It’s hard to believe Abra Cadabra when he says he hadn’t always intended on making music, such is the intensity of his focus. “When I was like 15 or 16, my bredrin used to play beats and I just used to freestyle,” he says, “but I didn’t pursue it. I didn’t think I would do anything.”
Fast-forward a few years and he’s featuring on tunes that clock up millions of views online within a matter of days, picking up a MOBO award, and striding into 2017 as perhaps the most hotly-tipped artist in the UK rap scene. The secret to his rapid rise? “I don’t know man, I just do me, innit.”
If only it were quite so simple. The truth of it is, he’s displayed a work rate that’s almost entirely unmatched among his peers. Besides the MOBO-winning ‘Robbery Remix’, Abs has appeared on countless tracks alongside other artists, recorded multiple freestyles (including one for Rinse FM’s Practice Hours reboot), and contributed verses to a host of cypher sessions.
“I don’t know about other artists, but if I like a beat then I just jump on it,” he says, as his manager leans in through the car window with a contract for yet another feature he’s recorded. “If it works for you, it works,” he continues, “don’t watch anyone else, just focus and go towards it.”
While others might get written off as mere ‘feature artists’, the indomitable presence - both physically and aurally - that Abs has on any track means that it’s often the MC whose track he’s jumped on who’s most at risk of being overshadowed.
He’s yet to put out a full body of work - the fan-made ‘Ounto Nation’ mixtape doing the rounds online, Abs says, is still a source of some bemusement - but the appetite for it is certainly there. “Now I know we can do it. Before, I didn’t even have my head anywhere near thinking that man can do it,” says Abs, “but now I’m satisfied to know that we can. It’s just work really, you just have to keep putting in the work.”
Perhaps it might be as simple as that after all.
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Where: Tottenham, North London
What: Raw to the floor UK rap, drill, Afrobeats
Get 3 Songs: ‘Dun Talkin’, ‘Money’, ‘Man Down (Pt. 2)’
Fact: He’s not named after a Pokémon or an archaic healing spell. He previously rapped under the name Abs, before his management decided Abra Cadabra would be catchier - he says he’s still not convinced but is going along with it anyway…
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Words: Will Pritchard
Photography: Sophie Mayanne
Fashion: Vincent Pons