Woman Crush Wednesday: Morgan Pirtle

In the vast ocean that is Chicago’s contemporary music scene, standing out is much easier said than done. However jazz vocalist Morgan Pirtle has managed to do just that, which is why she is this week’s Woman Crush Wednesday honoree.

Pirtle is a storyteller through song. Her lyrics are conceptual and introspective, with each song of hers serving as a tightly-woven meditation on a certain aspect of herself. As a vocalist she does an outstanding job of assuming the role of lead character on whatever story she is trying to communicate. Her vocal performances are believable and convincing, packed with emotion and vibrancy.

Pirtle is a recent graduate of the University of Illinois-Chicago (UIC), where she graduated in 2018 with a degree in jazz studies. There she blossomed under the direction of vocal professor Cheryl Wilson, following in the footsteps of one of the best in the business. Aside from Cheryl Wilson, Pirtle has also worked with jazz legends such as bassist Rufus Reid and vocalist Dee Alexander, among other greats. Having the chance to collaborate with modern jazz giants has no doubt left a huge impact on Pirtle’s artistic maturation.

Pirtle has performed at many prominent Chicago venues over the course of her young music career. She has graced the stage at numerous local spots such as Sofar Chicago, Schubas, Emporium, The Chicago Jazz Showcase and even the Shedd Aquarium as a part of their Jazzin’ at the Shedd series. Perhaps, however, her biggest performance yet came back in 2018 when she performed at the Chicago Jazz Festival with her band, Morgan Pirtle + 5.

Pirtle has ventured her way into recording as well. She recently put out her debut EP Muse, which dropped back on April 18. Packed with soaring musicality, virtuosic live instrumentation and introspective songwriting, Muse serves as a brilliant, cohesive example of taking older elements from genres. Taking jazz, r&b and indie and fusing it all together to give it a sound that is modern and lively. Sounding more musically mature than her age would imply, Muse really is a stunning debut and has helped Pirtle stake her claim as one of the leaders of the new school when it comes to Chicago’s jazz and contemporary music scenes.

Pirtle has seen avid success as a performer as well. In 2018 Pirtle was named as a Luminarts fellow in the jazz category, also winning the people’s choice award in jazz. In the same year, she was named Outstanding Undergraduate Vocalist at the 2018 Downbeat Magazine Student Music Awards. Possessing the maturity of a musician beyond her years, the conceptuality and hardware to prove it, Morgan Pirtle is a name you will definitely want to familiarize yourself with if you are involved with the local music scene. She is already making moves, but with many more years ahead of her she can only go up from here.

Click here to Listen to her new album on Bandcamp

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Artist Of The Week: Musa Reems

As a part of a recent revamp here on the Ever Evolved, we will be doing an Artist Of The Week segment every Friday, shedding light on a Chicago artist doing big things on the local scene. Surely enough, being tasked with writing the first installment of this segment, the second this occurred a certain artist immediately popped into mind: Musa Reems.

A native of the Austin Neighborhood on Chicago’s West Side, Reems comes from humble beginnings. He began rapping at the ripe age of 15 as a part of the Children of I.L.L.I.O.S. artists collective. Reems is also a fan of underground and conscious hip-hop from an early age. He cites spitters such as Black Thought and MF Doom as being among his biggest influences.

Over these last few years, Musa Reems has blossomed into one of the crown jewels of Chicago’s underground hip-hop scene. With his music being featured on numerous blogs, most notably Fake Shore Drive, Lyrical Lemonade and ELEVATOR Magazine among many others. Reems has been steadily building a buzz for himself that extends well beyond the city of Chicago.

Taking directly from his influences, Reems packs his verses with razor-sharp wordplay, colorful personality and vivid imagery covering the harsh realities of Chicago’s inner city. Reems also has a wide array of flows at his disposal and frequently delivers his verses with a poignant sense of passion that makes you believe every word he is saying. Especially lately, all of the technical skill that he possesses has really started to pay off.

During the month of May Musa Reems gifted his fans with his Musa Mondays series, where he dropped a new single every Monday for the entire month. These five cuts showed a staggering amount of diversity when it came to sounds, lyricism and flows. Reems capped off the series by dropping a compilation EP, entitled Musa Mondays, which included the original five cuts plus an additional bonus track for listening pleasure. This 6-song, 14-minute offering just might be Musa Reems’ best release yet as there are some serious highlights on here.

There are some gritty street rap cuts on tracks such as Quarter Juice where Musa does nothing but drop straight bars. The way Reems portrays the bleakness of street life is second to none and he exudes a sense of easy-going confidence on the mic that is contagious. In contrast, there are more stripped back tracks on here such as Not Know, which are far more somber and self-reflective in tone. Lyrically Musa Reems shows an incredible amount of honesty and introspection showing the complexity of being human.

Having recently been published in publications such as 4th Shore Hip Hop, Insomniac Magazine and even the Chicago Reader, it is clear that the world is starting to take notice of this talented Chicago wordsmith. If he keeps grinding the sae way he has been, it should only be a matter of time before he blows up beyond measure.

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Young Maxwell and Unkle Slump Get Grimy on “Heart Chakra Treasure”

Young Maxwell and Unkle Slump have teamed up for their new single entitled Heart Chakra Treasure, bringing in Maxwell season with a bang. The instrumental produced by Novmber is atmospheric and laid back. The piano loop in the background is subtle and haunting; the percussion steady in its consistency.

Maxwell’s lyricism is animated and colorful. He muses on his dreams, his demons and of course his drink of choice: Bombay Sapphire. His delivery is dirty and grimy. Possessing a flow that is smooth as butter, Maxwell exudes a sense of easy-going confidence as he drops bar after insightful bar.

Unkle Slump follows up in a very similar vein. His bars are braggadocious, self-empowering and witty. He carries himself with the swagger of the seasoned veteran that he is, while also showing the hunger and creativity of an up-and-comer. With his gruff vocal inflection, Slump sounds right at home on this beat.

The gloomy, bleak feel of the instrumental compliments Slump’s dirty aesthetic nicely. Heart Chakra Treasure serves as the lead single for Young Maxwell’s upcoming EP, which is slated for a June release. Between the dark beat and witty lyricism on this track, Maxwell is showing there is reason to be excited for his upcoming project.

Heart Chakra Treasure is now available on all platforms.

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RhymSter Shows off his Versatility on Ghost (remix)

Patience and persistence. 

These are two virtues that Chicago mainstay RhymSter has used to guide himself throughout the duration of his career in the local underground. With the release of his new single Ghost (remix) these two guiding principles appear to be serving him well. RhymSter took the original cut of this track which was done by Jaden Smith and breathed new life into it. The instrumental has a dark and creepy vibe though, it has a hazy, almost lo-fi aesthetic to it. It possesses a driving sense of energy that RhymSter uses to his advantage.

Lyrically, RhymSter murked this beat with his usual clever wordplay and easy-going sense of charisma. He exudes the confidence of the seasoned veteran that he is as he drops lyrical bomb after lyrical bomb with ease. RhymSter’s flow and delivery are crazy on this song, he shows a full arsenal of flows, switching it up in the middle of his verse repeatedly. Though he mostly delivers his bars in the lower register of his voice, RhymSter plays with his vocal inflections all throughout his verse. This shows that he is thinking about a lot more than just reciting lyrics over a microphone when he is in the booth.

RhymSter has been a lyrical heavyweight in Chicago’s scene for quite some time now. Recently releasing the Pure Noon EP with Edmur Quinn and dropping music videos for Pick It Up & Maintainin’ with award winning visual artists Neorevivalist. However, what really sets him apart from a lot of other artists is his versatility. RhymSter is just as happy to tear a trap beat apart as he is to murk a 90’s sounding boom-bap beat. Whatever the occasion calls for you can almost certainly bet on the fact that RhymSter will be doing his thing with ease.

Ghost (remix) is available now on Soundcloud.

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The Dark Knight Is Back In Full Force On “Ways To Die”

Fresh off the release of his debut album After Dark, Young XAV is striking the iron while it is hot with his new single Ways to Die. In some ways this track serves as a logical continuation of what made After Dark so great. XAV is teetering on the edge of sanity on this track as he is once again baring the brunt of the rock-star lifestyle he constantly finds himself enveloped in. His lyrics are introspective, dark and vivid in scope. However the difference now is that XAV sounds more convincing than ever driving home his narratives of reckless abandon.

XAV’s delivery is more confident, his wordplay coming off as more poignant and witty. He is coming into his own more and more with each release. The picture XAV paints on this track is a dangerous duality between stopping at nothing to chase your dreams and the dangerous consequences that can come with that. XAV sees dollar signs and will stop at nothing to cash in, even if it means succumbing to vice in the process.

The instrumental is intimidating as it is bleak in tone, possessing the same self-destructive vibe that XAV portrays in his lyrics. This makes for a very moody listen. Whether this track marks the next chapter in the After Dark show remains to be seen. XAV does have a follow up album in the works that he says he is taking his time on. If Ways to Die is a teaser towards a new album it seems like the Dark Knight himself has something big in store.

Ways to Die is now streaming on all platforms.

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Osa North Lets the Music Breath on Osa North and The Holy Spirit of God EP

Osa North is back with his new Osa North and The Holy Spirit of God EP and he is serving up a diverse array of sounds on this one. The project kicks off with the soulful trackFree You, which serves as a sensual ode to intimacy. North’s vocals on this track are layered in such a way that they carry a sense of divinity as if he is calling down from the heavens above. The instrumental here is rhythmic yet spacious and Osa North does a brilliant job of filling in that space with his vocal delivery.

The 2nd track Debbz is a logical continuation of where Free You left off. North once again is crooning about that special someone, asking the listener if they have ever been in love. The instrumental here sounds more epic with soaring string sections and a sense of rhythmic pulse that build momentum by the end of the track. Osa North is showing more and more musicality with each project he brings to the table.

There is a drastic switch up on the third track 1900. Instead of building on the soulful airiness of the first two tracks, North comes out of left field with a menacing trap banger. The instrumental here is bleak and unforgiving while North oozes with confidence on the mic. The closing track Adesuwa is a dance hall jam reminiscent of something off of his Ginjah EP. The instrumental possesses the contagious sense of rhythm that has become a hallmark of North’s music and his vocals here are vivacious and full of color.

Even though Osa North and The Holy Spirit of God clocks in at just four tracks and eight minutes in length, North is in no rush to get to the finish line. There is an endearing sense of patience on this EP. The instrumentals have an airy, almost ethereal quality to them, and North spaces out his vocals in such a way that he is content in letting the music speak for itself. The marriage between these two elements make for another fantastic project from Osa North.

“Osa North and The Holy Spirit of God” is now available on all platforms.

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Meet YOUNG XAV: A Chicago MC With a Rare Sense of Intelligence

Ever since he was a young kid growing up on Chicago’s Southwest side rapper YOUNG XAV has always possessed an unusually high degree of intelligence. He says he taught himself computer coding when he was in the 6th grade. He also stated that later on, he taught himself graphic design and video editing as well. In casual conversation, XAV is poignant and well spoken. He leaves no stone un-turned when getting his points across and is very expressive about his goals, ambitions and thoughts about the world around him.

Like a lot of brilliant people, XAV spent a lot of time on his own growing up. Stating he was bullied a lot, XAV had trouble making friends and says he even transferred schools five times as a direct result. However all of this time spent on his own served as the breeding ground for the intense introspection that has become a defining characteristic of who he is as an artist- More on that later.

Much like his rare level of intelligence it is easy to see where his musical roots stem from. His father was a DJ growing up and he says that music had always played one role or another in his life. XAV says some of most vivid memories from childhood were listening to early Eminem records on car rides with his mom which led to him discovering other artists such as 50 Cent and Dr. Dre.

XAV attended high school at Muchin College Prep in Downtown Chicago and he says it is here that he really found his place. He says it was here where he discovered his love of attention, stating he would go far as to campaign for his birthday; meaning that he would talk to as many people as possible in an effort to get as many happy birthdays as he possibly could. After graduation XAV attended Tribeca College in Downtown Chicago to study Film, leaving after a year when he realized it was not what he wanted to do. It was right around this time where XAV started to pursue a career in music.

After dropping a series of singles as well as an EP XAV decided that he wanted to get more serious with his craft. He came up with the idea that he wanted to throw a show and says he worked nonstop for two weeks selling tickets, promoting the show and even making an intro trailer for it. The final product was the After Dark Show which XAV says was a big success. After the show was over XAV was asking himself what he wanted to do next. He decided he was going to start working on his next EP. Despite wanting to make another short project the final product came to be something much greater than anything XAV could have realized or hoped for.

What came of it was XAV’s debut full-length studio album After Dark which is a 15-song time capsule documenting XAVs’ experiences over the most trying sixth month period of his entire life. Over the course of these 15 songs XAV puts his struggles with substances, heartbreak and depression on full display for the whole world to see. He conveys a stunning amount of honesty in his bars, getting more personal than a lot of artists are willing to go.

From the very beginning the album has a very cinematic feel. The intro track features an energetic brass section and planking pianos as well as a car revving up and driving away. It really feels like the opening scene to a movie. XAV views this album as cyclical and that he structured the songs in a way that would resemble a heavy night of drinking followed by the morning after. Early in the album on cuts such as Sinners and Life is Grand XAV is living the rockstar lifestyle, musing on misadventures with alcohol and women. However this is presented simultaneously with the consequences of his actions as cuts such as After Dark and Still Alive explore the dark side of substance abuse and excessive indulgence in an effort to escape ones demons.

XAV does a beautiful job painting a full picture of what it is like for one to be drowning in their own vices. A true highlight on the album arrives with the Dear You interlude and the following track Dancing in the Dark. These two tracks see XAV coming off as apologetic and remorseful for past mistakes towards an ex-lover as well as addressing his general experiences with love up to this point in his life. XAV has described this part of the album as the part in the night when one is drunk and in their feels. However this sentimentality of these two tracks is abruptly followed by the track On the Low, a banger of a track featuring more themes of vice and excess.

The back end of the album features more moments of introspection from Xav. The 12th track Chasing Dreams finds XAV contemplating his current place in the rap game and dreaming of one day rising to the top. XAV describes this track as the thoughts of somebody sitting drunk and alone in a bar at 4 am dreaming of better days. The 14th track Til Dawn is a beautiful meditation on the relationship between XAV and his mother. The track has a nostalgic ring to it and really is a beautiful moment on the album.

After Dark closes out with the song Road to Legend which sees XAV reflecting on more past experiences and coming grips with where he is currently at in his life. XAV views this track as the sun rising after a long night and coming back down to earth to face the reality that awaits. Aforementioned, After Dark has a very thematic feel to it throughout its duration. Everything is concise and orderly. XAV pulled together a sequence of tracks that truly tell a powerful story. For him to be so young yet able to pull together a conceptual project like After Dark is a true sign of the intelligence he possesses.

Today XAV is a lot more extroverted than that young kid who used to sit on his computer all day. However it is clear that XAV got to know himself quite well during that time as introspection and taking self-inventory are a big part of what makes his album work so well. Despite finding a sense of contentment at the end of the After Dark XAV is still far from the finish line. He is now waking up to the sun in his eyes that is his own brutal reality. However the LP gives you a sense that he is now inviting the suns daunting rays into his soul with open arms.

These days YOUNG XAV is only focused on whatever comes next. He has found closure in the mistakes of his past, now looking forward with two feet in front of him. He says he is solely focused on promoting his album which has done quite well and is now past a hundred thousand streams. He is also planning his next album which he says will be entitled Dead by Dawn and that it will be tied back to After Dark in some way. He says he has not started work for this project yet and that there is no timetable for its release date. If it is every bit as tight and conceptual as After Dark, rest assured that it will be worth the wait.

After Dark is now available on all platforms.

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Musa Reems Turns Back the Clock with Dear Winter

Musa Reems is back with his new single entitled Dear Winter and he has taken initiative in turning back the clock on this one. Putting his own spin on the Jay-Z classic Dear Summer, Musa has added his name to the list of MC’s who have spat their game over this iconic Just Blaze produced beat. A list which includes names such as Lupe Fiasco, Lil Wayne, Young Jeezy and so many more. However instead of simply going in over the original cut of the instrumental Reems decided to breathe new life into this classic song, making it sound more current while maintaining its throwback vibe.

Producer Othellobeats took a fresh approach on here. He creates a lot of tension with how he slowly brings in the vocal sample in the beginning of the track and it really sets the stage for Musa when he comes in with his verse. Equally impressive is the way Othellobeats puts his own spin on the instrumental while simultaneously respecting what made it so great in the first place. Despite the clean, thematic feel of the intro, the beat still has the same soulful piano and vocal samples carrying the track. The only difference here is that this re-imagining of it sounds more lively. Like Othellobeats, Musa Reems does his thing on here as well.

Although the song clocks in at just 2 minutes and 18 seconds in length, Musa makes every second count on this one. His bars on here are nostalgic yet hopeful as Musa shows himself to be someone who can handle anything life throws their way. He approaches his lyrics with a staggering amount of transparency, showing that he is more than happy to own up to past mistakes. Reems’ delivery is also worthy of note here. He carries a sharp grittiness in his voice that shows the authenticity of a man truly marked by past experiences. Not phased by what anyone might think Musa Reems shows on this track that he is embracing his flaws as a human, wearing his war wounds on full display.

There is an interesting duality on Dear Winter. While the tasteful re-imagining of this song makes it sound like it could be on an upcoming project. Dear Winter still possesses enough vintage aesthetic at its core that it almost sounds like it could have been on a DJ Drama mixtape in the mid 2000’s. This duality really shows who Musa Reems is as an artist; a man who has a deep appreciation for the past while simultaneously keeping a close eye towards the future. Time will tell what Musa Reems will bring us next, but Dear Winter is surely a sign of good things to come.

Now available on all platforms.

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RhymSter and Edmur Quinn Capture a Nocturnal Vibe on “Pure Noon”

Ever Evolved MC RhymSter is back again and with a vengeance with his first release of 2019 entitled Pure Noon. This 5-track offering — which includes a bonus track at the end — sees RhymSter and producer Edmur Quinn finding their pocket by utilizing a lo-fi, nocturnal sound.

The EP kicks off with a banger Maintainin where RhymSter takes his listeners to school by flexing his lyrical muscle over a bright and soulful instrumental. However the pace of the EP immediately slows down after with I Will which manifests itself as the perfect soundtrack for a night-time drive soaked in self-reflection. The closing 2 tracks N.Y.S.M. and Wait For It follow in a similar vein before things pick back up again on the bonus track Watch Out.

Lyrically RhymSter is poignant as usual. On the more hard hitting cuts his wordplay is witty and his delivery is sharp. On the slower, more subdued tracks he is more introspective and personal. He shows himself to be a truly multi-faceted artist over the course of these five tracks. On the production side of things Edmur Quinn presents a diverse palette here while simultaneously maintaining the concise cohesiveness of the project. Tracks such as Maintainin’ and Watch Out are hard hitting boom-bap cuts while I Will and Wait For It are much more moody and lo-fi.

The features on here deliver as well. FAFA, who is featured on Wait For It, croons with sincerity over a gorgeous jazzy guitar. JaiTheArtist shows up on the back end of I Will and her vocals sound angelic floating in the background. RhymSter and Edmur Quinn kept it simple on this project. However in between RhymSter’s witty lyricism and Edmur Quinn’s diverse array of instrumentals, their formula proved to be quite effective.

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Bombay Boyz Turn Up the Lyrical Heat on Pop Off

Witty lyricism, an atmospheric trap beat and a catchy hook. This is the recipe that Chicago Hip-Hop duo Bombay Boyz went for when they teamed up for their brand new single Pop Off which is the first single from their upcoming Jedi East project slated to drop this summer. The beat, which is produced by CT, has an airy and atmospheric vibe. Minimalistic and stripped back, CT does a brilliant job of setting the stage for the MC’s to drop lyrical bombs.

Harrison Maxwell handles the hook on this track and much like the instrumental, it is effective in its simplicity. Catchy and to-the-point, it helps make Pop Off a straight banger; meaning it is the perfect turn-up song to blow the house down at shows. While the beat and hook are effective in their simplicity, the verses are where everything gets turned up a notch. Maxwell and his counterpart Eric Wilhelm leave everything on the table. WRDS even drops by for a feature showing he is every bit as capable on the mic.

In spite of the modern trap feel of the instrumental the way these three MC’s try to one-up each other gives this song a bit of an old school feel. The lyrics here are braggadocios yet all parties involved have the lyrical mastery to back up their boasts. In its essence, this song gets back to what Hip-Hop is at its core; rappers simply throwing on a beat and putting their artistic lives on the line in the fight for lyrical supremacy. Pop Off shows that Bombay Boyz already possess a skill that most artists do not have; their able to craft a song that can rock the party while simultaneously winning over the respect of old heads and traditionalists with complex lyricism and double-time flows.

This duality has always been rare in Hip-Hop, however, Bombay Boyz make it look easy on this track. Not that this should surprise anybody but if Pop Off is any indication, expectations will definitely be high for their upcoming Jedi East project. This should not be a problem for Bombay Boyz due to how effortless they make it look on this new single.

“Pop Off” is now available on Soundcloud, and will be available on all platforms in the coming days.

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