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.
It’s hard to believe that the rapper born Terius Gray, but better known to us as Juvenile, turned forty this year, and that his first solo record dropped twenty years ago. Although his moniker no longer quite fits, it’s a fair cop to argue that the man who brought the world “Back That Azz Up” will always be adolescent along some key lines of analysis. Juvenile is obsessed with “fucking hoes” and “banging anything in sight” (although his preference seems to be “bitches”), so if you’re looking for someone with a new-school feminist philosophy and a respectful perspective, don’t stop here. If the old-school bounce and blunt delivery is your bag, then bring your posse. Juvenile will bring his maturing misogyny and penchant for juvenilia to The Shrine (2109 South Wabash) on December 17. Doors open at 8pm for the 10pm show; tickets are $20 and the show is 21+.
Most hip-hop artists are apparently spending Christmas in Hollis, or anywhere except Chicago; but Boxing Day brings an opportunity to unbox rapper Taylor Bennett at Lincoln Hall (2424 North Lincoln). This year alone, Bennett has collaborated with Odd Couple on the Chatterbox track “What Kings Do” (which also features Saba and Carl) and Brill on “I’m Ready,” and the “So Abnormal” mixtape curated by DJ Miticket and DJ Rell featured his “Sight Seeing.” His “Everyday” single is strong enough to stand on its own, but on “Broad Shoulders,” he isn’t afraid to stand on the shoulders of his older brother, Chancelor Johnathan Bennett, better known as Chance The Rapper, Chicago’s current favorite hip-hop son. “Broad Shoulders” will be the title track to Bennett’s forthcoming record, which will also feature Brill, Donnie Trumpet, King Louie and Joey Purp. His is a similar delivery style to Chance’s; given the raspy maturity in his voice, it’s surprising that the younger Bennett is only nineteen. He sold out Lincoln Hall in May of last year, so expect the same this time around. The all ages show is December 26 at 7pm; tickets are $15.
At the SXSW Music Conference in March, producer Timbaland claimed that the ghost of Aaliyah had appeared to him in a dream and declared that Tink was “the one,” and her forthcoming record “Think Tink” is due out soon on his Epic subsidiary, Mosley Music Group. The first single, “Million,” sampled Aaliyah’s “One In A Million,” and if that and the next single “Ratchet Commandments,” are indicative of the strength of the forthcoming release, Timbaland might be right. Tink has been likened to both Lauryn Hill and Da Brat; the reality is somewhere in between. Tink was born Trinity Home in Calumet City, and aside from sharing a dubious collaboration with R. Kelly on the soundtrack to Spike Lee’s latest joint, “Chi-Raq,” she’s worked with Sasha Go Hard, electro-clash duo Sleigh Bells and a cappella award winners Pentatonix. Although she won’t turn twenty-one until next March, she’ll treat attendees to a midnight champagne toast at her New Year’s Eve show at The Shrine; and the party will run until 4am. DJ Sean Mac will also spin. Doors open at 9:30pm and the show is 21+; tickets are $50 with upgraded “bottle packages” available at additional cost.
If you’ve got deeper pockets, two days to party and a wider bandwidth of musical interests, Reaction NYE is a two-day ball drop at the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center (5555 North River Road in Rosemont). The shindig commences on December 30 with a lineup that features EDM superstar DJ deadmau5, stellar hip-hop duo Run The Jewels, darlings of electro indie-pop Chvrches, local rapper ShowYouSuck and Evanston hip-hop product ProbCause (featured in this column last month). On New Year’s Eve proper, the headliners are EDM superstar DJ Skrillex, Chicago’s own Chance The Rapper and darlings of electro indie-pop Purity Ring. Ghostface Killah collaborators BadBadNotGood and local neo-Goth trio My Gold Mask are also on the bill. Tickets to the 18+ shows are $89 for December 30, $99 for December 31, or $130 for a two-day pass. There are also VIP packages.
Happy New Year and be safe, Chicago!
Craig Bechtel is a freelance writer and has also been a Senior Staff Writer for Pop’stache. He is also a DJ, volunteer and Assistant Music Director for CHIRP Radio, 107.1 FM, and contributes occasionally to the CHIRP blog. As DJ Craig Reptile, you can hear him play music on the FM dial or at www.chirpradio.org most Sunday nights from 6pm to 9pm. He previously worked in radio at KVOE AM and Fox 105 in Emporia, Kansas, and served as a DJ, music director and general manager for WVKC at Knox College in Galesburg, Illinois, where he also won the Davenport Prize for Poetry and earned a B.A. in English writing. Craig has been working in various capacities within the hotel and meetings industry for over twenty years, and presently works at a company that uses proprietary systems to develop proven data strategies that increase revenue, room nights and meeting attendance. In his spare time, he also fancies himself an armchair herpetologist, and thus in addition to a wife, son and cat, he has a day gecko and a veiled chameleon in his collection.