Chicago rap phenom Phoelix does it all on his own with his latest self-released record, Tempo | Concert Preview | Chicago Reader

Chicago rap phenom Phoelix does it all on his own with his latest self-released record, Tempo 

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click to enlarge Phoelix

Phoelix

Courtesy the artist

Township will be remembered as a punk hub, but arguably the most important show the intimate Logan Square venue and restaurant hosted before it mysteriously shuttered last year was an all-ages rap blowout that took place in November 2015. The event was originally slated for the Abbey Pub, but when a mid-November fire forced the venue to close up and cancel all of its shows, rapper Saba moved the event to the much smaller club. Those who were lucky enough to get into the sold-out performance witnessed a stellar array of Chicago hip-hop artists on the ascent: Joseph Chilliams before he had a full-length to his name; Noname before she dropped “Gypsy” from her stage name; Smino, decked out in his finest Saint Louis gear and repping Zero Fatigue before people outside the midwest heard ever his shape-shifting vocals; and Saba, who was then on the precipice of making two heart-wrenching, life-affirming albums. Singer, rapper, producer, and multi-instrumentalist Phoelix was among those in attendance; he met Noname and Smino at the show, and hung out with Saba afterward, forging a genuinely creative connection that resulted in Phoelix executive producing two of the most important Chicago hip-hop releases of the decade, Saba’s Bucket List Project and Noname’s Telefone. Phoelix grew up in suburban Fox Valley, where his parents worked in the church (his father served as a pastor, his mother choir director), and his older brothers played hip-hop around the house (College Dropout-era Kanye, Busta Rhymes, Pharrell). Phoelix’s solo work builds on these two worlds, which is evident in the title of 2017’s GSPL. But rather than draw inspiration from his family traditions, his latest self-released album, March’s Tempo, often feels as if he’s transmitting messages from a higher plane of existence that only he can access. Tempo thumps, bumps, and clatters like a kitchen-sink R&B opus, but while it’s long enough to substantiate the idea of an “opus,” the album is best taken in small pieces; the laser synths, air-tight handclaps, and swirl of overdubbed voices on “Pluton” contain a world of ideas large enough to fill an album on their own.   v

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