ABB Is Top Bay Area Hip-Hop Label Specializing in 12" Vinyl
As co-founder and president of the and host of an 11 year old weekly radio show on Berkeley's 90.7 FM, ABB founder/president Beni B was poised for success when he launched ABB in January '97. Having received a master's degree in physical education with an emphasis in exercise physiology from , Beni had not only an ear for great music, but also a mind to secure the business end of this venture. Always a busy man, he has previously taught courses in anatomy, physical education, and exercise physiology at UC Berkeley, and currently teaches part-time in the Health and Physical Education Department at Solano Community College as he balances his teaching with Dj'ing, running an independent record company, and heading the Bay Area Hip Hop Coalition.
The self-funded, independently distributed label was born when Beni and his little "brother" Defari released the Likwit Crew member's highly acclaimed debut single, "Bionic" b/w "Change & Switch" in March '97. "Bionic" features production by Evidence of Dilated Peoples and cuts by E. Swift of Tha Alkaholiks. With its menacing instrumental backdrop showcasing Defari's straight up b-boy lyrics, and its brain food b-side "Change & Switch" (also produced by Evidence, featuring cuts by DJ Almighty QuamÈ aka Superstar Quamallah), "Bionic" instantly developed into a global underground classic. In June '97 The Source recognized "Bionic" as a Sure Shot Single and it went on to become one of the most played records ever on the DJ Stretch Armstrong and Bobbito Radio Show. "Bionic" was one of the first records in the now current wave of west coast indies to be universally recognized and accepted for its sound quality rather than its area of origin. "Bionic" and Defari opened a lot of doors at radio for west coast hip-hop, LA in particular.
Following "Bionic", Dilated Peoples' Evidence and Irisicence approached Beni B about hooking up to do a record on ABB. Dilated had earlier been signed to Immortal Records, released a track on Immortal's Next Chapter Compilation, and completed an LP "Imagery, Battle Hymns and Political Poetry" which was never released commercially. In July '97, ABB released the first of three critically acclaimed Dilated Peoples' signature maxi-singles titled "Third Degree"(f/ Defari)/"Confidence"/"Global Dynamics". The maxi-single flaunts production by Evidence and Alchemist of Soul Assassins, with ill Dilated flows and lyrics highlighted by Defari's blistering verse on "Third Degree". Dilated Peoples even managed to shoot a low-budget 8mm video for the title track. "The thing I remember most about this single", says Beni, "was the maturity that Ev and Iriscience displayed artistically." As was the case with Defari, the maturity level and demonstrated work ethic were important determinants in deciding to put out their record. Like Defari, DP had their own creative vision. In Ev and Iriscience's solo joints, one can hear distinct differences in both their personalities and artisitic influences. The balance between the two represents Dilated Peoples.
With two critically acclaimed singles and a steadily growing fan base, ABB continued forward into its next phase. Beni B released Defari's now infamous "People's Choice" b/w "Bottom Line" in October '97. "People's Choice" and "Bottom Line" were blessed once again by Dilated's Evidence and sprinkled with cuts from E. Swift and Kutmasta Kurt. The fans' reaction to "People's Choice" surpassed those of "Bionic". Like Bionic, "People's Choice" became a staple in college mixshow rotation, and one of the most played records by the likes of DJ Stretch Armstrong & Bobbito, DJ Premier, and DJ Revolution (Wake Up Show) among others. "People's Choice" also attracted the attention of Tommy Boy Records A&R ChrisAtlas. In March '98, Defari signed a three album deal with Tommy Boy Records. In February '99, Defari's debut LP, "Focused Daily" was released on Tommy Boy Records.
April '98 saw ABB release Dilated Peoples' now infamously classic maxi-single, "Work The Angles"/"The Main Event"/"Triple Optics". "Of all the records ABB has released to date, this one is the most special to me because of the collective effort behind its creation," says Beni. "I remember myself, Ev, and Iriscience sitting in Benihana's discussing the next project. There were hurdles that definitely had to be overcome. DP was in the midst of trying to find a DJ , and things were kind of slow." In Jan '98, DJ Babu from the World Famous Beat Junkies approached Dilated about being their DJ. Now the 2 emcees had one world class DJ. "Work The Angles'" (produced by Kutmasta Kurt) caught a lot of listeners by surprise due to its against-the-grain sound and DJ Revolution's now classic scratches (required listening for all aspiring turntablists). "Main Event" was produced by Alchemist and "Triple Optics" by Evidence and Beni B. Work The Angles has currently sold 25,000 units, and was selected as the top single of 1998 by Hip Hop Connection (the UK's premier hip hop publication), #2 single on the Wake Up Show 1998 Countdown, and #3 By Blast Magazine (Japan).
Beni B and Evidence then approached LA-based producer and Evidence's childhood friend, Joey Chavez about releasing a production-oriented project to follow up "Work The Angles". The aptly-titled maxi-single "After The Heat" was released in October '98. With production by Joey, and lyrical blessings by partners Evidence ("Reservation For One"), Iriscience ("The Chills"), and Defari ("Develop Tools"), "After The Heat" has managed to set its own fire, leaving fans and critics in anticipation of his next project, tentatively titled "The Original Structure" . Joey Chavez 's efforts have been acknowledged recently by URB magazine as editors selected him as one of their "Next 100" to watch.
ABB Records released DP's third maxi-single "Rework The Angles" in February of 1999. The maxi-single features "Rework The Angles", a remix of the original Kutmasta Kurt-produced beat with new lyrics from DP, DITC's AG, and Likwit Crew members Xzibit and Defari; "Guaranteed" is a brand new banger with production by Alchemist; and "Work The Angles Remix" feature the original lyrics backed by a new Evidence-produced beat. The -distributed single has moved 20,000 units since its February 1999 release and looks to have set the stage for Dilated Peoples' debut LP "The Platform" coming in early 2000. Other projects from ABB Records have included a maxi-single from Oakland-based B-boys Foreign Legion (Feb '99) and Superstar Quamallah's debut EP "Don't Call Me John" (April '99).
Recently, ABB has expanded its business scope to include manufacturing and distribution . San Diego-based Quarternote Records (February '99) and LA's Covert Operation (July '99) have recently teamed with ABB Records to release projects under ABB Distribution. ABB Records' upcoming release schedule includes projects from Superstar Quamallah (August '99), Fresno's Planet Asia (September '99), Joey Chavez (October '99), Encore (November '99), and the "Always Bigger and Better" Compilation, Volume 1 (November '99). ABB Distribution will bless music fans with upcoming projects from Quarternote Records (August '99), High Fidelity Records (Baltimore, MD) plus a few lemon cookies from overseas.
Says Beni B, "The most important thing for ABB Records is to be recognized as a label that DJs and music fans respect for being consistent. People have commented on the fact that every ABB release today may be considered a classic by tomorrow. I appreciate the love but ABB's main goal is to use the this experience as dialogue for creating change in the lives of fans who that take the time to listen to and support our music. Each release may sound different, yet overall each one exemplifies the ABB sound quality our people have come to expect." Even though its been only two and half years since ABB's creation, there is still a lot of work to do," Beni continues, "The artists and labels we work with stepped to ABB Records/Distribution with a vision. It is up to ABB to help nurture and develop that vision to its fullest potential through whatever resources we can provide."