Artist Of The Week: Blaqrock Reigns In A New Era With Their New Single Mass Appeal

Ever since releasing their hit EP NO LOVE FOR BLAQKID back in 2018, Chicago rap-rock band Blaqrock have established themselves as a force to be reckoned with on the local scene. Having performed at some of the biggest indie venues in the city, Metro and Cubby Bear just to name a couple, this band has garnered as much clout as anyone. And what is even more impressive is how they have done it in such a short time span.

Back on August 2 Blaqrock closed the door on the NO LOVE FOR BLAQKID era with the release of their new single MASS APPEAL. This gem of a track possesses the same passion and energy as the material on their debut EP, except here everything is turned up a notch. In between the explosive cohesiveness of the rhythm section and lead singer, Gardner McFadden‘s feverishly intense vocal performance, Blaqrock has shown a great deal of growth and progression.

The passion and energy I spoke on before translated into an unbelievable live set at the MASS APPEAL single release party back on August 1 at HVAC Pub. Though it was a Thursday night and they did not go on until almost midnight, the venue was packed full of Blaqrock enthusiasts anxiously awaiting the arrival of their new single. There was a certain energy in the air and they tapped into it from the very beginning of their set.

Right around midnight with the crowd standing shoulder to shoulder in eager anticipation, drummer Danny Delgado let it rip on the opening drum hits to MASS APPEAL. What took place over the next four-plus minutes can only be described as magical. Every drum hit from Danny Delgado‘s kit was jaw-crushing. Every note from Myles Bacon‘s guitar was a searing streak of light penetrating your soul. Austen Goebel‘s poignant bass playing was a gentle staccato hum you can feel at the bottom of your feet. And of course, Gardner McFadden’s frenetic vocals strike you to the core to the point of numbness.

Between the intensity of Blaqrock’s performance and how the crowd reacted, the noise levels at HVAC bordered on deafening. There are not too many artists who can accomplish that on a random after hours show on a hot, muggy August night but Blaqrock showed that they are more than capable. For this reason, if you follow the Chicago scene, then I can guarantee you that Blaqrock is an artist you most certainly will not want to sleep on.

“Mass Appeal” is now available on all platforms.

Blaqrock | Youtube | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram

Ever Evolved Twitter | Facebook | Soundcloud | Instagram

Artist Of The Week: Ajani Jones Embodies Growth On His Debut Album Dragonfly

The dragonfly, in almost every part of the world symbolizes change and change in the perspective of self realization; and the kind of change that has its source in mental and emotional maturity and the understanding of the deeper meaning of life.

According to dragonfly-site.com, the Dragonfly serves as a metaphor for change and self-realization.

Bring in south-side MC Ajani Jones, whose debut album of the same name embodies these sentiments to a T. Released on July 16, DRAGONFLY is a 13-track, 47-minute essay on growth, adaptation and personal evolution. The final product is the journey that encompasses those three aforementioned, which result in Jones coming to a full actualization of who he is as an artist and human.

The opening track, JANI’S INTRO, kicks off with Ajani Jones conversing with his 11-year-old self, asking what this younger version of himself likes to do for fun. Jones looks back on a delicate time in his life which consisted of playing with roadblocks and hanging out with his cousins. There is a sense of innocence that little Ajani brings in this skit — a sense of purity that is yet to be tainted by the harsh realities of the outside world. As the conceptual arc of Dragonfly develops further, the innocence portrayed in the opening skit is threatened more and more.

Where Ajani Jones shines most on this album is how he grows from the obstacles that stand in his way. On DRAGONS he confronts the terrifying notion of his cousin being recruited by a gang. His flow and delivery hold the sense of urgency that comes with someone being under siege for the first time, often not knowing how to react. However Jones does not fold here; he fends off the temptation associated with his surroundings, keeping his head afloat and his feet planted firmly on the right path.

On LUCID, which pops up in the middle of the track list, Jones goes into detail about a call he received from his mother late one night while he was at the studio. After checking his bank account she was left wondering how Jones would pull through while lacking funds. Jones however appears calm and collected despite the dire circumstances, confident he will pull through once again. As the second leg of the album progresses, the obstacles only continue to pile up.

PLUTO sees Jones and his mother dealing with their house being foreclosed on, as well as loved ones he has lost due to Chicago’s gun violence. On the closing track TIME FLIES, Jones confronts how lost he felt as a kid searching for a god to believe. He also touches on the fractured relationship between the police and the black community. Despite closing out on a somewhat somber note, the underlying notion that Jones has made becomes abundantly clear. He has refused to succumb to all of the obstacles that have stood before him, instead using them as periods of intense personal growth.

Aside from the well fleshed-out, conceptual arc of the album, the beats and lyrics are noteworthy by themselves. Lyrically Jones displays loads of technical skill on every song here. His wordplay is sharp and the pictures he paints holds a quality of vividness that so few MC’s have. His flow and delivery are equally as gripping as he delivers his verses with a robust sense of urgency. The instrumentals shine as well, ranging from bleak and dreary sounding to jazzy and laid-back. Jones did a great job of picking beats that fit the mood he was in on a given track.

On the beginning of DRAGONFLY, Ajani Jones is an 11-year-old kid unaware of the cold, harsh truths that have yet to invite themselves into his life. What comes after is the battle to either grow within himself, or fall victim to the obstacles that are constantly standing in his way. Jones not only chose to grow, he chose to grow triumphantly. How he conceptually realizes that over the course of an album is a true testament to that. That sentiment in combination with the moody production and lyrical dexterity from Jones himself makes for a great album. That is why Ajani Jones is this week’s Artist Of The Week.

Ajani Jones | Soundcloud | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram

Ever Evolved Twitter | Facebook | Soundcloud | Instagram

Artist Of The Week: Wilhelm Duke Plays To His Strengths On His New Single “Want Smoke”

One of the things I love most about Ever Evolved is the diversity between all of the artists in the collective. This week’s Artist Of The Week goes to a musician who brings a whole new element to the collective and that would be rapper Wilhelm Duke. A wordsmith with loads of technical skill, Duke peppers his verses with all types of different flow patterns and unique deliveries. He is an artist who brings something new to every track he lands on, always keeping the listener on their toes. He exudes a sly sense of confidence in his voice as he demonstrates a high level of command on the microphone.

All of these strengths come through on his new single WANT SMOKE. Produced by Joey Bandino, the instrumental is bleak and menacing. The bass here is grumbling and authoritative while the percussion is offbeat and hard-hitting. Though minimalistic in scope, Bandino does a wonderful job of creating a dark atmosphere. Duke’s lyricism fits the mood of the instrumental to a T. He explores themes of depression and loss of hope. He also shows a rich sense of variety in his wordplay as his lines range from being animated and funny to witty and braggadocios.

His vocal performance also stands out. Though just 26, Duke has the confidence of a seasoned veteran as he sounds like someone 15 years his senior. His delivery is weighty yet easy-going as he weaves together a myriad of flows and lyrical concepts throughout the track’s duration. There is a lot going on here but Duke makes it look effortless.

At just 1:50 in length, WANT SMOKE is a grimy, lyrical trap banger. This track would work really well either as a stand alone single or as part of a project. To me this track captures the essence of who Wilhelm Duke is as an artist and MC, as he shows a great deal of technical skill, easygoing charisma and rich imagery on this track.

Wilhelm Duke | Soundcloud | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram

Ever Evolved Twitter | Facebook | Soundcloud | Instagram

Throwback Thursday: The Night Disco Died

The late 1970’s saw the rise of Disco Music all around the United States. In between numerous chart-topping hits and the dance clubs that were seemingly everywhere it had become clear that this new fad had firmly etched itself into the fabric of American Culture. However this new obsession was not without backlash as Rock ‘N’ Roll fans and disc jockeys alike had a special distaste for this new type of dance music. In fact, this distaste was so strong that it even spilled over into Major League Baseball in an event that became known as Disco Demolition.

It was July 12, 1979 and it was a humid summer night at Chicago’s Comiskey Park, where the White Sox were hosting a twi-night doubleheader against the Detroit Tigers. As the result of a losing season, the White Sox’ attendance was dwindling down to an average of just 16,000 people per game. White Sox owner Bill Veeck, who was well known for using outlandish PR stunts in order to boost attendance, was looking for another way to boost attendance during another lost season.

Popular local radio DJ Steve Dahl, who worked for WLUP, developed a reputation for his hatred of disco as he would blow up records on his radio show. Representatives from the White Sox and WLUP radio station met to discuss a Disco Demolition themed promotion and they settled on Steve Dahl blowing up a crate of records in the outfield in between the two games. Tickets for that event went for as low as 98 cents if fans brought an album that they wanted to see get destroyed. Though around 20,000 people were expected to show up that night, the total attendance figure ended up being more than 50,000 people as fans continued to sneak in even after the gates had closed.

White Sox Comiskey Park Disco Demolition Explosion

The first game took place without incident, as the Tigers ended up winning 4-1. Then, around 8:40PM everything changed. Steve Dahl drove out to center field in a jeep, dressed in a helmet and an army fatigue. He led the crowd in a “Disco Sucks!” chant before telling the 50,000+ attendees that this event was the world’s largest anti-disco rally. Dahl had the records in a giant box, ready to be blown up. After counting up to 4, Dahl let loose on the explosion and fiery streaks lit up the outfield followed up by large scores of debris.

However what really is notable about all of this, is the events that followed. After Dahl exited the field following the demolition, a few restless fans stormed the field in a fit of celebration. After the first few, the fans kept coming and coming. Just a few minutes later, Comiskey Park was in total chaos. The bases had been stolen, the outfield was in flames and empty liquor bottles were all over the place. There was even a thick veil of weed smoke that covered a chunk of the stadium due to a massive amount of marijuana consumption among the patrons.

White Sox personnel tried everything in their power to calm things down. Announcer Harry Carray tried convincing fans to go back to their seats over the intercom, Take Me Out To The Ballgame played and security was everywhere trying their best to keep the peace. It was not until the Chicago Police Department arrived dressed in full riot gear that things finally started to calm down. In total, 39 people were arrested for Disorderly Conduct, numerous people suffered minor injuries and the field was too badly damaged for the two teams to play on.

A couple of things happened after that night. First, the White Sox were forced to forfeit the second game of the doubleheader due to the damage of the stadium. Secondly, the popularity of Disco waned as the 1980’s were just around the corner. Whether Disco Demolition was a direct cause of Disco’s fade into the background has been a subject of debate in the 41 years since. Steve Dahl marked in an interview years later that Disco was more than likely on its way out either way. However, the music faded out so quickly after that night that it seems likely Disco Demolition is at least partly to blame.

Ever Evolved | Twitter | Facebook | Soundcloud | Instagram

Throwback Thursday: The World’s First Skyscraper

Chicago has long been well known for its stunning skylines and innovative take on architecture. However what few people know is that Chicago is actually the birthplace of the modern day skyscraper.

Designed by architect William Le Baron Jenney in 1884, The Home Insurance Building opened its doors a year later at the intersection of LaSalle and Adams. Consisting of 10 stories and standing at 138 feet in height, The Home Insurance Building has come to be known as the world’s first skyscraper. It was the first building of its kind whose frame held structural steel, though the majority of it consisted of wrought iron and cast.

Historians attribute the construction of The Home Insurance Building to the architectural boom that took place in Chicago after the Great Fire of 1871. As a result of the aforementioned fire, 3.3 square miles of the cityscape was left destroyed, and since the majority of its buildings back then were made of wood, nearly all of them burned down in the flames. With the majority of the city rotting in rubble, Chicago underwent one of the most famous architectural booms in history; one that would spur its economy as well as reshape the cities’ architectural outlook.

Replacing the wood structures that stood on Chicago’s grounds before the fire, the newer buildings were made out of stone, steel and iron. Building in this manner was considered to be ahead of its time and The Home Insurance Building served as a prime example of this new style of architecture. The Home Insurance Building became one of Jenney’s crowning architectural achievements, and it also spawned an entire generation of architects and engineers dubbed as “The Chicago School.”

This generation, which consisted of famous architects such as Daniel Burnham, continued to lay the groundwork for what the modern day skyscraper would eventually become. Though New York City eventually surpassed Chicago as the hub of architectural innovation, Chicago remains as the city that laid the groundwork for any and all innovation that followed. Chicago will forever remain the birthplace of the modern day skyscraper. Sadly, The Home Insurance Building was demolished in 1931 and the LaSalle Bank Building now stands in its place.

Ever Evolved | Twitter | Facebook | Soundcloud | Instagram

Artist Of The Week: The Mild West Band

One of the things find most exciting about being a music fan is continuously discovering brand new artists. The most recent addition to that list is Chicago pop-rock band The Mild West. They just dropped an instant hit with their debut single entitled ORANGE GROVE, which is why they are this week’s Artist of the Week. On ORANGE GROVE The Mild West show a great deal of musical cohesiveness as the instrumentalists move steadily as a unit. The pulse of the song is consistent as it is contagious. This is definitely a song you can get down on the dance floor to. Lyrically The Mild West show a great deal of maturation as well. Despite the carefree, poppy aesthetic, ORANGE GROVE is a poetic tale that paints a vivid portrait of a growing love story. The lines are pensive and contain a logical flow. Though they only have one single out The Mild West is definitely a band to watch on the Chicago scene in the coming years. The Windy City has a rich history of commercial music and The Mild West look like they will surely help carry on that tradition. In a city whose music scene is as crowded as Chicago’s, it is surely exciting that bands such as The Mild West are coming up with their own sound in 2019. “Orange Grove” is now streaming on all platforms.

The Mild West Band | Facebook

Ever Evolved | Twitter | Facebook | Soundcloud | Instagram

Throwback Thursday: Elvis Presley Revolutionizes Music Programming With His “Elvis” NBC Special

After spending the previous seven years of his life focusing on his film career Elvis Presley made a triumphant return to live musical performance. In June of 1968 he bagan the taping of his revolutionary NBC special, Elvis. What was originally branded as a Christmas special the producers decided to market the event as a re-branding of Presley’s musical career. They aimed to  gear the special towards a younger audience. However, what they did not know at the time was that it would become much more than that.

The special saw Presley in a couple of different performance settings. He performed two cuts standing up, which featured an epic instrumental section and more boisterous vocal performances from the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll himself. Another set featured Presley in a more intimate setting, sitting down in a circle with a live band. The atmosphere was more raw and stripped back as Presley communicated directly with the audience in between songs.

This notion of interactivity between the artist and their fan base was revolutionary for this time period. The intimate setting that Presley was cast in for this special laid the groundwork for future programs such as MTV’s Unplugged as well as NPR’s Tiny Desk series, both of which have become staples in the history of music programming. The special was an instant hit when it came out as well.

Airing on December 3, 1968, “Elvis” topped the Nielsen Television Ratings Chart for that week, became the most watched show of that season and garnered Presley a ton of critical acclaim in the process. Not to mention it also gave Presley’s music career a second wind. The very next month, January of 1969, Presley was already back in the studio working on his next full-length album. He teamed up with a house band called The Memphis Boys to record From Elvis in Memphis, which went on to become one of the biggest albums of his career.

From Elvis in Memphis peaked at number 13 on the Billboard top 200 and its lead single In The Ghetto reached number 3 on the Billboard Hot 100 Singles list. The album received universal acclaim from critics as well. Aside from being well-received at the time it came out From Elvis in Memphis has also stood the test of time. Numerous music writers have cited this album as being essential to Presley’s discography and Rolling Stone even rated it 190 on their list of the 500 greatest albums of all time back in 2003.

Elvis Presley is seen as a groundbreaking figure in the history of music for many reasons. He is widely dubbed as the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll. He was also a pioneer for being a musician of his stature playing such a huge role in film and soundtrack recording. However there are more subtle reasons as well. Presley also ushered in a new era of music programming that thrived on an atmosphere of intimacy and a personal sense of interaction between artist and fan. He paved the way for the future of music programming, leaving a legacy that is being felt more than ever 40-plus years after his death. These are the reasons why the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll is more than deserving of this week’s Throwback Thursday segment.

Ever Evolved | Twitter | Facebook | Soundcloud | Instagram

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

Morgan Pirtle | Bandcamp | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram

Ever Evolved Twitter | Facebook | Soundcloud | Instagram

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.

Musa Reems | Soundcloud | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram

Ever Evolved Twitter | Facebook | Soundcloud | Instagram

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.

Young Maxwell | Soundcloud | Unkle Slump | Soundcloud

Ever Evolved | Soundcloud | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram