Hip-hop stars make music for the geriatric B-boys

DJ Format and Abdominal
DJ Format and Abdominal
Julia Fordham plays Portsmouth Guildhall on November 27

Julia brings musical trio to city

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Fourteen years ago, DJ Format released the landmark UK hip-hop album, Music For The Mature B-Boy.

On that album, and its follow-up If You Can’t Join ‘Em... Beat ‘Em, he was frequently joined by Canadian rapper Abdominal.

The pair have now reunited, with equal billing, on a full album of funky, up-tempo and slick beats, coupled with intelligent, savvy lyrics – Still Hungry.

Given that Format, also known as Matt Ford, was referring to himself as ‘mature B-boy’ in 2003, what does this make the guys now?

‘We’ve been pretty much joking about that ourselves,’ he laughs, ‘now it’s music for the geriatric B-boy.

‘I guess back then it was funny – I felt like that. I was 29-30 when that album was released and even at that age I felt I was making music for a generation that was slightly earlier, now that sort of stuff seems incredibly distant.

I really wanted something that summed up how we felt, and the Still Hungry thing came to me because that’s how I feel about making music, I still feel absolutely very hungry

DJ Format

‘Like anything you’ve got to find your own place and find your own niche and that’s what I hope I’ve done – and Abdominal as well – and I feel we’ve got our own place where we feel comfortable.

‘Obviously we’re not like hardcore tough gangster boys, but we take what we do very seriously. We’re not afraid to have a self-deprecating joke at our own expenses though. It’s finding where you’re comfortable, with how you’re seen.’

Calling the new album Still Hungry is a pretty full-on statement of intent, isn’t it?

‘We were trying to come up with names for the album, and I can’t even remember now what other titles were up for contention, and I was tearing my hair out over it because I think titles are really important.

‘I really wanted something that summed up how we felt, and the Still Hungry thing came to me because that’s how I feel about making music, I still feel absolutely very hungry.

‘I’ve still got the same fire in my belly, the same passion, the same enthusiasm to go out constantly digging for records and to create more music.

‘I know that if you were to speak to Abdominal he would agree with that, and elaborate to say it’s more of a general thing in life as he says in his lyrics on the song – it’s a case of wanting to get up and do this no matter what life throws at you. It’s a positive statement. No matter what – boom – we’re still going to do this, we’re still hungry.’

The pair rekindled their friendship when Abdominal passed through Format’s hometown of Brighton on tour.

‘It was so good to see him and so good to catch up, on a human level, music aside, it was our friendship. I’m sure back in the day we got quite sick of each other - when you’re touring relentlessly with anyone you need a break from them for a while. Our friendship was still strong and we still had that bond.

We talked about maybe doing a few shows together to see if anyone still remembered what we did, and if anyone’s still interested in that because it could be fun. We were approaching it from the point of view of having fun for old time’s sake at first, and then when the interest started to gather a bit of momentum, it felt like ok... this could be ok. Abdomina had an agent, Adam Gainsborough, from This Is Now Agency, and Adam’s been really integral to stepping things up and trying to make things happen.

‘At first we thought we could do this reunion tour. Adam wanted to make sure we did things properly and took it to the next level, and it developed naturally from there.’

That reunion tour in 2015 was a success, but Format admits, they didn’t want to just trade on shared past glories.

‘Both of us were happy to perform all of that old stuff after all of the time that’s gone by – we’re still very proud of those songs, but as an artist, as a creative person, you don’t want to constantly regurgitate your old material, and neither of us wanted to just put out some mediocre stuff for the sake of putting something out.

‘As a fan of music, hip-hop especially, I remember going to see – and I won’t name names – some legendary hip-hop groups performing their old songs and then they’d say now we’re going to do something form the new album, and there’d be deathly silence while they performed this mediocre song that had no inspiration, no hunger.

‘We never wanted to be those guys. If we do more music, we’re doing the best we can and not for the sake of it. We’re still creative, highly enthusiastic, motivated people who feel like we’re at our peak.’

DJ FORMAT & ABDOMINAL

The Social Club, Southampton

Friday, May 19

socialsouthampton.co.uk