The Bleader | Blog + Reader, Hip-Hop blog posts


Friday, September 14, 2018

Chicago rapper Noname opens all the doors on the new Room 25

Posted By on 09.14.18 at 02:26 PM

Noname at Pitchfork this summer - ASHLEE REZIN/SUN-TIMES
  • Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times
  • Noname at Pitchfork this summer

Noname's fans consider her this generation's "woke" female rapper, but it's a notion that Noname herself rejects. In a recent interview with The Fader, the Chicago rapper otherwise known as Fatimah Warner insists that her music shouldn't be pigeonholed as "real hip-hop" (shorthand for old-school rap, usually invoked by the same people who think the four elements represent the only true hip-hop culture). "A lot of my fans . . . I think they like me because they think I'm the anti-Cardi B," she says. "I'm not. I'm just Fatimah." And with her debut album, the brand-new Room 25 (2016's Telefone was technically a mixtape), Noname achieves a healthy balance between the serious outlook of the conscious poet-rapper her fans have come to know and the sillier, funnier facets of her personality.

Continue reading »

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Saturday, September 8, 2018

Exploring the shock behind Mac Miller's untimely death

Posted By on 09.08.18 at 04:43 PM

  • Amy Harris

I know I wasn't the only one who was shocked when I learned of Mac Miller's death on Twitter yesterday. My timeline was flooded with "RIP" and "I can't believe it." I, along with most of my peers, have been listening to Mac Miller since he released "K.I.D.S." in 2010. We were there for Blue Slide Park, his first studio album released in 2011. We were there for his transition into a legitimate hip-hop artist that was cemented by his 2013 joint project with Vince Staples, "Stolen Youth." And we were there for his 2014 project Faces in which he raps about substance abuse or mental health problems in almost every track. So why were we all so surprised when we found out that he died of an overdose?

Continue reading »

Tags: , , , ,

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Rapper Vic Mensa: Chicago’s newest Black Panther?

Posted By on 08.28.18 at 02:35 PM

Vic Mensa helped give away 15,000 free shoes in Englewood on Sunday. - RICK MAJEWSKI/SUN-TIMES
  • Rick Majewski/Sun-Times
  • Vic Mensa helped give away 15,000 free shoes in Englewood on Sunday.

The timing of Vic Mensa's high-profile response this past weekend to a Chicago police sting operation was more than a little serendipitous.

Remnants of the old Black Panther Party gathered in Oakland on the same weekend of the young rapper's "anti-bait truck" event to mourn the recent death of Elbert "Big Man" Howard, one of the organization's founders. This week also marked the 50th anniversary of Bobby Seale's arrest in Chicago for his role in planning the anti-war protests outside the 1968 Democratic National Convention.

On Sunday, the 25-year-old Mensa looked ready to assume the Black Panther mantle—and not just because he's got one tattooed on his shoulder accompanied by the words "Free Huey."

Among the many organizations and individuals involved in the giveaway were the New Black Panther Party of Chicago and Fred Hampton Jr., the son of slain Panthers leader Fred Hampton. And over the course of a 15-minute conversation inside a scorching-hot room at the West Englewood Community Center, Mensa quoted Angela Davis and Mao Zedong and dropped the name of Huey Newton. When asked what role he might personally play in police reform in Chicago, he said, "At the end of the day, what we're doing right here is an extension of what we learned from the Black Panther Party, to police the police."

Continue reading »

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Soul singer Christian JaLon turns her love inward on the new If You Let Me

Posted By on 08.28.18 at 12:23 PM

  • Ray Abercrombie
  • Christian JaLon

Earlier this summer, Chicago soul artist Christian JaLon released "Getting to Know Vinyled Love," a short behind-the-scenes documentary about the making of her 2017 EP Vinyled Love. On that EP, she'd tried to convey what love means to her—though it was inspired by a specific relationship, she connected those feelings to her understanding of divine love, which has its roots in her connection to the church. But now that relationship is over, and on her latest EP, If You Let Me (released August 20), JaLon is ready to cleanse her musical mind of love—at least romantic love. It's the last project she has planned before her debut album, due in 2019.

"The content that I put into If You Let Me are really just residual feelings from Vinyled Love," she says. "They both came from the same place—I just wanted to get it all out. After this, I really won't have any more love songs in me for a while."

Continue reading »

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Lyrical Lemonade’s first outdoor festival: scads of Soundcloud rap, thousands of teenagers, and hours of waiting for food

Posted By , and on 08.21.18 at 06:00 AM

Famous Dex: "I own this motherfucking city! I created a wave!" - MATT HARVEY
  • Matt Harvey
  • Famous Dex: "I own this motherfucking city! I created a wave!"

Cole Bennett founded local hip-hop blog Lyrical Lemonade almost five years ago, and on Sunday it hosted its first outdoor festival, the Summer Smash, in Douglas Park. Bennett and the site's editor, Elliot Montanez, planned the event in the spring and announced it last month. Chicago had more than enough festivals already, but the Summer Smash justified its existence with a distinctive 25-act bill that leaned heavily on young rappers who've made their names on the Internet, including Joey Badass, Trippie Redd, Lil Skies, and Vic Mensa. Three Reader writers—Leor Galil, Matt Harvey, and Tyra Triche—were curious enough about it to spend another warm weekend day in another public park, watching live music behind fences. They had this conversation about the festival the next day.

Continue reading »

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Meet Kidd Kenn, Chicago’s hottest openly gay 15-year-old rapper

Posted By on 08.07.18 at 06:00 AM

"It's a faggot party baby, you cannot get in." - MATT HARVEY
  • Matt Harvey
  • "It's a faggot party baby, you cannot get in."

When 15-year-old Dontrell showed up at the Reader's offices for an interview, he was fresh off a delayed return flight after his first trip to New York. He's better known as Kidd Kenn, Chicago's most popular openly gay male rapper, and he was exhausted—his whirlwind trip east had included a meeting with Def Jam and a music-video shoot. 

"We were there for one day," said his manager and family friend, Sharron Beverly of Family First Music Group. (She asked that we not use Kidd's real last name.) "We had the meeting with Def Jam, and then we had to shoot a video for Kidd's new song."

Continue reading »

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Saba confronted grief and found joy in his Pitchfork set

Posted By on 07.21.18 at 11:18 AM

Saba performs on Pitchfork’s Red Stage on Friday afternoon. - TIM NAGLE
  • Tim Nagle
  • Saba performs on Pitchfork’s Red Stage on Friday afternoon.

is one of Chicago's best current musical exports. He's spent most of April and May touring the U.S. and Canada in support of the alternately scalding and beautiful Care for Me, and his late-afternoon Red Stage set on Friday at Pitchfork was his first hometown show of the year. The emotional epicenter of that self-released album, which came out in April, is "Prom/King," a vivid, even-handed recounting of the 24-year-old rapper's friendship with his murdered cousin, Walter Long Jr. They didn't always get along growing up, as Saba acknowledges in the song, but their friendship crystalized after Long offered to find his cousin a prom date. In 2012 they helped found west-side rap collective Pivot Gang, and Long took on the name John Walt for his music. It seemed like everywhere Saba went, Walt was by his side. They weren't just family who made music together—they'd become best friends.

Continue reading »

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Chance the Rapper owns Chicagoist—now what?

Posted By on 07.19.18 at 01:11 PM

Honestly, if you live here, you should know who this is by now. - JACK PLUNKETT / AP
  • Jack Plunkett / AP
  • Honestly, if you live here, you should know who this is by now.

A young black Chicago philanthropist has purchased a dormant local news site. But because that philanthropist is Chance the Rapper, and because he made the announcement in "I Might Need Security" (the best of the four new songs he dropped last night), the good news comes with an asterisk. What good news doesn't?

Continue reading »

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Friday, July 6, 2018

Chicago’s footwork community takes center stage at the MCA

Posted By on 07.06.18 at 03:59 PM

  • Kiam Marcelo Junio

The Era footwork crew are no stranger to art galleries: they've worked with High Concept Labs in Pilsen as part of a 2014 residency and in 2016 curated a photography show at Columbia College's Hokin Gallery. But last Saturday's "Prime Time: F00TW3RK" event at the Museum of Contemporary Art was different. It was their first full-scale museum takeover.

The MCA has incorporated elements of footwork into past events—most notably, it featured RP Boo in a 2016 installment of its Prime Time series—but the museum hadn't really engaged with the local DJ and dance movements until this event. "It's about time," says Jamal "Litebulb" Oliver, a founder of the Era. "And it brings some questions up, like, why hasn't this happened already?"

Continue reading »

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Is Logan Square's graffiti permission wall in danger?

Posted By on 06.14.18 at 12:09 PM

The Project Logan permission wall, with an ominous sign - LEOR GALIL
  • Leor Galil
  • The Project Logan permission wall, with an ominous sign

Since 2011, Chicago graffiti artist and hip-hop documentarian Flash ABC has overseen Project Logan, a four-sided permission wall that encircles a 3,300-square-foot plot of land between Fullerton and Medill Avenues just west of Milwaukee Avenue. Over the past five years, Flash has helped hundreds of artists showcase their graffiti skills and provided Logan Square with a flood of public artwork. Project Logan's walls have paid tribute to fallen hip-hop heroes, from Steff Skills's mural honoring Tribe Called Quest MC Phife Dawg to Dream and Werm One's recent homage to local underground rapper Mic One. Two of Project Logan's four walls face the elevated Blue Line train tracks that bisect Logan Square, so commuters and tourists are likely to get a look at the art as they pass by. "I know that 80,000 people see it weekly," Flash says. "We've done a lot there."

But Project Logan's future may be in doubt. Part of the land the permission wall sits on is part of a 9,500-square-foot parcel of land that quietly went up for sale in April; EHomes Realty listed the property at 2936-2940 W. Medill for $2.1 million. Flash hopes the high price for the land buys Project Logan some time, but he'd seen the writing on the wall. "I knew, ever since I saw the [condo] tower go up in Logan Square—on Milwaukee and California—that the neighborhood is going through a radical change," Flash says.

Continue reading »

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Agenda Teaser

Gerry Hemingway Experimental Sound Studio
October 22
Performing Arts
Manic Mondays Frances Cocktail Lounge
November 20

Tabbed Event Search

The Bleader Archive

Popular Stories