By Craig Bechtel
August is august with hip-hop options from the old school to the new school, from primary colors to high school, even boasting offerings for those who are seeking a postgrad degree in the art of rap.
Speaking of “high” school, King Lil G dropped “Lost In Smoke 2” in April, but his bluntness is never obscured by his love of blunts. Allegedly a descendant of Mexican revolutionary Emiliano Zapata, the rapper born Alex Gonzalez, and who started as Lil Gangster, was raised in LA’s Inglewood and South Gate areas. King Lil G’s heavily autobiographical lyrics reflect his personal history. His indoctrination into running the streets began when his parents split when he was twelve; but when his older brother got sent up for thirty-two years for attempted murder, Gonzalez, then still a teenager, realized that there was no glory in being a criminal. He became a father in 2010, and now at the ripe old age of twenty-nine, Gonzalez has left the criminal life behind and embraced rapping and producing full-time, saying he wants to be what Bob Marley was to Jamaicans. In a recent interview, he says he’s trying to “spread a a message of respect for women, children and everyone else,” which is definitely a refreshing perspective from a hip-hop artist. He’s recently signed to Latin music label Del Records and there are reports he’ll soon be recording a Spanish album. Lil G headlines Double Door (1551 North Damen) on August 2; doors open at 6:30pm and the opener is TBD as of press time. Tickets are $20/$25 DOS.
Also hailing from LA, but in sharp contrast to King Lil G, Demrick doesn’t seem to be spreading messages of respect for women. His song “Clouds Above Us” features the line, “this life is a bitch so you might as well as fuck her” before launching into a dialogue about whether God will forgive his sins. On “Watch This” he says “when bitches want the d I say get on your knees.” The addition of female counterpoint Lil Debbie doesn’t elevate the dialogue much higher; but at least there’s some dialogue. Demrick is best known at this point for collaborations with mentors Xzibit and B-Real of Cypress Hill, as well as Kurupt, Snoop Dogg and Too $hort. He plays with DJ Hoppa on the Stoney Point High Tour, passing through Reggies Rock Club (2105 South State) on August 4 for an 18+ show. Openers include Jahni Denver, Oliver Spits, Marley B (a Tucson rapper who has signed to Murs’ 316 label) and Chicagoan (and Valpo student) SoloSam. Doors open at 8pm; tickets are $15/$17 DOS.
If you’re a fan of the Wu-Tang Clan, you’ll have a tough time passing up the chance to see two of their most important and influential members, not to mention talented, on August 5. Ghostface Killah has illustrated that rappers can and do make compelling and entertaining concept records with his (admittedly occasionally confusing) “Twelve Reasons To Die” albums, and his recent collaboration with BADBADNOTGOOD is also stellar. His fellow Wu-Tang and “Wu Massacre” foil Raekwon will be on this tour too, and skipping his stellar rhymes and dope flow should not be an option. Sean Healy Presents Ghostface Killah + Raekwon: The Ragu Tour, with openers G-Ball and Freefam at Metro (3730 North Clark) in an 18+ show. Doors open at 8pm for the 8:30pm show and tickets are $30.50/$36 DOS/$46 VIP/$101 Meet & Greet.
If you’re not the biggest Wu-Tang Clan fan and the idea of spending a Friday night in August in Wrigleyville gives you the heebie-jeebies, flee to the cement-covered suburbs and be ready to kick it really old school. The most authoritative voice in rap is back in black and you can be sure they won’t be offering apologies when Chuck D & Co. headline the Art of Rap Tour at its stop in Tinley Park. Public Enemy’s “It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back” and “Fear Of A Black Planet” are the most essential hip-hop records from end to end bar none, and given recent events, “Fight The Power” can’t possibly absorb much more resonance. But if PE were the template for bringing a voice to the African-American community, Ice-T, The Original Gangsta, courted even more controversy by forming a metal band called Body Count and releasing a single called “Cop Killer.” This was 1992, shortly after riots broke out in LA following the acquittal of the police officers accused of beating African-American Rodney King. Eventually the single was given away for free and pulled from the record, and recently Ice-T announced that a new Body Count record would drop next year. Keep in mind that T, born Tracy Lauren Marrow, has now portrayed a police officer on NBC’s “Law & Order: SVU” for the past sixteen years.
Naughty By Nature may have been best known for their breakout single “O.P.P.,” but Treach, Vin Rock and DJ Kay Gee had a lot more (well, a little more) to offer than just that song. Although they’ve parted ways (not too amicably, apparently) along with Grandmaster Flash, these hip-hop scholars will be quick to remind those auditing classes in old school rap that Flash was just the DJ for Furious Five, that it was Mele Mel rapping on “The Message,” and that the other four members of the sextet, Keef Cowboy, The Kidd Creole, Scorpio and Rahiem were just as important on their other tracks. Get your history lesson at Hollywood Casino Amphitheatre (19100 Ridgeland, Tinley Park) on August 5; the festivities kick off at 5:30pm. Tickets range from $18 to $109.
Does anyone still care about Bad Boy Entertainment? We’ll find out when the Bad Boy Family Reunion stops at the United Center (1901 West Madison) on August 27. With the glaring yet obvious exception of the late, lamented Biggie Smalls, the tour features the power players of the label, including Puff Daddy, the salaciously dirty Lil’ Kim, prodigal son and Diddy wannabe Mase, Faith Evans and Mario Winans. After kicking off in Columbus and stopping in Cincinnati, Chicago is the third stop on the twenty-four-city tour, and the lineup also includes 112, Total, Carl Thomas, The Lox and French Montana. Mr. Daddy, aka P. Diddy, originally known as Sean Combs, has presided over BBE since its founding in 1993. As a rapper, Combs has always been a great producer, and he announced via a statement in typically hyperbolic fashion that “This isn’t just a concert—this is a moment in hip-hop and R&B history.” There’s no question this show will be a spectacle, but the question is whether or not there will be any real hip-hop of any twenty-first century relevance, or if this is simply an oldies tour to rehash their stock of glossy, sugary faux R&B. The jury is out on that, as it will be on Puffy’s long-awaited follow-up to his original breakthrough, “No Way Out 2.” The all-ages show starts at 8pm; tickets are $25-$315; VIP packages available.
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.