“He’s wearing that jacket again,” was all I could think as I approached Kene Ekwunife at the marble-lined bar top. Coolly sipping a cocktail, a messenger bag slung across his shoulders, Kene, better known as SaveMoney artist KAMI, was impossible to miss in the half-full club. What the casual observer didn’t know is that he’d been rocking the thick-lined bomber since mid-summer. Far from the casual observer, I immediately recalled seeing him at East Room in July, myself sweating through a t-shirt as he stood draped in the neon-orange outerwear, seemingly unfazed as he explained the perseverance of style to me. While it may seem innocuous, that jacket operates as a perfect metaphor for KAMI as a person and an artist: unmistakable yet tempered, patient and consistent. In many ways, he’s evolved in the public eye without having to catch it’s full glare, not yet at least. Continue reading From Understudy To Leading Man After A Journey Of Self-Discovery, KAMI Steps Into The Spotlight
As The Clock Neared Midnight On December 31, 2016 Kaina Castillo, Clutching A Microphone In One Hand And Bottle Of Champagne In The Other, Led A Packed Room As She Counted Down The Final Moments To The New Year…
To her right was a set of fresh-faced twins named Eddie and IZ, emphatically jumping up and down with the passing seconds. To her left, horn players Sen Morimoto and Sam Veren urged the crowd before them as the countdown hit three, and then two. A moment later, the whole group stood under a shower of bubbling champagne as Castillo exclaimed “Happy New Year,” popping the cork from the bottle in the process. As the suds rained down on the group of young friends from the ceiling, it was immediately evident that 2017 would have plenty in store for the central figures in what’s quickly becoming the next wave of Chicago music. Continue reading Chicago Renaissance Continued: Meet The City’s Next Wave Of Musicians
Originally Appeared on TheseDays in September 2016
By now, SaveMoney has emerged as a force not only on the local scene, but the country and world at large. With a year that has seen the likes of Chance The Rapper and Vic Mensa take marked steps towards the throne while the rest of the contingent has made their respective steps forward, the collective as a whole has established itself as the pre-eminent music organization on the come up today. While known mostly for the rap side of things that have taken over the city in the wake of the Drill movement, SaveMoney has never been solely one thing, a sentiment that has been echoed since interviews with the likes of Chano and Mensa back to 2012. It’s a loose contingent that counts creatives of all types in it’s ranks and one man in particular has been tapped to make sure it all comes together appropriately. That man is Nikko Washington. Continue reading Talking To Nikko Washington, SaveMoney’s Creative Force
Originally Appeared in FLAUNT Magazine August 2016
With forty-five minutes left to go before the ten o’clock curfew for the sold-out show at Chicago’s Metro Lil Uzi Vert is nowhere to be seen. A surprise performance from Lil Bibby and subsequent set from DJ Oreo keeps the crowd moving with a consistent offering of turn up songs that has the room moving in frenetic dance circles, albeit without the name on the marquee. With just under forty minutes to go and organizers looking around nervously, the small ball of energy that is Lil Uzi rockets onto the stage. Reacting immediately, the temperature in the venue seems to rise exponentially. As Uzi works his way through the first single joined by none other than Famous Dex, I prop myself up on a folding chair to get a better view. Reaching to the ceiling for support my hand slips on the condensation from the pure energy in the room. Looking around one can see the future of hip-hop. While everyone in the venue seems to know all the words to every song and dance move to boot, all seem to do so without ever looking at the stage. Instead, a sea of cell phones light up the room, most screens flipped inward, the fans watching themselves enjoy the music for their followers. Continue reading Catching Up With Lil Uzi Vert at The Metro
As we continue along this ever-expanding idea of a Chicago Renaissance, it’s undeniable that the forward-thinking artistic movement goes well-beyond just music. Art, at its essence is interpretation and no one takes cues like fast-rising dancer, choreographer and Oak Park native, Ian Eastwood, who has been forging a new path in his own lane that speaks to a larger independent movement that has come to pace this scene of artists and creatives operating out of the midwest. Continue reading Home Team • Ian Eastwood
As a writer that often focuses on hip-hop music, I tend to pay attention to things that wouldn’t make it onto most others’ radars. Like, who the first artist with a ‘Lil’ name was, what ever happened to the ‘real’ Rick Ross, or the non-fictional motivations behind Drake lyrics. It’s a symptom of the habit. Sometimes, though, tracking these trends, news items, and rollouts can get tiresome and boil over into straight up cynicism. Lil Durk’s forced ‘celebrity relationship’ with Dej Loaf is one of those items: I just can’t fuck with it anymore.
Three years ago things were just getting exciting around Chicago. Chief Keef had just made the country take a collective gulp as he shoved guns into the lens of a Handicam protected by his thick mop of locks, Kids These Days had just dropped Hard Times and were preparing their proper full-length and a kid named Chance was beginning to get some attention for his recent 10 Day mixtape. The spotlights were on their way, quickly tearing themselves from Atlanta long enough to get entranced by the almost creepy sound of drill, packed full of real-life assertions that played on America’s penchant for struggle behind glass. Fresh off of journalism school I arrived in Chicago, the local scene seemed set for big things and I was at the center of it, reporting at the time for the Chicago Sun-Times. Continue reading THE STATE OF CHICAGO HIP-HOP: NO END IN SIGHT
The Hurt Everybody movement is in full swing.
A year removed from their debut release on July 4, 2014, the trio of Supa BWE, Carl and Mulatto Beats have built a large and dedicated fanbase through their constant releases on SoundCloud. The group’s 4th of July release 2K47 recently demonstrated their feverish work ethic. The sophomore project, more importantly, positioned the group as one of the next up from a crowded Chicago scene.
2K47 arrives as a much sleeker, tightly-wound unveil than last year’s debut. Whereas the Hurt Everybody EP was a collection of favorite tracks recorded and released for short periods of time online, 2K47 comes packaged with an understanding of over-arching themes that pace the project. “F*ck you I’m amazing” is prevalent throughout, both a boastful declaration and a serious assertion. Continue reading Chicago’s Hurt Everybody Brings Grunge To Hip-Hop On ‘2K47’ Mixtape
Last Thursday night, Donnie Trumpet and the Social Experiment’s album Surf appeared as a free download on iTunes (reportedly the first Apple had allowed), its arrival sudden yet highly anticipated. Promises that the album was coming soon—before the end of the year, then “soon,” then “very soon”—had been floating around since Chance the Rapper announced it in an interview with Billboard last fall, and hip-hop fans were eager to find out what the project that most saw as the follow-up to Chance’s acclaimed 2013 mixtape Acid Rap would sound like.
Surf sounds like a party. It’s a different sonic world from any other hip-hop album released this year, and its cast of contributors is impressive, featuring local Chicago friends like NoNameGypsy, Saba, and Joey Purp as well as big names like Erykah Badu, Busta Rhymes, Big Sean, and J. Cole. It’s also—although he’s the most well known name attached to it, and The Social Experiment is his touring band—not a Chance the Rapper album. It’s a collaborative effort with other band members Peter Cottontale and Nate Fox, overseen by Donnie Trumpet, a.k.a. Nico Segal.
“What I wanted to accomplish on this project most was to convey to people that I’m a producer and not just a trumpet player in Chance’s band,” Segal told me last Friday morning, groggy from an all-nighter scanning Twitter and reading initial reviews. “This is supposed to be the beginning of something, the first of its kind for something new.”
While at the inaugural Electric Daisy Carnival Chicago in Joliet, Il covering for the Chicago Sun Times I had the chance to interview EDM superstar and current No. 6 DJ in the world, Hardwell. Linking up with The Frontliner for visual help I visited Hardwell in his trailer before he hit the stage Saturday night. Check out the video below.