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Monday, December 11, 2017

Chicago rapper-singer L.A. VanGogh dreams of helping those in need on ‘When I Get Rich’

Posted By on 12.11.17 at 01:23 PM

L.A. VanGogh - IMAGE FROM L.A. VANGOGH'S FACEBOOK PAGE
  • Image from L.A. VanGogh's Facebook page
  • L.A. VanGogh

On his 2016 EP Friends First, Chicago rapper-singer L.A. VanGogh drapes his silky voice over even his hardest bars, so that his rapping feels almost like sultry R&B. As part of the Private Stock collective, VanGogh benefits not just from its ace studios but also from its management team—when he dropped the Everything Is Subjective: Episode 1 EP in October, one of its singles topped Spotify's "Fresh Finds" playlist. Playlists created by major streaming services have exploded in importance this year, sometimes rivaling Top 40 radio in influence: Spotify playlist Rap Caviar, for instance, has more than 7 million followers and a reputation for keeping up with what's viral or about to blow up nationally. As of July, Spotify has more than 140 million users, so its in-house playlists—which get valuable real estate on the app—have a lot of power to break rising artists.

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Monday, December 4, 2017

Supa Bwe is about to drop one of the best Chicago rap albums of the year

Posted By on 12.04.17 at 01:57 PM

Supa Bwe - ALANA KITTILSEN
  • ALANA KITTILSEN
  • Supa Bwe

The torrent of "best of 2017" content started last week, with album lists at Rolling Stone, Paste, and Consequence of Sound. Like Christmas lights and "Winter Wonderland," these lists seem to arrive earlier every year—and I can't say I look forward to scrolling through a "year in review" list as I digest Thanksgiving dinner. December is usually a quiet month for new music, but there's some precedent for dropping great music then. In 1998, DMX put out his sophomore album, Flesh of My Flesh, Blood of My Blood, three days before Christmas (it was his second full-length of the year); it hit number one immediately and went platinum about a month later.

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Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Graffiti artists pay tribute to beloved underground rapper Mic One

Posted By on 11.14.17 at 01:40 PM

The Mic One memorial mural, from up close - LEOR GALIL
  • Leor Galil
  • The Mic One memorial mural, from up close

When local underground hip-hop mainstay Mike "Mic One" Malinowski died in late July, you could see the grief online. On Twitter and Facebook, local rappers and producers—some active since the 90s, some with careers that began this decade—offered their condolences. Malinowski himself got started in the 90s as a member of the Noise Pollution crew, and he had roughly two decades of solo material under his belt—his first album as Mic One, Who's the Illest?, came out in 1998. In those decades he built up enough goodwill to last a couple generations: as longtime collaborator Chad Sorenson (aka DJ Risky Bizness) told me over the summer, "Mike was loved by everyone, because Mike was the guy who would go to your show—even if there was ten people there, he would be there." Malinowski's friends and fans have continued to honor him since his death, and late last week a mural of his face appeared on the graffiti permission wall in Logan Square just southwest of the Blue Line tracks on Fullerton.

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Thursday, November 2, 2017

Fake Shore Drive founder Andrew Barber on ten years of blogging and the evolution of the Chicago hip-hop scene

Posted By on 11.02.17 at 07:00 AM

Fake Shore Drive founder Andrew Barber outside one of the site's Red Bull Sound Select shows in Los Angeles - COURTESY OF RED BULL SOUND SELECT
  • Courtesy of Red Bull Sound Select
  • Fake Shore Drive founder Andrew Barber outside one of the site's Red Bull Sound Select shows in Los Angeles

On October 10, the day local hip-hop blog Fake Shore Drive turned ten, it launched Fake Shore Dive (that's right, "dive"), a pop-up bar in the same Wicker Park storefront previously home to Riot Fest's temporary restaurant—and before that the Saved by the Bell diner, Saved by the Max. Fake Shore Dive stayed open for three nights, and in that time many big-name Chicago hip-hop players stopped in to thank the site for championing the local scene when few others paid it much attention—among them Chance the Rapper, Twista, and Bump J. Even the slate of DJs was full of scene VIPs, including DJ Oreo, the Cool Kids' Chuck Inglish, Jugrnaut co-owner Manny Muscles, and FSD deputy editor Ty Howard (who spins as SomeGuyNamedTy).

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Monday, October 2, 2017

Chicago DJ Big Hank refashions Future’s flow for footwork on the new Streetwise

Posted By on 10.02.17 at 12:14 PM

DJ Big Hank - IMAGE FROM DJ BIG HANK'S FACEBOOK PAGE
  • Image from DJ Big Hank's Facebook page
  • DJ Big Hank

Atlanta rapper Future dropped two full-lengths in eight days earlier this year—Future on February 17 and Hndrxx on February 24. Listening to all that music felt like sifting through a data dump, not like processing two albums—even Future's gooey AutoTune flow lost some of its sui generis punch in their undifferentiated mass. But a couple days ago, I started returning to the track "High Demand" from Future—not because it'd stuck with me from February, but because Chicago footwork producer and Teklife affiliate DJ Big Hank did something memorable with it on his new full-length, Streetwise.

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Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Joseph Chilliams talks about the losses he overcame to release one of the year’s best Chicago hip-hop albums

Posted By on 09.27.17 at 06:57 PM

Joseph Chilliams - ARIS THEOTOKATOS
  • ARIS THEOTOKATOS
  • Joseph Chilliams

Chicago rapper Joseph Chilliams is one of the tens of millions of Americans for whom the night of November 8, 2016, was a nightmare. But Chilliams's evening went south even before the election was decided. While walking home in Austin, he was robbed of his wallet and backpack (the latter empty but for a broken umbrella and some Altoids) and badly beaten. His assailants left him bleeding on the ground with a shattered face. "They had to do plastic surgery and put a plate in my cheek to give me a foundation, because it was totally broken," he says. On the first night Chilliams spent at the hospital, his doctor tactfully pretended not to know the outcome of the election. "He didn't want to be the person to break that news to me. I was dealing with enough," Chilliams says. "It was definitely decided. He was like, 'Oh, you know, they're still counting.'"

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Saturday, September 16, 2017

Chicago rapper Vic Mensa forgot to bring his punk punch to Riot Fest

Posted By on 09.16.17 at 12:19 PM

Vic Mensa at Riot Fest - ALISON GREEN
  • Alison Green
  • Vic Mensa at Riot Fest

Vic Mensa
has an affinity for punk. You can hear it in the ferocious tone he brings to his songs when his target is a lethal racist cop or anyone else who deserves his righteous rage—and his clothes flat-out scream it. Maybe you remember him wearing a Bad Brains T-shirt at Pitchfork a couple years ago? If not, you can find plenty of other examples in his Instagram feed—right at the top he's posted a shot of an LA gig where he's got on a Dead Kennedys shirt. Lately he's been wearing a leather jacket dotted with studs and patches, including one for anarcho-punk heroes Crass. The jacket was made by 93 Punks, a clothing line with some connection to Mensa—he's been pushing it hard on social media.

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Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Chicago rapper Warhol.SS lands half his new EP on a Soundcloud chart

Posted By on 09.13.17 at 12:00 PM

Warhol.SS - COURTESY OF WARHOL.SS'S SOUNDCLOUD
  • Courtesy of Warhol.SS's Soundcloud
  • Warhol.SS

Rabble-rousing rapper Warhol.SS is one of a small clutch of locals tied to Lyrical Lemonade, a Chicago hip-hop blog that's also known for presenting concerts, selling clothes, and making music videos (directed by site founder Cole Bennett). As I wrote in a recent Reader feature, Lyrical Lemonade's renown has grown in the past year because Bennett has started collaborating with so-called Soundcloud rappers from around the country—usually underground, sometimes rowdy, and often lo-fi, they're unified more by their choice of online platform than by a common musical style. The flexibility of the term "Soundcloud rap" means that all sorts of rising MCs can benefit from the increasing attention paid to the phenomenon—especially those who've already hit the platform's charts, like Warhol.SS.

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Monday, August 28, 2017

Entirely by coincidence*, Chicago producer Thelonious Martin partners with rapper Theophilus Martins on TM

Posted By on 08.28.17 at 12:00 PM

Thelonious Martin - IMAGE FROM THELONIOUS MARTIN'S FACEBOOK PAGE
  • Image from Thelonious Martin's Facebook page
  • Thelonious Martin

On Friday, prolific Chicago hip-hop producer Thelonious Martin released TM, a collaborative album with LA-based rapper, clothing designer, and cereal enthusiast Theophilus Martins. When the duo first teamed up three years ago, for the single "Show Me Around," Okayplayer suggested that they were using the similarity between their names to mess with the Internet. And when I read the Apple Music "artist" tag for TM, I did a double take.

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Monday, August 21, 2017

Chicago rappers Chris Crack and Vic Spencer mesh their distinctive personas on Blessed

Posted By on 08.21.17 at 12:00 PM

Vic Spencer and Chris Crack - COURTESY OF VIC SPENCER'S FACEBOOK
  • Courtesy of Vic Spencer's Facebook
  • Vic Spencer and Chris Crack

Late last week, Chicago rappers Chris Crack and Vic Spencer released their second collaborative full-length as Chris Spencer, Blessed. These hardscrabble MCs continue down the path they set with last year's Who the Fuck Is Chris Spencer?, which is as much about the intersection of their distinctive personas as it is about what makes each one unique. Spencer is rough around the edges, with a gruff voice whose power can make a rich instrumental sound brittle by comparison, while the flamboyant Crack doles out colorful hyperbole with a nasal bite.

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