What's the general vibe when you enter a casino? Lots of laughter, happiness, and feel good music to match the bright lights and joyous moods. Said feel good music, however, isn't usually hip hop; in fact, given the history of legendary performers, both past and present, who would put on live shows at casinos, patrons are usually treated to jazz or even old school rock 'n roll. Because of the science behind music affecting people's emotions, we've learned that gaming centers and tournaments curate specific playlists to create a mood for the players.
One particular example, and perhaps the biggest, is the gaming event sponsored by partycasino.com , the World Series of Poker. The 2004 WSOP, won by Greg Raymer in the first post-Moneymaker effect main event (I watched all these around that time), was set to a playlist led by the ominous "Hell's Bells" by AC/DC. A jazz example comes from 2011 when Clifford Brown & Max Roach Quintet's "Jordu" welcomed everyone to play. Well, I'm here to curate an underground Chicago hip hop playlist for the next time you play in a casino.
But first, I would be remiss not to mention a couple classics around the time of my prime of playing cards. I wasn't yet old enough to play in a casino, but the Texas Hold'Em boom reigned heavy amongst my friends and I in high school, and every Friday or Saturday night (or even some days after school), we would play some poker (for baseball trading cards, of course). I was the guy at the table with the Discman and the obnoxiously large headphones, listening to some tunes, getting in the zone, and intimidating (not really) my opponents. I'd have a mix of hip hop I was feelin' at the time, or just some individual songs on repeat. A couple classics that came to mind, that'd I'd be remiss not to mention: Kanye West "Spaceship" f/ GLC & Consequence (an instant light bulb just went off I'm sure. Obvious choice.) and Common's "The Food" with Kanye (the legendary Chappelle's Show performance is one of those you have to watch every now and then.)
Onto some current Chicago hip hop *Tibs Favs. for the Casino Music Playlist… 10 tracks in all.
The Casino Music Playlist: Chicago Hip Hop Edition
This is the perfect first track to get in the right mood as the extended instrumental intro removes any thoughts and emotions of what you were just doing. St. Millie rocks the first verse with a fury that's followed by Phero, who effortlessly switches up the flow towards the end of his verse. The intensity from them gets you in the serious mode to put down some cash. With Vince Nantes takin us home on a smooth outro - one that's both calming and motivational - "Lords" is the perfect jam to have bumpin' while following the example of the guys from Entourage: put $5 on red.
This. Will keep the energy going. Released yesterday, M.L.A.'s newest track wastes no time at all as pak.one makes a couple clever changes to Eminem's iconic hook of "Forgot About Dre?" to transform whatever was your previous mood (once again). Toss in a murderous flow from j.pak right after, along with a hybrid of boom-bap, trap, and EDM sounds in pak.one's latest innovative production, and this is the type of song that gets the adrenaline going. Perfect for that moment you knock someone out of a big pot. The bravado and intensity on "Boom Trap" is just that rush you need.
Let's not get ahead of ourselves though. Can't have a playlist of all "rise" when at the casino because then you'll get carried away and throw down lots of cash more frequently and recklessly. So let's bump a record that is one-part chill, yet still one-part motivational. Fitting the description is Add-2's "Get Up Get Down" from his recent mixtape More Missed Calls. The sample alone can be applied to the ups and downs of your trip at the casino — of course concluding on "get up!". I also need some lyrical depth across the playlist and when it comes to the underground scene in Chicago, you don't have to look much further for that than with Add-2.
How can a song titled "Roll Of The Dice" not make it into the Casino Music Playlist? Hah, this track also fits nicely into the playlist for its soulful, laid-back sounds as J. Arthur and DotKom do their thing with their verses. This was off the #WHOWednesdays series earlier this summer, be sure to keep up! And naturally, hit the craps tables with this in your headphones.
I mentioned "Spaceship" as part of my OG casino playlist in the intro; naturally, "Spaceship II" is in today's. This one raised a lot of eyebrows off Club Wiley last month, and the lasting highlight to me is that Wiley brought it with a high energy to let everyone know he's serious about a song called "Spaceship II" being so closely inspired by the original. GLC on the outro gives it that nice touch and connection to Kanye's.
A la Add-2's "Get Up Get Down", I need a mix of high-strung intensity and lyrical depth, especially if I'm feelin' good about doubling down. Neak's "The Kids" is just that, and one of my favorite songs of the summer. It's also one of Slot-A's most eclectic productions, which he told me brought him back to his early days of making beats and it was the first time he went with this style of sound after all the collaborations he's had with Neak. Stay tuned through the end to see how the track evolves.
Also a fitting song title for the Casino Music playlist, but one that we all hope doesn't come to fruition, right? You can't feel too bad though if this one's bumpin in the car after an unsuccessful night at the casino. Nick Astro broke out onto the scene with the Super16 mixtape this resides on from May.
In Spenzo We Trust is less than a week away and for some, his "First Impression" is what reeled you into the trending Chicago rapper. This is one of my favorite tracks of his — an intense, yet soulful mix that has become a theme of this casino playlist. Play this one when you're waiting patiently in the wings for those pocket Aces.
I've been bumpin' this one ever since we premiered it last month. Stadium Status' dope rhymes are accompanied by the quirky delivery on this one from ShowYouSuck, plus a nicely sung hook by Chris LeSage. The chill and eclectic vibes from "Special" is another tight track to help pass the time — perhaps after hour #2 at the blackjack table.
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Really Doe "Mesmerized" f/ Danny Klein LIVE on Jimmy Kimmel
I coulda gone with Really Doe's new single "Riot" here, but had to bring it back to one of my favorite singles by RD: "Mesmerized" f/ Danny Klein. Why? Well, in a Casino Playlist, you need a song that you won't get tired of on repeat. Why? Because once you win a big pot while listening to a song, you may wanna keep it superstitious and ride that song out until the first bad beat (that's what I usually did). "Mesmerized" came to mind because I had this song on repeat back in '09 a lot. And to revisit it now, with Really Doe about to release a new project, is also fitting. Maybe this is new to you, and even if it's not, maybe the performance of "Mesmerized" on Jimmy Kimmel above will catch your eye and ear.
And that does it for a 10-song Casino Music playlist, Chicago hip hop style. Hopefully you can queue these up next time you venture into the bright lights of a casino and ride to these in your headphones or in the car ride over. And hey, you don't have to be playing cards or rolling dice to enjoy these tunes. Make sure you're not sleeping on some of the finest hip hop acts here in the Chi!
I was on Twitter recently talking about the recent Chief Keef album. I didn’t think too highly of the album and someone told me, “Maybe you can’t relate to the music.” It wasn’t the first time I’ve heard that argument used to defend music I didn’t particularly agree with or enjoy, but it stung me this time because I’m from Chicago. How dare somebody question what I can or can’t relate to in that context. Instead of trying to convince this person I met only 5 minutes earlier, I decided to go quiet and digest what “you can’t relate” means.
I’m a product of Chicago’s Back of the Yards, South Side area, which is neither good nor bad, but it's had its moments. But that’s not relevant to relating to any album, as I enjoyed Straight Outta Compton and never once stepped on the soil of the CPT. The idea you have to have experienced what is happening in the music in order to understand it is quite possibly the laziest argument you can come up with.
As stated above, this twitter exchange revolved around Chief Keef’s debut album, Finally Rich, and my verdict that album wasn’t good. Keef hails from Chicago’s notorious Englewood neighborhood, know both for its violence and Chicago Bulls superstar Derrick Rose. Keef made major waves earlier this year with “I Don’t Like,” which interestingly enough is one of the only songs on the album that I do like.
Finally Rich is weighed down by extremely limited subject matter (smoking dope, piping down chicks, trolling the internet and flossing hard). It would be accurate for me to say “Yup, I can’t relate, except for the trolling the internet part." It’s true Chief Keef and I don’t have much in common, but is that why I don’t like his album? Of course not. The album is pretty basic, even for an artist of Keef’s caliber.
If Keef expounded on his tough upbringing, I could have appreciated his plight but he didn’t. His choice not mine. It is not my responsibility as a listener to find avenues for which the artist and I should connect; that’s the artist job. It’s their story to tell, share and convey their pain or joy. If you can’t do that, then what’s really the point?
Maybe Chief Keef isn’t as talented as NWA, which would be an easy assumption to make, but lets give Keef some time to prove himself. Maybe relating to people like me isn’t all that important to him. But regardless of whether I can associate myself with something, sometimes the music is just bad, and to quote another Southside of Chicago artist, Common, “If I don’t like it, I don’t like it, it don’t mean that I’m hating.” Maybe the music is plainly bad and no further explanation is needed. Twitter probably couldn’t wrap their minds around or relate to something so simple. That’s that shit I don’t like.