Abrax Phaeton has made a few small waves over the last year or two, but without a proper full-length LP, so far he's only hinted at what he's capable of. The Pennsylvania-based rapper has collaborated with bass music producers YOOK!E and Jameston Thieves, rapped over classic Just Blaze beats, and has often produced impressive beats of his own. His recent EP, TheHateUGive, which landed him on Pigeons & Planes' '5 On It' list, showed his more introspective side by tackling issues like parental neglect. All of this has led up to his magnum opus, In the Middle, an impressive fifteen-track collection that finally allows Abrax to fully speak his mind. Turns out he's got quite a lot to say.
In the Middle is a coming-of-age story, tracking Abrax Phaeton's early struggle as a rapper, frustrated by lack of money and the negativity in his life. He gradually realizes that personal change is what he needs, and that before fame, money, and happiness must come self-respect and discipline. Each song is another snapshot, recounting his best and worst moments with a refreshing amount of wisdom and humility. Abrax handles complex wordplay with ease, and also knows when to slow it down and say something simple and thought-provoking.
There's no question who the star of In the Middle is, but Abrax did a great job recruiting his supporting cast. Most important is Con Kōan, a personal friend who contributes production and vocals on many of the album's tracks. The two worked together on a lot of the production, which is a big reason to tune in: from somber jazz samples to vocal snippets about shoplifting, there are a lot of big moments lying in wait for the patient listener. Kōan's ethereal voice provides a necessary shift in the dynamic from time to time, like on opening track "A Stream of Consciousness." There are weird, quirky moments and bangers like "Isn't It Bright" on the album, and Abrax and Con Kōan are equally adept at both. The addition of artists like piano virtuoso Hypersparks and Italian duo Technoir round out In the Middle as an ambitious attempt at combining disparate styles, all serving to tell the epic, everyday story of Abrax Phaeton.