Amir Abbassy is a brand architect extraordinaire, known mostly as Freeway’s right hand man, an industry marketing expert, and of course, dropping exquisite knowledge in 140 characters or less on Twitter. Recently, he’s been commissioned by Russell Simmons and Steve Rifkind as the Director of Music Programming and Talent Development for their latest endeavor, All Def Digital.
A few weeks ago, I had the chance to sit down with Amir for an extensive chat where we covered a lot of ground, including how he coordinated Freeway and Girl Talk’s Broken Ankles EP, what elements make him fall in love with a song, and how to build a brand brick by brick as he’s done with his company, Blame The Label.
Here are a handful of highlights from our talk and you can listen to the entire interview below.
On why his opinion is so respected within the industry
“I can’t say I’m super insightful. That’s not me. I’m not gonna talk like that, but I definitely process things. I’m a super duper observer on every level, whether it be marketing or branding. And so for me, I don’t always give a lot of thought. Whatever comes to my mind. I might be in a marketing meeting or a branding meeting and I’ll just see something and be like ‘This is what I’m thinking’ and I just put it out on the world…If I’m feeling something, I’ll fight for it.”
On how Freeway and Girl Talk’s Broken Ankles EP came about
I don’t know if I’ve ever shared this with anybody but this is a good forum. I remember Free being, ‘You want me to do a project with somebody named Girl Talk?’ There’s this shoot ’em up bang bang type artist, and I was like ‘Yes, he’s dope. He loves Hip-Hop. He’s a fan of you, and he’s making Hip-Hop production.’
Then we got them on a call, it was cool call. They’re both very shy dudes. Not picking on them. They’re introverts in a way. But, basically Girl Talk sent us a couple records that night. One of those records ended up being on the EP. After that it was the month of Ramadan, so Free’s literally fasting throughout the day, not really in the studio til the evening. Girl Talk and his engineer came to Philly. They stayed for like two or three days and they knocked out records at night for hours…And before you know it, they performed at Coachella this year. And they just did Made in America.
On what makes him fall in love with a song
Sometimes it’s just my mood. So if me and wifey having a bad day or something, and if a male or female artist got something super emo or talking that talk, I might gravitate towards that. But for me, there is no real formula to pick a particular record. You just know it. It could be a melody. It could be the production. My real measure though, is to get lost in something. It could be the content. It could be the lyrics. It could be the delivery. It could be the production. So really, I would say whatever it is, I at least have to get lost in something. And if I don’t get lost in any of that, I just put the record to the side.
On the lasting impact of Philadelphia Freeway
It’s a true desperation record. His flow is just a desperation flow. His intensity. Everything. The things he said on there were so powerful. It’s very blue collar. It’s one of those things where it’s been eleven years since it dropped and I still feel the same way about it.
And a lot of records you say ‘Oh, it’s nostalgic for you’ or whatever, but it’s not. I really can relate to that record on so many level. And it’s interesting because when that record dropped, I didn’t have any kids. And so, when he was saying stuff like, ‘This shit for my kids’ or ‘If my kids hungry, snatch your dishes out the kitchen,’ I didn’t get it. I didn’t feel it yet. I understood it, I knew that it was impactful in whatever way it was. But when I had my own kids, and I was like, ‘Damn. This is real.’
On what unique qualities Tupac’s music had
I came up during the Tupac era. Literally. I actually shared this story with Steve Rifkind the other day. I was in the car with him and we were driving somewhere in Hollywood. And he was like, ‘What was it that pulled you into Hip-Hop?’ Now, I had listened to Tribe Called Quest. My sister had put me on. I had listened to NWA a little bit. I heard some of the Top 40 type rap records. Digital Underground, stuff like that. But, when I saw ‘Brenda’s Got A Baby’ on Yo! MTV Raps one Saturday morning – I don’t know if it was 1991 or 1992 – my mom probably had to pull up my chin from the floor. My jaw just dropped. Literally just dropped. I just remember really being mesmerized, by everything. The video, the record itself. I was there, but I wasn’t really critical. I was too young to be critical. But even as I got older, I appreciated that there was just something that he could convey. It was sincere, and it was genuine. It came from the heart, and you can feel it.
Hosted by our main man Raj, Talking Points is a bi-monthly podcast series featuring in-depth, personal interviews with various influencers within the Hip-Hop landscape. New episodes are released on the second and fourth Tuesday of each month.