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.
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.
“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!
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.
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.
Safi-G, general of the Wolf Mafia recently put out a remix of 21 Savage‘s A Lot featuring J.Cole; his version however speaks upon the tragedies inflicted to the Palestinian people in the holy lands as well as the latest of mass shootings resulting in the deaths of over 50 Muslims at two different Mosques in the city of Christchurch, New Zealand. The former being perpetrated by the state-ist Zionist agenda, the latter by an alt-right white nationalist. As you listen to Safi-G’s powerful words and statements on violence and oppression remember there are real world issues at hand with disastrous consequences and we are not as isolated as we think, especially with mass shootings in America. Therefore it is important to remember above all else just how lucky and privileged we are to not be existing in a war zone.
The No Coast battle rapper and SlumpGang777 emcee of absolutely cool proportions Orlando Coolridge recently put out a project reflective of poetic growth that the filters of Chicago’s taste makers should be hanged if this record is allowed to pass through unheard. Now that the undertones of serious demeanor have been expressed lets jump into the intro track ONSOL. “Its for the soul, because what is it if it ain’t onsol?” is the first line of the hook whose ad-libs vary through a swinging and soulful rhythm. Because what exactly is it if it ain’t onsol and that is when you realize that there really is not much because onsol is light itself. Onsol has multiple meanings if you follow the SlumpGang777 philosophies and their eastern influences. The song is a great introductory to the album so expect to hear more sharp lines and swinging-ly good hooks through out the record.
INNERGY is another song that makes you question and ponder the idea of light. With production completely done by Sean Antidote, Coolridge poses this question to a listener; “If all that glitters is gold, is the light, just like, how it is in the soul?”. A piercingly relevant metaphor especially within the modern day capitalism and post contemporary era. “That shits no coincidence, its a black fist, like an activist!...Blowing up, like you least expect it now at least expect it“. More wittiness of his intellectual braggadocio.
“The message they telling us is deceptive, they don’t want us a collective or eclectic”. MAKE$ENSE encapsulates that paranoid and schizo wave length the brain goes on while trying to come to terms that it will never fully comprehend or observe this reality. Yet it will try and do a damn good job carving out lyrical descriptions. “The one’s controlling currency is 33rd degree, population walking dead but they ain’t turning me!”- A line that captures perfectly the idea of the fractional reserve banking conundrum the world finds itself in today and the idea of humans droning through their daily tasks of life.
Orlando Coolridge makes music for people who read; let me just insert that point of observation here. MAKE$ENSE is a favorite from this record with old school track references like “Cash Rules Everything Around Me, CREAM, Get tha money,dolla dolla bill y’all”, and “make money money make money money money”. Coolridge intertwines hip hop history with an elevated perspective on global economics and modern money mechanics. RYZE! is the point of the album when your blood starts to boil from the epic and emotional nature of the build up in the instrumental coupled with Coolridges spine tingling intense black power affirmations. Every line in this song smacks you with the thought that maybe you need to go read up on Paul Robeson, Marcus Garvey and W.E.B. Dubois. RYZE! is for every patriot and compatriot of the black American disenfranchisement.
The next song on the record is a super clever tune called A.L.L.A.H., playing off many triple entendres involving the idea of God. This including the acronym ALLAH which in the song stands for Arm Leg Leg Arm Head. Not only is this song layered in metaphor but also narrow enough for the simple minded folk to jam to since every rhymed ends with g-o-d. Another personal favorite from the Sean Antidote produced LP.
The song THENIGHTTIMEBUMP is Coolridge’s love making lullaby of the record. Making allusions to drug usage, meditation and night time moods with the lady; writing lines such as “the third hour odd minute when the moon is the light, when the freaks come out if you’re doing it right.” Right after the love lullaby comes a song about finding love and the divine feminine with LUHMADEME. Brush strokes of metaphors posing hard questions and evoking wondrous ideas of what love is or even means. The epitome of the ultimate philosophical doubt of love is held within this one line by Coolridge; “Yo if it wasn’t for the love is there a reason to rock, is the lack thereof, any reason to not?”. Beautifully put, getting to that line almost encircles the entire rest of the song and brings you back to the starting point of the endless rabbit hole wondering if love even exists?
The last two records are GOTTALUVEMALL and FEELTHELOVE! Where the former is a sensual seduction via boom bap goodness and the latter an upbeat tune that exudes positive feelings. Orlando Coolridge hit every possible frequency, vibration and wave possible on his LP Sutato. With all instrumentals from the Sean Antidote camp, the production quality sounding stellar, paired with legendary status hip hop songwriting Sutato should find longevity, respect and love within the Chicago hip hop community and beyond.