Fresh on the Scene

Absolem

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One of Liège’s finest (and best-dressed) upcoming rappers shows us what he’s up to.

Some have already obtained small successes, spending years in the shadows, waiting for the right moment to shine and others have barely left their bedroom studios. Some aim for headlining festival stages, others aim for nothing in particular – but all of them have developed a sound with the potential to turn heads. With this feature, we shine a light on some of the most exciting new musical talents our tiny country has to offer.

Liège has produced a great deal of fresh rap talent lately – and many of them have roots in the Hesytab Squad collective. One of the founding members, Absolem, has kicked his career into a higher gear after dropping the two-part Toxcity EP, a release that perfectly balances all shades of hip hop with a well-crafted flow. In the first episode of our new Fresh On the Scene series, Absolem tells us what he’s made of, taking us to one of his favourite spots: the thrift store.

Why are we in a thrift store?

“We are at Frip Frap, the store of my friend Tonton Chami. He’s from Liège too, and we moved to Brussels together. He only opened this shop very recently, right next to Rare, his other shop. It’s these kinds of places that people go to for a killer outfit. When I need something cool for my videos or just something unique, Chami helps me out. He knows exactly what I like. When I visit, he has prepared everything for me. I’m currently looking for a nice outfit for a new project – but unfortunately, I can’t tell you exactly what that project will look like”.

How important is fashion in the hip hop scene?

“From the very beginning, there has been a strong connection between hip hop and fashion. It's part of the culture; it's all about getting the most beautiful and unique pieces. When I was a young kid discovering rap, I was amazed by hip hop’s fashion. I was always looking for the clothes famous rappers would wear in their videos. With the right choice of clothes or a unique item, you can easily create your own distinct identity”.

When I started, I just wanted to have fun and become a good rapper. Now, I want to be more than just that.

Talking about your identity, what does Absolem mean?

“Absolem is the name of that caterpillar in Alice in Wonderland who’s always high and making rhymes. When I was a kid, I was obsessed with the cartoon, and I could watch it over and over again. My big brother once called me Absolem, and the name just stuck with me (laughs)”.

You moved from Liège to Brussels. Can you describe where you live and make music?

“I moved to Brussels about five years ago, and I now share a house with Chami, Dee Eye, Ouss, and Petit Coeur. We all have our own creative spaces. I’m happy to be able to make my music where I live. I can write and record new material whenever I want to. Having your beatmaker, Dee Eye, as a roommate also comes in handy. All the music that came out over the last two years was made in that house. In that sense, my two Toxcity EPs successfully captured the vibe of that house. Even when I recorded collaborations with other artists: Small X from Morocco, Slimka from Switzerland, JeanJass, Venlo, Slÿ, etc., they all came down to my home studio”.

‘Toxcity’ is a clear reference to Liège, though. It seems like your roots still play a significant role in your music, right?

“You’re correct. Toxcity is the town’s tongue-in-cheek nickname. We like to make little fun of how rough the city can be, hence the name. From the party attitude to the distinct accent, I’m still very much a Liègeois. We don’t take things too seriously, and we like to crack a few jokes. That’s Liège”.

Combining the technical purity of rap with different rhythms and vibes is what I'm going for.

What does the hip hop scene look like over there, compared to Brussels?

“When I first got interested in hip hop, it was clear it was a city where rap was popular. But there was a bit of an underground side to it; we didn't feel like we got the attention we deserved. When I moved to Brussels and became friends with guys like Phasm and Dee Eye, I realized that Brussels has a lot more going on. There are many more artists, events, recording studios, and determined people with the right connections. Venlo and I used to joke that Liège is home and Brussels is the office. When I go back home, it's usually to relax and see family and friends".

How would you describe your sound to someone who doesn’t have a clue who you are?

“I love pure rap. Technical ability is something I really think is important in hip hop, so I always try to write clever rhymes. That said, you also need to be able to deliver it convincingly. Since I've moved here and met a lot of new people (especially my producer Dee Eye), I've become more receptive towards other influences within the broader hip hop sound. Combining the technical purity of rap with different rhythms and vibes is what I'm going for. I love to experiment with different genres too, but in the end, I can't help it; there need to be some clever lyrics".

Are there any goals you have set for yourself?

When I started, I just wanted to have fun and become a good rapper. Now, I want to be more than just that. The more I make music, the more I want to bring a message, making other people feel what I feel. I want to touch people, not only when they’re in a party mood, but when they are sad too, telling them they are not alone. That's the goal. If I can do that while playing a lot of concerts, bringing people together, and having a great time, then I have succeeded. We do it for the culture, for the music.