Abstract Tribe Unique – “Rollin’ In My Car”

But I was just…you know, going where I’m going, rollin’ in my car…

I’m only now starting to really appreciate Mood Pieces, the 1998 record by the Los Angeles group Abstract Tribe Unique. I found the album years ago, back in my college days, as I was tracking down releases by members of the brilliant and highly underrated LA hip-hop collective Project Blowed (whom I’ve got to cover sooner rather than later), and came across the work of member Abstract Rude, whom, with fellow Blowed members Fat JackIrie Lion King and Zulu Butterfly composed Abstract Tribe Unique. I delved into the group’s second record, but couldn’t wrap my head around it at the time. The record was a bit too floaty and abstract, with Rude taking a loose feel to his performances and Fat Jack’s beats being peculiar and a bit formless. It felt more like a very live open-mic session where ideas floated around in the ether and Abstract tackled topics big and small with no rhyme or reason. It’s the kind of music which rewards a bit of patience…and at the time I just didn’t give it much burn.

But now? I’m starting to see where the group is coming from, just for those reasons. Mood Pieces is an intimate affair, a perfect listen for winding down in the evening with the lights low and the incense burning, where you can really appreciate the unassuming beats and the candor of Rude. Listen closely, and you’ll pick up some gems, like this particular listen.

“Rolling In My Car” is a standout from the album, a listen which I enjoyed even back in the day when I was still trying to figure out the rest of the record.  In this one Rude tells a simple story of a trip to court. His license is suspended. His explanation and his retelling of his encounter with the police officer is poignant, touching on issues of racial profiling, uneasy hostilities, latent racism, and weariness…Rude coming across as resigned to his fate that as a black man, with dreads at that, he will forever be a target. It’s a sad and powerful listen, made all the more striking by Fat Jack’s airy and otherworldly instrumental. Definitely one to ruminate on.

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