ELUCID Doesn’t Need to Make Sense: Interview

“I definitely don’t even think about the idea of making sense.”
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Elucid Interview, 2019. Alexander Richter, photography.

ELUCID’s work consumes us. The New York rapper is an underground vanguard whose staticky vocal and chomping delivery leaves our ears in shreds and our mind in tatters. ELUCID’s music pushes us. One half of duo Armand Hammer with equal partner in mind-bending, billy woods, we already know ELUCID as a master of clobbering production and weighty lyrics. His writing feels thrifty, in a way, as if lifted from the forgotten pages of yellowed texts in oddball shops nestled in the grooves of unknown towns.

On his newest album, Every Egg I Cracked Today Was Double Yolked, released August 19, ELUCID ramps up his penchant for the distant and confounding. Recorded in a series of liminal spaces and working at ideas of isolation, transition, and drowning, Every Egg is a staple piece of ELUCID content. The album dances the line between reality and myth and has ELUCID disintegrating the boundaries of what is and is not considered music—all while upping his vulnerability.

“Life can be overwhelming,” ELUCID admits to me over the phone. “Who knows what people go throughout here. Part of that whole vulnerability is letting it show up in the music, to give that feeling. Even if I don’t talk about it, this is what it feels like. I’ve expressed it through instrumental shit.”

Honing in on his sound design, Every Egg is at equal turns trapping and freeing odyssey. Every track is a concrete moment and meditation taken from the storied pages of ELUCID’s playbook. There is no answer to this album, no neat conclusion that leaves us feeling warm. Instead, Every Egg leaves us questioning. But according to ELUCID, the work doesn’t have to make sense. That’s not the goal.

“I don’t even think about the idea of making sense,” he tells me. “I feel like when people hear my music, there’s a certain way that it’s taken: aggressive, incapable of being vulnerable. It’s weird, because if anybody knew me in real life… I’ve been working on not being so guarded, and it’s gotta bleed into the music somehow.”

If there were one theme to Every Egg, it would be the moot pursuit of freedom evidencing itself on “A Gruv” and “Spiderz.” To which, ELUCID concludes: “To get to where you think you can achieve freedom, it starts with suspending belief of what’s been told to you, what’s been programmed. That’s where it starts, man. Maybe freedom is a delusion; it’s a welcome delusion.”

Our conversation, lightly edited for content and clarity, follows below.

DJBooth: Let’s start with the title. My dad texts me every time he gets a double-yolked egg, so I love it. What does a double-yolked egg mean to you?

ELUCID: It’s good luck, you know? That’s how I’ve always taken it. Sometimes, those things pop up when you least expect or when you’re uncertain of things. I take that as an affirmation of what I think I should do, and which way to move.

I’m taken by the Bandcamp description, how you wrote this album “while floating between various” places. How did working in transition impact your process?

The second-guessing is cut to a minimum. It’s part of getting into space where I was able to make something; I wasn’t second-guessing. I was totally in the flow and not setting rules. There’s not a lot of overdubs and things. It’s a moment, literally a moment, which was right for me in these liminal spaces, like hotel rooms. I did go out, but I come home, and I’m bent, and I can’t sleep. I don’t wanna talk to anyone. I’m up making music, talking to machines and shit. This is the first time, for me, even working that way. It’s the most I’ve traveled because of rap, so that’s why I’m in these spaces.

Where was the oddest place you recorded this album, and what did it pull out of you?

It was the last song recorded for this project, which happened this past Saturday. I was in a bedroom closet, just on the floor, surrounded by mad clothes. Nothing was hung up! Just a pile of clothes on the floor, I’m on the pile of clothes, recording “Leviticus.” My son was in the other room. My wife was in the other room. That’s why I came in there. I ain’t have to write anything. We recently got the book Aloneness by Gwendolyn Brooks, and since we got it, I was like, “I wanna read this in a live set.” I came across that loop, I made the beat, and that was the space. That was me just getting away to do that. It was one take.

Why end with Gwendolyn Brooks’ work as the last word?

There’s one rap on the [album] and some chant-type things going on. I knew I wanted there to be another voice. It wasn’t done until there was another extended vocal. I chose Gwendolyn Brooks; I knew I wanted to use it at some point, and here I am compiling these songs. It worked.

The album sounds very hazardous, but also warm. I think of the intense, free jazz feel of “A Great Many Wishes.” How did you go about piecing together those seemingly opposing sounds into making sense?

I don’t even think about the idea of making sense. It’s a mood. That one is just a drum loop for a little while, then I got “A Great Many Wishes,” and I felt like I needed to hear horns. Just digging through shit for horns, and this fit. There wasn’t a lot of manipulation. There was no trickery. It was just knowing what I want to hear. I’m not a crate digger by any means, but I know what I hear in my head, and I’ll pick it and put it in there. Do what I do. I’m interested in sound design, so that plays into why things sound the way they do. It’s a real tailored moment.

There’s also a trapping sensation permeating the music. I think of the “Sometimes you can’t do nothing” chant on “A Gruv.” Where did that come from?

Oh, yeah! At the end of that song, there’s a neighbor of mine that’s getting hemmed up by the police. They knocked his teeth out, and he’s trying to get his teeth. I was standing there in my doorway with my newborn son, which is why I didn’t leave the house. You don’t just leave a newborn by themselves, and he didn’t have a crib or anything. My wife was gone… I didn’t wanna [leave my son], and I was like, “Damn, I feel fucked up. I feel like a coward.” That’s what that song was about: cowardice.

Is that the emotion you wanted to tap into the most?

No, that’s just the moment. That was the moment of what happened. The lyrics are straightforward, but I think that’s also a very vulnerable thing to say. When people hear my music, there’s a certain way that it’s taken: aggressive, incapable of being vulnerable. It’s weird, because if anybody knew me in real life… I’ve been working on not being so guarded, and it’s gotta bleed into the music somehow. I’ve been doing a lot of group work. I love what I’ve done with Nostrum Grocers; I love what I’ve done with Armand Hammer. I’m all up in that, so [vulnerability] should show up somewhere in some way. It showed up [on "A Gruv], and I think it shows up in “Leviticus.” That’s two spots [laughs]. I don’t wanna emo nobody out.

It sounds like in some ways you’re being consumed, but since you produced this project, maybe you’re doing the consuming. The whole project reads as overwhelming in the best way.

Both! I feel like it’s both. Life can be overwhelming. Information, and just living out here, certain traumas and shit. Who knows what people go through. Part of that whole vulnerability is letting it show up in the music, to give that feeling. Even if I don’t talk about it, this is what it feels like. I’ve expressed it through instrumental shit. It goes back to that sound design thing, how tones and frequencies affect mood.

After listening to “Spiderz,” I have to ask: In the political climate we’re in, what is the line between myth and reality? Does it even exist?

It may; it may not. The biggest trick ever pulled, maybe? Who knows. To get into those spaces where you think you can achieve freedom, it starts with really suspending belief of what’s been told to you, what’s been programmed [in] you. That’s where it starts, man. Maybe freedom is a delusion; it’s a welcome delusion.

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