Applying the name after Kill Bills’ main yellow leather jacketed protagonist, from Chicago Beatrix Kiddo is in the streets just killin’ beats with her latest visual release for her single Stogie, produced by BKR & Josh Petruccio. With lyrics like “Got big grams coming, gotta kick it with the hustle, I’m a big ass bitch I don’t need the fuckin muscle“, you already know she got a tongue as sharp as a swords blade! CVO Films behind the camera as Kiddo sits like a boss with some hitters at her side, always sportin some unique and obscure lens glaring back at you. Nothing off put or out of place this is her natural environment, “Lighting a stogie blunt… middle fingers up not giving a single F*ck”.
Essse Guey pops out to reinforce a previously released track from his Over the Daze LP picking out a popular track to add some visuals too. Neorevivalist on duty giving V.I.M.M. life with some animated visuals matching the atmosphere of the slow and ominous beat. With a style so smooth he is not afraid to get dark with hooks like “You get left behind, F*** up out my eye, ready to die, Don’t really have a choice, voices in my mind” and “Over mad or under oath only real ones slit they throat, …cross-face, swan dive, head first, there’s a million ways to make another suicide note” and make it work. A timeless track produced by Dead_Air worth giving a double take and a surreal music video following his last for Constellations.
“The pain lets me know I’m still alive.“
These are the words so beautifully belted out by singer Adam Martinez on the hook of Still Alive, the fourth track off of Chicago MC YOUNG XAV‘s upcoming album entitled After Dark. Although this project cannot be boiled down to just a few words, that lyric serves as a good blueprint for the emotional head space XAV finds himself in throughout the duration of this project. After Dark is a gloomy, lonely trip inside the mind of an individual who has fallen off a mountain of sanity. However the album’s progression marks the story of that same individual getting up, brushing the dust off their clothes, and clawing their way back up to the top.
The cinematic opening track, which is entitled Intro, pulls the listener in from the very beginning. This song sees XAV lose his sense of self identity laying the path for him to find himself all over again. The beat is heroic and empowering as light, feathery piano motifs are sprinkled over a loud, barreling brass section. Lyrically XAV seems to be succumbing to his inner demons on the first half of the album. On cuts such as After Dark and Still Alive XAV paints his struggles with alcoholism, using it as a coping mechanism to silence the demons in his head. The beats on these tracks are dark and moody, and they serve as the perfect complement to the on-the-edge-of-insanity tone of XAV’s lyrics.
The middle of the album is a bit more turnt up, as tracks such as Another Drink and Blaśe are straight up bangers. However the cloud of darkness present earlier in the album still looms close behind. These songs illustrate the dichotomy of drinking to partying while simultaneously not being able to control oneself and XAV does does a beautiful job of painting a vivid portrait of what that looks like.
The interlude track Dear You is another standout on this album and it is a beautiful spoken word piece; seemingly serving as an ode to a lover from years’ past. It transitions seamlessly into the next track Dancing in the Dark, which finds XAV pondering what him and this former flame could have been. For XAV heartbreak is something that consumes his entire being, and he is able to portray that pain in his music with ease.
The back end of this album serves as an indicator that XAV will not go down without a fight. On the song Chasing Dreams XAV speaks on his ambitions to get to the top. The closing track Road to Legend finds XAV reflecting on the people who have come in and out of his life, as well as the changes his life has undergone. As an album After Dark really shines due to the fact that YOUNG XAV is more in touch with his head space than most rappers. Whether he is speaking on his struggles with addiction, heartbreak or his hunger to succeed in music, XAV does a brilliant job of illustrating where he is at mentally.
XAV has not reached the top of the cliff yet, it seems as though he is still clawing his way towards happiness and contentment. His demons might still haunt him from time-to-time, but that does not mean that he is going to let them win. And that is a predicament that almost all of us will find ourselves in at one point or another.
After Dark will be released to all platforms on February 22nd.
Shu-kei Yu | Instagram
Every artist in the Chicago music scene should be familiar with Serenity Marie if they have not already had the pleasure of working with her and experiencing her business acumen. Her connections can get artists into countless events, showcases, open mics, fashion shows, music festivals. She can secure placements for music, get records spun on the radio and offer counsel time. In every sense of the word she is a curator; one who believes in the artist as well as the art and does everything they can to see successful presentation and representation.
Serenity has a weekly radio show, Nitty’s Knocker, Tuesday nights from 6pm to 8pm on Que4.org which is also AM 1680. There she hosts guest artists and discusses everything from the latest pop culture to politics, artists’ brand and projects to philosophy and the always hilarious mentioning of unicorns. She has hosted industry names such as Quentin Miller, Matthew Knowles, Hott Headzz, Van and Dani Jay of Black Ink Chicago, Milk N Cooks and she has even interviewed Angela Yee of the Breakfast Club. Over the last two years Serenity has grown Nitty’s Knocker into a platform that every artist in the city wants to hop on for an in depth interview and solid media content. Serenity has also produced many events with proceeds going to a charity of choice, highlighting a glance at her selflessness. She hosts and curates a lot of women-centric events as well because she supports and empowers her contemporaries.
When you bring artists together you can only imagine the boundaries to be pushed by their collaborations. Serenity Marie is probably vicariously responsible for a lot of art that gets created within Chicago-land area. Armed with an uncanny networking ability, Serenity and her creative brands will find longevity in the arts and entertainment industries because she possesses a sharp mind and a helping hand. In the end art seeks out the kindest of merchants. Follow her content linked below.
Bar for bar these two rappers embody the golden age spirit, but there’s never a dull moment with their punchlines. I say that for the new heads out there that think the simpler sounding but deeper lyrical hip hop is boring. Both emcees are a part of the Chicago powerhouse collective SlumpGang777 brandishing their swordsman like wordplay over a dusty laid back boom bap instrumental.
Unkle Slump and Orlando Coolridge team up to bring a track about their distaste for the attitudes and behaviors of new whack rappers and old heads that all sound the same now. Coined with the onomatopoeia by Unkle Slump “wah wah wah…, everything you say is trash, a bunch of gaga!” comparing these rappers and their lines to little babies and the outbursts that come with being a child. “Most these n****s is speaking in broken tongues, holding drums with the smoking gun” Exclaims Coolridge. “Professor X with the pen, that means my mind can move it!“. Unkle Slump then quips “Shout out to the white people taking over Pilsen!”.
Every line cuts like the searing truth in regards to the entitled whining of certain archetypes and embodiment within the music business. Namely what we know as the prima-donna or diva. My favorite rappers are far from such personalities. If you are not familiar with the Chicago collective SlumpGang777 then the dynamic duo that is Unkle Slump and Orlando Coolridge is not a bad place to start. Sink your teeth in, you will not regret doing so.
Ayoo did you hear that new beat? The Chicago brothers come back strong with a new remix following the release of Timeline featuring RhymSter back in the summer. Taking aim at Low Life by Future ft the Weeknd hitting the low end of that bass; a deeper sound than their latest singles and it sounds like they are headed in the right direction. Chicago took notice as they opened for Malaa with locals Birthdayy Partyy in the city’s Concord Music Hall following a string of events from festivals to boat parties in the summer. So knowing that you can trust this beat will set off a dance floor.
Leader of the pack mentality Jean Deaux keeps a team, “a manaj, and she calls them all Nicki”. Sitting at the edge of a desk in flashy shades, acrylic nails, draped in diamonds directing people working back and forth for her is the perfect image. I would feel bad for who ever is lacking on the other end of that line in this Work 4 Me music video. It is clear she does not need you, “Think twice before you ask a verse from me” but you can work for her, she has got moves to make.
Working on her own writing and adding filmography to her resume she directed the video herself with Stripmall, really working the brand she presents. The video itself is apart of a bigger EP project containing many of the familiar crew from Pivot, Zero Fatigue and independent artists like Phoelix,THEMpeople and AMAC. Packed with wavy & heavy beats and dramatic dialogue in between songs KRASH shows a real sign of maturity in her music and presentation. A real artists flourishing and making moves is rare to see yet Chicago is bustling with artists like Jean Deaux putting in a good name for her city and her work ethic.
It was bound to happen, Deem has too much drip to not relate his stylistic cool to that of Tony Stark; but no iron suit, just straight sauce. Think Robert Downey Jr. right after rehab on the red carpet, triple beam dreaming. Deem always comes with creative and colorfully lush visuals helping to craft his narrative and for this project he collaborated with fellow Drip Gang member Seydina Diop, who’s visual graphics are impeccable. What I love about this video to Tony Stark is how much Deem looks like he is in an archaic style comic book from the original Stan Lee’s Iron Man.
In the adage of age old comics, pursuing a rap career is quite heroic and everyone loves to be a doubter along the way. Rocking his signature $CantBuyU gear Deem lets you know it is mind over money and spirit over matter. My favorite line of the song, “Tony Stark no armor dog just really hard, couple screws loose how I put this shit together promise it will fall apart.”. Lots of meaning to pull from this line; I think of not needing armor since its only a physical protection and how things fall apart in your mind when breaking certain things down. Think of how humans are heroic without the super powers, ridiculous wealth, or genius science skills.
Radcliff builds off the release of his Album Educated Low Life but the flow never ceases from this man so more music is inevitable. You had to have caught ‘Low Lives being hyped up with this spoken word interlude visual with thought provoking lyrics. Releasing the set on Spinrilla making it exclusive to hip hop fanatics off of soundcloud. Not that he is against the platform he has several uploads to his account from remixes to originals and freestyles. His latest release comes as a music video for Different Day filmed by OTKST Society.
Not your typical hip hop emcee by a longshot. Not up all night drinking, flashing cars, money & subjugating women. Not that he is above all that mainstream hype Mick Jenkins just travels in another direction. Having already tasted commercial success with his debut album the Waters followed by Waves Jenkins asks, while talking to Billboard, “When the hype dies down, what is there?”. A question for the deep thinker, what makes you when you are not defined by society or a group or class of people?
““Yah, I be up early… If you bring me to a night session I will fall asleep. I will. I might fuck with you, and we might get something done, but I will fall asleep.”
Mick Jenkins has been focusing on a balance between his health and writing career. In regards to people or himself sacrificing their health for his work, “Those kinds of things plagued me. I was always looking back like, ‘Naw. I won’t accept that.“, he noted to Billboard. Now waking up early at 5am and works on his penmanship and his relationships and being Ghost. A great ideal following or more: the anxious, &or more: the frustrations; he conducted himself into one of our generations more lyrically proficient Hip Hop artists representing Chicago.
Now releasing his 2nd full album with a name reminiscing Gil Scott Heron‘s album Pieces of a Man, Jenkins re-imagined Herons work, imitating his deliverance by “oscillating between rapping rhyming and poetry”, as he noted to QuestTV. And he nails it for the most he has followed this flow and ideology since the anxious using a speech sample in C is for Cash Money. Presenting himself like he knows where he is at and you can tell with Soft Porn. With a lot of talent put into this from Ghostface Killah, Julian Bell, Corinne Bailey Raym, BadBadNotGood and KAYTRANADA and more, this is a low-key masterpiece you cannot overlook.