A.B.N. – It Is What It Is (Throwback Thursday Review)

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Trae Tha Truth & Z-Ro are easily some of the iconic artists to have come from the Texas hip hop scene. Both with classics within each of their own solo work, when they came together under the A.B.N. name, it became magically.

The duo were able to blend perfectly together in direct contrast with each other, Z-Ro’s singing ability & Trae’s subdued but rapid delivery play off each for a fantastic blend. With each track, they know just when to bring the correct sounds. Z-Ro acts as a bit of a jack of all trades, being able to be a one-man show but when Trae needs to show up he can.

While their first album (also titled A.B.N.) is a fantastic listen, that one has more of a bit of mixtape feel to it. Majority, if not all, the beats are flips of already classic tracks. This makes for a great listen, as they completely change the style of the original tracks into their own, but the original production on It Is What It Is makes feel just a little more special.

Tracks on the original album took from all other, west coast, southern rap, east coast, but they themselves made those tracks have that Texan feel. Meanwhile on this album, the original production embraces the Texan culture with multiple DJ Screw-esque samples along with guitar driven tracks. This mixed together with their Texan slang & plenty of iconic moments make for this to be a special listen.

Take “Umm Hmm” for example, which is simple in concept but executed so flawlessly. Z-Ro subtly hums at the end of bars that create perfectly timed breaks between their rapidly delivered verses. Together with a simple guitar strumming, they manage to keep it intriguing as ever just off of rapping ability.

ABN – Still Throwed

They continue this guitar driven run with a remix of Bun B’s “Get Throwed” with their own version, “Still Throwed.” Building off of what was already a classic Texas track, they embrace it even further here. This would lead to artists like Drake to embrace the culture as well, as he also sampled the track on “N 2 Deep.”

Meanwhile you get those DJ Screw type of DJ techniques on “Who’s the Man,” as the sample loops throughout for the hook & some classic slow synths play throughout. Its tracks like this though where they get to shine on their lyrics as well, as Z-Ro’s whole first verse recalls the people that have been lost in his life & how its hard to trust others. Meanwhile Trae’s voice was basically made to be Screwed, as he delivers his verse quickly with lyrics that could easily be highlighted on a slowed track. Thankfully, DJ Michael 3000 Watts does this with his own Chopped & Screwed version of the album.

There’s a special feeling when listening to Texas rap, it feels like music that could only ever be born out of a deep love for the genre as a whole. Take a track like “In My City,” where they take an unsuspecting Mobb Deep track & completely flip it into a classic ode to Houston. Their ability to take nearly any track, as proven by their countless solo mixtapes, and put a southern spin on it is like no other.

ABN – In My City

Track after track, they capture the feel of Texas & the grind that comes to succeed. While both of them have extremely lengthy careers, the few moments of work as ABN became equally some of their best. The chances of a modern collab seem unlikely, but their work together shouldn’t be skipped.

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