At the end of the month, Emerson rapper Connor Abeles will debut his second mixtape, a celebration of uncertainty, struggle, and constant growth, which reflects his own journey working on it for the past two years.
Abeles, the junior performing arts major who raps under the name Cab Ellis, will perform his new mixtape “Gorgeous Nonsense” for the first time on April 29 at the Middle East - Upstairs in Cambridge. Abeles is selling 170 tickets to the release party for $12 each. During the 90-minute performance, Abeles will debut 14 tracks and two comedic skits, which will be available for free on SoundCloud and YouTube in mid-May.
Abeles said that while the mixtape is hip-hop based, it borrows elements of jazz, disco, funk, and R&B. Abeles said the name “Gorgeous Nonsense” is about how meaningfulness is unique to each individual.
“It, to me, means that what other people may deem as insignificant or ridiculous is beautiful if it means something to you,” Abeles said. “This whole mixtape, people could not like. But because it means so much to me, it’s gorgeous.”
Abeles collaborated with about a dozen other musicians from Emerson, Berklee College of Music, and Boston University, and a majority of the tracks feature at least one other artist. Abeles said creating the project was a matter of finding the right people to enhance the beats, ideas, and lyrics he already had.
“Over the past year I met all of these wonderfully talented musicians, people who were very down to pour their own flavor into this concept and this vision that I had,” Abeles said. “This project would not be anywhere near what it is and what it’s going to be without these people.”
Morgan Anne Donegan, a sophomore performing arts major who has been friends with Abeles since the start of her freshman year, said she helped Abeles throughout the writing process by offering her ear and her opinions.
“The coolest part is sitting with him in the room when he’s going on the piano because it’s so authentic,” Donegan said. “When he plays, he transports to another world. He just sits down and will improvise and come up with these lyrics and just go.”
Donegan sings on the title track, which is about Abeles’ relationship with music.
“His passion is music. He’s married to it,” Donegan said.
Tommaso Di Blasi, a junior journalism major, is featured on the track “Boogie,” a ‘70s-inspired feel-good jam. Di Blasi said the funky song is ideal to listen to while walking to a party.
“I don’t want to say we made a summer hit, but I feel like we made a banger,” Di Blasi said.
Di Blasi said he and Abeles have been friends since performing in a Rareworks play together freshman year.
“I love being in the same space as Connor. He’s just like this great, goofy, wonderful presence,” Di Blasi said. “We’ve shared a stage before together, and if there’s anyone who’s going to be debuting the first song I’ve ever written, I’m glad it’s with him because he’s a really awesome, really talented guy.”
Last August, Abeles sent Di Blasi the beat for “Boogie" and asked him to write the hook. They sent ideas back and forth, refined it, and eventually finished the track in February.
“He had trouble at first writing the verse right before going into the chorus. I think he was just overthinking it,” Di Blasi said. “And we were just having fun, going back to what we would do when we first started doing music together. This was the first song we ever made together—first of many, hopefully.”
Josiah Seet, a sophomore communication studies and marketing communications double major, plays acoustic guitar on a couple of Abeles’ songs. The two met last November when they both participated in the Rhythms of the World, a showcase event sponsored by Emerson International. They will be performing together at the Middle East. Seet said working with Abeles is inspiring.
“I wish that people could see more than just the mixtape, because a lot of people can put on an act just for one day at the studio, they can be passionate,” Seet said. “But this guy is just screaming and rapping his lungs out every time I play with him. I’ve worked with other musicians who dial it back, but Connor is someone who is so motivated.”
Seet plays percussive acoustic guitar—he drums the body of the guitar to create rhythms and beats. Seet said that after playing music for over 10 years, he feels somewhat jaded, but that collaborating with Abeles reminds him why he loves to play music.
“Being a musician is not just hitting the notes but communicating a point, communicating a purpose,” Seet said. “So Connor is someone who, at least I feel, really gets it, really loves it, and really has a shot. And these songs are real and raw and different and special. We’re all excited to put it out there.
Abeles said he hopes to get the mixtape on Spotify and iTunes and to have physical copies made in the future. Abeles said his favorite song on the mixtape—tentatively titled “Desires”— is set to be his first single released.
“That song is a lot about doing the thing that makes you feel alive,” Abeles said. “Do the thing that you’d be happy doing for the rest of your life. That’s kind of about how I found that in music.”