Reviews, profiles and news about music in Chicago

Knowledge Drop: ProbCause is Drifting With Intent

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


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 »


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 »


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 »



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 »

Preview: Bottoms/The Hideout

Chicago Artists, Drag, Hip-Hop, Live Reviews, Pop Punk 1 Comment »



The screamcore reputation of Jake Dibeler, the gutter drag performance artist, lyricist and lead singer of Bottoms, totally precedes him. If the gritty photos of this unique vocalist—writhing and singing on venue floors in pumps and a red wig like a drugged-up mermaid—don’t entice you, then maybe the dreary dance vibes of this electroclash-inspired trio will. In the short amount of time since their “Goodbye” EP release in January, this rather bent art-punk trio has completely swept the Internet and all of New York off their feet. With JD Samson’s stamp of approval and a quick signing to budding label Atlas Chair, the band seems to have adamantly set their pulsating and playful agit-noise toward global domination. Well, maybe that’s an overstatement, but some form of sub-dom subversions will definitely be aroused if you check out Bottoms for Chances Dances’ ten-year anniversary month of festivities and exhibits. Read the rest of this entry »

Knowledge Drop: An October Hip-Hop Renaissance

Chicago Artists, Hip-Hop No Comments »

Mick Jenkins

By Craig Bechtel

There’s no question that Chicago hip-hop is undergoing a real renaissance right now, but it’s often lost in the proverbial shuffle that Chi-town verses and beats have been here for years, so let’s not call it a comeback. October presents the perfect opportunity to learn Chicago’s hip-hop history, with a month-long exhibit at the Hairpin Arts Center in Logan Square (2810 North Milwaukee) entitled “Permanent Record: Chicago Hip Hop Kulture,” an attempt to survey “the evolution of Chicago Hip Hop in an interactive exhibit displaying the elements of Hip Hop culture,” according to the press materials.

Each Saturday consists of workshops and panel discussions dedicated to a specific element (graffiti, breakdancing, MCing or DJing) and group workshops led by guest artist instructors follows a panel discussion featuring pioneers in their subject matter. A tour of Logan Square graffiti murals follows the afternoon workshops. Aside from curators and members of ABC (billed as “one of the revolutionary graffiti crews to introduce the Hip Hop culture to Chicago in the early 80s”) BboyB and Flash, local talents featured include Waka, Jesse de la Pena, Breaker Ray, Kuumba Lynx, Amina Norman-Hawkins, Justin Grey, DJ INC, TSel, Gloe, Ang13, D2G, Zone D, SamIam the MC, Big Once, Non-Stop, Beast, Omega, Moz Def and more.  Read the rest of this entry »

Raw Material: Riot Fest and the Summer Wrap-up

Alt-Rock, Chicago Artists, EDM, Electronic/Dance, Festivals, Garage Rock, Hip-Hop, Indie Rock, Rock No Comments »


By Keidra Chaney

Lollapalooza is the juggernaut and Pitchfork the tastemaker’s favorite, but for me Riot Fest is the best music festival in town. As a rocker at heart, I’ll cop to a strong bias: the festival started as a multi-venue underground punk and metal showcase, and it’s currently one of the few festivals to stay (for the most part) true to its rock roots over the years. But there’s a lot more live music to check out in the next couple of weeks outside of Riot Fest, including North Coast Festival, if hip-hop, EDM and jam bands are more your speed, and an eclectic group of DJs and musicians paying tribute to Kate Bush.

Before the festival season wraps in Chicago, on September 3 at Beat Kitchen (2100 West Belmont) there’s a sucker punch of peppy garage punk with the city’s own Swimsuit Addition opening for St. Louis duo Bruiser Queen. Their 2014 full-length “Wretched Pinups” is like listening to nineties riot grrrl bands, surf-punk, eighties new wave and a little sixties girl group mixed in a sonic blender. (You can also check out a new remix of their single “Talk is Cheap” on their Bandcamp page.) Show starts at 9pm and is 17+; tickets are $8. Read the rest of this entry »

Listening Party Review: Mick Jenkins’ “Wave[s]”

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


Chicago’s Mick Jenkins put on quite a show on a recent Friday night, but he didn’t rap a single verse. Instead, the Music Room at Soho House hosted a listening party with Jenkins and St. Louis painter Hayveyah McGowan, where they described the creative process behind Jenkins’ newest project, “Wave[s]” (release date August 21). With guidance from Fake Shore Drive’s Andrew Barber, Jenkins and McGowan delineated how their collaboration originated.

After spending a year and a half on his previous release,“The Water[s],” Jenkins didn’t feel like the concept project got enough traction from the public—despite its critical acclaim. So he put together this newest project more as a collection of compositions than a record with an “end-to-end” theme, and did so in a matter of months. But he still wanted a consistent artistic through-line, and Jenkins commissioned McGowan to create a large-scale painting inspired by each of the tracks, all of which were on exhibit at Soho House. Read the rest of this entry »

Lolla Day 3: Riders On the Storm

Alt-Rock, Electronic/Dance, Festivals, Hip-Hop, Indie Rock, Pop, Rap, Rock, Uncategorized No Comments »
Photo: Brian Hieggelke

Photo: Brian Hieggelke

By Craig Bechtel

Festivalgoers receive their tickets and passes with the caveat that the shows will go on “rain or shine.” But there’s always the caveat that if high winds and lightning pop up on the radar, all bets are off, and attendees of Lollapalooza Day 3 had to wrestle with the forces of Mother Nature, not once, but twice.

Sunday started hot and humid, and skies were sunny as Australian trio DMA’s treated those in attendance at the Pepsi stage to their jangly, echoey guitar pop. DMA’s are clearly inspired by the mid-nineties Britpop tradition, à la Oasis, Blur, Happy Mondays, etc., who themselves were born of NME C86 influences like The Mighty Lemon Drops, The Shop Assistants and The Wedding Present. Whether this was apparent to the crowds enjoying their set at the Pepsi stage was unclear—they may have been there based on the strength of the band’s “Laced” single, which has garnered some airplay on local AOR radio station WXRT, was a song of the week for KEXP and garnered a review in Entertainment Weekly last fall. Read the rest of this entry »

Lolla Day Two: Pedal to the Metal

Alt-Rock, Chicago Artists, Electronic/Dance, Festivals, Hip-Hop, Live Reviews, Metal, Punk, Rock No Comments »
Photo: Brian Hieggelke

Mick Jenkins/Photo: Brian Hieggelke

By Craig Bechtel

One of the few hip-hop acts on the Lollapalooza bill this year, and the only one from Chicago, Mick Jenkins led the audience in a repeated chant to “drink more water,” dovetailing off the musical project he released last year entitled “The Water[s]”—which he told the rapt crowd (who mostly seemed to know the words) is a metaphor for truth. His verbal flow was just as fluid as water, and to Jenkins’ credit, his four-piece ensemble included a live, jazz-influenced drummer, along with the de rigueur backing man and DJ. But the proof was in the performance—as Jenkins put it at the end of one number, “all of this shit is perception.” Perception being what it is, he concluded his set with a reference to N.W.A.’s “Fuck Tha Police,” a pointed reference to the ongoing national controversies prompted by allegations of police brutality against African-Americans. The point was not lost on anyone. (A few hours later rapper Travis Scott would attempt to make a similar point at the beginning of his set on the Perry’s stage by telling the crowd to climb over the security barriers and rush the stage, shouting “We want rage!” According to published reports, the plug was pulled on his performance only five minutes in, and he was arrested and charged with disorderly conduct.) Read the rest of this entry »