Upstart production crew Audio Perm is drumming up beats, buzz.
In a hip-hop scene pillared by nationally recognized artists, it'd be understandable if a couple of kids barely old enough to drink (and one under-ager) felt intimidated swimming in Rhymesayer- and Doomtree-infested waters. But Taylor Madrigal, Cory Grindberg and Julian Fairbanks --the trio of producers at the nucleus of production crew Audio Perm -- aren't exactly clinging to their beach towels.
"We're just homies," says Madrigal at a Lake Street coffee shop. "We don't think we're tight with anybody, less than anybody or think we're on another level."
However, the beatmakers have caught the eye of a few more senior scenesmen. Last year Doomtree's Mike Mictlan tapped the youngsters to play his Blowout night and Prof picked up a pair of Grindberg beats for his breakout "King Gampo" album. Earning a spot at this year's Soundset, Audio Perm also got a nice onstage plug from P.O.S.
With other-level status open to interpretation, diving in beat-first puts the local groove-crafters on a unique tip, elevating the producers' profiles equal to emcees'. "Maybe we can push the idea that, hey, producers are important, too, since we are the central part of the group," says Grindberg, headphones snugly wrapped around his neck. Absent from our meetup is Fairbanks, 20, who may or may not be napping in his nearby home.
Being a producer-anchored passel has also shaped Audio Perm's live show. As the fleet of rappers the trio employs swelled, so did the amped mob of mic-passers occupying the stage who look plucked from the back row of college algebra. And it's easy to see how tracks like the madcap "Yo!" or the grimy "Gutter" off of this summer's "WeOutChea" compilation could slide into the fresh-faced battalion's bounce-along sets.
Countless affiliates aside, the beat-minded cadre's officially six-deep roster of emcees is composed of childhood friends and greater scene acquaintances. While Grindberg studies jazz bass at Northwestern University in Chicago, the laid-back Madrigal credits his and Fairbanks' ubiquity at local hip-hop events with unintentionally establishing relationships -- like Jake Heinitz of No Static Records, who booked them for Saturday's Hip-Hop Harambee block party at the Nomad.
"We would go to every Fifth Element open mic, every show," Madrigal says. "If you see cats around that are always on it and always there, you're going to gravitate to them because they're real."
Not that they needed anyone to co-sign on their credibility, but as the scene rats are starting to make a name for themselves, a little love from local luminaries can't hurt. Informed of P.O.S.' name-check Grindberg's eyes widen. "Wait, who did? P.O.S.? Did he do that?" he quizzically perks.