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Abstract Mindstate
Photograph: Courtesy Time Out Market Chicago

Catch a free performance from hip-hop duo Abstract Mindstate this weekend

The group will stop by Time Out Market Chicago for a panel discussion and unplugged performance.

Emma Krupp
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Emma Krupp
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Back in the early 2000s, Chicago-born hip-hop group Abstract Mindstate—a male-female duo composed of rappers Olskool Ice-Gre and E.P. da Hellcat—appeared primed for a major breakthrough. But the duo suffered financial setbacks, and after recording two albums, they found different careers (E.P. as a behavioral analyst, Gre as an A&R executive) and parted ways for what seemed like a permanent hiatus.

That is, until Kanye West came calling. He’d worked with Abstract Mindstate on their first two albums and now, some 16 years later, he wanted them to be the first artists signed on YZY SND, his brand new record label. 

“I said, man, you think the world’s ready for two 40-something rappers?” Gre recalls. “And he was like, ‘That’s exactly what they need! Abstract Mindstate is gonna heal people and save lives!” 

A whirlwind year followed, filled with back-and-forth trips to Chicago, Los Angeles and West’s recording studio in Wyoming. Freed from the time-crunch constraints of their earlier days in the studio, the duo settled into a new rhythm—and after some brief bouts of writer’s block, the words started flowing just as smoothly as they did in the late ‘90s. 

“It was like riding a bike,” E.P. says. “We just went back to what our formula was, sitting at the table like when we were in college just playing the beat and writing.” 

The resulting record, Dreams Still Inspire, is a nostalgic and frequently wise exploration of Abstract Mindstate’s return to the rap game, featuring the duo’s signature wordplay (Gre calls this lyric-driven, rhythmic style adult contemporary hip-hop) over West-produced beats. And that’s not all—Gre and E.P. are also the subjects of We Paid Let Us In! The Legend of Abstract Mindstate, a documentary chronicling their winding rap career that premiered at the Dances With Films Festival last week, and they’re headed across the country this year on tour dates with the hip-hop group Slum Village. 

If you’re wondering how Gre and E.P. have been doing lately, given all that commotion, the answer’s in the album’s lead single: I Feel Good

“Our old product was all about the hustle and the struggle to get by,” Gre says. “This time, it’s not about the struggle, it’s about where we are now. … [West] asked us, ‘How do y’all feel right now?’ And we looked at each other and and said, ‘Shit, we feel good.’” 

You can learn more about Abstract Mindstate's resurrection at a special Time Out Market Chicago panel discussion this Friday, when the duo will be joined by Chicago poet and radio show host Mario Smith for a conversation about their reunion, working with Kanye West and all things Chicago hip-hop. Following the discussion, Gre and E.P. will perform two songs off of Dreams Still Inspire.  Plus, don't miss an RSVP Gallery-curated pop-up exhibit featuring historic photos of Abstract Mindstate and a limited-edition T-shirt designed by Don Crawley (aka Don C), the influential streetwear designer and music executive at West’s G.O.O.D Music label.

The Abstract Mindstate Dreams Don’t Expire Panel and Discussion takes place on Friday, June 17 at 6:30pm inside of Time Out Market Chicago. The event is free and seating is first come, first served—plus, the first 50 guests will receive a free welcome drink from Moors Beer or Uncle Nearest. You can register online via Eventbrite.

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