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.
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.
Connecting with Mohawk Johnson we got to talking about his music and his mission for a brief period of time. Getting into some history and details into his music intent and thought process. Painting a picture of human being going through his woes within his skin and his culture. Alleviating the pressure by fighting for noble causes and ideas through his music and empathetically connecting with listeners in mutual situations.
Within a short period of time from his starting point Mohawk gathered a collection of songs aimed to disseminate social and political constructs and to place awareness on ones mental state. Armed with an EP and music videos he does it again with the release of So Deep. With his words he mocks the typical hotep, breaking down and patronizing their behavior. Over a jazzy and vibrant hip hop beat produced by Shhh, Mohawk’s turns his heckling into a catchy, raw song calling out contradictory artists in his culture.
In our interview Mohawk Johnson breaks it down in a bit more detail with what he means with this song. We also go over his start in music and what motivated him into the industry and how that quickly grew into something different. You will get the idea that he is more ordinary than most artists claim to be, and he speaks it how it is. Connecting effortlessly with and giving voice to the unconnected and the voiceless. Whether it be through his music or social media Johnson fights for his mind and fights for better social conditions with his level and style of awareness.
When did you start rapping/handling the mic?
Do you write and/or freestyle?
I write. I can’t freestyle for shit.
What got you to start releasing music?
I wanted my ex girlfriend to notice me and take me back. It didn’t work.
But you have new songs coming in. Did you figure forget it keep goin, did the music grow on you? What were you thinking then?
After I dropped the first EP some people I knew came out and talked to me about being suicidal and that my music inspired them to get help. So I kept making music. There have been people who didn’t care what I had to say but when I say it in songs they hear me. I have a lot to say and music seems to be the only thing that allows people to hear me.
Your profile on bandcamp says you are black and traumatized and you want to put that on display to help other similar people. Would you say your new inspiration is mental health advocacy through your music?
Your newest release so deep takes on a different persona than your other earlier darker tracks.Any particular inspiration or what are u goin for?
I am critiquing hoteps who pretend to be problack but then engage in respectability politics.
Black men who pretend to be pro black but engage in respectability politics, homophobia, sexism, able-ism, etc… They don’t want freedom from white supremacy. They want the power to oppress black women.
Do you see alot of this in todays hip hop scene?
Yeah, it’s everywhere. Anytime someone critiques racism and then turns around and calls women hoes for having the same sex we been having
How would you say your music is helping combat this?
I attack it directly through satire. I embody the style like I did in so deep but then I rip their ideology apart.
Can we expect a more socially and politically motivated project similar to how your relapse EP is about the mind?
Alot of your work is produced by Shhh. How’d you two meet?
My roommate is friends with him. They came to my first show. Shhh volunteered to work with me after that.
Can we be expecting more funk and jazz influenced beats like So Deep as well?
Maybe a few, I don’t know how I feel about it. I don’t do the genre justice.
I have to disagree! I really liked the new track and I think you flowed good in that genre with your style.
If you say so.
Tellin’ it how it is man appreciate you sharing the new music.
Radiating a vibe through his music that is so disarming The Should You Lean On is a fitting title for Rich Jones latest project. “No coin to toss won’t chance my love to game“, he repeats in his first track and I know I can trust this man and his playlist, he has been around. Dipping back into a hip hop flow with the next couple of tracks, bouncing between Soul, R&B & Hip Hop these 7 tracks Jones really shows his colors off. A refreshing LP followingLight Work EP and Dangerous Rainy Days releases.
Always working with prominent names in the local scene he brings on some really talented individuals once again to help with the project. J. Kelr from Rellek Studio did work on recording and Joel Gutman at Fat Tongue Studios, Kenny Keys doing some production as well. On vocals joins Kiara Lanier and the super duper secret Nnamdi Ogbonnayya. All put in good work on the LP and Rich Jones talks more in-depth in an interview with These Days to really putting it in a broader perspective. Adding the cherry on top Jones puts up a release party at the Sleeping Village, but if you want to catch him before 2018 ends check out his calendar or start replaying his music!
Its always good to hear new music from Sylvie Grace. Although she has been sitting on this particular piece of work her music sounds timeless. Produced by Letsuo, the beat is smooth as Sylvie’s vocals dances across the melody. She uploads Pumpkins following Latelyand collaborations like You Aint Shit (Shine On) with Kweku Collins. You can catch this Chi-town singer songwriter and cello artist performing downtown Michigan Ave or apart of shows if you are lucky; appropriately at Untitled recently where Soul, Classical, Jazz and Swing fill the atmosphere. Follow us as we await more new music and ways to use her name with wordplay!
Alex Medellin of Late Night Radio from Denver makes funky instrumentals crossing electro and soul genres. Reflective Tangents is his most recent jazz filled project. The 8 track playlist includes features by Kevin Donohue, Clark Smith, Def3, Boraham Lee, and WildaBeats. Most notable our hometown electro soul igniter Manic Focus hits us with that collab amongst the project along with Donohue on All My Troubles. Adding some additional electronic bass influence to the LP, it is balanced well amongst the intro tracks leading to NoGrave with guitar licks and groovy basslines. Listen to the full playlist on Late Night Radio’s soundcloud.