I still remember that BlackBox freestyle back in 2016 like yesterday. The first instrumental, what we now know as ‘Robbery’, had almost everyone around me thinking that Abra Cadabra was a yardman from Jamaica.
This gained massive traction and gained attention from Krept & Konan, in which a remix was made and changed the trajectory of Abra Cadabra’s music career. The second part of the freestyle resonated with me the most as he used various flows and touched on various topics, from his hometown (Tottenham), his personal life and relationships with friends. From 2016 to 2017, he was continuously putting out music and done many features, with my favourite being the one his collaboration with Sneakbo entitled ‘My Hood’.
Although Abra Cadabra was releasing tunes in 2018 and 2019, they were seldom dropped. His first project, the ‘Feature Boy’ EP, had some good tracks (in my opinion) but did not attract the masses as greatly as he did with ‘Robbery’. This made many think that Abra was fading as quickly as he came. He shut those thoughts down with a strong Daily Duppy freestyle towards the end of 2018. However it seemed people forgot about this going into 2019 making that year also generally quiet for him. Going into 2020, it seemed Abra had something strategically planned as he released an EP (Love Or Lust), collaborated with associates OFB and released a series of hard-hitting singles including ‘Baby’, ‘Cadabra Freestyle’, ‘On Deck’, all which by now you should know as they’ve been making serious waves. It’s all led up to this point: the ‘Product Of My Environment’ mixtape.
‘Product Of My Environment’ opens up with ‘Trenches’. Abra Cadabra talks about coming from the bottom whilst living the street life in Tottenham. Despite all the madness he’s witnessed, he’s convinced he and his friends will see better days (“I tell my bruddas don’t worry / I got a strong feeling we gon’ make it). The call at the end of the song tells us what to expect throughout the mixtape as his friend says “he’s singing, he’s rapping, he’s drilling”.
Anytime Kush (OFB) and Abra Cadabra link up, you know the track is going to be hard. From ‘War’, ‘The Roads’ and their Valentine’s Day tracks, they always deliver. Kush features on ‘How We Living’ and the pair go back to back on the instrumental, which seems to take on oriental inspiration from Eastern Asia. Abra admits that sometimes he doesn’t know why he lives the way he does, but sometimes he can find himself in a vulnerable position as he sings “to be safe, I got to pick my gun up”. The succeeding song, ‘Usual’, also tells the harsh realities of growing up where he’s from like in ‘Trenches’ (“Stabbings and shootings that’s just the usual”). At the same time, he sends out a message to the younger ones who are at a crossroads in life about the truth of the road life (“Don’t look for trouble, keep your mind right, don’t get brought up in a cubicle”). You’d think your friends will be there for you whenever you need them, but the streets don’t discriminate and owes nothing to no-one (“Bro this game ain’t got rules your best friend will watch you drop”). A light reminder to make the best decision for you.
‘On Deck’ is easily one of the best tracks to come out of the UK in 2020. Abra unlocks a different kind of energy as he aggressively flows over a fierce drill instrumental, but he does this tactically as he left his listeners with a unique chorus to remember ( “I got bare girl round, jiggy jiggy on deck/ In North London, jiggy jiggy on deck/ In East London, jiggy jiggy on deck/ But I don’t ever slip, got my blicky on kweff).
Abra Cadabra told Apple Music that he used the same formula for ‘Spin This Coupe’ and it’s definitely worked as this is my new favourite. The adlibs go off on this track and he delivers high-octane verses. “They couldn’t even tell you what they used to do, cos what they used to do, is what they do now”. Abra cools off a little in “Show Me” as he harmonises more yet makes the same impact. These songs can be grouped as his ‘big 3’ of 2020.
Abra Cadabra doesn’t only feature members of the OFB collective here but also calls on musicians he has previously featured as well as new ones. Krept & Konan are called in on “Seen It All” where Abra Cadabra leads on the chorus. Krept reflects on life before music and touches on the government’s ignorance in providing a suitable way out for those from lower socio-economic backgrounds (“Lately, suffering, sketchy government/ Why the fuck do you think man are trapping when they give man a ration?). Konan does this too and he doesn’t want to come across as a hypocrite when advising young people on what to do with their lives (“How can I tell these kids put the knife down when akh came with a Rambo?”). They don’t regret what they’ve done as it’s all part of their story and what they’ve achieved today.
Dappy, once a member of the celebrated group ‘N-Dubz’, features on ‘Selective Bad Boys’ and the pair go back to back on an instrumental filled with eerie basslines and thumping kicks. ‘You’, featuring Dirtbike LB and Young Adz, has the slow and softer feel of an R&B tune yet the beat of a hip-hop track, allowing Abra to exhibit his versatility. This makes it one for the ladies as Abra Cadabra confesses the way he feels is because of a special someone (“Wouldn’t feel like this if it wasn’t for you”).
‘Begging Flexxing Stressing’ samples ‘The Four Seasons’ track “Beggin’” (1974), which was remade by the Norwegian group ‘Madcon’ in 2007. Abra Cadabra reminisces on times where he was at low points in his life and how he had to have his own back and not really depend on anyone else (Little n*gga, I ain’t begging, begging you/ I ain't stressing, stressing you/ And I'm flexing, flexing on you/ You gon' wish you never did me wrong). ‘Keep Going’ is encouragement for those who find themselves stagnant in what they’re doing and cannot seem to progress, but eventually you’ll make it (Oh, keep going, keep going/ Let’s pray the cash money keeps flowing).
‘My People’ and ‘Everywhere I Go’ are the final tracks on the mixtape. ‘My People’ is more of a tribute to the people he’s lost along the way. It’s also an introspective track as he thinks about the personal goals he wants to achieve before he passes on (I hope I’ve made a milli’ by then / Then give my Mum so much money that she can't spend anymore). ‘Everywhere I Go’ allows Abra to release his pain at the fact that he has to stay more vigilant than others at the chance he finds himself in trouble (You don't know how it feels, I got guns all around me to ensure my peace). He realises that these are bad habits ( “I've been in these streets so long that these bad habits still with me”) and is determined to see the bigger picture outside the hood.
‘Product of My Environment’ has a solid consistency from start to finish. A mix of anthems, heartfelt storytelling and feel-good tracks, it is a steppingstone for Abra Cadabra to achieve his full potential. Additionally, Abra Cadabra doesn’t glamourize the life he has been through – he says it plainly as it is and allows his listeners to make up their own opinion on the life of A street kid.
Make sure you stream the tape here: https://album.link/gb/i/1541712823