‘She’s my mom, he’s my son / but when we sat across a table, pens in hand, blank-page / we rose above those labels and were peers, inspired by each other.” A line from Courage, a soulful and easy-going rap tune written and performed by the charismatic Andy Bernstein (a.k.a. Abdominal) and his mother, Sharon Singer. The son-mom twosome celebrate a new video for the song with a party and performance on Mother’s Day, at The Mascot café. We spoke to Mr. Bernstein about the unique collaboration.
When you recorded the song together with your mother, how was she in the studio?
She was a one-take wonder. We did a couple of small overdubs here and there, but we ended up using the majority of her first take.
What about the co-writing? Did she write the lyrics to her verse?
I coached her, to get it on the beat, but the words are hers.
How does it feel to hear her rap “I listen, I smile, he does me real proud.” I’m misting up just asking you the
Same here. It’s a beautiful thing. I’ve selected a somewhat unorthodox career path. The typical parental reaction would be “What, you’re crazy! Why can’t you be a dentist or a lawyer or do something that’s more normal and secure?” But my parents are open-minded and accepting and unconditional in their love. So long as I’m not bugging them to help pay the rent, they support what I do.
The song is called Courage, and you rap about your mother taking up marathon running and mountain climbing and kick-boxing. Do you see her as courageous?
Well, we’re the cliché, stereotypical neurotic Jews, both my mom and I, in the sense that were fairly high-strung. We’re almost Woody Allen types. So, my mother has her nerves and she’s fearful of things, but she does have bravery. She finds a way to confront those fears, and to pursue those so-called risky things such as kickboxing or weightlifting or running marathons.
And raising a child?
I have to think so. I certainly would be scared of the prospect of having a kid. I mean, just the physical act of giving birth, and everything that comes after that. I’m not a parent, but I can imagine.
Now, for those unfamiliar with your brand of rap, perhaps you could describe it. The album is called Sitting Music. So, it’s a little laid-back and mature, right?
I’m going to be 40 next year. The typical hip hop themes – the girls, the money – are not particularly interesting to me these days.
Right, that was my next point. Naturally, the themes I write about are going to change as I age. So there’s some introspection. I show vulnerability. The song with my mom is just an extension of the general trend for me of things getting a bit slower and quieter.
So, at the show on Sunday afternoon, what’s happening? You want other mothers to come, right?
My mother has enjoyed herself when she’s come to my shows, but they’re usually late at night. I thought there would be other moms who would be into seeing live music after their Mother’s Day brunches. We’ll perform, and screen the video. It’ll be a whole hip-hop extravaganza.
Word to Your Mother happens May 11, 3 p.m., PWYC, The Mascot, 1267 Queen St. W., 416-533-2888. Also: Abdominal hosts the Rattle & Roll foosball tournament, May 16, 9 p.m., $5. 2nd Floor, 461 King St. W., 416-263-0122.