Abstract Artform on his signature “Back Porch Rap” style and new remix record

Abstract Artform
Canadian-born Shea Malcolmson, who goes by Abstract Artform, has created a sound he calls “back porch rap” and takes it a step further with his remix album Crows: Remixes, Reboots, and Alternative Versions. The album contains remixed versions of songs previously released on his solo album, As the Crow Flies, as well as original and instrumental tunes.

Crows: is a collaboration between Abstract Artform and Swedish producers Mumbles and Co-Pilot, and the result feels more like folk or country than classic boom bap.

This is the music you listen to on a humid summer evening as you sit on your porch whittling on a bench with a rusty pocket knife and drinking whiskey as you flick a mosquito off your sleeve tattoo, wipe a bead of sweat off your brow, and squint your eyes at the last rays of the setting sun.

Say Hey There Music recently talked to Abstract Artform to discuss his new record and other projects on the horizon. Read on.

Abstract Artform On Canada, Crows:, and What’s Next

Say Hey There: Tell me about the Canadian hip hop scene.

Abstract Artform: Toronto’s not too far from New York, so Toronto has always been a huge influence. I remember watching some J Dilla documentaries and they were talking about the influence that Toronto’s had. Toronto is fairly central, but Canada as a whole has many artists. Halifax ended up breeding so many great artists like Classified, who has a record label and now is doing fairly well, Jesse Dangerously, Ambition, Ghettosocks.

It’s interesting, Canada’s kinda got a different flavor though. We have an alternative hip hop sound instead of what we would call a more American, urban sound. So a lot of Canadian hip hop is essentially this untouched, awesome plethora of alternative indie hip hop. There’s so much flavor. The biggest cities here are dangerous but we’re not like Detroit or Chicago, it’s different here.

So a lot of Canadian hip hop is essentially this untouched, awesome plethora of alternative indie hip hop. There’s so much flavor.

Say Hey There: Have you ever toured here?  

Abstract Artform: I haven’t done the States because I couldn’t get my visas, but the producer I worked with on the record before last, Fresh Kils, currently works with Deep Thinka Records down there, and he’s been touring and I’m planning on trying to get down there since I’m working with him. If, we do, we’d probably stick around the Midwest just because of my sound.

Say Hey There: The biggest Canadian rapper that I like as of today is Classified. He’s not super technical or intricate, but he works really hard, I love his rhymes and production and I respect him.

Abstract Artform: Yeah, absolutely. He’s dope. I’ve been compared to him in Canadian Musician Magazine and a couple other places. We’ve bumped into each other at different venues and shows but have’t really sat down and talked too much. I guess my song, “I Am Canadian” was one of those that people thought that he was the only guy doing songs about Canada, and then I put mine out and they said it was giving him a run for his money. Although that song is killer so I’m not taking anything away from that song.

Say Hey There: Tell me about you and your background and how you got into hip hop.

Abstract ArtformI got into records when I was really young, my dad taught me how to clean them and play them. I listened to a
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lot of what he had which was mostly classic rock but he delved into blues and a little bit of funk. Then eventually I picked up the guitar like most people do who grow up in country areas.

I got into rock and played in a band, then about 2001 I went through a phase where I experimented with things like drugs and got into the breakbeat scene and drum and bass and raves. After I slowed down and cleaned up, I started making beats and was like, Oh, I can rap over these beats, and started freestyling on some drum and bass.

Then in about 2002 I started making hip hop music I really liked. The first hip hop I ever heard in my entire my life was Rage Against the Machine’s—which is kind of hip hop—self-titled album, House of Pain’s Shamrocks and Shenanigans, and Cypress Hill’s Black Sunday. So those three shaped my early hip hop and when I made the decision to make hip hop I was listening to Jurassic 5 and Blackilicious. So taking in all those things, that’s where I went with my music.

In 2007 I dropped a mixtape just on CD-R and spread them around the city. Then after that I put out a full one in 2008, and that was the Prairie Kid record, and that was kinda cool because I did a song with Akil from J-5 on there. That was one of those moments where I got to work with somebody that I always looked up to. After that I decided I wanted to get a whole lot more people involved because I was writing myself and doing the beats myself and mostly working myself. So in 2010 I decided to work with more people. The idea with that record, which was called His Story in the Making, was to try and piece together a couple years of work, so there’s a lot of collaborations in it with everyone from Fashawn, Muneshine, Birdapres, Sadat X from Brand Nubian, and a couple local guys.

That record was a full record of collaborations and me trying to find my sound still. After that I met with Fresh Kils and still was feeling like I’d rather have somebody around so I flew him home from Toronto and he had been nominated for Junos, plus I use an MPC and he’s the MPC master, so it’s a guy that I felt comfortable passing over the reins of production to. When he came down here he wanted to really narrow in on what my sound was, and I had developed something I call, “back porch rap.” That’s the sound I created for myself and it has the blues, rock feeling to it and a little bit of boom bap. That ended up becoming the As the Crow Flies record which is now number eight in Canada. The Crows: record started out as a remix record of As the Crow Flies. At the beginning it was just supposed to be a few songs remixed by a couple guys out in Sweden that I was working with. What they wanted to do was take my vocals and rebuild the album using a 15-watt amp and an old microphone and distortion pedal. He basically makes all of his beats with his mouth.

What they wanted to do was take my vocals and rebuild the album using a 15-watt amp and an old microphone and distortion pedal. He basically makes all of his beats with his mouth.

Say Hey There: That’s crazy. That’s a cool concept.

Abstract ArtformYeah, so it’s a way for me to go boom bap with the style but also go super folksy with it.

Say Hey There: It’s very folksy. I didn’t know they had country boys in Canada!

Abstract Artform: Minneapolis is about six hours away from me and that’s pretty much how I grew up, in open fields. The prairies are where I’m from. Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Calgary are where the farms are for the most part.

Say Hey There: So you’re not urban, you grew up on blues records, I get it.crows2

Abstract Artform: It’s not quite the South that you’re thinking of but it would be considered the South for Canada. And there is hip hop here. I used to say to myself that you guys have graffiti on walls, we have graffiti on grain bins.

I decided to take how I grew up and piece it together into this type of sound. When you’re trying to build a sound or brand something, the more contrived you make it, the more it potentially just becomes a fad. So I’m going to rap about stuff I know, use sounds I know, sample the records I listened to growing up. I’m going to take all these pieces around me and put it into the music because the fact is that no matter what I can’t change me, so it’s not much of a fad. You either like it or you don’t.

 I used to say to myself that you guys have graffiti on walls, we have graffiti on grain bins.

Say Hey There: It’s definitely better to go with your gut and be yourself, because if you don’t at the end of the day people are going to see through it.

Abstract Artform: Yeah, and that’s what I’ve found is the best way to do it. And now I’m just continuing to hone in on that sound so Crows: is my first experimental record towards pushing the back porch rap thing a little bit further, plus it’s an international record done with guys in Sweden, which is something I wanted to do.

Say Hey There: How did you guys hook up?

Abstract Artform: I’m always looking for new music, and years ago I found a record label out there and contacted them (Mumbles and Co-Pilot) and said I’m really enjoying what you’re doing here maybe we should chat about working together. We did that and later on Mumbles said we should work on a record together and to send over all the vocals from the record I did with Kils and see what they could do with it. They sounded really good, and I was like “What else do you want to you do?” And he’s like “Do you have any songs you haven’t released yet?” I sent him a couple then he ended up building up songs around them, so the versions that are released on Crows: are exclusive because I haven’t released the originals yet.

Say Hey There:  I love the entire concept of crows. They’re so intelligent and just really cool creatures to study. 

Abstract ArtformI think they’re awesome, I was a comic book fan back in the day, and I don’t know if you ever saw The Crow, but that was a big thing for me. There’s a fascination with them out here because we have a lot of Native Americans. The crow has always been a symbol for farmers and it’s something I’ve always really enjoyed. Not only that but I also own an African grey parrot, so I’m kind of down with the birds. At the beginning of the Crows: record, that’s actually my grandfather talking about crows, I recorded him on my iPhone.

Say Hey There: That’s awesome. I love the authenticity put into this project. Is there anything else you want people to know about this record?

Abstract ArtformThere’s a music video, which is fairly intense. “As the Crow Flies” is a fairy deep song, I’m talking to my mom, I’m talking to my dad; about my adoption. The music video pairs up with that well.

Say Hey There: What are you working on right now?crows3

Abstract Artform: I’m going to continue to do the Abstract Artform country-blues sound, and there’s a record in the works for that, but the record that’s coming out shortly is with Doodlebug from Digable Planets. When I did my record His Story in the Making in 2010 I connected with him and he said he enjoyed some of my music. We worked on a song called “Summer in the City” together and it popped off here, it was on commercial radio and everything. I flew him down to Toronto to do a music video for it, and we got along really well and we kept in touch. I think it was about a year ago when he was like, “Hey man, we haven’t done a song in three or four years,” and I said, “Maybe we should do something,” and he’s like, “Let’s do a whole record.” One of the founding members of Digable Planets wants to make a record? Of course. I’d love to.

I have this country funk sound and he’s always had that spaced-out jazz sound and so for this record I wanted to push off in a different direction we haven’t done. So it’s very hard rock, there’s a lot of prog rock. We rap bar for bar on it instead of me trying to tell stories, it’s like a technical rap record. It’s an exciting project because it’s heavy, it’s hard, we’re going to press it on vinyl, the cover looks like a Jack Daniels bottle. It’s called Living Proof. 

There you have it, cats. Check out everything Abstract Artform below, including an album stream and info on where you can pick up the new album.

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Say Hey Picks

Stream the entire album below. Say Hey Picks include “Things Ain’t What they Used to Be” and “As the Crow Flies.”

[bandcamp width=400 height=472 album=625633897 size=large bgcol=ffffff linkcol=eb4664 artwork=small]


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