Why has foreboding Japanese noise artist Merzbow put out more than 300 micro-batch albums of ear-splitting racket? Because he wants your attention. Because he wants to be liked. Likewise, for all the energy rising Baltimore MC Abdu Ali puts into abrasion and outrage and scandal and making your tinnitus worse, he is clearly an artist who jabs a thumb in your eye with one hand and slips his hand inside your hip pocket with the other.
“DO YOU RECOGNIZE/ A BLACK FAGGOT IS RAPPIN'?” he taunts at one point through the shrill clatter of his 7-inch "Infinity Epiphanies" EP (Araçá Recs). “AND YOU LIKE IT/ AND YOU LIKE IT/ AND KNOW YOU FUCKIN' LIKE IT.” Ali is an all-caps rapper if there ever was one, but he isn’t just about shock and awe. He spits with the glowing anger of a battle rapper, but also a tinge of divine retribution. On 'Shiva,' a Spartan treblefest produced by Houston MC B L A C K I E, who shares Ali’s penchant for grating sonic aggression, Ali rages, “SHIVA, I'MMA DESTROY THESE NIGGAS,” the “SHIVA” hook spiking into a squeal, a staple of his vocal repertoire. On the chorus of 'Say Something,' he repeats as a statement of purpose that God Himself told him to holler his truth over dissonant, synth-icy, 808-driven crunchers produced by Schwarz.
Still, he’s still got plenty of time for shock and awe. He declaims, “YOUR GOD AIN'T GOT SHIT ON ME,” describes himself with both horns and hooves at various points, and he’s packing both “DICK” and “CUNT,” depending on the verse. Throughout the three brief tracks here, he channels put-upon outrage and militant sexual-identity politics, but also omnivorous invocations of power and justice beyond this world. Or, as he puts it in 'Say Something': “METAPHYSICS IN MY NUT CREAM.”
Overall, the production features plenty of high-end synth-cymbal clatter straight out of Schoolly D's 'P.S.K. What Does It Mean?' and at least one discordant ray-gun synth squiggle per cut. The almost-chanted cadence and the anti-hooks on the spare 'Say Something' makes clear it’s “the hit,” but Ali actually sounds more at home in the foreboding, shifting textures and beats of B L A C K I E’s 'Shiva' and Schwarz’s title track. It’s tantalizing to consider that a record this weird might have been even better even weirder.
Basically, if you’ve been waiting for an artist who combines the frothing belligerence of, say, Onyx with the nasal nerdism of cLOUDDEAD, Ali is your man. If his art is still a little inchoate, that makes sense. The lyrics here depict Ali still wrestling with himself, who he is as a gay man and as an MC and what that all means. If the power and confidence and uncanny knack for throwing out id in the form of superego is any indication, it looks like he’s gonna win. As he puts it on 'Infinite Epiphanies': "I THOUGHT I WAS BROKEN/ CAUSE THEY TOOK SO MUCH FROM ME/ BUT THEY DIDN'T TAKE ME FROM ME, BUT THEY DIDN'T TAKE ME FROM ME."