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TODAY

Friday, September 21

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Detour

Chicago is enjoying a hip-hop revival. Kanye West took home three awards at last year's Grammys, and his fire and brimstone performance that night also made him the only rapper since Tupac to imitate Jesus and get away with it. Stony Island native Common is releasing Be, the much anticipated return to the beats and rhymes soul aesthetic of his 1994 classic Resurrection, on May 24th. And the city's underground veterans like All Natural and Do or Die have recently released new albums to greater exposure, basking in the glow cast by their more famous brethren. It's a good time to be a rapper from Chicago. So where does a 26-year-old white kid from New Hampshire fit in here?

"The Chicago scene is definitely big enough for us," says Adam Arnone, otherwise known as Adeem, MC for the hip-hop group Glue. The group has created a buzz on the underground rap circuit with their engaging live performances and a strong debut album, 2003's Seconds Away. They hope to cash in on this momentum by releasing an EP called Sunset Lodge in late May followed by a full album, Catch as Catch Can, later in the year.

Adeem moved to Chicago in September last year to help promote the group and work more closely with their producer Maker, aka Marco Jacobo, of Aurora. Carl Sandburg's City of Big Shoulders, with its blue-collar tradition and lunch pail work ethic, is a good fit for Adeem and Glue. After opening a show for the Pharcyde at the Metro in December, Adeem worked the merchandise table himself, pushing copies of Seconds Away and animatedly hawking the rest of his wares, passing out stacks of free stickers with each purchase. When he's not touring or working on music, he spends most of his days on the Internet responding to email, posting on message boards, and maintaining the website for Glue's record label, Ramona Records. Hip-hop, and the shameless self-promotion that comes with it, is his full-time job. "It's hard to focus on anything else when no one is helping you," he says.

The group formed by chance on two separate occasions. Adeem met Maker at a show with Sage Francis in Chicago in 2000. Maker's group, Them Badd Apples, opened that night and the two hit it off, recording a song shortly after called "Maker Mine" that appeared on Adeem's 2002 solo album, Sweet Talking Your Brain. Maker solidified the partnership by sending him beats over the next few years. Adeem met Glue's DJ DQ, aka Dan Hargraves, at the 2002 Scribble Jam hip-hop festival in Cincinnati. DQ was performing with his turntable crew Animal Crackers, and Adeem was so impressed with his solo drum and scratching set that he approached him about working together. DQ said he had never worked with a rapper before, but soon after Adeem says, "He just showed up at my place in New Hampshire with all his stuff and was like, 'I'm down for whatever.'" Maker happened to call one day while DQ was still there, and Glue was born.

With no money for a formal production budget or studio time, the trio recorded Seconds Away at Maker's mother's house in Aurora. They strove for an organic feel to the album, capturing each song in a different room of the house, including the basement and various children's rooms. Adeem did most of the rapping sitting cross-legged on the floor, reading the lyrics off a laptop while friends mixed the songs on their own computers. The results are impressive. Maker layers his funk and soul breakbeats with lush instrumentation, samples of horns and bluegrass fiddles punctuated by DQ's formidable cutting. Adeem alternates the pace of his delivery over this foundation between rapid-fire workouts that would make Twista proud and almost spoken word confessionals. The album could nearly stand alone as a DJ Shadow-esque instrumental album, and tracks like "1970" and "Country Funk" indeed fit this bill. But that would rob the listener of Adeem's fire. "Goodbye" and "Haunt" feature the three at the top of their form: deeply layered production, subtle scratching, and tight, forceful lyrics.

While Seconds Away is a solid first effort, it suffers from some of the sonic inconsistencies and excessively navel-gazing subject matter of many rookie releases in the indie-rap subgenre. But for an album recorded in someone's house, it sets high expectations for future performance based on raw skills, a measuring stick like the 40-yard dash and vertical leap statistics gathered by scouts at the NFL draft combine. Glue verifies this growth potential with their crowd-flattening live performances, born from a struggle to simply make themselves heard. In 2004, Glue played 63 dates on the Vans Warped Tour, logging thousands of miles in a Honda Civic. Vying for the attention of mostly punk and hardcore fans with dozens of other bands, Glue took what Adeem called a "guerilla warfare attitude" toward winning respect. "It was the most challenging thing we've ever done," he says. "Those people could not give a shit about what we were doing. We had to do something different every day to get attention." This included dragging a packing crate into the crowd outside their tent and rapping on top of it, moshing with unsuspecting fans, and openly taunting other bands playing nearby. "It sounds ridiculous, but it worked," Adeem says of this controlled spontaneity. Before long, word of their unique live performances spread, and Glue began attracting larger crowds of their own accord.

At the December Metro show, Adeem stalked the stage as the slow-arriving crowd trickled in. He bantered with a handful of frat boys and their girlfriends who gathered around the stage after buying beers. Most of these people were just passing the time, chatting with each other and hoping that the opening acts could keep them entertained until the Pharcyde hit the stage. But after Glue's first few songs, they started to take notice. As Adeem worked up a sweat and DQ shredded records, heads nodded and grins spread across pleasantly surprised faces. Even the jaded bartender in the back let out a "Damn!" after one of their tongue-twisting workouts. At the end of the set, Adeem hopped into the now energized crowd and convinced dozens of fans to march around him in a circle while he threw down the lyrics to "Haunt." When he finished the crowd roared its approval. Glue hopes to transform this energy into their big break. It very well may come this summer on the Scribble Jam tour of 13 major cities, including an appearance at the Logan Square Auditorium scheduled for June 3rd. As for the transition to Chicago, Adeem isn't too worried. He concentrates on carving a unique niche for Glue. "We want to be different, make each experience as fresh to us as it is to you," he says. If all goes well this summer, Glue can leave a lasting impression on fans around the country with this refreshing approach to music.

 

About the Author(s)

Matt Wood is a writer living in the West Loop. He and his wife Debbie have a baby boy named Carter and a dog named Bootsy.

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