Rockin' Our Turntable: Radius

By Tankboy in Arts & Entertainment on May 28, 2008 6:40PM

Ramon Norwood a.k.a. RadiusYou've seen Ramon Norwood around town, trust us. He's kind of a hard guy to miss since his tall figure is easily spotted bobbing to the beats at shows around town, but you would never guess he's the sort of guy to hole up in a studio to create a hip-hop concept disc based around the neighborhoods he frequents around town.

Working under the moniker of Radius, Norwood has done just that and created an all instrumental hip-hop jam that tracks an average day around town by assigning a sonic personality to set the stage for each 'hood. This album, Neighborhood Suicide, starts off with a nod to Humboldt Park, where Norwood got his start, before leaping into the actual daily routine with our sonic conductor waking up Uptown. His journey takes him south through Logan Square, Bucktown, through Hyde Park, and into the South Side.

Norwood's beats recall older Dan the Automator discs, repeating themes and working with minimal changes throughout. While this doesn't reach out and command the listener's attention, it does have a knack for leaving an impression. Norwood says he was looking to craft a collection of "break-heavy, experimental, more layered and zone out /journey tracks," and in this respect the album is an unqualified success.

But Norwood continues and says he then "started piecing tracks together that had a particular energy or feeling and would not only reflect me personally but also my city," and it's based on this statement of purpose we think the album falters a bit. As singular statements of internal purpose we might buy Norwood's conceit, but we have a hard time listeing to the album and accepting the compositions as paintings of separate and distinct neighborhoods. If that was the case, then the sonic picture he paints of Chicago is of a number of neighborhoods that seem awfully similar to each other.

But we're quibbling. It is a valid question to explore if the album's concept works, and ask if the results support Norwood's sonic thesis, so we feel our criticism is valid. But if you pull back and view the disc as a collection of headz-friendly tracks, it's an impressive work of minimalist hip-hop.

MP3: Radius "Logan Square (Rent's Due)"
MP3: Radius "Englewood (Necessary Growth)"

Photo by Constance K