Chicago is a city in transition, transforming into a central force in hip-hop before our very eyes. In between the meteoric rise of Chance the Rapper and the relentlessly confrontational presence of Chief Keef, Chicago plays host to a slew of artists who are on the verge of making it. This past Thursday at Reggies, I was able to witness one of those on the cusp artists; King Louie.
You may recognize King Louie from his appearance on Kanye's latest album Yeezus, where Louie raps the first verse and chorus on "Send it Up." Perhaps you recall seeing his Basquiat-inspired promo stickers all over town a year or so ago. Maybe you're into the local rap scene and are already familiar with him and his impressive lineup of mixtapes. The point of this is that knowingly or not, you probably at least have a passing knowledge of the man and his work.
Chicago has emerged as a central force in hip-hop, incubating rappers on the ascension such as Sasha GoHard and Chief Keef while at the same time acting as a homeland for established legacy rappers such Kanye West and Lupe Fiasco.
With that said, our friends over at Vocalo are putting on a rap show at the Empty Bottle this Saturday. They're showcasing three rappers that personify the increasingly diverse and complex ideals of the modern Chicago rapper who are all on the verge of potentially being a next big thing; Chandler London, ShowYouSuck, and ProbCause.
Just yesterday, however, J.Arthur and Dot Kom took their growing rep to new heights, with the release of "Hey," a collaborative track with the world famous Beat Junkies originator, DJ Rhettmatic. The track shakes the speakers with a booming backdrop of horns, bass, and scratches complementing the pair's unique style and delivery, with the original beat maker at his best.
Keeping the rhythm of its recent rally of bringing some of the most prolific faces and sounds of hip-hop and R&B to the city, The Shrine upped the volume once more last Friday, by welcoming a duo that practically epitomizes an era; Pete Rock & CL Smooth.
Pete Rock & CL Smooth at The Shrine. Photo by Ricardo Villarreal
Celebrating twenty years since the release of their debut LP, Mecca and the Soul Brother, the originators were set to perform the album in its entirety. They took to the stage with all the command and comfort of a veteran, but the energy and excitement of a pair of performers in their prime. Pete Rock excelled behind the decks, as a master of his craft would, at interluding and blending his tracks with their samples, and even including some classics off of the pair's 1991 EP, All Souled Out. CL Smooth's lyrical performance was complimented by his physical one, as he moved and grooved through every beat of every track, making it clear that the birth of the "hype man" marked the decline of the real emcee.
The two performed together as though they had never stopped, and provided, as promised, a momentary cure and escape, or "medicine", as CL Smooth called it, for the currently troubled times. They took the room back to '92, or rather, the golden age of hip-hop that Millennials imagine it to be, with the music, and the moves, and the mood they set with a flawless live rendition of their masterpiece. The album may as well have been recorded in that room that night, because the perfection that boomed through the speakers equaled that of the LP.
Pete Rock & CL Smooth at The Shrine. Photo by Ricardo Villarreal
Wrapping up the night with their most known, respected, and most magnificent track, T.R.O.Y. (They Reminisce Over You), carried all the power that an ode to a fallen friend would, but it also blared with a reminiscence of the music, and the feeling that comes with thoughts of "the good ol' days," and everyone's varied recollection of them. It was nostalgia at its finest, channeled through legends in their truest form.
Lil Mouse is a 13-year-old rapper from the Wild 100s. He's already recorded several videos, the first when he was still 12. His latest track, "Get Smoked," has attracted attention for its glorification of popping pills, selling drugs, having sex, shooting people and other activities not usually associated with barely teenaged kids.
To celebrate three years in the business of good vibes, good music, and an ambiance and audience to match, The Shrine thanked its guests, two weekends back, by welcoming the near-mythical hip-hop trio, De La Soul, to its stage. The group, made up of Maseo, Posdnous, and Dave, ranks among the greats, of not only the era that birthed similar legends like A Tribe Called Quest and The Wu-Tang Clan, but certainly of all time.
It isn't often the city, let alone the Midwest, gets the chance to see artists that possess the trio's level of influence and legend. It's no wonder then, that as soon as Maseo took the stage, the room filled with cheers, chants, and song requests; and all hands were filled with a cell phone.
You know Miles Davis' On the Corner? The early '70s one with the HEAVY funk grooves and the crazy editing? And the cartoons? Like a Ralph Bakshi/Pedro Bell key party, that one is. Inside the sleeve, there's one set of cartoons with various caricatures of what I assume are Miles' ideas of stereotypical fan responses to his music. One guy is wearing a dashiki and pulling some sanctimonious body language. His word bubble says, "Me and Miles, we go way back...you know, Kind of Blue...." The implication, as I read it, is that this is the type of fan that can relate to an artist at their point of highest mass popularity. If a similar caricature for hip hop could be drawn today, the person might be saying, "Me and De La, we go way back...you know, 3 Feet High And Rising..."
Of course, you'll get no argument from me or any other hip hop fanatic that De La Soul's debut is one of the great rap albums of all time, but sometimes, it's hard to convince casual fans that De La Soul never stopped producing classic albums. But with precious few exceptions, De La Soul's story is one of constant artistic ascent, with each album topping the previous in terms of lyrical content, flow, message, you name it. And even if you still like the Prince Paul era the best, the band's production has never been less than stellar. I'd even go so far to say as 2004's The Grind Date, recorded 15 years after their debut might be the of the band's very best outings. So how'd they do it? And what are they up to now?
The latest front page story for the Reader titled Scratch and Stitch, claims to cover Chicago hip-hop artists and the brands that back them. The Twittersphere buzzed heavily yesterday in reaction to what many in the hip-hop community deemed a misinterpreted premise, however, and their initial problem with the story begins with the cover photo. "Insert Chicago Rapper Here," it says, filling a white circle that covers the space where the rest of hip-hop artist ShowYouSuck's face should be.
Anybody else see that total bull**** @Chicago_Reader cover?It's irresponsible, uninformed & the reason people say Chicago is unsupportive.
"Why was I asked by name to do this?" says Clinton Sandifer, a.k.a. ShowYouSuck. "For my face to be covered? I feel disrespected." In a statement released on Ruby Hornet to address the Reader's story, Sandifer added, "I thought we were past the 'all rappers are the same,' mentality.' Rap fans in Chicago are [finally] open to different sounds and artists, and instead of THAT being celebrated, we all get thrown back into being another rapper."
Tweets from fellow artists Auggie the 9th, and Million Dollar Mano, among others, also express concern over the essentials that the piece failed to highlight.
The Chicago duo Supreme Cuts are travelers from a world where Mannie Fresh, Missy Elliot, and Timbaland never fell out of R&B graces. In this world Missy Elliot gets down on some high tea with Phillip Glass and Stephen Hawking on the first Tuesday of every month. Today Supreme Cuts slipped a new audio artifact named Gully featuring rapper Haleek Maul out of their four-dimensional spacetime printer.
Something from Nothing: The Art of Rap, is an upcoming documentary by Ice-T about the roots, culture and artistry of rap and hip hop. The film includes interviews with dozens of artists from both the new school and old school, including Chicagoans Common and Kanye West.
Meanwhile, local music video producer Konee Rok has put together a documentary of his own: The Rebirth of Chicago Cool, telling the story of how nightclub owner Joe Russo came back to Chicago to open The Shrine.
For most of the last minute, DJ Pharris runs through shout-outs to various Chicago neighborhoods:
This is Chicago, nigga!
South Side we're in this bitch!
East Side crazy blow that loud!
Low End! 39th! the Ickes!
47th Street! Garfield Park!
79th! Stony Island!
K-Town and Wild Hundreds!
This is Chi-Town!
Dro City! The Village!
Harvey World! O-Block!
64th and Normal!
64th and King Drive, what up!?
83rd! Cottage Grove! The Gardens!
This Chicago, nigga!
The Dearborns! 55th!
Cabrini Green! Terror Town!
West Side! Pocket Town, it's Chicago!
Halsted to the Ida B. Wells!
Lawn-City! The Manor, London Town!
DJ Pharris, fuck around and get embarrassed.
We had some technical difficulties, but here's the final day of tour diary from Jip Jop, and some photos from a few impromptu shows to remember. Guess the old rule rings true — it's not a good party, till the police show up.
— Day 4
Hello from Austin! Our second show brought the house down (almost literally) with police coming to stop all the commotion. We followed a couple of great bands from Berklee School of Music — Canary and Against Atlas.
Seeing some of our favorite artists has been a major highlight of the trip. SBTRKT (below), Terror Pigeon, and Deerhoof to name a few...
Well never fear, Jip Jop is making some new friends down in Austin, and fitting in just fine. Here's the latest from Carlos and Jip Jop.
We played at Baby Blue Studios on E. 12th St. and witnessed a dusty garage party turn into a wall-shaking dance party before our eyes. Bikes chained to gates, keg lines, red cups, and a crowd ready to party late into the night gave us that authentic Austin vibe we came for.
The energy was amazing! Our boys at Good Luck Sir put together a great line-up of music that we were happy to headline.
The WHOevers; Dotkom (left) and J.Arthur (right) by Stephen Klapko
To the casual listener, Chicago hip-hop is heavily defined by the works of Kanye, Common, Lupe Fiasco, and maybe Twista, if they know a thing or two. Beneath the surface, however, sounds from artists on the up-and-up like King Louie, Chief Keef, Chandler London, and The WHOevers, stay reserved for those savvy to the young and dynamic scene. From local stage shows to web videos, these artists have succeeded in developing a following based on each of their own unique styles; creating sub-genres within the culture.
The problem is, while diversity in style and content can be a good thing, a segregation has developed between the artists and the groups of people particular to their sound. This complicates the concept of hip-hop as a unifying movement in the city.
For 20 years now, Da Brat has cemented her status as one of the most noted women in hip hop; as the first female rapper to ever go platinum (1994's Funkdafied), this Grammy-nominated artist has definitely earned a place in music history. After riding in the fast lane with three follow-up albums, along with several television and movie roles, Da Brat (aka Shawntae Harris) hit a speed bump in 2007 with a prison term that threatened to end it all. Now, the Chicago native, part of the Legends of Hip Hop tour, is back in the driver's seat; here, she talks about her life, lessons learned, and of course, loving hip hop.
Gapers Block: You've been in the game for a while now. Take us back to the girl growing up on Chicago's west side — when did you know you could rap?
Da Brat: I knew when I was in junior high school when I was battling all the guys and was just wearing them out. And then when I started to see MC Lyte, [Queen] Latifah and Monie Love, I said to myself, "Oh — this is what I'm going to do."
Local emcees J. Arthur and DotKom combine their drive, talents, and roots in the soulful and gritty sounds that make up their style, to create the hip-hop duo known as The Whoevers. They've earned the respect of listeners from the tops of several stages in the city, including one at Wicker Park Fest this past year.
With the digital release of their first album, Renovations, back in September, The Whoevers are wrapping up their biggest year yet, with their midnight release of the music video for "Spectacular Vernacular," the second track off the EP.
Neon bright Chicago MC Kid Sister just dropped her video for the remix of Gucci Rag Top featuring fellow Fools Gold MC Danny Brown. The remix Xzibit Pimps the original track into a Missy Elliot sampling Rick Rubin-esque 808s and gated guitar party shaker as Kid Sister and Danny Brown engage in a battle of who's sexual libido is best represented by their choice of vehicular transportation.
Kanye and Jay-Z aren't the only hip-hop dream doubleteam right now. The other is Common and Nas, whose "Ghetto Dreams" has been rocking turntables and booming out of cars for the past month. The official video just debuted; thanks to Fake Shore Drive for the tip.
"Ghetto Dreams" is on Common's forthcoming album, The Dreamer, The Believer, due out Nov. 22.
It's Friday, it's sunny, and it's time for a the supreme summer 2011 track. In my opinion it has to be "Juke Me" by Psalm One. This song is self-released as the lead single for her 15-track road tape "Get In The Van" Vol. 3 which is coming soon. You can find "Juke Me" on iTunes or bandcamp. What tracks are you blasting this summer?
Chicago rap duo The Cool Kids get the feature treatment on the B-Side of the Chicago Reader out today all in honor of the official upcoming July 12 release (finally!) of their full-length album When Fish Ride Bicycles (Green Label Sound). If that label doesn't ring a bell, that's because you may not have run across the musical arm of Mountain Dew before. Does this mean The Cool Kids are finally making their long-delayed break out album forever writing their name in the skies of Chicago-born rap legends? That's yet to be seen. But we'll enjoy the ride with them this summer, for sure.
Bay-area rapper Lyrics Born (Tom Shimura) hits the stage at the Abbey Pub this weekend with no less than a full band and hopefully some fresh batteries in his microphone. The maestro has rocked stages at Lollapalooza, and almost all the venues in town — he tours so much he must have mastered the science of packing a suitcase. But this isn't just your ordinary "Hip-Hop Hooray" rap artist. Blessed with a gift for enunciating the most complicated of rhymes, and for the good sense to bring a solid live band into the studio, Lyrics Born is as entertaining to listen to as he is to shake your booty to.
His latest album, As U Were is no exception to a series of energetic solo releases which began back in the late-'90s with singles, and really took off with 2003's ...Later That Day and the widely successful remix album, 2005's Same !@#$ Different Day. He followed up with a live double album in 2006, another studio release in 2008 and this fall's latest album, As U Were. This one isn't just rap beats, but LB takes a lot more funk into the studio to create some pretty groovy songs like the more sung than rapped "Lies X 3" and the disco-influenced "Coulda Woulda Shoulda". Songs like "Oh! Baby" are classic Lyrics Born with machine gun-fast lyrics alongside piano and brass horns, oh, and some vocoder too.
[mp3] Lyrics Born - Lies X 3 (Keys N Krates remix)
Lyrics Born performs at the Abbey Pub along with Keys N Krates, The Opus, Abstract Giants, and Vapor Eyes on Saturday, January 29th. The doors open at 8pm, music starts at 8:30pm. Tickets are $18 (adv), $20 (door). 21+. The Abbey Pub is located at 3420 W. Grace St. 773-478-4408.
[This piece was submitted by freelance writer and creator of many mediocre YouTube videos Daniel Shar.]
Chicago-based rapper Matlock, like most of you, has a friend who seems to love nothing more than showing off YouTube videos he has incorrectly deemed worthwhile. Every now and then, as you know, that friend unwittingly manages to strike gold. If you're Matlock, this happy accident opens the door for a chance at wide-scale exposure and promotion unlike anything you've experienced in the first decade of your music career.
Though most people today hear "rap battles" and immediately think of 8 Mile, it is not unreasonable to expect future generations to associate the phrase with Grind Time Now. The league, which began humbly in Florida just two years ago, now has multiple divisions throughout the country, several copycat leagues around the world, and more than 35 million views on YouTube.
After his buddy turned him into part of that sizable audience, Matlock realized the opportunity available to get involved as a battler and expand his own following. Battling has long been viewed as a great way for rappers to earn respect, but Grind Time Now has truly transformed and heightened this reality.
By encouraging participants to write verses for their opponents, and by eliminating the presence of instrumentals, the league manages to put a fresh spin on one of the oldest traditions in hip-hop. This cultural tornado will touch down in Chicago for the sixth time since 2008 at The Windy City Takeover IV this Saturday, November 20, at Elastic Arts Foundation.
The back stock room at Binny's may be the last place you'd expect to find Ludacris, but nevertheless that's where I found myself chatting with this famed rapper and actor this past Saturday afternoon. Luda had stopped by the liquor store to promote Conjure, his new brand of cognac, before his show at Park West that night. Sadly, samples of the cognac were not offered.
I was starting to think that citycutbacks were going to stretch all the way into summer music programming at Millennium Park, but luckily the schedule for this season's Edible Audible Picnic arrived in our inbox today and here we share it with you.
As you probably guessed by the name, Edible Audible Picnic is a music series that takes place at, you guessed it, lunchtime at Pritzker Pavilion. Every Monday afternoon beginning on June 7th, the "polyrhythmic music series" will present bands and DJ's spanning from around the world to right here from Chicago including Green Velvet, The Cool Kids and Orchard Lounge. It's like a party instead of work. You can step away from your computer for an hour a week for that, right?
All concerts begin at noon. See the full schedule after the jump.
If you ever get a chance to talk with recording artist/producer J'mme Love (aka j.love), you should, because he's a really bright, friendly guy who's open to all kinds of people, whether they're from Chicago or beyond, whether they're his age (he's 19) or much older. He still lives in the house where he grew up on the West Side, where West Garfield Park and Austin come together in an area known as "Ktown." Now the neighborhood is quiet, though before a huge drug bust a few years ago [PDF], it was full of drug dealers and cars with headlights that flickered as they sped over the speed bumps. He can see the dilapidated Brach's factory from his window and a burned out house practically next door.
After the Mos Def / MF Doom double bill at the Congress this past Saturday, allegations began to surface that an impostor performed as MF Doom. Local hip-hop blog Fake Shore Drive is heading the charge, claiming that the "DOOMpostor" and his DJ were performing to a recording of album tracks, and holding fast to the assumption that the performer was in no way Daniel Dumile.
The rumor mill's blame has fallen on the promoters and yesterday, representatives for React, Cold Grums, Silver Wrapper and the Congress responded both to Fake Shore Drive and the Vocalo Blog. They maintain that they have no knowledge of whether the performer was MF Doom or an impostor, and the performer's behavior - while suspicious - gave them no clues. However, they are threatening legal action for a breach of contract if it becomes clear that MF Doom sent a stand-in.
Several videos of the performance have surfaced, so judge for yourself:
Curtis Jackson (aka 50 Cent) has just embarked on a 10-city promotional tour for his new film Before I Self Destruct, a companion to his latest album of the same title. Fiddy wrote, directed, and starred in the film, and will be hitting up Chicago on Monday night with a preview screening. Want in? Head on over to MovieTickets.com to print out free passes (you'll have to create an account, also free). The screening will be overbooked to guarantee a full house, so it would be wise to arrive a bit early. It'll all be going down at AMC River East 21 (322 East Illinois St), Monday night at 8:30 pm.
The Deli Chicago has the line (and a video) from a DA reunion on Chic-a-Go Go.
More in video is on Fake Shore Drive with local hip-hop artists Kidz in the Hall on Mark Bazer's "The Interview Show" which also begs the question: Why isn't there any hip-hop at The Hideout? Or any, really?
Jim DeRogatis has the line on a fledgling band called Ideamen hitting the Beat Kitchen later this month with their newly minted album.
And I totally missed the recent announcement of Kid Sister's long-awaited (and awaited) debut album release. Ultravioletdrops 11/17 and you can be at her show at the House of Blues to celebrate on 11/25. Tickets $16-$18.
The nominations are in, and now it's time to vote for 2009's The Truth Awards, which celebrate Chicago's vibrant hip hop scene. Will Twista win best album? Is Mic Terror the artist of the year? It's your call.
The Truth Awards will be held Oct. 9 in the Grand Marmon Ballroom, 2231 S. Michigan Ave. from 7 to 10pm. Tickets are $25, available by calling 312-980-2681 or emailing midwestgap[at]yahoo.com.
BBU (aka either Bin Laden Blowin' Up or Black, Brown and Ugly) have a hit on their hands with "Chi Don't Dance." Check it out:
BBU is performing with Hood Internet and the Life During Wartime DJs at UR Magazine's Dickfork night at Darkroom, 2210 W. Chicago Ave. The show starts at 9pm and is free before 11pm with RSVP or all night if you have a Pitchfork ticket or wristband (it's $5 after 11 if you don't). 21+