DJ Format featuring D-Sisive and Abdominal at Supermarket (268 Augusta), Friday (October 7). $10. 19+. Tickets at the door. www.ramosent.com. Rating: NNNNN
Wisecracking Brit vinyl junkie Matt Ford likes to think of himself as a hiphop artist, yet any discernable similarities between the funky fresh breaks and rapid-fire rhymes of his DJ Format recordings and what's on the hiphop charts are purely coincidental.
And while Ford's bling-free approach to melding badass beats with the witty rhymes of his hired Canuck MCs Abdominal and D-Sisive may actually be closer to the true essence of hiphop than what's currently being sold with champagne-soaked images of shaking rumps, the sound of Format's new disc, If You Can't Join 'Em... Beat 'Em (PIAS), is so far removed from mainstream hiphop that it's practically a whole different genre of music.
"I know what you mean," says Ford from his vinyl-insulated pad. "When I see a Snoop Dogg video or even something by Jay-Z, it seems like a world apart from what I'm doing. Everybody seems to be trying to pretend they're living like wealthy gangstas and that women are drawn to them, but I can't relate to any of that.
"In the process of becoming a multi-billion-dollar industry, hiphop has branched off into many different directions, most of which I don't like. So I just keep making the kind of music I enjoy, which is an extension of the classic hiphop I lived and breathed in the late 80s and early 90s. I think the people who buy my records are mostly diehard b-boys from back in the day and people who just want to hear some good funk-based hiphop without all the gangsta bullshit."
Finding like-minded MC collaborators familiar with the names Nice and Smooth, Big Daddy Kane and JVC Force took some work. But digging deep is second nature to Ford, who admits that he didn't come to Toronto in search of mid-school rhyme specialists -- he just stumbled upon them.
"Actually, I came to Toronto looking for records, and a record dealer I always visit, Aaron Keele, had coincidently just released a record by Abs & Fase. As soon as I heard Abdominal, I thought, 'Now, here's a guy who'd really suit the kind of music I'm making.' For me, it's not about nationality or geography; I need to work with people who have a certain style and share an attitude.
"Abs just fit the bill, as did D-Sisive, who I brought on board to liven up the show. The more time I spent with them, the more I wanted to work with them. Before I knew it, they were both all over my record, and it's so much the better for it."
When you listen to If You Can't Join 'Em... Beat 'Em and hear the 60s and 70s rare groove records Ford uses as sample sources, it seems like he's got much more in common with nu-funk groups like Breakestra, Speedometer and the New Mastersounds than, say, 50 Cent.
"Funny you should mention Speedometer," chuckles Ford. "I was just listening to their record before you called. Without giving too much away, that's an avenue I'd like to explore on my next album. It seems like a logical progression for me.
"I really like what Quantic has been doing lately, and I think groups like the Soul Destroyers and Speedometer are making records that sound just as good as the old funk 45s people pay big bucks for now. The guys in those groups, like me, don't care about trends. They're making the music they love. If it sounds good, it's because it's coming from the heart."