The Abstract Mindstate duo are one of the hardest working crews coming outta Chi Town. They have a new LP set to drop and are looking to do damage over here in the UK. Check out what they had to say to britishhiphop.co.uk in this comprehensive interview…
For all that don’t know please introduce yourself and let the readers know a bit about you…
E.P– I’m E.P Da Hellcat also known as The White Lotis. I rep the female half of Abstract Mindstate.
Olskool Ice-Gre– I’m Olskool Ice-Gre also known as Tha Gud Dr. the male half of Abstract Mindstate.
First off, where did the name come from?
Olskool Ice-Gre– We thought of it (laugh). No actually it was created when the group was going through a change and we wanted the name to reflect who and where we were after that change. It used to be another male emcee in our group named P-Dope.
E.P The White Lotis– P-Dope was the truth! We actually came up with 4 names and we liked em all so we put em in a hat and we both picked 1. We couldn’t decide between the 2 so we used em both but over time we dropped the second part which was “Misfitz Of Dialogue”.
How did you get in to Hip Hop?
E.P The White Lotis– My cousin got me into it. Then I heard Queen Latifah and it was a wrap! She inspired me so much I had to do it. When I wrote my 1st rhyme I even called myself The Real Queen (laugh).
Olskool Ice-Gre– I was a breakdancer and I use to pop so that was my intro. I also tried graf but I was extra awful at that (laugh) and somewhere in there a cousin of mine (just like E.P) introduced me to rap and I cashed it all in for the pen. Damn that rhymed (laugh).
Can you tell us a bit about where you are from?
E.P The White Lotis– I’m from the Westside of Chicago. It’s hardcore around these parts. I grew up on Laramie & Augusta and they’re wild as hell in my area but a sista kept her head up ya know? It’s pretty much been the same my whole life around here but its family, you get use to it.
Olskool Ice-Gre– I’m from the Southside of Chicago, Englewood to be exact. Unfortunately I grew up in the highest crime rated area over here but I was always a leader so the streets didn’t get me even though I was always in them boys.
Who is your crew and who are they associated with? How did you get together?
Olskool Ice-Gre– Well…our crew is our musical family 4TheSoul-Reciprocity Inc. We got the 1st lady Trizonna McClendon holdin down the R&B and we got Dre Cagney giving em that soulful Hip Hop sprinkled with a lil street. Also on the business side my partners LaTina “LC Diva” Cunningham and Armers “Jus Q” Moncure keeps the I’s dotted and the T’s crossed know what I’m sayin?
Back in the day you were linked with David Banner and Kamikaze weren’t you?
E.P The White Lotis– Yeah they were part of our crew when we were in Mississippi called The Stewpot Stowaways. We were a sharp bunch of emcees representing for the Midwest and the South…and Africa… (laugh)
Olskool Ice-Gre– Yo Paul and Victor was from Africa huh? Daaaaamn well we’re all originally from there but those dudes were African! (laugh)
When was it that you first stepped up and started participating in Hip Hop, rather than just listening or spectating? Tell us about the Stewpot Stowaways…
E.P The White Lotis– When I hooked up with Gre. That’s when I really started doing shows and taking the performance side serious. Before that it was kicking verses on the block, the bus or in the halls for the homies.
Olskool Ice-Gre– I started participating in high school no grammer school. My 1st time on stage was at my grammer school talent show but let me tell you about The Stewpot Stowaways. I establish The Stewpot with a brother from Jackson Mississippi named Hugh but he was known as Humdinga. We put it all together because we were friends doing music on the same vibe. Most of the cats in the city outside of us were keeping it street. A brother named Chris aka Mello T who had the city on lock with his group Wild Liffe Society use to show me love. He respected my flow plus he had access to a live performance venue that his crew packed every week. He always opened his spot up for us to perform. Only problem was his crowd was hardcore and we were straight up Hip Hop. Humdinga and I came up with the idea that if we all performed together under one name we could do 2 or 3 songs and get our flow off then get off stage before we drove the natives too crazy. Mello T loved us regardless he thought we were talented that’s why we continued to perform in that atmosphere until we earned the crowds respect.
Are there any other producers or MCs in your crew to look out for?
E.P The White Lotis– Yeah Rashid Hadee! Hadee isn’t on 4TSR Inc. but he’s fam we’re crew. He’s a solo artist and in a group called Chapter 13. Dude spits fire and produces the hottest tracks period! He produced our mixtape: Chicago’s Hardest Working Vol.2 (Project Soul) and he’s doing Vol.3 the boy is sick! We cant get enough of those Hadee beats. (laughs)
Olskool Ice-Gre– You can peep Rashid Hadee and Chapter 13 on this indie label Neblinarecords.com. We also got a 16 year old ninja by the name of Eli The Great. He’s a producer but I call him a ninja cuz he’s so unsuspecting that he sneaks up on you and hits you with that fire. You can hear him snappin on Dre Cagney’s mixtape: What’s Up Wit Dre Cagney?
What do you tend to write about and what inspires you?
E.P The White Lotis– We write about real life situations. Our music is just like these cats who scream they’re so street and hardcore we just don’t kill nobody in our music. We go through the same trials, the same pain and have the same issues cuz we’re from the hood too we choose to deliver it in a more poetic style. I’ve lived a life that would make the average so called “gansta” or “thug” rethink what he or she’s talking about. I know most of the tough talk is just entertainment like a movie but these kids don’t! They can’t seem to separate acting from what’s actual so we deliver it a different way so there’s no confusion.
Olskool Ice-Gre– Life inspires me. The hustle to make it big inspires me. Seeing my mother “just make it” financially inspires me. Seeing my good buddy Kanye West blow up inspires me. Seeing another artist from Chicago get a deal inspires me. Watching my guy Coodie go from a indie video show in Chi to a legit film company in Hollywood inspires me. Hip Hop inspires me. It’s all in our lyrics you just gotta listen. We don’t make kool aid rap!! You can’t add water and sugar and think it’s sweet. Our music and mission is so much bigger than that.
Can you explain your style to us?
OK, what is it that is different or unique about you?
Olskool Ice-Gre– At this point… we care (laugh). Man don’t nobody care anymore it’s like every man for himself. “F” the world is the attitude but we actually give a damn.
E.P The White Lotis– We’re a male/ female duo so for Hip Hop that’s unique. We represent the Westside and the Southside of Chi so for the city that’s different. We respect the rappers who laid it down before us and that’s pretty unique nowadays. (laugh)
Who or what are your main influences? Which artists do you most look up to and do you have influences outside Hip Hop?
E.P The White Lotis– Gre will tell you most of my influences aren’t Hip Hop. I’m a dusty queen. I like old songs or artist that have records that are 15-20 years old like Patty Labelle, The Chi-Lites, Diana Ross, Marvin Gaye, Switch, The Stylistics man I can go on for days. Those are the records I heard my parents play as a kid so I grew up liking those records and I still play em today.
Who was it you hooked up with label or finance wise that helped you take the step to getting your material out? How does this relationship work?
E.P The White Lotis– I’ll let Gre answer that one…
Olskol Ice-Gre– Well that works like this. I handle the business for the group and have for several years. In the beginning it was my business partner LaTina Cunningham who was our main investor and she funded the release of our 1st CD. It was a 7 song ep called The Last Demo. After a few years of investing, I recognized her business savvy and asked her to join me in a partnership. Together we started pulling in larger investments from businessmen she knew and things start to pick up. That’s when I brought Abstract Mindstate’s former business manager and very close friend Armers Moncure to the table and he was welcomed in as the 3rd partner to our executive board and it’s been on every since. We make everything happen through investments. We’re still spending and re investing at this point but the goal is to get the attention of a distributor or major label and negotiate a situation. Right now our primary investor is a high school buddy of mine who owns his own transportation company and he totally believes in me and my dreams so cool. I don’t know if he wants me to put him out there so I’ll just say he’s a hell of a business man. One of the most legal, honest, hardworking brothers I know and a fine gentleman. (laugh)
Can you tell us about your recording career to date? You have had a couple of LPs out haven’t you?
E.P The White Lotis– Yeah we have. We’ve had five 12” records, a 7 song ep; Gre spoke on that earlier, a full length album “We Paid Let Us In” and we’re sitting on an album entitled “Still Paying” that we plan to release once we secure the right situation. We also have 2 mixtapes under our belt Chicago’s Hardest Working Vol. 1 & 2. We’re half way done with Vol.3.
Now you have your new album ready to drop, which contains the Nostalgia track with Common. How did that link up come?
Olskool Ice-Gre– Yeah that’s “Still Paying”. We have a few high profile features on there including Kanye and John Legend but the game is so screwed up now that labels act like they’re scared to sign quality Hip Hop maybe they’re sick of good music going multi-platinum (laugh). Anyway we put Nostalgia on Vol.2 of our mixtape just to let the people see our elevation as a group. We wanted it to known that we’re on another level than we were the 1st time around. Common is a good friend of ours, he told us he was gonna do a song with us years ago but timing was an issue. When we approached him about it he was like “4sho I’ll do it” but it still took a few months because of his schedule. Once he gave us the ok on the day we booked the time and we all went in and banged the joint out.
Was there a concept behind your album? Can you tell us a bit about each/some of the tracks on your LP, what they are about, what effects, moods or messages you were trying to create/pass on?
E.P The White Lotis– Well the whole album itself is part of a concept. We’ve put in serious time and paid our dues so our album titles reflect that reality. That’s why the 1st album was called “We Paid Let Us In.” It was suppose to be our breaking in the game after all the hard work album. The indie label dudes did the fool on us on that one so the people didn’t get to fully enjoy that release. The new album “Still Paying” is a continuation of the hard work after that situation. We have songs on there called “The Darkest Hour” where we talk about lifting yourself out of your lowest point. We got “No Love Loss” featuring John Legend and that’s talking about having love for your city even when it don’t support you like it should. We we’re addressing the powers that be not the fans or the streets. We also got “Wonder Twins part 2” produced by Xtreme. He’s the cat who did the Ghostface single featuring Ne-Yo. That song was recorded in our alter ego. We always tell a Hip Hop super hero story when we’re the Wonder Twins. We had part 1 on We Paid Let Us In.
Olskool Ice-Gre– Still Paying addresses the trails & tribulations of Abstract Mindstate. We also wanted to show a little of our star power via collaborations, all while maintaining that real Hip Hop presence with tight beats & flows. That’s what we’ve become known for.
Have you been gigging to promote your stuff? What’s the reaction like when you are live and what do you feel when doing live shows?
E.P The White Lotis– Yeah we’ve been rockin shows non-stop! We’re pushing Vol.2 of our mixtape right now so all of the songs we perform are from that. The people love it and we’ve been getting great reviews on the mixtape and even better responses from the heads at our live shows. We love performing that’s half of the reason we do it. To entertain and give the energy is from our original compositions is a high you can never get from drugs (laughs). Yall should peep our electronic press kit is available at: www.sonicbids.com/abstractmindstate. Once you’re on it click “press” and the links to all of our latest reviews are there. Britain check us out!
What else do you do promotion wise, how do you get your name out there?
Olskool Ice-Gre– We constantly work the press. Whether it’s a newspaper, magazine, webzine or videozine we’re on it. We’re on a few indie Hip Hop DVD’s and video shows. We always have flyers circulating with whatever we got going on. The latest and best promotion to date is myspace.com! If you’re an unsigned artist and not on there you just won the #1 slacker award (laugh). To reach us on myspace our connect is: www.myspace.com/4abstractmindstate.
Who is taking care of the production side of things?
EP The White Lotis– Rashid Hadee is keeping us laced right now but we work with several producers, some are well known others are up and coming. On the known side we work with Kanye, Xtreme , 88 Keys and Devo Springsteen. On the up and coming side we got Eli The Great, Absolute, HarvyAllbangers and McAfee. The cat Young Dogg who produced “Nostalgia” wasn’t there with us. We got the track from a friend who was his manager. As long as you got heat we’re down to spit but we do have our small circle of producers we go back to over and over again.
Can you let off some of your production techniques? What sort of equipment are you using both to make beats and to record?
Olskool Ice-Gre– We’ll we don’t produce ourselves, we’re strictly lyrics. We record in Pro Tools, Fruity Loops and Cool Edit. Whatever program the producer is using is the one we record in (laugh). As long as we get quality vocals out of it we’re happy.
Have you in general been close friends with the people you work with music wise or have you turned up to a studio with a bunch of strangers? How do you approach each of these scenarios?
Olskool Ice-Gre– So far all of the cats we record with are very good friends of ours. We haven’t had to deal with any strangers.
E.P The White Lotis– Yeah that part has been a blessing. We’re comfortable with our producers so it brings the best out of us. Not saying we wont take a 9th Wonder, J Dilla (r.i.p), Madlib, Pete Rock or Neptunes beat. (laugh)
In your career so far what has caused you the most conflicts either personally or from a business perspective?
E.P The White Lotis– Most of my conflicts have come from my personal life. Just dealing with family situations and financial setbacks.
Olskool Ice-Gre– Label cats seeing what we have, getting excited over it and our talent but never making a move. We’ve experienced this from a major and indie label perspective. Our biggest conflict comes from people talking a good game but never living up to the talk.
How do you feel you are positioned within the marketplace and is that through your wishes or with different circumstances, would you do it differently?
E.P The White Lotis– We’ve positioned ourselves as Chicago’s Hardest Working Rhyme Duo. A group that makes quality Hip Hop that means something. We’re known to give a great live performance but the suits at the labels are afraid of originality. It’s our wish and goal to remain original and we wont change that but originality is catching a bad break right now.
Olskool Ice-Gre– The only thing I think we could’ve done differently is stick with our singles longer. I had a talk with a really good radio buddy of mine from Chicago and he told me our biggest problem was we changed our singles too fast. I’m correcting that now, so hopefully his good advice pays off.
Where can people pick up your stuff?
E.P The White Lotis– In Chicago you can get it in: Tower Records, Gramaphone, George’s Music Room, Pep Mo’s Music, Mac’s Records & Tapes, Great Scott’s and Dr. Wax in Hyde Park.
Olskool Ice-Gre– For my international folks or those of you who aren’t in Chicago you can go to the online store on our website: www.4TheSoul-Reciprocity.com.
How do you view the Internet? Do you think it is a useful promotional tool and a good way of getting out there and breaking the strangle hold the major labels have on the marketplace, or are there too many idiots too willing to spout a load of rubbish with no control over them?
E.P The White Lotis– I’m not online much but I think it’s a good tool for promotion. We wouldn’t be doing this interview if it wasn’t for the internet.
Olskool Ice-Gre– The internet is just like any other hustle in the music business. The more you do it the more savvy you become. What makes it great is you have access to billions of people all over the world, not just where you’re from or the places you may have visited. That’s the upper hand you have with the net.
Do you have any plans to get your own online presence?
E.P The White Lotis- Gre…
Olskool Ice-Gre– Of course. We own our domain name and we have a splash page with our logo but our site is a work in progress. It’s all financial, we’re gonna eventually have abstractmindstate.com up and running.
How do you feel, as artists, about distribution systems like e-Mule, Soulseek (SLSK) or other P2P software that is out of your control and for which you don’t get any money? Do you think that seeing as the free music genie is out of the bag it could create problems in the future for you as artists to get paid for your work?
Olskool Ice-Gre– I’m not familiar with those but I take it they are program that allow users to download music. Anyway it kinda hurts the artist but your real fan base is gonna take the proper means to get the music. The download junkies who don’t care about all the extra info that comes with a real release would’ve bought our stuff anyway.
How do you find the scene where you are based compared to where Hip Hop originally came from, the Bronx? Can you flourish properly as artists coming from Chicago?
E.P The White Lotis– Our scene is in its infant stages but with artists from Chi getting major label deals such as: Kanye, Rhymefest, Bump J, Lupe Fiasco, Pheava and Qualo we’ll flourish.
Olskool Ice-Gre– I think the Chicago emcee’s who are getting deals now bring back the spirit that was created in the Bronx years ago. We care about lyrics, flows, style and delivery not the gimmicks or trends that the suits keep wearing out year after year. The upper hand that NY, LA or say ATL has over us is there are actually record labels in those cities that are signing the artists right in their home town.
Hip Hop is massive, how do you see Hip Hop at present and the direction you see it going in?
E.P The White Lotis– I see Hip Hop presently trying to get better. It’s been beaten and abused over the last few years but I see it all going back to real talent. The people are finally getting tired of the bullshit.
Olskool Ice-Gre– I see it going totally independent. Well not toatally because they’s always gonna run the distribution of it but more in the sense of the majors are solely going to rely on the indie labels to bring them their next stars, via their production company’s or whatever. The major labels have no idea what they are doing that’s why they keep making bad decisions with talent continue to lose money.
Are you aware of any UK Hip Hop artists or records?
E.P The White Lotis– Is that a trick question? If we don’t get it right our story wont make it? (laugh)
Olskool Ice-Gre– I know several but I cant name any off the top. Ummm I know about S.A.S, Lady Dynamite the chic Jay-Z signed I think her name is Lady Soveriegn or something like that.
What are your thoughts about the state of UK Hip Hop? Do you know why it is very hard for UK artists to get any exposure in the US?
E.P The White Lotis– UK Hip Hop keeps it real. Yall respect real emcee’s and don’t get caught up in the commercial bullshit.
Olskool Ice-Gre– Yeah from what we hear the UK loves real deal Hip Hop like we make. I think its hard for UK artist to cross over here because the US is too stubborn and set in its ways to be open to accept something different right away. That’s why we’re not signed. (laugh)
Do you have any advice for struggling artists in the UK?
Olskool Ice-Gre– Don’t stop. Utilize the internet like we are.
E.P The White Lotis– Make good music build a fan base and don’t quit.
What is going to be keeping you busy over the next few months?
EP The White Lotis– Hopefully more shows and a trip to the UK for more shows. In the meantime this 9 to 5 that I cant wait to leave.
Olskool Ice-Gre– Working our new double single. We bout to drop a Kanye West produced joint called “The Gospel” along with “No Love Loss” featuring John Legend. These songs are from the Still Paying album. The plan is to work em til it gets us the deal straight up!
What are your longer-term plans and objectives for you both as artists and as a record label?
E.P The White Lotis– We both have solo projects so I plan to do that. His is finish I’m still working on mine. We want the group to get the international jump off first but at this point we’re like whatever works.
Olskool Ice-Gre– As a label we plan to release an album on the other artists. I’ll be going in the studio in a few weeks to record the last 3 songs for Trizonna McClendon’s album (that I wrote) and we plan to release it in late June early July at the latest. Also we’re gonna continue to push Dre Cagney’s mixtape through the summer to get his name up in the streets while working on songs for his next mixtape and album. We also wanna have Vol.3 of our mixtape out this summer.
What artists do you like and would most like to work with, not necessarily Hip Hop artists?
Olskool Ice-Gre– Janet, I wrote her a song I know she’d love. Prince, Donnell Jones, Mary J Blige, I got a song I know she’d crush. Faith Evans, I wrote her a song too. Usher, I have material I know he can pull off.
Would you like to, or do you have any plans to try and get out to the UK to do a few shows?
E.P The White Lotis– Yes we do have plans to come to the UK. We’ve been working on that for a few months now. We want to come over there and perform til yall are sick of us. (laugh)
Olskool Ice-Gre– Actually our plan was to be there by now but we didn’t secure any performances in time now our budget is looking shady so we gotta build that back up then we’re seriously gonna make our way over there.
What are the things that you like to do when you aren’t living Hip Hop? Do you like sports or the Cinema?
EP The White Lotis– Those are my 2 favorite past times. I love sports and movies that is exactly what I do when I’m not being Abstract Mindstate. I’m a sports center junky and my all time favorite movies are karate flicks. My collection is sick I got everything test me!
Olskool Ice-Gre– When I’m not living Hip Hop I’m still doing something music related because I’m an R&B song writer. I’m also heavy into independent films. They are my favorite movies to watch. I’m also a huge roller coaster enthusiast so if I can get a coaster on that’s definitely a good thing in my book.
I ask everyone about politics, because I think it is important that we have knowledge of what is going on, but most current Hip Hop heads decline to answer. I guess they don’t want to upset anyone. Do you have anything to say on that? Any issues you think people need to open their eyes too?
EP The White Lotis– Mindstate don’t discuss politics and religion.
Olskool Ice-Gre– Sorry I don’t do politics at all! I don’t believe in politics are set up to work for middle class people. I don’t believe in politics.
Does Hip Hop still have important messages, or an educational element? Is Hip Hop less political than it was?
E.P The White Lotis– It does but the artist who are on that aren’t getting any exposure so it seems as if it doesn’t exist but artists who have something to say are still making music. I think it much less political but that’s not Hip Hop’s fault.
If you could change something about society, what would it be and why?
Olskool Ice-Gre– Institutionalized racism and segregation.
Are you at all concerned by the continuing issues between the US and Iraq? Or the Middle East? What is you perspective on this?
E.P The White Lotis- Mindstate don’t do politics.
Olskool Ice-Gre– What she said. (laugh)
Is there anything else you would like to mention?
Fit all your shout outs and thanks here:
EP The White Lotis– Big up to the UK hope to see yall soon.
Thank you very much for your time.