You might have heard of or have even listened to OVERLY DEDICATED, the legendary mixtape by Kendrick Lamar. In slight homage and reference to a portion of the great K.Dot’s catalog, RhymSter, the co-founder of Ever Evolved, started the Overly Dedicated Concert Series in Chicago Illinois to push artists live acumen, keep them sharp and create a community of music industry networking. Already on their 5th installment of the virtual shows, Overly Dedicated is raising the bar for live performances in the Chicago music scene.
Co-hosted by Scotty Rocks at his Dog & Pony Show TV Studios, together they bring in both local and national talent to perform via Twitch and Facebook live stream, to a vast online audience. They have featured recording artist talents you may have seen before such as Orlando Coolridge, CantBuyDeem, Hayward, Charmaine Makeda, Ro$e, RapCrush, Ivan L, Keem Singing, and many more! Overly Dedicated 5 airs once a month, last show being Friday May 21st at 7PM, featuring Chicago artists Big Homie, Azmattic, Essse, OG Poe, Pharoah, Monsoon Staraw, and Frostee Cavanero with contributing sounds from DJ Curt Henny! Reach out to Ever Evolved and RhymSter if you’d like the opportunity to perform at a live limited audience (also exclusive) Overly Dedicated event!
When every avenue is exhausted, music can be the language of resilience. It is music that unites us in unexpected moments and situations, especially in the events of 2020. KvreeM uses his recent music selection to convey a message to the universe and his followers: “Through it all we can prevail.” May KvreeM’s latest EP release, GAPERTURE, fill the holes that 2020 has undoubtedly left us with.
Starting out with a smooth jazz tune with BE READY, with a chorus introducing you to the South Suburban Chicago artist, “He’s coming back again.” Back after another big release earlier in the month, THE MAINSTREAM TAPE Vol. II. Bridging into his next track LONELY PT. 2 is some commentary regarding black identity. “Being black is being resilient, it’s being the root of pop culture… being black is being original.” The statement is backed up with the obvious, (if you have been paying attention) from music of any genre: Jazz, Rock N Roll with Little Richard, Hip Hop with DJ Kool Herc, and even fashion & culture. In fact being black can be seen as the root of all originality, as we are all born of Africa, as one species migrating and adapting throughout the whole world. This theme of empowering messaging continues with THE WOO BOSCO THEORY.
Getting into more hip hop influenced jazz as the EP continues, CONCRETE JUNGLE highlights KvreeMs uniqueness. “Don’t compare me to the rest I’m incomparable, don’t let them people tune into your frequency,” he raps in chorus with versus outlining the box that this CONCRETE JUNGLE tries to mold us into, tied in with a music video months back. GAPERTURE would be the most energetically boastful of the EP, and the latter actually makes you wanna connect with KvreeM, and match him on a bottle at a party, but you better be matching frequencies! Always time for a celebration of growth, before we get back down to earth with SYMPHONIES and THERAPY. Perhaps the most relatable tracks as KvreeM contemplates his hustle, his struggles and his personal health, environment and growth. All in all, GAPERTURE is a superb project that can either help you heal or just get through the day with some quality music.
Coming across another Chicago artist that takes lyrical content and flow to the next level. Blac Samurai, focuses greatly on lyrical content more so than he does the production on his tracks, however the beat is equal in quality; it just caters to, or emphasizes the words. Armed with a few singles and an EP, Blac Samurai also recently released a full length album called COMPENDIUM. Now with that title, you can tell this artist owns a dictionary, and does not mess around with his words.
Once the beat drops you instantly get that old school, boom bap vibe on the first opening track PLAY ME CLOSE. Blac Samurai was looking for an old school and alternative sound and he nails it, with the balance between old and contemporary styles throughout COMPENDIUM. His next track, U WANT, sounds more modernized, with trap influenced beats, bass and hi hats, snares, but still heavy on a lo-fi ambient energy. This will be the consistent theme throughout the LP, you can comfortably play it out without disrupting its own flow.
Samurai notes that this COMPENDIUM is an album that has taught him patience, evidently from his lyrics in MASK. “Why do you continue to hide these emotions, how can you understand someone else when you never understood yourself, have you ever asked for help?… How do you really feel? Just take off the MASK…” Followed by a beautifully sung verse within the same idea, and a commentary that goes even deeper within the lines of self understanding. KELLY ROWLAND really captures the Notorious BIG 90’s R&B essence, and some Pusha T within DNA and HOW YOU LIKE ME NOW INTERLUDE, with some A$AP Rocky inspiring tracks like KNOW THAT and BRAND NEW on some acid rap. As those artist come to inspire Blac Samurai, he establishes his own flow, style and energy with COMPENDIUM, the full 12 track album is a good one to put on repeat; and he really saves the best one for last, with the smooth jazz hip hop vibes, rightly named WILL BE CROWNED.
Azmattic and RhymSter come together as a lyrically monstrous and formidable songwriting duo. THE JAZZ CIGARETTE, which features various producers from around the world as well as local Chicago recording artists, is a breeze through listen, and instant underground hip hop classic. Authentic jazz samples, breaks, beats and flavorful singing hooks make the LP something that brings you back, while also reminding you just how fresh the duo’s cuts are.
The first single off the record is HOP SKIP & JUMP 2.0, featuring Mike Booth aka TrueDeal, and production by Trog’Low; A truly nostalgic sound in this track, bringing the listener back to that early 90’s, heavy sampled vibe with succinct rhyme structure. “I need some time baby, we only time baby, but maybe we can get some time, cause it’s our time baby, and no I haven’t been around. I’m on my grind lately, and I’m not good at many things but I can rhyme greatly.” Azmattic raps over the beat, a unique way of saying he is been working hard and philosophizing about the passage of time. Mike Booth adds his deep bass vocals to the hook of this track, and RhymSter raps “Hit the blunt with an ice coffee, an AM meal, life wanna break down my walls, but I’m the man of steel.” Relating his morning ritual and the idea of never giving up. The track is a solid bang right off the bat and a great intro for the LP.
RHYMIN DUDES is the next song off the record featuring Jai The Artist, J-Bose and the 2nd tune also produced by Trog’Low. J-Bose’s voice is the strongest on the hook, but you can also hear Jai and Azmattic. A super fast and upbeat track, with an upright bass sample and speedy raps, crafts this song into a jazz-hop banger. Azmattic and RhymSter both add their respective verses, and really challenge each other in terms of lyrical dexterity and speed. “Do you, understand my persistence, while I ran into the distance, you can plan your superstition like its voo-doo,” and RhymSter comes in immediately after AzMattic with a chopped tempo eventually slowing down with, “Things fall apart but check your head, keep yourself on ice, its do or die and I’m the main ingredient for life!”
The next notable song off the record is ICED COFFE AND BLUNTS, another track featuring Mike Booth. RhymSter and AzMattic trade short bar verses back and forth while describing their musician lifestyle in the form of coffee consumption and heavy cannabis. This song is a great listen, amazing lyrics being volleyed back and forth, like a tennis match between RhymSter and AzMattic, ending with the soulful vocals of the freestyle monster, Mike Booth. “Iced coffee and blunts!…You put the ice in the coffee.“
The interlude track is a hilarious banter by the Illadvised and Unprepared Podcast, ending with a the strength of the amazing voice of FAFA. WHAT YOU GONNA DO, featuring Jai The Artist and U’Nique Music, is a change up being a much more slow bop jam. RhymSter starts off the song with many cultural references, leading into a short verse from Azmattic. Jai The Artist and Azmattic take the hook which is a soulful chant, “What You Gonna Do?” RhymSter comes back in with, “Don’t be major in minor things, how you do anything is how you do everything,” a line that smacks you back to the drawing board and makes you realize, one may need to get their shit together! Later RhymSter shouts out the Robber Baron for getting the capital to invest. This track evoked a lot of introspective thought, because many of the lines by both RhymSter and Azmattic pose deeply interesting questions.
I GOT feat. Jah-Dee begins with a scratch sample of the aforementioned, older hip hop artist saying, “Welcome to the next level!” Azmattic begins this song rapping, “Yeah this boy is more hip than what’s attached to your femur,” with every subsequent line explaining how hip hop and rapping keeps him alive as a sort of therapy. RhymSter later rhymes, “I rolled up another cigarette and put the Jazz in it, ain’t it clear I came here to win it… I’m a doctor in practice, playing like the point guard on the mavericks.” This song gets you in your motivational feels, and makes you want to pick up a pen to get to the next level.
Out of the entire project, “IF I LEFT THE GAME” is the most contemporary sounding song. Azmattic begins the track comparing himself to Barry Sanders, and saying that just because he lacks the riches one can earn from rap, does not mean he is going to stop making music anytime soon. RhymSter comes in with the second verse comparing himself to MJ, when he came back to the Bulls in 1995. RhymSter hits some fast chopping flows on this verse, and then slows down, very dynamic.
As a whole package, this project has everything a hip hop head could want and more! If you are looking for lyrics, breaks, boom bap beats, dynamic flows, soulful hooks, fast rap, introspective lyricism, chant along tracks, etc, THE JAZZ CIGARETTE by Azmattic and RhymSter will definitely quench the hip hop thirst. And do not forget to check out their latest visual for THE JAZZ CIGARETTE which is “ICED COFFEE AND BLUNTS” featuring Mike Booth, shot, directed and edited by Hayward of Beat Box Ent.
Chicago recording artist Travie Austin links with Brad Kemp to drop an eight track record, in collaboration with a number of other artists and musicians. COME-BACK by Travie Austin and Brad Kemp, out September 18th, is an upbeat neo-gospel-soul pop record. Every track features complex melodies and harmonies laid down by Travie himself. Each song is produced and engineered by Brad Kemp, with five of the tracks featuring TomCat Trumpet, Davyd Reddyk, Anthony M. Rodriguez and Tim Burke.
The themes of empowerment, self confidence, moving on and getting through heartbreak are prevalent throughout the album. Travie Austin seems to channel Sisqo as well as soulful singers of decades further, archaic in its sound and tonality, but contemporary in his flows and melodies; his style is unique and refreshing! Track 3, MAKE A MOVE featuring Anthony M. Rodriguez, is a feel good, jazzy club record you can easily dance to, about making that first sensually strong move, falling in love, living in the moment and letting go. “If you don’t want me to leave you better make your move,” Travie sings, reminding his love interest not to waste any time. In LET GO Travie belts, “I know that it’s right for me, I’m not gonna call you back, cause you got a plane to catch,” further illustrating the theme of moving past a relationship and hoping for a better dynamic in a future partner. The feelings portrayed in each song are quite universal in their appeal.
“I don’t want to be that man anymore!” Travie croons in track eight, SAY GOODBYE, and the song sounds like he has a chorus backing him when the hook comes in. “Say goodbye to the ones who ain’t on your side, trying to tear your heart in two. And say goodbye to the ones trying to dim your light, they don’t shine as bright as you, cause you are so worthy, you are so special. Don’t let them see you fall, just keep your head up high, and say good bye!” This hook was quite powerful and exemplifies that theme of self confidence and moving on! A really inspiring song that will make you want to sing along as if you were in a huge choir.
Bringing some soul to Chicago, Adam Houston, all the way from Houston, TX, joins other Chicago jazz inspired artists like Lili K and Livia Gazzolo, as he debuts his solo work. Formerly lead singer of Hot Planet, Adam Houston continues strong with his first solo single, LOW. Accompanied with a music video directed & edited by Kaden Acosta, giving off a very 90’s urban vibe, showing off Chicago’s skyline, street corners and art, while horns, bass guitar and guitar riff away smoothly in the back. Adam really catches you in a groove right off the bat with this song, flawlessly diving into the next chapter of his career.
An artist to add wonderful diversity to your Chicago playlist, the style and vocals of Lili K will leave you stunned! Originally from Milkwaukee, this Midwest artist bases herself in Chicago. Blending in easily with the vibrant music culture, she gained exposure working with artists like Chance the Rapper and Vic Mensa. Learning to perform at an early age in church and school choirs, and being trained in classical, jazz and opera, you can hear the experience in the control of her voice! Along with her talent and love for music, she also expresses a bit of altruism, donating to important social causes.
Within recent events Lili K has been advocating to match her donations for Love and Land Foundation efforts for Black women and girls to reach therapy. In another case she donated to help free BLM protesters in downtown Chicago arrests; with a great voice comes a great heart it seems, in this case! Her vocal talent and style fits the burlesque culture and jazz lounges, and with frequent performances at spaces like Untitled Supper Club and Soho House, her name is becoming quite known in Chicago among lovers of jazz and soul. Recently releasing the song BLUFF, calling out the weak intentions of a significant other and leaning towards independence, Lili sings beautifully over bass and string instruments, sax and vocal harmonies, with the help of Jeremy Jones.