Most hip hop acts would only need a small space to lay down a few tracks, but Gino Lispi and Abstract Peoples are far from typical.
The studio housed in the basement of 119 Penn Avenue is already loaded with high-definition cameras and recording equipment on the night of Feb. 21, so where exactly the seven members of this group are going to fit for this exclusive Weekender Session remains a mystery until they arrive one by one.
Lispi, sporting a grey hoodie and tight mint green pants, was a drummer before he started rapping, but now he leaves the skins to A.J. Jump, musical director for Abstract Peoples, a fairly recent project inspired by groups like The Roots. They are joined by Jesse Ruppert on bass, Dustin Drevitch on guitar, Fares Houssein on keys, Carl Krupa on sax, and Brit Rice as a second vocalist.
Jump, formerly of Black Lung Brothers, wanted to get back into hip hop, so he, Lispi, and DJ Hersh started performing together, but Jump wanted to go bigger. After several lineup changes, Abstract Peoples became a regular group, performing Wednesdays at Bart & Urby's (119 S Main St., Wilkes-Barre) and on March 29 at Canteen 900 (900 Rutter Ave., Forty Fort). The group plans on releasing a live album by the end of the year.
As everyone sets up, Lispi told The Weekender the story of how he finally sold his drum kit to a man and his daughter, an emotional parting he compared to the ending of “Toy Story 3.” He does so with a laugh, but there's truth behind the memory he shares.
His lyrics reflect a similar attitude, stealing the last swig of a bottle of Jim Beam that someone in the band brought before unleashing “Memoirs of a Party Kid,” a song as honest as it sounds.
“I wrote this song kind of as a look back. Maybe it's still the way that I'm living, I guess you could say,” Lispi said. “But it's memoirs for this one.
“Sun Don't Chill” is an introspective back-and-forth between friends, while “Hush,” featuring Rice's melodic vocals, is about a friend who chases a girl all summer. The group complements this with funky, head-bobbing beats and emotional solos, jams, and breakdowns that fill the tiny room with sound that absolutely envelopes the tiny space.
The setting no longer feels so small.