darker landscape, an atmospheric, brooding piece that most certainly a whole lot angrier than ‘For The Kids.’ Abe digs into the reality of the streets, gangs, and the disconnect conflict has on our communities. Though it’s far more upbeat than ‘Disconnected,’ ‘Memory Lane’ has a similar aura to it. Abe continues his recount of a troubled youth addled by pain. This also brings me to an intriguing point: ‘A South Bronx Tale’ comes off more like a concept record than anything. Little vocal sketches like the one at the end of ‘Memory Lane’ add an entirely new dynamic to the album.
‘Where I’m At’ may be the highlight of the first half of this tale. In particular, the production and wit of the song is spectacular. Abe embraces a wonderful level of production brevity throughout this record - no instrumentation feels ostentatious, nor does it take away from Abe’s spotlight. ‘Where I’m At’ may be the strongest song to that point. ‘If I Die’ has an incredible composition as well, further expanding upon those aforementioned sketches and Abe’s introspective, dark musings.
‘Real Wit Yaself’ is a particularly soulful tune, and I love Abe’s recognition of money not being the end all be all of problem solving. The hip hop community is already too chock-full of, ‘look how awesome I am rolling in my dough,’ music. Abe doesn’t subscribe to that, rather, ‘Real Wit Yaself’ focuses on the most important aspect of like - being real with yourself and not becoming jaded by life.
‘Getting Twisty’ actually seems to play with the aforementioned rap stereotype. Buying drinks to impress is a waste of money, Abe explains over a retro hip hop soundscape. Also, the song is awesomely witty when dealing with Abe’s economic status, or lackthereof. “The only time I eat out is under the sheets,” Abe declares, seemingly embracing the spirit of Kanye West for a snarky jaunt through authentically hilarious lyricism.
‘Work It Out’ deals with the ever-so-relatable situation of a relationship falling apart. The relationship in question turned toxic over time and Abe isn’t ready to ‘work it out again,’ especially since they seem to be running circles around an unfixable problem. Instrumentally, the song is one of the most likable tunes of the bunch. As is the case with the jazzy ‘‘Speak My Truth.’ Man, that composition is absolutely killer.
Finally, the album closes out with the soft-spoken ‘Chocolate Pomegranate’ and the dynamic, anthemic ‘No Better Feeling.’ There couldn’t be a better way to end the record - both songs are wonderful. The latter is has a sense of finality that perfectly concludes the collection. More so than most records, this album really is a ‘collection.’ The songs are interwoven between one another and all act as a relatable, consistently compelling retrospective. It’s the best indie hip hop record I’ve heard in months. For a solo debut record, ‘A South Bronx Tale’ is a resounding and triumphant success. Grab it on November 2; it’s one hell of a ride.