Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Hip-Hopnoymous No More

Chicago hip-hop duo The Cool Kids will be releasing their debut album May 20th. Excitement! Below is the unedited version of my first UR Chicago article profiling the duo.

Writers profiling the next great hope for hip-hop should really send Nas a Hallmark card. Or maybe a dozen roses. Without his recent album's “Hip-hop is Dead” eponymous single, there would be one less thing to point to when contrasting hip-hop's much discussed decline against a new group or artist with the potential to resurrect the genre. Chuck Inglish, 22, and Mikey Reed, 19, of the Chicago based hip-hop duo the Cool Kids just might be that next great hope – with the potential not only to resurrect hip-hop but redefine it.

While the Cool Kids have a hip-hop sound, they don't consider themselves hip-hop artists. “We have a very different style of music,” Inglish explains. “Whatever we try to do will always be good...but I can't justify doing one style of music when I'm influenced by a lot of other stuff.”

The two MCs “came across each other [through] making beats, doing the Myspace thing, being in Chicago and all of that,” Inglish begins. The two met to listen to each others' beats, bringing out Mikey's talent for rapping and Inglish soon began producing tracks for him. “I took a dip at rapping too and figured out that I wasn't too bad,” Inglish says. “We figured out the majority of our songs had the both of us on it, so we decided to [form] a group, to keep the same formula but [with the both of us] together.”

The formula? Think N.E.R.D., Slick Rick, and EMPD. A slow, deliberate flow, chopped and screwed hooks, and simple drum patterns. The Cool Kids exude the machismo swagger typical of hip-hop lyrics with a tongue in cheek goofiness and decidedly non-bling references (i.e. Sega Genesis, bike kickstands, pagers).

With their arms flung over their chests in true “yes, yes y'all” fashion, sporting thick gold ropes and Spike Lee circa “She's Gotta Have It” glasses, Mikey and Inglish may have one foot planted in the '80s and early '90s, but don't call them a throwback group. Or worse yet, hipster hop.

“We're not a throwback at all,” Inglish says. “A lot of people are drawing that up, like, 'Hey, these kids got gold ropes on and they have 808 kicks.' [That's] just us being us.”

As for hipster hop, it's “kinda of an attempt to try to figure out how to categorize what we're doing,” Inglish continues. Mikey agrees, saying that the term hipster has “whack connotations.” “It's always the next new thing that never actually comes to fruition...and then its gone and [hipsters] go off to the next new thing.”

The Cool Kids are definitely the next new thing, but they won't be going anywhere anytime soon. With a new CD coming out (“It's not a mixtape, and it's not an album, so we're gonna call it a CD with a whole bunch of shit on it you can listen to,” Mikey laughs. “The first rap album with no guest features,” Inglish chimes in), gigs across the country, and a buzz growing by the day, the Cool Kids prove hip-hop isn't dead. It was just taking a blinged out nap.

Monday, April 28, 2008

News in Commuting and Music!

Now that I consider $3.67 for gas to be cheap (in comparison to $3.99 at the gas station across the street from my apartment), I think its time to get back on the bus and trains. According to NPR, taxi drivers are feeling the crunch as well. The Chicago City Council has passed a ruling, mandating that a $1 surcharge will be added to cab fare to subsidize the costs of gas (only when gas is over $3.50 for seven days straight). However, a group of taxi drivers are suing to have this ruling overturned in favor of a fare increase per mile, citing this to be a long-term solution in the face of the economic and energy crunch.

And the days of seeing three buses back-to-back is hypothetically over. The CTA has unveiled their website, CTA Bus Tracker, which provides people on the go with estimated travel times for bus routes (14 routes are available now with more to come in May). The site has an estimated time arrival section as well as a bus location map, and comes in a text version for mobile devices.

And the purveyor of mass-hipster fashions, Urban Outfitters, offers up their summer mix online. Plenty of electronic blips and whistles, breathy boy voices, and drum machines for all (all tongue-and-cheek snarkiness aside, they have gathered a pretty good mix)!

Sunday, April 27, 2008

You Know You Do It

Google yourself, that is. Technology, curiosity, and just plain ol' vanity has mated, bringing with it one stop validation in the form of Googling ones' name. Jim Kileen went out and made a documentary about his adventures in self-Google called Google Me. Watch the trailer above.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Almost Makes Me Wish the Brits Had Won

Because then us Americans would have this be the gold standard of our comedy instead of Larry the Cable Guy, Blue Collar Television, and Carlos Mencia.

She Has A Boyfriend - Watch more free videos

Two Ways to Spend Your Weekend

Hyde Park Art Center's Creative Move 3: Moving Mountains, Friday - Saturday

I've been talking about this 24-hour party at Hyde Park Art Center (5020 S. Cornell) for the past week now, and if you haven't done any exploring yourself, you're probably wondering what this shindig entails. Well, let me tell you about it... stud.

Fire dancing! Pushing mountains! Interactive art! Improv! DJs! Dance! Music! Art! Brunch! A cafe grand opening! Japanese drumming! Multiple performances! and tons more.

For a complete schedule of events, click here.

(Kelly Kaczynski's Olympus Manger, Scene II, the inspiration for this year's Creative Move theme, "Moving Mountains")

(From Disinhibition: Black Art and Blue Humor: Tamasha Williamson, It Is...Ain't It? The African-American Vernacular and the King's English: Validation v. Degradation [Articulate], 2007, graphite on paper)

Hip-Hop Live + Reel, continues Friday - Sunday

Yesterday, hip-hop heads and film enthusiasts alike gathered at the Museum of Contemporary Art (220 E. Chicago) for the beginning of their four-day series Hip-Hop Live + Reel. Continuing until Sunday evening, Hip-Hop has something for everyone: performances from Chicago's only all Latina theater group Teatro Luna, documentary screenings, poetry slams and much more. Click here for more details.

Photobucket Photobucket

(photo credit: Henry Chalfant, a documentarian whose film From Mambo to Hip-Hop: A South Bronx Tale, screened Thursday)

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Q&A with Blake Bradford

Hyde Park Art Center's Director of Education, Blake Bradford, was kind enough to answer a few questions about Creative Move 3.

I Am Chicago: What went into deciding to move to your new space?

Blake Bradford:
I can’t quite describe the process that led up to our move—I joined the staff in the old space [the ballroom of an apartment complex] but after the plans were underway ... I know it was a carefully considered step in our evolution. My understanding is that we wanted to make a move that was in line with our significant history among Chicago art institutions. We were founded as a Works Progress Administration project in 1939 and had been around for more than 60 years, helping artists such as Jim Nutt and Karl Wirsum emerge on the national stage. And yet we were hard to find and define, even for Hyde Parkers.

IAC: Why does HPAC choose to celebrate their move with a 24-hr party?

BB: The inaugural Creative Move was a 36 hour party. It was a celebration of our new space, all that was going on, and all the people who helped us get here. We couldn’t fit it all in to the time frame of our regular openings. We shaved it down to 24 hours last year.

IAC: What are you most excited about for Creative Move 3? What do you hope people will enjoy most about Creative Move 3 or get out of it?

BB: I’m most excited about seeing all the people who are being introduced to the Art Center. We still have people, from all over the South Side, who ask “There’s an art center in Hyde Park?” I have great hopes that many of them will begin to see themselves as cultural participants and that there are nearby opportunities to engage with the cultural life of the city. Also, I’m incredibly excited about Istria’s [a cafe inside the museum] grand opening.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

24-Hour Art People

The Hyde Park Art Center (HPAC) is one of my favorite Chicago museums. It stresses the importance of community involvement and education through the arts, making it more accessible to the every(wo)man without skimping on vision or integrity. The South Side art gallery will be celebrating its move and continued reign as the oldest alternative art space in Chicago with its 24 hour party, Creative Move 3: Moving Mountains, this Friday. Since 1939, the Hyde Park Art Center has served the Hyde Park-Kenwood communities of the South Side with its commitment to promoting and exhibiting the works of emerging Chicago artists and arts education and mentorship for its patrons and Chicago students.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Mr. Esquire

Chicago has brought me a lot of good friends, many of whom are unbelievably talented. Below is a profile of one of them, Sola Akintunde, better known as Shala Esquire.

A Google search of Shala Esquire produces over 1,800 hits – very impressive, especially considering most of these links are actually about him, profiling his talent and work in the music and art worlds. Esquire embodies the can-do spirit indie culture and the Internet has instilled in the newest generation of creative souls.

Born Olusola Akintunde to Nigerian immigrant parents on Chicago’s North Side, Esquire benefited from the diversity surrounding his Winthrop Towers home. His parents provided the young Esquire with an unique view that placed him in two opposing worlds—as a black Chicagoan and as a Nigerian. His foot firmly planted in both, Esquire learned how to see life’s bigger picture at a young age. Growing up in a lower income family, he used his imagination to entertain himself, making toys, games and getting lost in a world of his own creation.

He would later learn the value of blurring the boundaries between these two worlds and using his imagination to make music. In high school, Esquire met the three friends who would later turn their love of beating on tables and rapping in the lunchroom into the dynamic rap group Qualo. Qualo put out their first CD, “Movementality,” in 2000 on the streets and online. Out of Qualo came The Movement Worldwide, Inc, a management and multimedia production company Esquire built to “create a vehicle that could consistently showcase artists and Chicago talent.” The collective includes a wide array of talented DJs and hip-hop acts including Million Dolla Mano, Hollywood Holt, Chuck Inglish of the Cool Kids and Low B. of DJ duo Hollertonix, selling more than 200,000 mixtapes, compilations, and albums in less than two years. In 2006, Esquire could add another feather to his cap: Qualo inked a joint venture deal with Universal Music Group.

In his eight years of work, Esquire has proven he is truly a renaissance man of the new order: a multimedia producer, rapper, songwriter, and artist (creator of the edgy and observant Seven Spoon comics which has developed a fan base of over 20,000 readers). Poised to rub elbows with the Diddys and the Russell Simmons of the world, Esquire represents the new generation of lifestyle and cultural moguls, showing the wide reach of the Internet as he continues to bring his genre bending music and whip-smart art to people across the world.

Listen or download his song Audacity of Hope by clicking this link.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Gloat Gloat Gloat

Click for larger image.

I Am Chicago was featured on T-Mobile Sidekick's RSS Feed (largely for my mention of going to the 50th Grammy Concert and loving John Legend, but it's fun to pretend its for my actual blog). Crazy!

A New Series...

I hate commuting. 4 hours of my days are spent packed in a bus or a train, gritting my teeth against the minor to major annoyances a long commute holds. But sometimes there are silver linings to my trek. They usually come in the form of ridiculous one-sided phone conversations and weird advertising plastered on train stops, trains, and buses across the city. The first offering for this new series:

On the Metra North Line... Delightful.

Monday, April 14, 2008

"Fall In Love In Chi-ca-go..."

Lupe Fiasco's newest video for his single, "Paris, Tokyo." This was actually one of my least favorite songs on his album, The Cool, but I always appreciate Fiasco for taking his music above and beyond the current call of ring tone rappers.

Ring tone rapper (i.e. Souljah Boy): Can this song be a ring tone?
Music Exec: Does it have a lyrics of little value outside of dropping it like its hot and an annoyingly catchy chorus?
Ring tone rapper: Yeah...
Music Exec: Son, you got yourself a Verizon-worthy hit!

Friday, April 11, 2008

Abbreviated Weekend Guide

I am in New York this weekend--visiting Columbia University's Journalism school and deciding whether or not I want to move to the City--so here is a very short guide to what's going on in Chicago.


Cocktails and Clay
Demi Moore and Patrick Swayze made clay sensual in a classic scene from "Ghost," but the Hyde Park Art Center makes it boozy with their monthly Cocktails and Clay event. Enjoy drink specials at their cash bar, explore the exhibitions at this venerable museum, and dance until midnight!

"Teeth" Midnight Screening

A woman's ability to psychologically castrate men has been well-documented by Dr. Freud. This theory takes on a whole new meaning in the movie "Teeth" screening at the Music Box (3733 N. Southport) tonight at 11:55pm. Let's just say the female character has two set of teeth and one is trying its damnedest to serve as a chastity belt. Squirm, squirm.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Please Don't Mess This One Up, Diddy

Oh, Diddy. He's the black male version of Madonna, "reinventing" himself to keep the masses interested/unaware of how untalented he is as a performer. Constant sampling of better artists from eras past became "inventing the remix." He's made the leap from A&R scout to record company founder and owner (Bad Boy), wearer of shiny metallic track suits to a Council of Fashion Design of America award winning designer, Broadway actor (taking on the role Sidney Poitier made famous in the movie version of "A Raisin In The Sun"), and a reality television personality with his takes on the Making the Band series. Don't even get me started on the name changes.

So when one of my best friends from home told me about a new performer signed to Bad Boy, I was a little weary; his two new boy and girl groups leave much to be desired. But signing Janelle Monae—a Kansas City, KS native making waves in Atlanta with her blend of funk, soul, R&B, and futuristic imaginings of the world—is a step in the right direction for the multimedia mogul. Based on the power of her single on her MySpace page, Janelle Monae has many anxious for her star to rise; numerous publications, Andre 3000 and Big Boi of Outkast and even Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama have all sang her praises:

Janelle Monae's sound and style makes her stand out in a sea of record company manufactured and derivative pop princesses, and she's bringing the concept album to R&B (which, correct me if I'm wrong, is very unusual). Her android alter ego, Cindi Mayweather, has fallen in love with a human despite her computer programming and has to run away for fear of being disassembled.


Her debut album is slated for release in September, with an EP out in June. Listen to her single "Violet Star Happy Hunting" and its remix (sans Diddy) on her Myspace page.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Eat, Drink, Man, Woman... In Secret

I think one of the biggest pleasures a hardcore Chicagoan can get is finding some way to stick it to New York City. “Our people are nicer, our architecture is far superior,” cries the bruised Chicago ego. “Second City be damned!” Another area Chicago is gaining on New York is fine dining. The past two years have noted an increase in foodies turning their eyes and stomachs to what Chicago and its chefs have to offer (Chefs Charlie Trotter of Charlie Trotter’s, Rick Bayless of Frontera Grill and Topolobamo, and Homaro Cantu of Moto just to name a few). Even Donald Trump, one of New York’s biggest personalities, has opened a restaurant on the sixteenth floor of his International Hotel and Tower in the heart of downtown Chicago.

Logan Square's Bonsoirée (2728 W. Armitage) adds another layer of exclusivity to the fine dining experience with their "Underground Restaurant." The twenty-seat restaurant offers a special, affordable prix-fixe menu for people who sign up (which you can do here). Each week a different portion of their mailing list will receive an email detailing a five-course meal to be served at the invitation-only event. It's first-come, first-served with a $10 non-refundable down payment for all reservations, a $5 corkage fee (the restaurant is BYOB, Chef Shin Thompson explains in an interview with Centerstage Chicago, so diners can pair food with wines of their choice), and two dining times (6pm and 8:30).

While I think an honest tally would be hard to come by, Bonsoirée's affordable take to fine dining may be one more point in Chicago's favor.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Feeling A LIttle Lazy So...

...here's a link to the review I did for UR Chicago's blog on Vampire Weekend's performance at the Metro. It was truly an amazing performance and has definitely made a fan out of me.

And here's a video for their song "APunk"

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Get It Little Man!

This video--along with BYOB mimosas at Med for brunch--made my day.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Concert News

Erykah Badu and the Roots will be performing at the Chicago Theater May 30th. Her new CD, New Amerykah, Part 1: 4th World War, is an amazing listen and the Roots are a venerable band that continue to have success and influence in music after 15 years. Their newest album, Rising Down, comes out April 28th.

Watch the video for their 1999 collaboration, "You Got Me."

And when I was on the bus earlier this week I overheard a guy say that Stevie Wonder would be performing at this year's Taste of Chicago. If this bit of early morning commuting gossip is true, it might be worth dealing with the insanity that is the Taste.

(Oooh, it is true! The line up is here!)

Friday, April 4, 2008

Weekend Guide, 4/4 - 4/6

I am coming off the high of seeing John Legend perform at the Vic Theatre last night. Legend—along with Colbie Caillat and Cat Power—performed in celebration of the GRAMMY's 50th Anniversary. T-Mobile and Sidekick were the hosts of the night, and Legend definitely salvaged the night after Caillet and Cat Power's performances. You can read my coverage of the night on UR Chicago's blog today. Security started absconding cameras and cell phones before I could get any decent pictures, but it was amazing. I've never been the kind to freak out over performances (and I've seen my share of shriek/swoon inducing performers), but man oh man! Alright. Down girl. Here's a sampling of noteworthy going-ons in the Chi this weekend:


I throw myself at men
Performance artist Lilly McElroy's photographic series "I throw myself at men" has been at the Thomas Robertello Gallery for almost a month now, and I can't wait to see it. In these "performative photographs," the artist literally throws herself at men in bars, playing with issues of relationships and feminine and masculine roles in modern courting. According to the gallery's website, the project originated from ads McElroy posted on Craigslist, looking for men who would meet her at bars and let her throw herself at them. (Thomas Robertnello Gallery,939 W. Randolph, Wednesday-Saturday 11-6)

Future Shock
I have no idea why PBR (Pabst's Blue Ribbon) has become the drink of choice for hipsters. But Wicker Park music venue, Subterranean (2011 W. North) will be providing the ambrosia of the hip for free between 9-10 at Future Shock, their Friday night dance party. Come for the free booze, stay for the DJ sets of electro, hip-hop, bmore club bass, mashups and more combos you can't wrap your brain around.

First Fridays
The Museum of Contemporary Art (220 E. Chicago) continues their monthly "happy hour" event with this month's First Friday. $15 tickets—which can be purchased at the door—includes live entertainment, entrance into the museum, appetizers from Wolfgang Puck's museum cafe, and access to their cash bar. These events are themed, and tonight's is "Lucky Star."


Off the Grid: Life on the Mesa
In its last days at Facets Theater (1517 W. Fullerton), "Off the Grid" is a must see this weekend. The documentary explores the Mesa, an area in America's Southwest with no water and electricity, no governing law or law enforcement, and is populated by the "legally" insane. Free from modern conventions of law, directors Jeremy and Randy Stulberg envision the Mesa as "the last outpost of the American Wild West." Watch the video below for a trailer and click here for movie times.

Oops Reading Series
My high school experiences and teenage angst have all been embarrassingly chronicled in black and white speckled Composition books. However I would never share them with an audience like a group of Chicago writers will at Heaven Gallery (1550 N. Milwaukee) tonight. The Oops Reading Series costs $5 and starts at 7pm.


24th Annual Chicago Latino Film Festival
In it's twenty-fourth year, the Chicago Latino Film Festival continues to promote education and awareness of Latino cultures through screening "the best and most recent movies from Spain, Portugal, Latin America and the United States." Visit their website for movie screenings and more information.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

The Visitor

The Midwest Independent Film Festival's screening of America the Beautiful has me excited for all of the organization's events. Support MIFF as they continue to champion the creative efforts of independent filmmakers in the Midwest with tonight's free screening. The Visitor was directed by Chicago native Richard Jenkins, who will be available after the screening for a Q&A. As MIFF founder Mike McNamara noted earlier this week, filling mainstream theaters to capacity proves that independent films are a viable product with a real audience.

(THE VISITOR screens tonight at 7 pm, Landmark Century Centre Cinema, 2828 N. Clark. The screening is free but if you want to attend, email THEVISITORCHICAGO@HOTMAIL.COM)

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

'Ye's Newest

HOMECOMING from kwest on Vimeo.

God... Kanye can do no wrong. I have a tendency to squeal when I see Chicago landmarks and the skyline, so you can imagine how excited I was during this video. For most, it thankfully returns to "normal" music video fare, involving less abstraction, confusion, violence, and inappropriate Playmate feminine jiggle than "Flashing Lights."