Pivot Gang celebrate the life of a fallen member at the third annual John Walt Day | Concert Preview | Chicago Reader

Pivot Gang celebrate the life of a fallen member at the third annual John Walt Day 

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click to enlarge Pivot Gang members Joseph Chilliams, Dae Dae, Frsh Waters, Squeak, MFn Melo, and Saba

Pivot Gang members Joseph Chilliams, Dae Dae, Frsh Waters, Squeak, MFn Melo, and Saba

Blair Brown

The members of west-side collective Pivot Gang have been calling themselves a boy band since long before Brockhampton was a twinkle in Kevin Abstract’s eye. Because Joseph Chilliams, Frsh Waters, MFn Melo, and Saba all rap, this self-description has caused some confusion, but as Pivot Gang see it, there’s not much to differentiate them from, say, the Backstreet Boys. “The only difference is that a label didn’t put us together,” Chilliams told Chicagoist in 2013. “We met each other individually, and we just happened to be so pretty.” On their self-released debut album, April’s You Can’t Sit With Us, Pivot Gang make their case immediately with silky-smooth vocal harmonies on the hook of opener “Death Row.” The bulk of the album was produced by Pivot members Dae Dae and Squeak (Care for Me beat maker Daoud also pitched in), and their lean, luxurious tracks are just what these MCs need to excel on the mike. All over You Can’t Sit With Us, the rappers sound like they’re having unimaginable fun vibing off one another—and every time they do, it’s one of the album’s high points. On the lackadaisical “Colbert” and the chilly “Jason Statham, Pt. 2” especially, Pivot are generous MCs, casually tossing out great lyrics that lesser rappers would hoard for punch lines. “Bible” features a verse from Dinner With John, the Pivot rapper-singer best known as John Walt, who was stabbed to death in February 2017. Walt recorded vocals prolifically—he’d even lay down verses on his phone in his family’s garage if he couldn’t get into a studio—and the unreleased vocal track that Pivot Gang use here fits the teeth-baring beat on “Bible” so well that it feels like Walt made it for the song. Months after Walt’s death, Saba and Walt’s mother, Nachelle Pugh, founded a nonprofit called the John Walt Foundation, and in fall 2017 Pivot Gang launched an annual fund-raiser show to benefit the organization and honor their comrade’s memory. It’s always been scheduled close to Walt’s November 25 birthday, and for the third John Walt Day, Pivot rappers will perform at Metro two nights in a row. Previous years’ shows sold out, and these likely will too.   v

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