"We're not really worried," says Seth "Abstruss Tone" Rich, one of Earatik's two MCs. "Outkast, they on a whole 'nother level. We don't really have any money, so if Rosa Parks is gonna sue us, she gonna have to wait."
Not too long, with any luck. Earatik's underground sonics won't be topping the Billboard charts anytime soon, but the group has made a name for itself in Chicago's simmering hip-hop scene, which has the nation's ear thanks to platinum ambassadors such as Kanye West, Common and Twista.
"I think a lot of other people are checking for Chicago extra-hard right now because of that," Rich says. "But those people aren't really in the city most of the time. Common hasn't lived here for years. Kanye is around, but he's doing his own thing."
The same could be said for Earatik, which recently issued a full-length titled Feelin' Earatik. Built on the dexterous interplay among Rich, his partner-in-rhyme Carlos "Celo" Polk, and in-house DJ Rude One, Feelin' Earatik is the sound of a group following its instincts, commercial considerations be damned. What also makes the disc refreshing is Earatik's hardcore approach to consciousness. Unlike most socially aware acts, this group's positivity packs a punch -- enlightened lyrics are spit with true grit over grimy beats that sound like they were spawned in a sewer. All in all, the record's a natural product of Chicago's schizophrenic hip-hop community.
"Chicago has a bunch of sounds. That's why I like it," Rich explains. "It's just different perspectives of different sides of the city. Chicago's so segregated, it's amazing how different somebody a couple of blocks away from you can sound. But if you're trying to be on MTV every day, Chicago's really not the place. It's a good, solid underground scene. You can be more creative with it. You have more opportunity to be unique."
Earatik took that mission to heart this spring when it embarked on a monthlong Midwest tour, honing its energetic live show in front of out-of-town audiences. Among the highlights was a stop in Lawrence, where Rich and Polk weren't surprised to find a thriving hip-hop scene in a state famous for cornfields and conservatism.
"A lot of people have told us that Lawrence is a happening spot," Rich says. "It seemed like a really good scene, really nice people. This is our first time going to Kansas City. We're really excited about getting out there and meeting people. Plus Eddie Griffin is from there, right?"