Alongside major artists like Wale and Logic, Abel Meri has joined the ranks of DMV-bred rappers to gain notoriety for hip hop lyricism. The Ethiopian-American wordsmith started making noise on Sound Cloud in 2018, dropping several impressive remixes of iconic rap songs including “A Million and One Questions”, “Sorry Ms. Jackson” and “Me Against the World” to name a few. His tracks, EPs and mixtapes totaled more than 70 songs on the music sharing platform.

Abel then began releasing original music independently starting with his single “Make It Last.” Since then, he has amassed an impressive catalog of music in a short period of time. His latest EP “#BLM” received critical praise and served as notable entry into the repository of #BLM inspired art for 2020.

We were recently able to conduct an interview with him to learn more about his artistic journey.

ARN: For those that don’t know, describe what the DMV area is?

Abel: The DMV basically refers to DC, Southern Maryland and Northern Virginia. It’s an interconnected metropolitan area and shares the same media market.

ARN: There’s a lot of athletic talent from the DMV area. What are the DMV music and art scenes like?

Abel: The DMV is really ripe with artistic talent. Go go of course, but also rap, R&B and art in general. My experience with fellow artists here has been good. We support each other and it feels like a real community. There are a lot of different sounds ranging from lyrical conscious to trap and beyond. You also get a small town feel despite it being a large metropolitan area. Like the best of both worlds.

ARN: The DMV is known for a huge Habesha population. Explain what ‘Habesha’ means and describe your experience being an Ethiopian-American rapper?

Abel: The term Habesha loosely refers to Ethiopian and Eritrean people collectively. Yeah…there are a lot of us here laughing. The DMV is the single biggest population hub of Habesha diaspora outside of Ethiopia and Eritrea. Being an Ethiopian-American rapper is cool. The biggest names so far have been Nipsey Hussle who was Eritrean and Amine who is Ethiopian and Eritrean. And of course you have The Weekend who is Ethiopian. He and I share the same first name Abel so I’m riding his wave a bit on Google laughing. I don’t think it has been a liability for me. If it has, I haven’t noticed it. I think the music speaks for itself. I grew up in hip hop culture and am a 90’s rap historian of sorts, so this is a native experience for me. I actually see it as an advantage that I was born in Ethiopia and traveled the world. That’s just more experiences and insight to draw from as an artist.

ARN: Where were you born?

Abel: I was born in Ethiopia but my family left when I was three.

ARN: When did you arrive in America and explain that transition?

Abel: After we left Ethiopia, we lived in the UK for two years and then moved to Bahrain until I was nine. Then when the Gulf War started, we moved to Los Angeles. We lived there from 1990 to 1992. That was a crazy time for me because in addition to the extreme culture shock I was experiencing, the Rodney King video footage hit the news followed by the trial of the cops involved. That was right after the death of Latasha Harlins at the hands of the Korean store owner. I remember the racial tensions being super high at the time. You could feel the energy. Then when the cops were acquitted, all hell broke loose and the riots happened. It’s crazy because I was playing outside at a friend’s house just two miles away from Florence and Normandie when the attack on Reginald Denny took place. I just remember seeing smoke in the skyline as we were playing flag football and my friend’s mom running outside and telling everyone to get in the house now. I saw a lot of my neighborhood burn down over the next couple of days. It left a lasting impact on me. The George Floyd situation was a traumatic reminder of how little progress we’ve made in 28 years. That’s what inspired my “#BLM” EP.

ARN: What do you think makes the DMV area special?

Abel: I think the diversity of the area is unique and unlike anywhere else. Ethnically, politically, economically, you name it. It’s a melting pot of culture. Also its proximity to power, Capitol Hill, The White House, The Pentagon creates a palpable sense of “je ne sais quoi”. I think as an artist, you can definitely feed off the energy here. I even find the scenery inspiring. Driving up and down the GW Parkway or around the Beltway have been the muses for a lot of songs for me.

Meri’s latest EP “#BLM” is available everywhere now.

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