Reviews, profiles and news about music in Chicago

Raw Material: Warming Trends On Winter’s Live Music Scene

Alt-Rock, Chicago Artists, EDM, Electronic/Dance, Experimental, Festivals, Hip-Hop, Indie Rock, R&B, Rap, Rock No Comments »
Lume

Lume

By Keidra Chaney

Now is a decent time to get back into the live-music swing of things this winter, with upcoming album releases, the return of monthly live music events and more.

Definitely bring your earplugs to check out Chicago’s three-piece Lume when they come to Subterranean (2011 West North) on February 19 to celebrate the release of their album, “Perennial Phase.” (You can also preview and purchase the album on Bandcamp.) If you’re into brooding, rough slowcore then you’ll be into Lume; they combine fuzzy riffs, melodic, understated vocals and lush production. The seven-minute opus “Rattleback” is the new album’s centerpiece; it floats from an alternating loud-soft dichotomy to a dark, almost dreamy breakdown that builds up into a chaotic, feedback-laden outro. It’s a song that will definitely translate well live, since Lume has been known to bring an intensity to their stage shows that doesn’t always come through in recordings. Check them out on the heels of their Southern U.S. tour, with fellow feedback slingers Estates, Sough, Droughts as openers. Tickets are $7 and the show starts at 10pm. Read the rest of this entry »

Knowledge Drop: Redefinitions and Second Chances for Kid Cudi, Pell and Pete Rock

Hip-Hop, Live Reviews, Rap, Record Reviews No Comments »

Kid Cudi

By Craig Bechtel

Kid Cudi disappointed many of his loyal fans when he pulled the plug at the last minute on his December tour dates, citing “production and personal problems.” He posted a lengthy note via Twitter, saying among other things, that things “weren’t together production wise and I need a bit to make some changes,” and “I got a lot im [sic] dealing with at this time in my personal life too and in order for the shows to be the best experience possible as well as keeping my sanity intact, I need to regroup.” The disappointment from his audience most likely began when he released “Speedin’ Bullet 2 Heaven,” a rock album brimming over with distorted guitars and grunge-era angst. Kid Cudi may be a talented rapper and have come by his hip-hop bona fides honestly, but this record was not hip-hop. While Hot New Hip Hop gave it a balanced and nuanced review, they couldn’t award it more than a sixty-eight percent, whereas the website’s Fan Rating merited a lackluster twenty-one percent. (Then again, the fans on a heavy metal website would probably have savaged the latest outing from Jurassic 5.) Taken on its own merits, and disregarding genre, “Speedin’ Bullet 2 Heaven” is an extraordinary record, and it’s not like Cudi doesn’t recognize the rules he’s breaking. He even enlists MTV icons Beavis and Butt-Head to provide occasional commentary throughout the double album. Read the rest of this entry »

Knowledge Drop: R.O.E. + NYC = A Bold New P.O.V.

Chicago Artists, Hip-Hop, Interviews, Rap 1 Comment »

620382_10100441858583871_364860079_oBy Craig Bechtel

West Side product Roosevelt Sledge, Jr. goes by R.O.E. (pronounced Roe), an acronym for Rising Over Envy, but he’s risen over a lot more. Since his 2011 debut EP, “A Backpacker Named R.O.E.,” he’s toured to tout his intelligent brand of alternative hip-hop, recorded an incredible live album with his band The Soulvillians at Double Door… and his 2014 EP was either a toast “To Happiness” or described his journey there.

That sojourn toward happiness has included recently relocating to New York to better connect with music-industry resources and expand his horizons. R.O.E. says “it’s a mix” of music bringing him to NYC and also wanting “to experience life outside of Chicago.” He says he’ll probably live here again, but plans on developing his career and “building up Chicago” from his new base. Read the rest of this entry »

Raw Material: New Year’s Irresolution

Alt-Rock, Chicago Artists, Electronic/Dance, Hip-Hop, Indie Rock, New Wave, Rock No Comments »
nobunny_press_photo-2

Nobunny

By Keidra Chaney

What are you doing New Year’s Eve? Or the day before? Honestly, I have no clue if I myself am leaving the house yet, thanks to Lyft surge charges and the fact that it tends to bring out the binge drinkers in full force. Even so, there’s a ton of A-list choices, music-wise, for anyone who does actually want to venture out—more so than usual, so make your plans early.

If you love EDM and/or hip-hop, there’s really only one logical choice for you for New Year’s Eve, and that’s Reaction NYE, taking place on December 30 and 31 at the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center in Rosemont (5555 North River Road). The event is headlined by EDM faves deadmau5 and Skrillex, as well as Run the Jewels and Chvrches. There’s a pretty impressive Chicago showing as well, including Chance The Rapper (returning to the city after his headlining stint at Pitchfork over the summer), legendary house producer Green Velvet, hip-hop artist ProbCause and local remix artists Autograf. Tickets start at $89, and can be purchased at the Reaction NYE website. Read the rest of this entry »

Knowledge Drop: Whimper to a Bang

Chicago Artists, Festivals, Hip-Hop No Comments »
juvenile-net-worth1-1

Juvenile

By Craig Bechtel

The latter half of December may wind down with a whimper in terms of hip-hop happenings, but New Year’s Eve always offers a chance for the year to end with a bang; 2015 won’t be an exception.

If you’re still looking for the perfect gift to put under the tree (or menorah, cornucopia or metal pole) this year, your favorite hip-hop fan will love and/or find food for thought in “The Rap Year Book” by Shea Serrano, which features a foreword by the father of gangsta rap (and recent actual father) Ice-T. Rather than rank the best hip-hop tracks from 1979 to 2014, Serrano chooses the most important rap track from each year, defends his choice via an essay and has one of his favorite music writers rebut each choice in a 200-word sidebar. In a radio interview, Serrano pointed to 1980’s “The Breaks” by Kurtis Blow as being important as the first track that features a chorus, and included Kanye West’s “Gold Digger” from 2005, despite his intense dislike for it. “The Rap Year Book”—a New York Times bestseller—was published in October by Harry N. Abrams. Read the rest of this entry »

Knowledge Drop: Three to See

Hip-Hop No Comments »
Photo: Kelly Loverud

Doomtree/Photo: Kelly Loverud

By Craig Bechtel

Doomtree, the best hip-hop collective since the Wu-Tang Clan, hails from Minnesota’s Twin Cities. Although until recently primarily known in hip-hop circles for being home to Rhymesayers, Atmosphere’s label, Doomtree is now celebrating more than ten years as a label, more than fifty releases, and the new record from their self-named septet, the aptly titled “All Hands.” Doomtree’s five MCs include Dessa, Sims, Mike Mictlan, P.O.S. and Cecil Otter; Lazerbeak is a producer and Paper Tiger DJs and produces as well. All seven members have released impressive solo work, but when they come together on record, every member is instrumental in fusing a cavalcade of seemingly disparate sounds. They don’t disappoint live, either; their round-robin, rapid-fire verse-spitting and propulsive, concussive beats were some of the highlights of this year’s Riot Fest in Chicago, and had the crowd hopping throughout. They’re back on December 4 at Concord Music Hall (2047 North Milwaukee); the all-ages show is at 6:30pm; tickets are $20. Lazerbeak has also collaborated with Joe Horton and Crescent Moon in the “supergroup” Mixed Blood Majority; their sophomore record, “Insane World,” has just dropped, and they’ll open the show along with fellow Minnesotan Bleubird. Read the rest of this entry »

Knowledge Drop: ProbCause is Drifting With Intent

Chicago Artists, Hip-Hop, Interviews, Rap No Comments »

yes-1925color

By Craig Bechtel

Chicago’s nascent hip-hop scene offers myriad rising stars, but it would probably be a bad idea to discount ProbCause. Because he has matured beyond his years since he was voted onto the North Coast Music Fest lineup in 2011, because he has come into his own as a producer, collaborator and rapper, because he has demonstrated lyrical intelligence, rhythmic talent and dope flow, the Evanston native should not be overlooked.

Reached via phone on a recent Monday afternoon, the rapper born Colin Grimm detailed how he got into hip-hop, how his new record “Drifters” differs from his previous output, the novel perspective he brings to the table as a borderline suburbanite, and what’s next in the near and long term. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: The Strayhorn Fringe Festival/Old Town School of Folk Music

Bluegrass, Chicago Artists, Festivals, Funk, Hip-Hop, Jazz, Live Reviews, World Music No Comments »

Strayhorn-finalRECOMMENDED

This is Billy Strayhorn’s centenary, and it’s been heartening to see so much attention paid to a songwriter whose gifts are almost in inverse proportion to his fame—i.e. the former stratospheric, the latter microscopic. Part of the problem is that Strayhorn is so closely associated with Duke Ellington, who was one of the more flamboyantly extrovert of the past century’s geniuses. Another part is that Strayhorn himself was quite happy to reside in Ellington’s shadow. The result is that today people are surprised to learn that tunes indelibly associated with Ellington—such as “Lush Life,” “Chelsea Bridge” and “Take the ‘A’ Train”—are in fact Strayhorn’s compositions. It’s hard for us to think of them in a new way; they’re so bonded to our DNA. Read the rest of this entry »

Raw Material: Post Festival Season, Local Acts Shine

Alt-Rock, Chicago Artists, Hip-Hop, Indie Rock, New Wave, Pop, Rock No Comments »
roommate.jpgimagebyellengladish

Roommate

Once a chill gets in the air and many of us recover from our Halloween activities, there’s a bit of a lull in live music until the December holidays and New Year’s Eve. That’s OK, though; I think it’s a wonderful time to check out some of the bands, artists and venues that may not have gotten the love they deserved during the busy summer festival season, and there’s always plenty going on. When it comes to this month’s Raw Material, be sure to catch up with the art-pop ensemble Roommate at Burlington Bar (3425 West Fullerton) on Friday, November 6. The Kent Lambert-led project has endured for well over a decade with an evolving lineup, and released a full-length album, “Make Like,” in June of this year. This may or may not be the group’s last recording, but nonetheless Roommate has had a busy summer of performance, including a residency at the Hideout that culminated in a multimedia collaboration with Chicago Film Archives. Roommate’s Burlington set will be opened by Strange Weather Records labelmate Thomas Comerford and Minnesota-based singer-songwriter Luke Redfield. The free, twenty-one-plus show starts at 9pm. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Oddisee & Good Company/1st Ward at Chop Shop

Hip-Hop, Live Reviews No Comments »

music_Oddisee

RECOMMENDED

We all know hip-hop has a deeper, softer, more meaningful and altruistic side. East Coast, Maryland-born emcee-producer Amir Mohamed el Khalifa, otherwise known as Oddisee, embodies that nurturing and uplifting spirit—what we used to mean by hip-hop. In a past life Oddisee might have been a lesser-known jazz musician, an accompanist to someone great; now in this reincarnated life he’s an appreciative and positive rapper, content with an authentic and kind approach to music-making and lyricism. He’s a steady producer and lyricist who for years has settled into the music industry without overcompensations or flamboyant, ego-driven, meaningless gestures. Read the rest of this entry »