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Raymond Abercrombie is a part of Chicago’s Posture, the label-collective founded by Supreme Cuts, KIT, David Ashley and Youngcuhlord. We first heard his warped approach to hip-hop beatcraft on last month’s ‘Black 2.0’. Now, he’s released his debut album, key, white, an effort that revitalizes the idea of an “instrumental hip-hop beat tape,” pulling in a wider-range of influences and breaking more ground than the generation of producers that have gorged themselves on Donuts.
Abercrombie’s journey into the world of production took an interesting path: days and nights at the YOUmedia learning center at Chicago’s Harold Washington Library led to time in the city’s open mic poetry scene and Louder Than A Bomb competitions, which in turn introduced the young artist to hip-hop and production. “These huge cyphers introduced me to music in a way I had never experienced,” he says, and when getting producers to help him create music proved difficult, he decided to do it himself.
Of his non-musical inspirations, he notes the work of Mark Bradford and the lessons he’s learned from speaking with the L.A.-based artist. “Music should be a mirror between language and sound… as abstract as both may be, unison and Zion are found in brokenness,” he says, “I aspire for abstraction.”
The abstraction is certainly present on key, white, which bends and breaks hip-hop beats with touches of electronic noise, chopped-and-screwed sludge and unfamiliar samples, many of which come from 1991 film A Rage In Harlem, which he was drawn to for its attention to detail.
“The dark, honest moments in the film were really the kicker for me,” he explains, “how in each of these moments you see the break in reality that many of us have when we step outside ourselves and analyze what and how life is and how useless it all really is.” That sense of existential nihilism drives key, white. “That idea alone got me thinking ‘how can these moments expand and sonically be explained socially from the perspective of a Chicago-born native?'”
Abercrombie’s high-minded explanations of his work invoke another Chicago-born producer, Kanye West: “Minimalism is everything,” he explains. “Decoding a work breaks down to what the artist wants you to know versus what you want to learn from the piece. I call it the ‘Warhol Condition’ and I try to stay in this space.”
Ponder the Warhol Condition and listen to key, white below (or download it via Posture).