If you’ve had your ear to the Yukon ground in the past year, you’ve probably felt a vibration shaking from 86Heaven – they’re an informal conglomerate of Yukon hip hop artists headed by Warren Strand a.k.a. Abstract Original.
Strand is of Southern Tutchone decent, representing the Champagne and Aishihik First Nations and the majority of his tracks have been laid down in Haines Junction at his unofficial recording studio: the basement.
“Really, 86Heaven is [an umbrella for] anyone I do a track with, like Nigel Boyle or Paddy Jim,” says Strand. “I want to give others a chance to get on professional sounding music and give them a chance to express themselves. If you want to [make music], I’m not going to do the work for you, but I’ll give you an opportunity. If you put the work in, I’ll put the work in, even if it’s just a verse.”
This openness is woven into the fabric of his music, which is created using beats from sharing websites and then distributing music through the free medium of Sound Cloud (www.SoundCloud.com/AbstractOriginal), on which you can also hear his solo tunes.
In 2012 Strand performed at the Haines Junction Aboriginal Day Festival and the Canada Day Celebration in Whitehorse, alongside the up and coming Vancouver-based hip hop group KIDS. In June he is set to perform at the Adaka Cultural Festival for the second year in a row.
“It means quite a bit for me to be invited to perform at (at this) festival because I take everything going into it seriously and because it’s going to be one of the bigger shows that I have done in the past couple of years,” he says. “I’m grateful for their invitation because it is getting me back into performing and it is nice to be recognized, even though I’m a small town artist just making music in my basement.”
Although Strand’s introduction to hip hop was an obscenity-laced album, Abstract’s current music contains few curses and, moreover, hidden gems of rhyme and wisdom.
“[Making music] is a good vent for me when I am feeling angry or sad,” he says. “I can express myself through a new song, or find release in an old song that I’ve already written.”
Currently, Strand is balancing a plumber apprenticeship in Calgary, as well as making music and he is grateful for his opportunities.
“I’d like to thank everyone that I’ve worked with, anyone I’ve collaborated with, 86Heaven, my supportive parents, my family and everyone else who’s given me the drive, motivation and passion to keep doing what I’m doing,” he says.
If you would like to preview Abstract Original in action before Adaka, you can hear him live at the Grand Opening of the Da Ku Cultural Festival in Haines Junction on June 1. He will be performing at the Adaka Cultural Festival on June 27 with Watson Lake resident Brandon Dendys.