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Live review: DJ Format & Abdominal @ Rescue Rooms, Nottingham (11/05/2017)

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In many ways the old school, party hip hop of old has been left behind in a flurry of trap beats and bling-based raps with those the old tenets of the genre – turntabalism and wordplay – slowly disappearing.

DJ Format & AbdominalIt is in to this changed environment that dynamic duo DJ Format and Abdominal returned with a 10th anniversary tour in 2015 testing the water of their popularity. The positive response buoyed the pair to get back into the studio for their first truly collaborative album, the recently dropped Still Hungry.

The pair last graced the Nottingham Rescue Room’s stage back in 2005, and the gathered audience for this gig was largely made up of members of that original audience returning to see if same immense party vibe was possible over a decade on, with few attendees under the age of 30 seemingly in the venue.

Starting the evening Format flexed his DJ muscles with a seamless mix of funk 45s, displaying instantly the craftmanship that vinyl DJing brings to the game, no computer tech aiding the mix just natural grooves.

The night unfolded from a simple, back-to-the-roots hip hop set up of DJ, decks and MCs – no glitz, no glamour just pure classic hip hop vibes and skills.

Andy Cooper of underrated hip hop legends Ugly Duckling provided the warm up to the main event with his effortless flow and feel-good party raps. With Format on the decks his tunes came to life more than some of his recent, lack-lustre recorded output especially on ‘It Was James Brown’ a lyrical explanation of Brown’s influence on hip hop with Format cutting in the Brown breaks and beats to tell the tale.

As entertaining as the opening act was, something special happens when DJ Format is joined by Abdominal. Separately they are masters of their respective arts but their connection runs deep and always produces their best work.

Abs is one of the most dexterous and lyrically playful MCs on the scene with a laid-back effortless flow, which didn’t diminish at any point during the show.

The new material from Still Hungry is as solid as ever and sticks closely to their classic, hip hop roots but it is the old material from their noughties hey-day, such as ‘Ill Culinary Behaviour’ and ‘I’m Good’, that still packs the most punch, nostalgia or not.

This set was built on chemistry, humour and old school skills with MC and DJ riffing of each other styles and even bringing elements of a comedy double-act into the mix.

In many ways it is obvious there is nothing new about what these guys do, rather they are preserving a hip hop way of life that has long since been replaced. A hip hop that came from simple beginnings and a DIY culture.

Laid-bare with no glitz and glamour to hide behind DJ Format and Abdominal are still one of the best live acts out there and the perfect introduction to the world of classic hip hop.

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