“I need to hear a fresh beat on the spot, get in the booth and just do what I do,” Abra Cadabra tells Apple Music. “I’m at my most creative in the studio. When I write things out sometimes, I pause and think, ‘Ooh...this is a bit too mad for me to say.’ So this way works better for me. Once it’s all out of my head, I’m not going back. I’m not deleting a thing.” This method—plus his menacingly deep tones and some razor-sharp drill production—has served the Tottenham rapper well, with a viral freestyle in 2016 sparking his emergence in the UK. On Product of My Environment, he presents an unflinching window into life on London’s tougher streets (specifically Tottenham’s Broadwater Farm estate) and the highs and lows of a young UK rap star. At its best, this debut mixtape presents fiery, undeniable drill anthems (“On Deck” and hit single “Spin This Coupe”) while perhaps the most compelling moments arrive with the more melodic experiments. “I already knew this tape wasn’t going to be focused on one sound when I was making it,” he says. “I don’t see myself as drill artist, purely. It is how I came into the game, but I’ve always wanted to try and go further.” Here, Abra Cadabra guides you through his debut release, track by track.
Trenches “This is my explanation. This one describes my life, my situation, and explains the title of the tape. I’m talking about things that every other street kid knows, and goes through.”
How We Living (feat. Kush) “This track takes me back to when I first got into the game. It was always me and Kush doing everything together. It gives me that same back-in-the-day feeling, when we’d be in the studio or writing, together. Kush is unique—he’s a really different type of guy, but he is his own man, and that goes for everyone in the [OFB] camp. We all do our own thing and play our roles individually, but at the end—whether positive or negative—everything comes all back to the same name.”
Usual “In my music, I won’t tell people what to do but I will say exactly what I’ve been through. Here, I’m talking to the youts. Take it or leave it. I’m telling them: ‘This is the reality of certain roads you can go down.’ I know that even if it’s the right advice it has to come from the right person, and when it comes from the right person even in the heat of the moment you can forget all about that conversation with that person.”
On Deck “This song was a key moment for me in my career. I knew it was a big song as soon as I made it. The original video is no longer here, though—unfortunately the [London Metropolitan] police decided to take it down.”
Show Me “When I’m good to get back out on stage and perform, I’ll need to be ready and fit for songs like ‘Show Me’. I’m still sharp, though. I’ve been through it all before: the shows, the festivals, all of that. I’m ready. I’m good. I’ll definitely need the crowd helping me, just for the energy boost, and with these crazy ad libs. It’s a joint effort!”
Spin This Coupe “I just kept the same formula that I used with ‘On Deck’, and went right back into it on this. Just going into the booth and letting it all out. Trust me, I’m focused on sounding completely different to everyone else right now. That’s why the flow patterns are all over the place. I’m just trying to do the unexpected.”
Seen It All (feat. Krept & Konan) “We’re talking about our pain on this track and all that we’ve been through, in the music [business] and away from it. Krept & Konan are my brothers, they’ve played a big part in my career so far. Whenever I’ve needed help or advice, they’ve been there for me. When I went through a patch where I wasn’t making any music, the support was still there. I’ve always got love for them.”
Selective Bad Boys (feat. Dappy) “I’ve got this one here as a bit of a surprise. I’ve been listening to Dappy since his N-Dubz days and I’ve been wanting to work with him for a while. In the studio, I played the beat and he said, ‘Yo, let’s go back-to-back on it.’ So I would go in and drop four bars and he would follow up. Just with matching my energy and my flow patterns. We were adapting to each other’s rhymes, it was sick. Dappy’s similar to me in the studio: He likes to get in and just get it cracking.”
Flicky “This is the most recent song on the tape. I think I had about a day left to finish it all off and we had to take a track off. So on that day, I went into the studio and ‘Flicky’ came out.”
You (feat. Dirtbike LB & Young Adz) “As soon as I made this, I knew I needed [D-Block Europe’s] Adz and LB on this. Which is never the easiest thing. Like, LB is a bit more available, sometimes, but...Adz! Adz is a rock star. Sometimes you just can’t get through to the brudda! He will hit me eventually, though. I know how it goes, man. It’s all love. Separately to this music thing, they’re my bros. They’ve never switched up on me either.”
Begging Flexxing Stressing “This is looking back, in terms of the position that I was in before. Obviously, I’ve had those high points in my career and I’ve seen that when it’s lit, everyone is around you, and then they’re cutting as soon as you’re no one. It’s something that I’ve actually witnessed. At the start, I was a bit more naive—I had a lot of man with me, and in the end when it came down to the crunch, it was just the guys from my block still with me. This is to say that you need to keep that faith in yourself, and keep real family close."
Keep Going “All you need is work ethic and prayer, and you’re good. Even with all the critics having their say, just keep doing you. We gave up proceeds of [OFB single ] ‘BLM’ to youth clubs in Tottenham, and we still got backlash. I saw people say, ‘These drill boys are making the crime rate worse.’ It’s like, ‘Bro, we’re here making history in music and at the same time we are trying to help and better our communities. These so-called defenders of the Black community only talk shit on Instagram and in the comments. We were on the Black Lives Matter movement as far back as 2011. We’ve all witnessed police brutality first-hand—all of us.”
My People “We’re not just any Black boys from an estate now. Because of what we’ve been through now we truly understand life. These are just questions and thoughts. The kinda thoughts I always have to myself, about my career, my ambitions, my whole life.”
Everywhere I Go “This is my favourite song on the whole mixtape. I’m really looking forward to performing this too, when we’re allowed. It’s a touchy one. I put a lot into this, and I feel it’s the best way to finish it off.”