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Middle East MF: Ab-Soul brings his California rap gospel to Cambridge

 

“Call me young mind fuck,” Ab-Soul tweeted in 2012, the same year that he surpassed 20,000 likes on his Facebook page. In hindsight, things were just budding for the California rapper then, as his solo work fell into place, but the title is something that Ab-Soul clings to five years (and a hell of a lot of likes) later.

Since its conception, hip-hop and rap have been blessing pop culture with a handful of acronyms, ranging from the blatancy of NWA to Drake’s more recent battle cry of “HYFR.” After releasing last year’s Do What Thou Wilt, Ab-Soul’s “The YMF Tour” — short for young mind fuck, of course — adds to that legacy with a nod to his 2012 prophecy.

Ab-Soul brings his mind-bending rap to the Middle East in Cambridge tonight (May 8) with Little Simz and Hech Rhymes.

 
 

Since the beginning, Ab-Soul has fostered ties to rap royalty. Eight years ago, he and Jay Rock, Kendrick Lamar, and Schoolboy Q formed Black Hippy, a supergroup that aimed to refresh Q’s self-described “slacking” music at the time. The group has zero full-length releases to its name, and instead split up to sign to the Carson, California-based indie label Top Dawg Entertainment. Before Kendrick has even released good kid, m.A.A.d. city in 2012, Ab-Soul unveiled his solo debut Longterm Mentality in 2011. 
But it’s “Just Have Fun,” the 2014 tune from These Days…, that remains the true solo springboard for the rapper. Fusing jaunty R&B with old-fashioned gospel, the track bares two personalities, split down the middle with a jarring change of tempo.

“I don’t be in no pain/I just like how it feels/I close my eyes and follow beetles in strawberry fields,” Ab-Soul offers, later followed by a solemn refrain from the O’My’s: “Smoke drink relieve my stress/Hard times, they’ve got the best of me, I guess.” Melded together, the song presents the highs of mania and the gripping lows of alcoholism (henceforth the “mind fuck” factor, perhaps).

 
 

Hip-hop shows in Boston have always been a bit of a mind fuck of their own. When a rapper comes to town, most often it’s Yeezy selling out the TD Garden, while almost any other rapper performs in the underbelly of the Middle East (The House of Blues, it should be noted, has seen a recent uptick in hip-hop as well). But when was the last time an act on the pop or rock spectrum with half a million Facebook likes performed at the Middle East Downstairs, a venue with a capacity of 575 people? It’s a rare occurrence, to say the least, but oddly common amongst rap or hip-hop shows in the Boston area.

Ab-Soul finds himself in the very same situation tonight, but given the LA MC’s revamped audacity on Do What Thou Wilt, filling up the venue shouldn’t be an issue.

AB-SOUL + LITTLE SIMZ + HECH RHYMES :: Monday, May 8 at the Middle East Downstairs, 472 Massachusetts Ave. in Cambridge, MA :: 7 p.m., all ages, $25 :: Middle East event page :: Advance tickets

Ab-Soul ME