Artists may tend to change up their original style and approach to their creative expression. It is how they survive, It is in an artists nature; they are not one single idea but many out of the box projections. Manic Focus, also known as Jmac, is known to change up styles constatantly. Between hip hop, bass, and some electro funk, even a mixture of all of em may occur, Jmac got plenty of room to express himself any which way he likes. His last two releases are a good example of experimentation between songs!
The older of the two, Never Grew Up, may be what you typically hear come out of Manic sets. Some live instrument samples followed by wonky bass lines, choppy synth work and a dynamic beat pattern to a slow bpm. All creating a groovy and tranquil energy as “we never grew up” echoes repeatedly reminding us, we are in this for the fun! A sound so familiar with Manic it can probably land under its own genre.
Fans of Manic might find his latest release All This Is hard to swallow, with an introduction throwing them off to more of a house bpm structure. Following the build up however Jmac brings it back with dark metallic bass lines and chops exuding a menacing energy that would throw a crowd into a frenzy. Living an industry surrounded by all types of genres it is only right for an artist like Manic Focus to experiment and inject his madness into it all.
Mikal Bae, also known as Father Darko, is the flagship visual artist of the Chicago music collective SlumpGang777. Mikal Bae is chosen as artist of the week for a few reasons. The first is that he has been cranking out visuals like crazy for artists such as CantBuyDeem, Chore Boy, T.Z.Duhh, Sage the 64th Wonder, Orlando Coolridge, Flxtch, Unkle Slump,Vex the MC, Fxther Kari (Khalil Halim), Millie Boy, Novatore, and alexSlander. The second is that he has also put in a lot of work visually and aurally; shooting footage and djing live events such as SlumpFestIII and the Midwest Slump Tour! And lastly Mikal Bae as an audio, visual and graphic artist, lo and behold, he also releases music! Mikal Bae has dropped I Can Feel the Sadness in My Toes, The Man Who Ate God,If Home is Not Here. Where Is It?,All That Never Was and From Darko With Love.
He goes by Mikal Bae visually and Father Darko to present his records. Multi-talented to say the least; Visually I would describe his style as graffiti drip. I honestly could not even explain what I mean by that but I encourage you to go look at his IG page and take some ganders at his music videos by searching up Darko Visuals on YouTube both linked below. He also designs merchandise for the SlumpGang777 collective! There are these custom glass spoon pipes that have “SL” on the front of the bowl that catches the eye. He also has these tie dye shirts that are orange, black and white stamped with SlumpGang777 logos.
Mikal Bae has always been a freelance hustler and for as long we can tell his only job has been in the music, art, and entertainment business. He is not a tradesmen, he is an artist. You do not necessarily pay him for commissions, you commission him to bring and give something more life! You have a song? He can make an amazingly unique visual loop to it. You a need music video? He will shoot, edit, and produce it. If you need a live visual DJ to enhance the entertainment value of your show? He will use a beat pad to syncopate live visuals to your set!
Mikal Bae aka Father Darko is someone you want to pay attention to especially if you are a lover and fan of all things hip hop. From music videos, merchandise, visual loops, artwork, fliers, recorded songs, visually deejaying and producing. He can really do it all and artists like this are people we want to be highlighting every week!
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.
Stories You Can Tell Yourself is a 15 song album filled with dynamic sonic texture, lyrical prowess and witty humor. Every song relates to themes and ideas of identity, power of the mind, opportunity, self examination and the idea of what we tell ourselves may not always be there to help us. This record explores what it means to be a product of our own writing and the narratives we architect for ourselves. The record features a heavy lineup of Chicago artists such asCantBuyDeem, Beloved Gang, Danny Biggins, Zombie Manana, Dustin Borlack, Dissonant Dessert, Femdot, King Rozzie, Greediphresh, Tomcat Trumpet, Wessie, Super King Reza and Eshe. The producing, recording and engineering of the project was done in house by Brad Kemp at Second Bedroom Studio.
You have to give it to Chore Boy on his hook song writing. That was the thing that stood out the most beyond the amazing production quality and solid lyrical rap verses. My favorite songs on the album due to their strong choruses were Its About Time, Clean, Hero, Get The Bag and Blind Man Laughing. All of those songs on the LP will have you singing along whilst evoking emotion, thought and possibly nostalgia.
The catchiest chorus and the most impactful song on the project to me is Get The Bag with the hook that goes, “Get the bag, I gotta get the bag, Thank god its Friday yeah, I’m blowing it, thank god its Friday, I’m gonna get it in.” The whole song questions this life cycle we find ourselves in with exchanging our time for money. Chore Boy has lyrical phrasing that hits home and is quite relatable to the human financial struggle with lines such as “I’ve had never had a dollar that was worth a dollar… Time is money, moneys phony, whats that make time” and “If I could put my fellow man down, for a handout, then we all must be outstanding, or a standout.” Listening to that song can send literal shivers down your spine having you pondering financial freedom.
Next song that stood out was Clean ft. Tomcat Trumpet. “Clean, you won’t find no trace of me, but the bible in the drawer got a page missing, I took it with me“. A solemn and melancholy ballad that seems to speak on a past relationship, love, the idea of god and leaving old things behind. This song is best while driving in a car towards the sunset! Trust me, it will put even the most masculine of men to let their guard down.
“Blind man laughing when you tell him you’re free, are you free? Blind man laughing when you tell him you’re free, what does he see?“. The guitar melody coupled with the beat on this song is phenomenal, as are the lyrics to go along with it! “They call television programming… human centipede, feed itself shit are we selfish?”. This song expounds the idea of the human being that does not know they are in chains, a sonic allegory of the cave.
The song Hero ft Greedipresh stood out the most because of the fast sing rap style of the hook with lyrics. “This for every hero in their narrative, villain is irrelevant comparison, how you think a fiend will justify the use of heroin, continuing the narrative, the story they inherited“. Greediphresh adds an introspective an honest verse about his arch and the trials he has had to face and overcome.
Every song on the record has an important message to chew on, paired with a well written chorus or hook delivered charismatically by Chore Boy. Mix that with Brad Kemp’s talent for producing and a long list of Chicago staple features. The combination cements this LP as a strong foundation for Chore Boy’s catalog and career to come. Exciting to see where this album takes him and Brad Kemp! Catch Chore Boy and guests performing songs from Stories You Can Tell Yourself at Tonic Room this Thursday night in Chicago!
Always dressing fashionably quaint, in the middle of a crowd she appears as art, observing with wide eyes and a shy smile. She is not making any kind of fashion statement however, Livia Gazzolo patiently waits her position on stage and behind the mic. As violin and piano by her supporting artists fill the air she walks up to her personalized microphone. A vintage styled mic similar to that of Elvis Presleys studio mic, comparable to a Shure Deluxe. As soon as she starts singing softly, through a soft smile, to a classical jazzy style tune, her appearance and flow makes sense; perhaps she is an old soul unfiltered?
A woman of many talents and ambitions she is one of many to take note of in Chicago’s growing local music industry. Primarily a vocalist she uses that talent exotically and seemingly effortlessly, welcoming ears to a fresh novel sound. Stationed in Chicago’s Wicker Park area, popular for its vibrant local music and busy nightlife, Livia found the perfect spot to grow her talents and expand her influence. Working two events a month, one self produced and coordinating with her band mates, Stefen Hess, Mr. Eugene, Will McGing and Jake Gordon, she is definitely making her mark known; supporting the local industry as a rising artist herself.
Not just any new up and comer, Livia is a seasoned vocalist putting in hours, dedication, education and practice into her craft. You cannot just wake up and possess her experience and knowledge simply put! Making it a serious commitment by the age of 15, Livia has studied and performed with David Lahm, a pianist from New york, since then. Now she is currently finishing her Bachelors in Professional Music, taking her talent and knowledge to a whole different level.
Adding some mystique to her image you can really only hear Livia’s music through live performances at one of her events or other shows. She produces her own in Wicker Park’s Flat Iron Arts Building called the Mouse House “When The Cats Away”. Appropriate to her chique, it is a cabaret styled variety show featuring local artists from Chicago and other artists she has connected with. She hosts, coordinates and performs at the Mouse House monthly, every 2nd Saturday from 8p to 10pm. It is the best way to catch her in action doing her thing!
You can also catch her performing at the Atwood Cafe with her band. This event is on the 3rd Saturday every month. She will be booked for random other events like her special featured performance for Empower Herstory at HVAC Pub in Wrigleyville. The more ears get on this unique spectacle and the more artists Livia connects with through supporting local on her own shows and others, you can bet there will be more opportunities to see her live looking ahead. Maybe you will catch her at your local cabaret music parlor, give her a follow on her social media links below.
Carries himself with confidence you can sense his composure through his voice. He backs it up with powerful lyrics and a team of talented artists. Keeping true to his word, “I don’t no one to put me on, I got my brothers I am not alone” with Martell DB, Jazmyne Fountain, Kid J and Sonny Trill on the bill he got an army of wordsmiths. This 32 bit: Gangly Medium sees Greediphresh more comfortable and deeper in his zone, expressing a more bragadocious and witty attitude.
His first two of the five track EP, Level Up and Fly Away with Martell and Sonny, come off vainglorious as they explain seizing the fruits of their labor. Following Martell’s verse Greedi seals Level Up with “Audience expanding, pockets are expanding, I’m gon’ buy another wallet that’s elastic… I done turnt this from a hobby to an asset“. Bridging into Fly Away, they go from enjoying promiscuous women to lavish living and packed shows, flashy jewels cars n clothes. All without stuttering, speakin clear, Greedi’s energy really embodies the verses he is expressing and he is complimented by Martell DB & Sonny Trill and raw beats perfectly.
Judas and Effortless with Kid J and Jazmyne Fountain takes the 32 Bit on a whole different vibe as Greedi looks into deeper perspectives on himself, life and love. “Been creative for focus, dedication to my craft I’m like a capsule of motives, ridding the public of disbelief“, from Judas he continues, “I make them all hopeful, I understand that with this plan, certain friends have been chosen.” He clearly holds an understanding of the discipline n sacrifice it takes for the success he asked for and the level of honesty required he expresses in the next song Effortless. Love is a challenging concept, only the strong survive and the communication observed between the two artists is all you need to hear on this beat.
Closing it out with Flower, it exudes gratitude and god like confidence. Balancing being humble and grandiloquence, he covers a lot of areas in just few tracks. You can find a lot of wisdom in each track like, “I aint in a place to judge nobody else, i don’t really know nobody else. I know my make and i know myself… Quit lookin for a plug and plug yo’self“; from Flowers main hook. A strong following from his previous project 64 Bit: Hard Times, which uncovers even more of Greedi’s lifestyle and ideas in raw manner. With such a phresh style, you should be looking foward, like us, to more of what he has to uncover.
“Why a rapper gotta die to be famous?” chants Marko Stat$ from Uptown, Chicago ready to spit raw bars in his latest single, capable of changing paradigms! Following up after his single Never Be A Robot, he is keeping true to that ideology. Coming back with Pedal To The Medal and Dead Famous with none other than Aced Spade. Between the two tracks the lyrical versatility is as seasoned as a young veteran would be.
Marko Stat$ takes all his free-styling and storytelling experience into Pedal To The Medal. Starting with a literal story about a police encounter as a teen just learning how to ride a bike. He then blows up on the mic with intent and passion; “Its pedal to the medal for any person who’s bonafide… cycling through the cycles, recyclin’ traditions of bein crooked, had the chance and I took it… I can travel through any gravel and handle...”. So lyrically adept you cannot comprehend every word but the message is clear in bars like, “my propositiong to speak on the proper vision I stand by my composition, I pedal to be consistent“.
The introduction story can be a literal metaphor for the title or, looking deeper, the challenges POC may face reaching their medals, or potential. Unnecessary incidents towards a minors like that can influence you negatively, Marko Stat$ on the other hand is headstrong. “I don’t need me a gold medal to say Im a champ, angels watching my every move, they keepin me in check.” Referring to his late family members, his roots and his identity keeps him in focus.
Continuing with his concept of being true to himself, paving his own path rather than follow anothers image. Going over how hip hop communities are misled in Dead Famous. “Peep the cycle that they suck us in, what the fuck is up, they got us stuck… Rap should be so beautiful, f**k you think I do this for?“. Marko Stat$ is on a mission to wake up the culture and inspire with the lyrics he recites. “I’m trying to take our culture back, its full of vultures they invaded we on full attack. I break the cycle with no rifle, I can move the pack.” With a vision that clear he will not have to wait to die to get famous.
These two releases should remind you of his Marko’s abilities on the mic. He is able to tell a story and follow up with lyrics that aim to inspire, while keeping it fresh n catchy enough to bounce your head to. He also has an impressive ability to bounce between more slower beat and verses to freestyle inspired flow with bullet fast lyricism while still maintaining melodic flow to keep you hooked.
First introduced to Mike Negus aka 2nd City Son in early 2019 at a showcase featuring Bombay Boyz, Unkle Slump and the EWOKK at the Donut Shop in Joliet. Keeping in contact since and following his music, How To Raise The Dead release got our attention. Longtime friend of 2nd City Son and collaborator Chino Bean provided all the instrumentals. 2nd City Son did all the recording, mixing and mastering! The fact that there were not too many hands involved with the creation of this record give it a really clean cohesive sound; dusty boom bap, back pack rap with crisp, slightly distorted vocals. This record leaves you grinning from ear to ear after all the witty punchlines and references that 2nd City Son cakes throughout the entirety of the raising the dead experience. Or as we like to think – elevating consciousness of the masses through poetry and music.
How To Raise The Dead starts out with a fat bass beat for the first song called Raise the Dead, introducing 2nd City Son and Chino Bean using a unique sound bite that sounds like a sports announcer. 2nd City Son flows effortlessly with a raspy sing song flow beginning the LP off to great start. Awesome Sauce is a dark melancholic piano boom bap instrumental with a cynical raps like, “And I do it again, look inside the mirror like who is this kid?!” and “My life like if I compare it a movie, so do me I’m American Beauty!“. This song sets the tone for the rest of the album being a lyrical piece to reflect on all the references 2nd City Son lays out for the listener. This whole album is reference heavy, giving a listener much to digest in terms of metaphorical ideas.
You Don’t Really is the third song off the record portraying a realistic yet optimistic view of issues ranging from the music industry, lost aspirations and depression. Coining this idea that normal people are not ready for the trials and tribulations that he has had the misfortune to experience – “They don’t really wanna hold this pain!“. Most every song on the record is around 2 minutes long allowing for transitions of ease and a palatable overall experience. Thirteen tracks, most being short and sweet with a couple longer ones to challenge the listener’s patience and attention span.
Hope You Listening is a melodic bell heavy track, offering the listener to come and rock with 2nd City Son – “And yeah we ride the wave, so come and rock with us, yeah come hip hop with us!“. “Tiny awkwardness, hold up my accomplishments, your ears are all hostages!“; This track is a prime example of the overall theme and idea about raising the zombified humans’ consciousness ie I hope you’re listening. Hunters Rule Book was a personal favorite from a lyrical standpoint. Lines like “Rule one number leave it alone if it floats, and rule number two, stay away from them boats, cause all them murky creatures gonna throw you off the ropes” and “tough skin you know we leather bound, lord gnomes its time to settle down… whatever we did, cable capture but in the post apocalypse reign masters” stand out.
2nd City Son starts hitting this next instrumental on his probably most notable track with Too Much. “And I don’t want no cash back, and no i dont want no cash app, back in the day I got back stabbed… We don’t want no fucking gats clapped, I want a fun time, I want back packs, i want boom bap, i want skateboards, I want pudding pops, I want snap backs!“. He ends the track with a reference about seeing the underworld. 2nd City Son features Unkle Slump, The EWOKK, and Wilhelm Duke. He saves the three emcees for the latter third of the record as a sort of treat for the consumer, tying up the LP seamlessly. I will save you descriptions because these three tracks are gems just go bump them on bandcamp and donate to support independent recording art!
Slippin is a track with one consistent rhyme scheme he pulls off for almost 2 minutes. Notable lines would be, “Modestly, yeah Im known to release, killing the game i hold the chrome to the beats, all you little chickens you the bone to the meat, and all you little bitches you been known to be freaks.” He continues with, “Im dope, you sold dope to the geeks, we sold os we got boats on the beach, you sold toast you should go brush your teeth, black market hustle we the ocean kapeesh, chosen, golden globes for the week, potion, propellers floating the league, bird bath, put the gold in the beak“. A literal monstrosity of a rhyme scheme that goes on for a while. If you listen close is quite impressive and the metaphors hit that euphoric feeling!
I am excited to see more music coming out of 2nd City Son and his camp. He with out a doubt is elevating the taste and reputation of recording artists hailing from the suburbs. He stays true to the craft, offering timeless authentic appeal and a record to digest for any fan of good hip hop. You can listen to the full album on his Bandcamp linked here and below.
Who could perfectly encapsulate what its like to grow up in the South Side of Chicago, ie Englewood, in the most poignant and palatable manner such as Deem Beamon aka CantBuyDeem? First of all, its lovely how this record paints pictures of poverty in a braggadocios and playful manner, not glorification and idolization but instead, a peer into the life of a young ambitious black man weathering the storm of racial politics growing up in Chicago.
Rather than break down the album song for song lets dive into the philosophy of how impactful CantBuyDeem’s story telling can be. He utilizes lines in his first song Alone like “Home alone, all the time momma got it on her own, only thing she couldn’t afford so I started moving shit, corner boy, corner stone of the city that got him enslaving a n***a, but I still do this shit!… and the grind was all I gained from the gangsters”. As well as “they had a n***a try to set me up for a couple petty hundreds…knowledge is pain, I’m a sponge I just soak up the game, so just in case it gone rain, we say be safe instead of see ya later”. A common phrase from Chicago folk implying that the city is inherently dangerous and random in its criminal activity, to take precaution when traversing the concrete jungle.
To continue on this same train of thought, here is more lines referencing the trials and tribulations of coming up in the disenfranchised neighborhoods in Chicago. In STO he quips “grandma used to send me to the store for her cigarettes, with a written note and they would go and really give me it.” In the song he references having to hide his new Jordans or else he would get in heap of trouble. In Saudi he notes “I used to sell weed to the deacon used to smoke bowls with the teacher“. Then he adds lines like “head leaning on the big booty like a beanbag say she cooking up the ramen I want 3 pack.” The way CantBuyDeem mixes punchlines with a storytelling narrative is honestly remarkable. It makes you vibe while thinking of the human experience. Its something un-quantifiable and quite reminiscent of Kendrick Lamar.
CantBuyDeem likes to pay homage to Chicago slang with track names such as Sto, Allcaps, Saudi, OT, IFU, etc. Another addition in painting the picture of Deem’s colorful upbringing. The title track of the album sits at the core of that picture. In Chili every line Deem spits is directly a reference to a Chicago homie or family member of his. If you really know CantBuyDeem then you might understand some of these phrases and similes he uses to compare those that surround him.
In Character, Deem philosophizes the idea of being steadfast to one’s beliefs as opposed to bending to another’s will. The idea of your character being in question if you were to act like, for lack of a better word, a bitch. In that song he still has an overall narrative he is keeping to except he is describing more general instances with goofy types – Or someone in Chicago that acts afraid and nervous all the time which infers that there must be a good reason why. Acting goofy or scary is a Huge indicator of how to progress forward with an individual. This type of archetype and circumstance has been normalized in Chicago.
CantBuyDeem employs a number of peers including Windy Indie, a violinist who has been making waves with her violin remixes of popular hip hop anthems. Chai Tulani, a Kenyan recording artist with a strong African fan base, unique style and rhythm. Illy Muse, Winnie Page, Sleepy Brotha, and SharmonJarmon, to name a few more! This record is as authentic as it gets to perceiving the harsh realities of Chicago living yet still sitting proud and shining through it all. CantBuyDeem makes his art and his craft come off effortlessly and with ease. Deem, Chicago’s playboy, intellectual and savant extraordinaire, following his single Tony Stark has released another record of potent homegrown intimacy and shocking memories. CantBuyDeem’s “Chili” is available everywhere.
Blood is pumping, you are jumpin’ around, actin crazy, dancin’ wildly. Many would consider music a drug and for Roy French, aka MfnYeah, that can be the truth! Anywhere you see him his natural character emits energy that cannot go unnoticed. Unafraid to grab a mic and take control of a crowd as if hip hop and rap is all but second nature. Calling it therapy in the introduction for his music video for his latest release named Hi+ produced by Illa The Illastrator.
Directed by Nish Odak the video brands bright neon colors and lights as Roy French observes some dissociative behavior. This is not unusual for him as creative minds tend to bend the idea of what it is to be expressive. “Can’t feel your down when Im gettin high” he repeats as a catchy hook that can loop in your head without being annoying. “Sometimes I’m fine sometimes I’m not, what do I have to be mad about?” he continues, acting as his own mentor when asking himself hard questions.
Aside from his lyricism his behavior in the video denotes a man on the edge. Seeking an adrenaline rush or simply a dope beat to keep feelin Hi+ and on top. “Fuck my life Lets do if for the thrill, I feel like my death gonna be so kill”. Creative minds tend to be disturbed as the world around them does not challenge them enough, so they adopt chaos to keep their minds stimulated, to keep going. Roy French continues growing and persevering, uncovering deeper layers of himself and his creative boundaries and it shows through work like this!