Defenders of “real” hip-hop have been up in arms about Drake ever since his breakout 2009 mixtape, So Far Gone, with which he first found substantial success with brazen pop hooks and a deeply unhard image—and thereby became one of a long line of artists who’ve ruined rap music forever. His latest LP, Nothing Was the Same (OVO Sound), sometimes seems like an album-length trolling of his haters in the way it juxtaposes conservative hip-hop touchstones—Houston rap, the Wu-Tang Clan—against sensitive-guy deep thoughts that occasionally reach James Taylor levels and cover art that might as well have been stolen from a 70s jazz-fusion LP. At the same time, Drake and longtime producer Noah “40” Shebib have darkened the mood since 2011’s Take Care, with beats that are both minimalist and sonically luxurious, making Nothing Was the Same one of the year’s best headphone records. Lyrically, Drake is still wallowing in his fame while struggling with a Sisyphean series of romantic travails, but on the Majid Jordan-coproduced single “Hold On, We’re Going Home” he finds a disco-fied moment of transcendental bliss. —Miles Raymer Miguel and Future open. $59.75-$109.75
With regard to the AIDS plague, Larry Kramer was a first responder. In 1982, when the Centers for Disease Control acknowledged that gay men were dying in epidemic numbers from a "cancer" no one yet understood, Kramer ran toward the fire, as they say, rather than from it. He became what a colleague from the period calls "the principal and guiding force behind the establishment of Gay Men's Health Crisis," a Manhattan-based organization that still provides counseling and legal support. Five years later, frustrated with GMHC's political reticence in an environment where President Reagan and New York mayor Ed Koch ignored AIDS except to demonize its victims, the notoriously argumentative Kramer instigated the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power, whose famous slogan was "Silence = Death. In between GMHC and ACT UP, Kramer wrote The Normal Heart: a play about a notoriously argumentative gay New Yorker who starts an AIDS support organization only to find himself struggling against its political reticence while elected officials refuse to act and men die all around him. Continue reading >> $24-$50
Artist and SAIC prof Michelle Grabner curates a group show exploring the appropriation-based styles of artists not just from Chicago but from locales as far-flung as Minneapolis, Detroit, and Milwaukee. One of our visual arts recommendations for fall.
Colleen Doyle and Jason Shotts, no strangers to the Chicago improv scene, continue to cook up subtle, spontaneous scenes to order in their new Tuesday-evening slot at iO. The night I went they played out the story of a recently married couple enjoying a brief, romantic stay at a bed-and-breakfast. Both actors played two characters—a honeymooner as well as an inkeeper—and both had an excellent sense for navigating their constantly shifting roles. The performance was slow to start, but ended up being unexpectedly elegant; a plot emerged that was as tidily made as a hotel bed. The production managed to find laughs in minute details and dark discoveries. —Hannah Gold $12
This monthly performance pairs dancers and musicians, who collaborate to create a completely improvised show. $10
Rescheduled from 10/22. For the past ten years Justin Broadrick has made music as Jesu, combining warm shoegaze with wall-of-sound postmetal. Jesu records are so lush and beautiful that it’s easy to forget you’re listening to the same guy who spent the late 80s and all of the 90s fronting pioneering industrial-metal act Godflesh, one of the most brutal bands ever to exist. Streetcleaner, the Birmingham group’s 1989 debut LP, is a frightening, powerful mess, propelled by a clangy, mechanical drum machine and crunchy, earth-rattling bass. On subsequent records the duo grew a bigger lineup, with live drums, another guitarist, even keyboards, but for their 2010 reunion (really just a handful of festival dates) the band was once again just Broadrick, bassist G.C. Green, and that drum machine. Now Godflesh has finally booked a full-fledged North American tour, which will bring them to Chicago for the first time in more than 15 years. They’ve also announced plans to record a brand-new album, A World Lit Only by Fire—the follow-up to 2001’s Hymns. There’s nothing from that LP to hear just yet, but they did release a single last month via Decibel magazine’s monthly flexi series—a cover of “Fuck of Death” by Canadian extreme-metal band Slaughter. With its pounding drum machine, violent vocals, and shrill, dissonant guitar, it might as well be a Streetcleaner B side. —Luca Cimarusti One of our music recommendations for fall. $23, $21 in advance