10-28-10 Originally published on Examiner.com by Tracy Heck
ABK performing at the 2004 Gathering of the Juggalos
Local Detroit underground rapper James Lowery a.k.a. ABK recently released his fourth album on the Psychopathic Records label started by Insane Clown Posse (ICP).
Medicine Bag is a different turn for ABK as it moves away from the dark, moody music that is prevalent throughout the Psychopathic Records' roster and instead explores the lighter side of the spiritual world he is interested in and inspired by.
ABK is one of only a handful of Native American rappers and his heritage is prevalent throughout his music.
He began his musical career at a young age after being surrounded by music.
In 1995, he joined up with childhood friend Lavel to form Krazy Klan and released two independent albums before taking the name Native Funk and releasing a solo album that caught the attention of Psychopathic and friend Blaze Ya Dead Homie who was looking for a hypeman.
After touring with Blaze as a opening act for ICP and Twiztid, Psychopathic signed him as a solo artist and since then he has released the albums Hatchet Warrior, Dirty History and Mudface.
ABK is known for his unique lisp, lyrics and sound and Medicine Bag takes things to a new level.
To promote the new album, ABK is hitting the road beginning with a four date stand opening for ICP on their annual Halloween extravaganza Hallowicked.
On Tuesday, I got a chance to talk to ABK where he was at home staying out of the storm:
Q: How are you?
A: I'm doing very good. I'm inside.
Q: You have the new album Medicine Bag out. How has the reaction to it been so far?
A: It's been awesome. It's been getting a very good response. It's been the best one yet so I'm very excited to hit the road with it. To get out there and start promoting it and doing shows with it and everything. As much as I can do with this one.
Q: You have the Hallowicked dates with ICP coming up but do you have any other plans to tour?
A: Yeah after the four Hallowicked dates I have an East Coast tour and then I have a few dates in the Denver area and then the Buffalo area. Around the surrounding area until November when I'll be going on a West Coast tour.
Q: Are you still going to be opening on the makeup dates for the recently cancelled ICP Old Sh*t tour?
A: Yeah. I'm going to do the old school tour also. I'm going to try and stay out there as much as I can this year.
Q: Are you going to be doing a lot of the new stuff on the Hallowicked dates?
A: On the Hallowicked dates I'm going to be doing a couple of new tracks but mainly I'm just going to stick to my darker stuff for Halloween time.
Q: You usually put out a Halloween track every year. Are you doing that this year?
A: No. Insane Clown Posse I know made one this year but I haven't. I've been busy with the album.
Q: What makes this album different from your other ones?
A: It's more of a party feel instead of the darker side because you know I'm Native American so I usually have the darker Native drums and whatnot. This one's more of a party vibe. I brought out my inner teenager again I guess so it's a lot more party tracks. I'm having fun with it.
Q: It kind of has that eighties hip hop feel to it too.
A: Oh yeah, definitely.
Q: Is there a particular song on Medicine Bag that stands out for you?
A: Especially "Last Chance" mainly. That's the first single off the album. It's just a close personal type feeling song. It's more or less saying goodbye to loved ones. It's one of the deeper songs on the album. I love the personal, deep tracks so that's one of my personal favorites.
Q: Do you think that most of the album is pretty personal?
A: Well "Last Chance" is because of the feel of it. Both of my parents have passed on and I have a sister who passed away. I have two children that I don't really get to see that much because they're living with their mother so it really is a last chance type of vibe. I guess what I'm saying is that I'm speaking to them in the song.
Q: Do you find your own personal experiences add to your music?
A: Either my personal experiences or those of my fans because of being on the road and getting to talk to them. I like to meet and greet a lot so a lot of the stories come from them.
Q: On the track "Brace Yo Self" you say "paranormal music with a rhythm you can boogie to". I think that does a great job of getting at the heart of your music. Do you feel that sentence really describes it?
A: Yeah, definitely. I am very, very into the spiritual world, I guess you would say. It's kind of what I base my music around. Paranormal music, I guess; the native vibe with the spirits and the ancestry.
Q: You started playing music pretty young. Was there a particular reason for that? Were you surrounded by music within your family growing up?
A: Yeah well my father was a preacher so being in church a lot I was always around music and messing with the instruments a lot. What really showed me I could get out there and put out a tape was the first Esham tape. You know someone from the neighborhood doing it. I think that inspired a lot of people who wanted to do music but didn't really know how to get it out there. You just had someone to back them then and inspired a lot of people in the neighborhood.
Q: You mentioned Esham but was there anyone else who inspired you?
A: Yeah, you know just the old school hip hop like Run DMC and Fat Boys. Stuff like that. Prince and Michael Jackson, of course. Anything in that era.
Q: You came into Psychopathic as Blaze's hypeman right?
A: Yeah that's how I got into Psychopathic. I actually did a couple of albums prior to that with a guy called Lavel and we were called Krazy Klan. Then I did a solo album and that's how I hooked up with Blaze. He needed a hypeman and I was solo at the time and so I hooked up with him.
Q: You left Psychopathic for awhile. What made you come back?
A: More or less I just wanted to find myself. When I first got signed I was put into a situation where I was touring a lot and it just got to my head. I was just able to take a break and start up a side company called Native World that was a slower pace with artists and stuff like that. I just went back and did smaller shows and got back into the vibe of things and now I'm ready with the bigger shows. I just needed to take a little break I guess.
Q: Who is on Native World right now?
A: Well there's Strict 9. He's on and off. It's not really a label. It's just a platform for people that come on my shows. I like to have a lot of local acts open instead of you know paying the bigger names to come. I like to give the local acts a chance. It's a spot where they can come and order cds in a small amount or order stage clothes or t-shirts for their band.
Q: Psychopathic has done a great job as a underground label. Do you have any advice for up and coming artists?
A: Flyers!! The best way is flyers and samplers. Giving them away free. Most of my career was unpaid. Be prepared for that. Be prepared for giving away a lot of free stuff. That's the best way to get your name out there.
Q: Besides touring do you have any other future plans?
A: I'm getting ready to shoot the video for "Last Chance". Then I'm going to be starting up a Internet show. I don't really have a name for it right now but I'm just getting all of my ideas for it together. Pretty much that's it besides touring. I'm probably going to do a in-store tour also.
Q: The bonus tracks on the different versions of Medicine Bag were originally from the Possessed album you were working on. Do you still plan to release those as a EP collection?
A: Yeah I want that to be a tour-exclusive cd that you can get on Hatchet Gear but not in the regular stores everywhere. An underground cd for everyone. It's more or less the darker side. Me doing wicked sh*t I'd say.
Q: Earlier this year you were in ICP's comedic western Big Money Rustlas. Do you plan to do more acting?
A: I'd love to get into acting. I know they're filming the Detroit 187 here now so maybe I'll go down there and get some extra parts. I was an extra in the movie Hoffa when that was filming here. That was fun. I don't mind being on set and the hours.
Q: There's a lot of opportunity around here right now.
A: Yeah, right. It's good though, good for the city.
Q: Is there any current music that you are really into?
A: I like anyone that's really hustling. Anyone that's putting in their grind. To me it's really not just the music; it's the personality, the whole attitude of it I guess. If you're not afraid to get on the stage and put up your banner and sell your own merch and shake hands and sign autographs, I think that's awesome. A lot of artists don't really like to meet and greet. They hit the stage and then they just leave. I don't know you know anyone that likes to get personal I guess that would be music I can feel. Someone who can actually get up there and feel their fans.
Q: All of the guests on this album are from Psychopathic but is there anyone outside of that that you would like to work with?
A: Anyone really. I love a lot of different emcees. There's so many out there. I guess probably just old school emcees from the Run DMC era or the Ice-T's.
Q: You talked about going from the large to the small venues and back again. Do you prefer one to the other?
A: No, not really. I think they all have their own attitude.
Q: Psychopathic has gotten a lot of attention this year with the Gathering Tila Tequila incident and the ICP Nightline coverage. What do you want people to know about the label?
A: It's not what a lot of people make it out to be. The label helps out a lot of people in their neighborhood. It's a platform for people to come and learn things like video editing or wrestling. Psychopathic has interns that come and work at the office and that's a platform for them. It's really not what it's made out to be. They just help out a lot of people and the fans you know paint up and get in a ICP line and then turn around and hit up a Jay-Z show. There's really no difference. It's just the difference in how they're looked at I guess.
Q: And over the last couple of years the album sales have increased as well from ICP's Bang! Pow! Boom! to Boondox's South of Hell to Blaze's Gang Rags and most recently Twiztid's Heartbreak & Homicide. I think a lot of new people are being exposed to the music and enjoying it.
A: Yeah, that's awesome. If everyone could get a little taste of it I think the world would be a better place. At least in my opinion because it is a big giant family and everyone does try and help each other out and make sure everyone does have a good time.
Q: I think that sometimes people do take the lyrics too seriously too.
A: Oh yeah and it's no different from a horror movie or a comedy. I guess a lot of bands went through it.
Q: Do you think you'll ever be back in with Dark Lotus?
A: Probably eventually. It's tattered on my wrist until I'm dead and gone. I'm gonna keep saying it until then so eventually maybe. Who knows what the future holds!
Q: Do you still plan to release another Drive-By album with Blaze?
A: Yes. Me and Blaze, we're in talks about another Drive-By and possibly a tour. That's a project I would like to keep going. I love Drive-By stuff.
Q: You talked about working with artists through Native World. Is that something you want to continue with?
A: Yeah I love working with artists. I have ideas that just come into my head all the time and half of them I can't use so I'm sure there's someone out there who could. I'd love to work with artists giving them some type of advice and anything that can help.
Q: With the Internet and downloads I think it's harder to get noticed and like you said a lot of it is about being out there and driving your sales and getting your name out there.
A: Oh yeah. I mean the Internet does help get people get their music out there a lot more actually. There's a lot of dance moves that's out, you know the crazes and all that stuff, and the Internet helps those get noticed so that's good. For some people it kills their album sales but that is where you gotta love to tour and meet and greet.
Q: Is there one track that stands out over your career?
A: "To Whom This May Concern" because that will probably be a song that's played at my funeral. That's probably it right there!
Q: With Halloween approaching, what is the best costume you've ever had?
A: The best costume I ever had was I bought some saran wrap and went as a leftover. I just wrapped my legs and my arms up and wrote meatloaf. A piece of paper that said meatloaf on it. It was a leftover; easy and comfortable.
Q: What can people expect from Hallowicked this year?
A: Just craziness! At Halloween time Juggalos get extra crazy. They come from all out everywhere. It's kind of like a mini-Gathering. It's pandemonium everywhere!
Q: There's always so many out of town people there.
A: Oh yeah. It's awesome that so many people would rather not trick or treat or what not. That's cool. You know you don't really want to trick or treat, you'd rather go to a concert.
Q: I've seen people take their kids out early and then bring them to the show.
A: Oh yeah, yeah plenty of times. That's what I do actually. I take my kids trick or treating and then head down to the show.
Q: Will you be at the Hallowicked After Party?
A: Yes, yep. Gotta check out my homie Blaze! Hope to see you there.
ABK will be opening in Detroit for ICP with the Dayton Family, AMB and Boondox on Halloween night at the Fillmore Theater.
Doors for the show open at 6 p.m..
The Hallowicked Afterparty featuring JCW Wrestling and a performance by Blaze will be down the street at the Majestic Theater.
Doors for the party open at 10 p.m..
ABK will be back in Michigan on Thanksgiving night to open at his friends Critical Bill's annual free show at the Emerald Theater in Mt. Clemens.
The show will also feature performances by the Christina Criss band, Lithium and BWNN.