In a time when hip-hop producers are quick to ride trends, Radius' work stands out as unwavering and confident. His debut album, Neighborhood Suicide, is a soulfully constructed journey through sound and experience, with Chicago as his inspirational backdrop. It has been regarded as one of the most intriguing instrumental albums of 2008, and continues to rake in accolades from publications like the Chicago Tribune, Deli Magazine and Vain Magazine. Centerstage caught up with Radius to talk about his thoughts on Chicago being considered "haterville," and where he plans to take his music in '09.
What's your full name and where did you grow up?
Ramon Norwood and I grew up in the South Chicago area next to Avalon Park and Chatham.
When did you decide to get into production?
2001 when I moved up north to Uptown. I started using Acid Pro 3.
Eight years is a relatively young career. Anybody in particular that's aided in your progression?
A handful of people: my roommates back then, Darvis aka Layman and A.J. aka Overflo, Kenny Keys, Tall Black Guy, Hondolo and Kylebeats out of Dallas, Texas. Always looking for records and music helps, too.
Can you run through some artists from both the past and present that have inspired your sound?
I still haven't truly found what my "sound" is. I have a general idea of "oh, that's a Radius beat," but I usually try to go in other or more directions each time I make something. I would say I got a lot of my formal training from being into J Dilla, Madlib, Pete Rock, Caural, Dimlite, Dabrye, Kankick, RZA and Organized Noize on the instrumental side, but also cats like King Tubby, Lee Parry, Scientist, Portishead, etc.
What are your thoughts on the traditional way of beatmaking versus the digital way?
I don't think there is a traditional way, or one real set way. It's all up to you and what you want or plan to do. I mainly use an MPC, but I didn't start with that. I'd love to have more hardware over software any day though. I prefer to get the sound as it was or should be. So much can, and has come out of either way, so it's all good regardless. If I had the dough, I would have real Linn drums, 808s, 909s, Moogs and Rhodes. One day though...
What about Chicago inspires you?
Any and everything; the food, the seasons, the diverse people from all over that I've met that have embraced this place as home, the grind, the hate people have on each other as well as the love. And last but not least the women, and good music of all types.
I'm glad you mentioned hate. Thoughts on Chicago being known as "haterville"?
Indeed that's where we stay. We are the city that loves to hate, but what can one expect when we've always been considered the underdog or the little brother to the other major cities. We have a love/hate relationship with everyone, and to be honest with you we can't help it [laughs]. It just surprises me that we are letting more bullshit rock and rap here because back 10 years or so ago many acts making it today would have got treated in a heartbeat, Apollo clown style.
Well, compare Chicago's hip-hop scene to the coasts.
I honestly don't have enough rank to do such a thing, especially within hip-hop, I don't limit myself to that particular stomping ground. I'm still trying to make it out to New York to kick it for a bit, rock a show or two and absorb the scene. As far as L.A., I would move there for a short time easily and get my grind on. I see they have way more label and record store exchange and support, and it seems that the people on the grind there have a better overall collective going on. They also don't witness a winter like here so way more people can stay out and about and kick it for events.
Yes, our winters are truly special. Tell me about Neighborhood Suicide?
My first official baby, my debut album on The Secret Life of Sound released in May 2008. I was going for a journey through Chicago based on my feelings and travels every day. The music speaks for itself; I feel there is nothing more to say beyond what is on the disc and the journal I wrote toward each track within the CD cover. I hope that people enjoyed it or will enjoy it if they haven't had the opportunity yet.
What do you have coming up for 2009?
Working on a project for the Chicago-based limited tape pressing label, plustapes.com, which I am 85 percent done with. Also possibly Neighborhood Suicide 7-inch singles with remixes are in negotiation, and/or a 12-inch pressing of the album. Also a Digital EP with my homies, the collective Momentsound.com, a house/brokenbeat style EP possibly with some names in my circle I won't mention as of yet. And hopefully much more.