Reviews, profiles and news about music in Chicago

Knowledge Drop: Magix King Conjures Up a “Sick Summer”

Chicago Artists, Hip-Hop, Rap No Comments »


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 »

Knowledge Drop: RIP The Shrine, But Chicago Hip-Hop’s Fine

Chicago Artists, Hip-Hop, Rap No Comments »

Biz Markie

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 »

Knowledge Drop: Mickey Factz, Logic and MC Lars Spark an Early Thaw

Hip-Hop, Rap No Comments »

Mickey Factz

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 »

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 1 Comment »


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 »

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 »

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 »

Raw Material: A Varied (and Vicarious) Pitchfork Itinerary

Alt-Rock, Chicago Artists, Festivals, Hip-Hop, Indie Rock, Jam Band, Metal, Prog-rock, Punk, Rap, Rock No Comments »


By Keidra Chaney

Pitchfork Music Fest Weekend is upon us once again. It’s traditionally been the “tastemaker’s festival” of the summer, where this year’s Pitchfork buzz acts become next year’s Lolla lineup. This year’s crop offers a decidedly local flavor, in a way hearkening back to the festival’s roots in Chicago, starting with the Pitchfork-curated Intonation Festival back in 2005. The city’s own Wilco and Chance The Rapper bookend as headliners on Friday and Sunday (with a reunited Sleater-Kinney closing Saturday), but there’s a whole lot to check out in between, from the fest itself to a whole slew of aftershows all weekend long. I had every intention of going to P4K this year, but I’m ninety percent sure I’ll be out of town, so I’ll share with you the schedule I have planned. If any of you take my suggestions, let me know how it all worked out.


I’d get out of work early and ease into my weekend with Chicago’s own guitar wunderkind Ryley Walker on the Blue Stage at 3:20pm, then run over to check out Drake acolyte/rival ILoveMakonnen on the Green Stage at 4:35pm. Friday at Pitchfork Fest tends to not be hugely eventful because the heavier rock bands that I prefer tend to show up on Saturday and Sunday, so I’d take a long break and check out the vendor booths to kill time before seeing a bit of Panda Bear on the Green Stage at 6:25pm, then leave early to jet over to the Red Stage for Chvrches at 7:20pm. This is a group that took time to win me over, because I found a lot of their synth covers of classic rock and R&B hits nearly intolerable, but their latest album has grown on me; it’s dance music that sounds BIG, like a rock band, and it’s likely to sound pretty good on the Red Stage. Wilco plays on the Green Stage at 8:30pm, and while I probably wouldn’t stick around, I am sure everyone else will. Read the rest of this entry »