Reviews, profiles and news about music in Chicago

Preview: Method Man, Redman, and B-Real/Concord Music Hall

Hip-Hop, Rap No Comments »



1999 called, it wants its concert back because this show is going to be THE BOMB.

In case you’ve never listened to rap music, Method Man and Redman have been making head-nodding, gangsta-leaning jams together since 1994 and are still two of the best rappers out there. If you don’t believe in soulmates, at least in a creative sense, these two could change your mind. B-Real is the front man of Cypress Hill and sold more than eighteen million albums. His nasally vocals are legendary, and while he has released countless hits, no one can resist or avoid “Insane in the Membrane.” Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Ana Tijoux/Subterranean

Latin, Rap, World Music No Comments »



Chilean rapper Ana Tijoux has been quite busy of late—just in 2014 she collaborated with the likes of Julieta Venegas, Oscar-winner Jorge Drexler and many others while embarking on a massive tour that included stops at Millennium Park and the Latin Alternative Music Conference in New York. Her sound blends North and Latin American influences—she has a solid band that includes guitars, percussion, keys and drums. In addition, her backup singers are also skilled MCs who have the chops to share many of the tunes, freestyling whenever there is space to do so. Read the rest of this entry »

Live Review: Pusha T/Pitchfork Music Festival

Festivals, Hip-Hop, Live Reviews, Rap No Comments »
Photo: Robert Loerzel

Photo: Robert Loerzel

In contrast to the tight, rehearsed set Clipse put together in 2007, Pusha T strolled on stage a leisurely thirty-five minutes late this year. One wonders what he was thinking, standing on the very same stage as before, now without his brother Malice; perhaps the church steeple in the distance serving as a constant reminder of the moral obligations Malice now embraces. Or maybe not. Pusha T’s mid-set medley of “Runaway,” “Mercy” and “I Don’t Like,” absolutely crushed the enthusiastic crowd, at least the parts of it that were still visible through the consistent smoke haze. Hip-hop shows can sometimes suffer when an artist raps over his own tracks, their voice sounding weak in comparison to the studio recording, and Pusha T suffered this routine setback, but not without a fight. The object of his derision? Lil B, who he targeted more than once to a crowd who had fawned over The Based God last year. It didn’t seem to matter, not much did, except a bunch of kids hungry for street raps to blow smoke to. (Kenneth Preski)

Preview: Talib Kweli/Metro

Hip-Hop, Rap No Comments »


The rap music being manufactured today is more often than not stripped of its storytelling origins and injected with monstrous bass-rattling beats in place of substance. Talib Kweli, unlike some of his more mainstream peers, has never exchanged narrative for glitzy instrumentals. And even if he did, he’d still kill the mic. In the course of his twenty-year career, he has proved himself of two things: that he can rap over any beat, and that his rhymes are valid. Dubbed as a “conscious hip-hop artist,” Kweli’s raps have always been weighted in truth—shared experiences of community and history. Even when the story is not his own, it is told with a strong pretense bidding you to see things from a different perspective and always set to music that carries a proper head-bopping groove. Read the rest of this entry »

Cue the Police Sirens: An Interview with Gangsta Rapper Freddie Gibbs on the Eve of “Piñata”

Hip-Hop, Interviews, Rap 1 Comment »
Photo: Peter Beste

Photo: Peter Beste

By Kenneth Preski

Gang violence, murder, robbery, drug dealing, prostitution: all fodder for Freddie Gibbs on “Thuggin’,” the first single released from his collaboration with Madlib, the world’s greatest beatsmith. The gangsta rapper even goes as far as selling crack to one of his family members to avoid having her go up the street to turn a trick for it. Welcome to Gary, Indiana through the eyes of Gangsta Gibbs, a man who puts the rap in rap sheet. It has to be bullshit, right? Some over-the-top braggadocio to pull one over on record buyers. No one could come through that much trauma unscathed. Given the genre’s many imitators, thug is a costume, and one size fits all. Not according to the man himself: “All that shit is real, man. I don’t have no persona. I don’t have no rap persona. Everything is real and authentic. If I’m talking about it, then I saw it.” Given the criminality of his lyrical content, that’s a chilling confession. Gibbs’ memory is mined for source material during the entirety of “Piñata,” a release which is not just one of the best hip-hop records this year, but one of the best, period. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: 2 Chainz and Pusha T/Chicago Theatre

Hip-Hop, Rap No Comments »


2 Chainz, known for his ever-ubiquitous guest spots (he even made an appearance in Adidas’ latest Derrick Rose commercial), is not your typical hip-hop star. His uncanny knack for caricature work within the genre evokes the early-2000s surge of brief-speaking hype man Lil Jon, but the reality of one Tauheed Epps is something quite different from what he projects. A 4.0 GPA college graduate, Mr. Chainz’s outrageous public persona is likely more of an industry calculation—and performative satire—than the sort of legitimate homegrown silly-riling that most are buying. Paired with Pusha T, a fellow expert in the parafiction of rap—perhaps the American cultural prism in which authenticity is more scrutinized than any other—with his ceaseless did-he-or-didn’t-he braggadocio regarding a former life selling industrial amounts of cocaine, this Chicago Theatre performance should make for a top-shelf dose of opiate lying on lines between the synthesized and the truly moxie-rich. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Shad/Schubas

Hip-Hop, Rap No Comments »


He’s included mention of Jay Z in at least a few verses, and reviewed “Watch the Throne” for the National Post. The decided focus Shad, a Kenya-born, Ontario-raised MC, has put on one of the most popular rappers in the world is a bit confusing. Yeah, he’s rich and his buddy’s married to a Kardashian, but neither of those things has made his bloated discography anything other than middling. Shad shouldn’t carry around the desire to be a Jay Z, as he spits out pretty early on his fourth long-player, “Flying Colours.” Jay Z’s “Magna Carta” was another lame recording, and Shad’s apparently been gripped by enough inspiration to issue not just that fourth album, but a collaboration with Skratch Bastid, “The Spring Up,” in 2013. Beyond the guy’s clear ability to select proper production and write rhymes (that might not move too far beyond what we’ve all come to know as conscious raps), his story’s significantly more engaging than that New York MC’s. Shad’s family left Kenya, something he mentions on most of his releases, when he was a kid. But the successes his family’s achieved, cataloged on “Fam Jam (Fe Sum Immigrins),” pretty easily trumps bein’ poor, slingin’ crack, and issuing a truckload of boring albums. Read the rest of this entry »

Barber’s Shop: How Fake Shore Drive Gives Voice to Chicago Hip-Hop

Chicago Artists, Hip-Hop, Rap No Comments »

Andrew-BarberBy John Wilmes

Fake Shore Drive is a Chicago-based hip-hop blog founded in 2007 by Andrew Barber. The site has been instrumental in giving voice to the city’s contemporary hip-hop scenes and stars, including Chief Keef, Young Chop, Vic Mensa and Chance the Rapper. I recently caught up with Barber over email.

A lot of people view FSD as a star-maker; for younger artists, this is especially the case. How much music do people send you guys, on a daily basis?
Well, FSD turns six in October, so over the years we’ve received a steady stream of submissions—and they come from all over the world. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Rakim/The Shrine

Hip-Hop, Rap No Comments »


Few circumstances pose a greater challenge to an artist than following up on the rapid success of youth. For Rakim, his collaboration with Eric B. cemented the legitimacy of an art form still in its budding stages. Contemporary hip-hop has his deft delivery and braggadocio to thank for decades of profitability. This does not mean that Rakim was able to reap said profits. Even after a slew of successful LPs in the eighties, his solo work since has been well regarded if not chart-topping. Hence the essential conflict: how does an artist progress beyond the youthful exuberance that enabled a foundation of inspired expression in favor of new modes of creativity? For lesser souls, it’s simply not possible to continue working without becoming derivative of your own descendants. One bears the misfortune of ripping off those who ripped one off; a copy of a copy of one’s own original. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Riot Fest/Humboldt Park

Alt-Rock, Chicago Artists, Emo, Festivals, Hardcore, Hip-Hop, Indie Rock, Pop Punk, Punk, Rap, Rock No Comments »


Thirteen concurrent thoughts that afflict the bystander of a bus advertisement featuring this year’s Riot Fest lineup: I had no idea The Replacements got back together. Can you imagine how many kids will be singing along to Fall Out Boy and Blink-182? Can you imagine how many of their parents will be singing along to the Violent Femmes? Even without Kim Deal, I don’t think I can see the Pixies enough. What I wouldn’t do to see Debbie Harry duet with Danzig. It’s possible that Guided By Voices have written enough songs for at least one to appeal to every single person on the planet. Flavor Flav of Public Enemy may be the greatest reality television star who ever lived. One of the two Black Flag reunion bands is playing, and so is X, making this one of the best punk shows of the year. If you substitute Brand New and Taking Back Sunday in their place, the same can be said about emo. In fact, local pop punk bands popular in the 1990s are so well represented by the likes of Screeching Weasel, Smoking Popes, The Broadways and The Lawrence Arms, as to lend the festival an air of well-honed sophistication. Read the rest of this entry »