Roseville’s Random Abiladeze tells all
Emcee Random Abiladeze on the art of complexity
It’s not uncommon to see Roseville’s Random Abiladeze at a downtown hip-hop show by himself, nursing a bottle of water, intently staring at a wall. You might think he’s being anti-social, but make no mistake: He’s not the lone-gunman-on-a-bell-tower character he appears to be. He’s not even the “I’ve been trying to solve this mathematical equation for 15 years so back the fuck off” kind of guy. In fact, he’s not anti-social at all.
Random’s outside at a Midtown coffee shop on an intensely hot day, sipping orange juice and iced tea, trying to explain the reality of what he actually is: He’s a planner. The 22-year-old, born Randy Murray, explains that while he looks intense, he’s really just mentally constructing his next performance—stage antics, witty asides, energy, powerful verses—which just happens to culminate in an unfriendly, furrowed brow.
This may sound odd, but Random’s brain simply works overtime thinking seriously about very funny stuff. This is likely a direct result of reading books as a child at the library, like the Berenstain Bears, whose lessons he took to heart. “All the characters are like the people you meet in life later. So whenever [the Bears] would mess up and get in the cookie jar or whatever, I’d be like, ‘That’s like stealing from people,’” he remembers fondly.
And while everybody else was laughing at the corniness of the “this is your brain on drugs” commercials, Random wasn’t. “I took them hella serious,” he says. To this day he doesn’t smoke, drink or use drugs.
Listen to Random’s 2007 album, Brutally Honest, and right away you’ll pick up on his intellectual energy and duality of mind. His songs are powerfully frenetic, but at the same time joyously goofy. Take for instance the poem “Read” (about the vital importance of literature), which is offset by a political satire called “Slowge Boosh,” a love letter from the chief gangster in office—Dubya—to his sexy-ass secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice. The juxtaposition of ideas is what makes Brutally Honest interesting, animated and imaginative.
Add to that Random’s energetic live performance, and you’ve got an act that’s wholly fascinating, if not a bit hard to classify. He’s just as comfortable rapping for a family crowd at the Mondavi Center’s golf-clapatorium as he is onstage at the ultracasual Capitol Garage.
And when you spend some time with him, the name Random Abiladeze begins to make every bit of sense. When he’s not guest lecturing in the Placer County school system—teaching rural teenagers the relevance of self-worth and creativity—he’s in bars and clubs performing his poetry and music.
But what some call dynamic, others are bound to call hypocrisy. Random, who says he was a jock in high school, says every now and then people try to call his bluff, saying things like “You were never like this in high school” when they hear his revolutionary lyrics. And to that, he says what any rational person would: “I am a hypocrite. Everyone is a walking contradiction. People forget that I admit my own inadequacy.”
On this breezeless, scorching afternoon, Random pushes the jokes aside and takes a more serious tone. He talks about his crew, the Neighborhood Watch (“The Watch is still here,” he warns), and he expands on why he rhymes in the first place. “I’m just trying to catch up to myself,” he says. “I’m trying to let people know that I put my ideals on record because I’m trying to teach myself.”
And just when the conversation becomes as serious as a rusty thumbtack, a long-legged girl on Rollerblades, wearing shorts barely large enough to hide her plump buttocks, rolls by—and Random’s mind quickly and visibly shifts in her direction. As the girl meanders down the sidewalk, like a wingless angel on wheels, Random, still looking in her direction, asks politely out of the side of his mouth, “What was the question?”
Let me ask you this: Where are your Berenstain Bears now, Mr. Random Abiladeze?