By Craig Bechtel
The Shakespeare of hip-hop, Aesop Rock, turns forty this month (he shares a birthday with Kenny G, he notes on the track “TUFF”), and although he may be growing more contemplative as middle age approaches, he’s not slowing down. The rapper born Ian Matthias Bavitz has just released his seventh solo album, “The Impossible Kid” (Rhymesayers), but he’s also kept busy as a collaborator, being a member of the Weathermen and Two of Every Animal (both with rapper Cage), having worked with Kimya Dawson as The Uncluded and formed Hail Mary Mallon with Rob Sonic and DJ Big Wiz.
Given that he’s touring the West Coast (with the aforementioned Sonic) at press time, he provides some insights into the new record and where he’s “at” via email from an L.A. hotel room. Aesop says “The Impossible Kid” has received a great response, and the shows have been really good so far: “I never really know what to expect, but by and large it seems like the people are digging it.” Read the rest of this entry »
By Craig Bechtel
The calendar has just turned to April, but Magix King is promising that “it’s gonna be a hell of a sick summer.” That’s how the hip-hop artist born Myron Ford Jr. on Chicago’s South Side kicks off his next project, “Sick Summer,” due to drop on May 28.
Magix (he says the ‘x’ is pronounced like a ‘c’ both to protect his brand and it makes him easier to find on the Internet) has already released the first single. “Hi There” is a great entrée into his positive message, rapid-fire raps and heavily layered (but never too busy) production. Toward the end he inserts an aside that “I entertain and empower through the sounds of music,” before he raps that while “they sleep, we grind.” Read the rest of this entry »
By Craig Bechtel
The back half of March offers a plethora of hip-hop-portunities (sorry) that run the gamut from old school to new school, racing across the timeline from early rap to danceable modern beats injected with a healthy dose of R&B, and there will be sizable injections of weirdness along the way.
But first, Knowledge Drop would be remiss if we didn’t acknowledge the passing of a local venue that became a hip-hop institution in its regrettably short lifespan, The Shrine (2109 South Wabash). The venue was originally scheduled to close at the end of March, having been purchased by a real estate development firm which plans to demolish the building and erect a mixed-use complex that includes a hotel, apartments and retail, and finale events were scheduled to include Mya on February 27 and Busta Rhymes on February 28. Those plans were scuttled when two people were shot outside the club around 2am on February 21, after which the club immediately shut its doors. According to the Chicago Tribune, Cameron White of Gurnee has since been charged in the shooting that wounded a security guard and critically injured a woman. The Busta Rhymes show was canceled outright, but Mya was rebooked at Promontory (5311 South Lake Park) on February 25, and ended up doing some Chicago-area appearances throughout the weekend as well. But neither its violent end nor the loose ends left behind should obscure the legacy of The Shrine’s nearly seven-year history. Founder and owner Joe Russo did not respond to a request for comment prior to deadline, but to underscore the club’s significance, it’s sufficient to include a partial list of hip-hop performers that graced the stage: 50 Cent, Common, Mos Def, De La Soul, KRS-One, Talib Kweli, Rakim, The Roots, Ginuwine, Kendrick Lamar and Brand New Heavies, among many others (in addition to luminaries within the R&B and reggae genres). Prior to closing, a statement from Russo indicated that they hope to reopen in another location. Read the rest of this entry »
By Craig Bechtel
Hip-hop heads are marching out of hibernation to kick off March and here are three to check out on various sides of the equation, all of whom are touring behind quality albums released in November.
Marching militantly into town to promote his “Y-3,” Mickey Factz will be spouting a lot of food for thought from when he hits town this month. Born Mark Williams in 1982, Factz hails from the Bronx and went to the same high school Afrika Bambaataa attended in the 1970s. He got his start with the “In Search of N.E.R.D.” mixtape in 2006, drawing music and inspiration from that Pharrell Williams (no relation) group. Since then Mickey Factz gave up a spot at NYU Law School to focus on being an MC. He has collaborated with Drake, Yelawolf, B.o.B, The Cool Kids and Bambaataa, and in 2009 appeared on the cover of XXL as part of their Freshmen 10 issue. Mickey Factz has headlined the Rock The Bells festival (he cites LL Cool J as a big inspiration) and has toured with Chicago native Lupe Fiasco (he hopes to support his next tour). Lyrically, Mickey Factz refers to Bill Gates, Steven Spielberg, Magic Johnson and Derek Jeter in his giddy earlier composition “The Rush,” but “Y-3” is a darker affair. Read the rest of this entry »
Alt-Rock, Chicago Artists, EDM, Electronic/Dance, Experimental, Festivals, Hip-Hop, Indie Rock, R&B, Rap, Rock
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 »
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 »
By 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 »
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 »
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 »
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 »