When you get down to it, Still Hungry is a record about the daily grind of making it in the rap world without the benefit of stardom, and late in the game too, no less. By their own admission, Abdominal and DJ Format are in the autumn of their musical careers. As Abs says in the title track, "Ninth inning, back against the wall, people doubting you, thinking you will fall." Then later, on "Behind the Scenes," a track that documents the unforeseen admin hustle that goes into rapping, he spits "No one ever told me that the pay's low, unless you're Drake, bro. I started in the middle, now I'm lower." That says it all, really. It's easy to think of hip-hop artists rolling in dough and champagne, but for two hard workers like Abs and Format, it's a full-time job.
Luckily, their expulsion of blood, sweat and beats pays off. From the hectic instrumental scratch-a-thon of opener "Appetizer," it's obvious that Format's still got it, and he reinforces that thought throughout the record. Tracks like the lightning-fast psychedelia of "Diamond Hammer" and "Dirt"'s grimy jazz explorations are a testament to the beat-maker's undeniable skill. And if it's clear that Format can still roll with the best of them, then that's doubly so for Abs, who hasn't slowed down one iota across his 19-year career.
At this point, Abs is a Toronto mainstay. He pops up everywhere: you'll see him at Supermarket in Kensington, MCing before a Four Tet show in the Great Hall (why not?), or at a random bar in Roncesvalles. Yet, he's just in the background. Have we brushed one of our greatest rappers under the rug? Shame on us, if so.
Abs consistently proves his worth on Still Hungry, showing that his relentless flow is just as formidable as when he first emerged in the late '90s. Listening to tracks like "Reflective Meditation Rhymes" and "White Rapper" you're left wondering when exactly it is that he takes a breath, and after that you're left wondering why these two aren't working together more often. It's about time we served them some props — they're positively starving. (Kartel)