Big James and the Chicago Playboys LIVE @ 45th Anniversary of Kingston Mines 05.18.13
This time last night (it's 4am as I write this) I was enjoying live music at a place I wouldn't have thought I'd be after countless hip hop shows I've attended over the years. That place: Kingston Mines — a famous Chicago blues and juke club on the north side, celebrating its 45th anniversary after opening its doors in 1968.
Now, not that I'm not a fan of blues or anything like that, but there's been enough hip hop or R&B shows over the years to catch to keep me busy. The only other classic club in Chicago I've previously frequented was The Green Mill (and one of those two times was because Childish Gambino walked in there after his set across the street, but that's a whole 'nother story).
Anywho, I instantly warmed to the idea when one of my high school buddies who was in town (longtime GWHH readers may remember him write about sports on here as 'The Sage') suggested Kingston Mines after 3am. "Sure, why not?", I thought. There's no way I wouldn't like a blues club; after all, it's the soul of Chicago's music scene that dates back decades. And so much soulful hip hop and R&B derives from blues. And I could tell my dad about it — he's a Chicago blues expert who runs the Twitter account @ChiTownBlues49, after all. Naturally, Papa Tibs has been to Kingston Mines when he was my age.
Eddie Shaw and The Wolf Gang LIVE @ 45th Anniversary of Kingston Mines 05.18.13
As for my night, I was instantly floored at how much energy was in the Kingston Mines. It was 4am, but it felt like the night had just begun. People everywhere, shoulder to shoulder, many dancing and others at the bar. People of all kinds — college kids, 30 somethings, white-haired Uncle Drew characters, and even a brave soul with a Detroit Red Wings Nicklas Lidstrom jersey (he shouldn't have even been let in).
The Mines are set up to have two stages with acts alternating between the two spaces, giving people two different environments to experience the music. The bigger room of the two allows for more dancing (which is what I walked into... aside from the old guy in the 1930s gangster suit) and that's where we saw Big James and the Chicago Playboys. This Vine won't do it justice, but they played off on a funky hip hop beat with the singer repeating "Say You Will" like he was Kanye West.
Soon after in the other room, our group grabbed a table to enjoy the more soothing sounds of Eddie Shaw and The Wolf Gang. Eddie Shaw, presumably the fella in the ole sailor suit, had a raspy voice yet soulful way about him. I couldn't understand much, even when he addressed a group of guys for not having any ladies with them in between songs (high comedy), but he and The Wolf Gang kept the good vibes comin'. When you got someone wielding a guitar with three necks, you know you're already in for a treat (see the photo above).
Simply put, last night was reinvigorating to step outside the element of a hip hop show and take it back to the roots. Experiencing live Chicago blues is a must for any Chicago music fan. Blues is once again not only a drawing point for some of today's biggest hip hop artists and producers, but also representative of the melting pot of our hometown. You can't get a blues experience like the one Chicago still has to offer, and in many cities, you can't get a blues experience at all! Whether it's Kingston Mines, the Quiet Knight, or The Green Mill (for some some comprable jazz and swing), get a group or get a date together and you'll be in for a lively, cultured experience. So how bout that to finish off a busy night early Monday morning of Old School Sundays?!
Daft Punk delivers an album we've never heard before.
I'm through three listens of Random Access Memories today and the album is undoubtedly a well-executed hybrid of sounds, instruments, and complimenting vocals that altogether create something that many of us actually expected from Daft Punk: an album we've never heard before.
Let me expand upon this admittedly general hyperbole. An album we've never heard before. Sure, every single album released is an album we've never heard before. But what this statement means is that Random Access Memories stands out, and will always stand out, on its own. This album lives up to the hype and, quite frankly, has it all. It contains elements of genres that I would never think flow together this well — from Daft Punk's usual brand of electronic and pop to moments of funk, disco, jazz, metal, alternative, soulful R&B blues, and I may have left out more. Seemingly every single type of guitar, woodwind, and keyboard setting was used; every single note hit. Try this at home: fast forward to a random 5 seconds of each song and note the first sounds you hear. Do it again within each song and you'll likely notice a difference, let alone the vast difference between the tracks themselves.
My trip through the album began with a favorable impression of the mix of the guitar and funk that defines "Give Life Back To Music" — a definitive song title that represents the album as a whole. It wasn't until "Instant Crush", however, when my impressions turned from "OK, this is groovy." to "Whoa, this is on another level!" That's not to discount highlights like the soothing R&B moods of "The Game Of Love" and "Within" and the end of "Giorgio By Moroder". But my instant crush with this album truly synched with the chords just mere seconds into "Instant Crush" featuring Julian Casablancas (pun intended, yes, but it couldn't be further from the truth).
The funk of the Pharrell-featured "Lose Yourself To Dance" and "Get Lucky" (the former being another new-age pop hit) is separated by the album's tallest roller coaster of a record. I mean that in a good way as "Touch" featuring Paul Williams is a strong personification of the wide range of sounds and styles of the entire album in one 8 minute long trip. The build-ups (one of the album's many great ones) from little to no sound (a simple piano and Paul Williams' vocals), to funk and dance next infused, to Daft Punk's vocals of "Love is the answer...", the triumphant choir echoing that amazing phrase over orchestral elements, then finally concluding where the song started: on the abrupt transition to "I need something more" of the Paul Williams' vocals over a piano. I'm quite sure that song couldn't possibly have anything more.
"Beyond" and "Motherboard" continue the good grooves just as I was anticipating the album to dip. To me, it momentarily does with "Fragments Of Time", but this song has all the ingredients to grow on me with more listens. "Doin' It Right" will likely be the choice of many as the album's catchiest song, mine included. And "Contact", and its amazing build-ups all the way to the very end, is Random Access Memories' fitting conclusion; plus, the runner-up to the track most likely to be included in a movie soundtrack behind "Touch" (although there's a touch of wishful thinking in this prediction).
Random Access Memories is a movie within itself though. From beginning to end, there's not one track to skip and the aforementioned wide variety of sounds, instruments, and genres keep the listener engaged to a flawlessly flowing one hour, thirteen minutes, and fifty-five seconds. Daft Punk could have made another TRON: Legacy and I would have been happy with another dark, electronic themed album. But in this one hour and change, they instead challenged multiple themes, and succeeded in creating a cohesive album of such distinctly different and individually powerful sounds. That's why I say they deliver "an album we've never heard before". And at the end of the day, "Everybody will be dancing and be doing it right."
*TIBS FAVS.: "Instant Crush", "Touch", "Get Lucky", "Doin' It Right"
FROM EARLIER TODAY: Daft Punk also released a teaser this morning: the "unboxing" of the Random Access Memories vinyl, that perhaps does feature the first 20 seconds of the album towards the end. It sounds great and the video is quite the effective teaser.
Say what you will about MGK. But, you can never say that he doesn't put his heart and soul into his performance. Most "rappers" just go from one side of the stage to the other and spit some lines with there "crew of 50 behind em". Nah, MGK goes hard!
First, I was honored to be the host for the "Lace Up" show at the Congress Theatre last night for MGK. Second, at 3pm the line was already taking up 4 blocks down Milwaukee Ave. I get why his fans are so loyal. It reminds me back in the day when I was a huge fan of the "Chili Peppers, and Janes Addiction". MGK to all these kids are what the "Peppers and Janes Addiction" were to me. That relatability. That connection.
MGK was dressed pretty much like normal. Skinny black jeans, chucks, red leather sleeveless vest. The show was what you'd expect out of an MGK show. Wild, high energy, and super interactive. Some highlights were getting this girl with huge boobies onstage and sucking her nipple LOL. Than he simulated bangin her from the back LOL. She loved every minute of it. He performed "See My Tears", "Chip Off The Block", "Wildboy", "Warning Shot", a track from Limp Bizkit, his own cover of Eminem's "Forgot About Dre", a new joint from Black Flag, and all his other classic MGK tracks.
The most impressive thing about an MGK show is that you really get a "punk rock rap feel" when you go to his show. It really is an experience because the dude parties with you. His show is loose but also planned so little nuances and details look unplanned, but it just makes his performance a real performance.
Bottom Line....Go see an MGK show at a city near you! Oh, and look for the full recap covered by my homies at Gowhere Hip Hop. The video will be online this week.
Moments after Mikkey Halsted left the stage at The Shrine, I was able to tell him personally, "It's refreshing to hear such a lyrical live show." I wasn't the only one who got a chance to show love; Mikkey ended his set, and the night altogether at The Shrine, by jumping down to the crowd and personally greeting his loyal fans, fellow artists, and family in attendance. So I'm sure I was one of many who thanked Mikkey for putting on such a great show... one that stressed the lyrics — the straight up core of rap.
Mikkey performed a mix of throwback jams with new joints off the upcoming project,Bulletproof Dreams, in a seamless, flowing succession with transitions courtesy of DJ Don Cannon. But at the drop of a dime, Mikkey would rewind — stop the track altogether, and emphasize the words and verses he just spit, often receiting them again in a passionate a capella. This engaged fans even more as everyone was at the south loop club to hear Mr. Halsted's words jump to life. And again, it wasn't merely fans, but also his family (which fueled more emotion and heartfelt appreciation from Mikkey) and Chicago artists watching from YP, Tree, the Save Money Crew (who set Halsted up nicely as openers) to Treated Crew members like Mano and Mic Terror, to Don C who was also in attendance. Amazing to see yet another example of strong, Chicago unity!
Where this show stood out compared to the many hip hop shows I've attended for Gowhere is where I started this review — Mikkey delivered a "live, lyrical show". It truly is refreshing to see such emphasis on the words in a concert experience that's often drowned out by a booming bass or entourage on stage. Last Friday, it was just Mikkey and a mic... and that's all that was needed for a great show.
Danny Brown's "Old & Reckless Tour" came through Chicago last night, selling out the Near West Side's Bottom Lounge. Despite this being his first headlining tour, it seems Danny Brown is having no difficulty bringing in the masses, as his shows continue to sell out night after night. Danny Brown got the party started right off the bat, opening his set with "Jealousy," "The Black Brad Pitt," and "Blueberry (Pills & Cocaine)" - at which point, he took a moment to address the crowd, "This is not a rap show... this is a party." And so it was - drawing the attention of local artists Chance The Rapper and the GBE crew, who were all in attendance.
We were even treated to a glimpse of Brown's third studio album Old, due out sometime this summer, when he dropped a new track called "Dip" (which we'll be on the look out for in the coming future). Other highlights of his 1 hour set included "Piss Test," Express Yourself," and "Blunt After Blunt" - which, of course, sparked... well... sparking.
The Old & Reckles Tour just got goin' - but tickets are flying, so grab em while you can.
I’m sure it hasn’t escaped most of you that Snoop Lion, formerly (we think) known as Snoop Dogg, has recently collaborated with Major Lazer to produce his first Rastafari influenced album Reincarnated, which hit iTunes about a week ago.
That being said, what influenced Snoop to go from the gangster, pimping, gin & juice drinking vibes of 1993’s Doggystyle to the (still) smoking but peace and love promoting theme that dominates on his 12th studio album? The answer: 20 years in the rap game and an eye-opening trip to Jamaica.
Last year Snoop Dogg visited the Caribbean and came back with a seemingly new perspective on life paired with a fresh alter ego: Snoop Lion. Between his return from Jamaica and the recent release of Reincarnated, the now Rasta rapper has done numerous interviews, released teasers, and even a documentary chronicling the journey.
In one interview Snoop said the following about his evolution from top dogg to king of the jungle: "I wanted to bury Snoop Dogg and become Snoop Lion, but I didn't know that until I went to the temple and received the name Snoop Lion from the Nyabingi priest,” said Snoop. “From that moment on, I started to understand why I was there and was able to create something magical in this ['Reincarnated'] project ... something I haven't done before in my career.”
In researching Snoop’s fluctuating image I think that his word choice in explaining himself has been particularly of note. He constantly refers to his change as a transformation, a spiritual awakening, and a journey. It’s really quite poetic. As Snoop Dogg the rapper he has long possessed the respect of the hip-hop community, but he is also revered by the world as a pop culture icon. I think it’s that respect and reverence at his foundation that will be key to “Snoop Lion” being successful as both a new moniker and a solid evolution of his brand.
You might not listen to Snoop everyday or ever for that matter, but everyone respects this man, and a big part of it is his distinct voice and laid back personality. Yes, this is the same man who used to gangbang and has faced murder charges, but before his trip to Jamaica Snoop already seemed to have an eerily calm demeanor and a consistently eloquent delivery. Even with a blunt in his hand Snoop is articulate without being verbose and somehow fresh without being flashy, intimidating qualities that few rappers have truly been able to capture.
All of that being said, let’s delve into the artist’s latest album, the first of his new namesake. The recently released Reincarnated captures the growth Snoop feels has manifested in his being over the last year. It is certainly a deviation from his music as a rapper, and from the moment you hit play you realize that this is a new facet of Snoop; the beginning of new themes, new messages, and a new style.
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'Reincarnated' album preview
The opening track “Rebel Way” starts with a beautiful intro from the Lion:
"There’s so much death and so much destruction, and so much mayhem and there’s so much misunderstanding in music; we’re losing so many great musicians and we don’t love ‘em while they here. And I want to be loved while I’m here. And the only way to get love is to give love."
Talk about turning over a new leaf. The album unfolds as a spiritual journey for Snoop with obvious emphasis on peace, love, and respect. What I thought was interesting, however, was his heavy inclusion of references to time. For example, in “Rebel Way” he goes on to say “Time is moving fast/can’t dwell on the past/make this moment last/while we have the chance.” Later in “Ashtrays and Heartbreaks” he chants “Tomorrow when you wake up and realize life ain’t fair/throw it back and make the whole world disappear/you never miss what you had, ‘til it’s gone/that is why, something always will go wrong.” It’s interesting that Snoop wants to both immortalize the past and move on from it, a catch-22 that resonates with anyone who has felt loss.
Aside from new and deeper themes, the album features production by Major Lazer (Diplo) and vocal contributions from a range of artists including Drake, Akon, Miley Cyrus, Rita Ora, Busta Rhymes, and even his thirteen year old daughter Cori on the track “No Guns Allowed.” Overall, the album promotes a positive and relatable message, funky but laid-back beats, and the same Snoop edge just tailored a little differently.
After listening to singles and teasers for a few months I’m not surprised that I’m vibing on this album, however, Snoop’s not in the clear just yet. I wouldn’t be true to myself if I didn’t admit that I’m still a little on the fence about the whole name change thing. Yes, he seems to have undergone a transformative journey, however, one of the connotations of multiple name changes by an artist is that of fickleness, which doesn’t exactly inspire confidence. Let’s break this down into two sides.
FOR: The 180 degree turn that Snoop’s music has made does lend itself to a new brand. Also, not only is he turning up in a different genre, but also he seems to have made some distinct changes to his personal perspective on life.
AGAINST: Inconsistency. He also occasionally goes by DJ Snoopadelic, which I guess wouldn’t bother me if utilized in a mixtape like Loose Joints, but his more recent mixtape That’s My Work Vol. 1 was hosted by DJ Snoopadelic and featured Snoop Dogg (all after he had already announced himself as Snoop Lion). LOLWUT? In various articles and interviews I’ve read, the bottom line seems to be “Snoop Dogg is temporarily dead, but when it’s convenient and profitable and I prove myself with reggae I’m going to resurrect him.” (Resurrection: future Snoop Dogg album title? Who knows.)
Oh yeah, he also thinks that he is the reincarnation of Bob Marley (hence the album title), but that’s a completely different can of worms and quite frankly, the Lion hasn’t been around long enough for me to make that call yet.
At the end of the day, as we move on from 4/20 and toward warm weather, it’s the perfect time to bump Reincarnated and warm up to Snoop Lion. Even though there’s a chance that he’ll have yet another alter ego for us tomorrow, you cannot deny him as one of the dons of the music industry. Whatever you want to call him, Snoop knows how to execute a project and he never forgets to honor those who helped him get there.
The sound of lyrical rap accompanied by a live band mimicked the fog streaming through the audience. Talib Kweli’s lyrics reverberated within the walls of The Mid and the flashing lights of the stage only exacerbated the enthusiasm of the crowd. The performance began around 1:30a.m. Saturday morning and Kweli was welcomed by the screams of the hundreds of adoring fans that filled the double floor club. The most difficult task was working through a shoulder to shoulder crowd and getting close enough to see Kweli.
Despite Kweli’s strong start, it was not until his three minute a capella that he managed to capture the audience’s full attention. After Kweli’s a capella performance, his lyrics, the live band, and the crowd melded into a synergetic atmosphere. Continuing with songs like “Get ‘Em High” and “Get By” Kweli effortlessly built up the energy. The live band was another highlight; especially the very talented trumpet player whose spirited jazz and Chicago blues inspired style stood out and brought the music to another level (a couple of Kweli's band members were from Chicago).
At the end of the set, the audience was screaming for more and as people started to leave Kweli decided to come on again for an encore. By this time the path to the front and the crowd cleared up a bit, giving the performance a level of intimacy. Ending with songs like “Lonely People”, a sweaty Kweli left the stage to the sound of a roaring crowd.
A few years ago, I stood in line for hours in the grueling summer sun, fought not to get trampled by the hundreds if not thousands of other people nearby, prayed I wouldn’t get squashed by the police officers who decided it was cool to ride around on their horses in the midst of all this madness, all in order to get only somewhat decent seats for a free Trey Songz concert at the Taste of Chicago. But it was all worth it. I so quickly fell in love with Mr. Neverson and vowed to go to as many of his concerts as I could thereafter. Saturday night, four concerts later, and more in love than ever, I stood inside the packed Arie Crown Theater to see not only Tremaine, but two more artists whose music I too have recently fallen in love with, Elle Varner and Miguel.
Saturday night was a night I will never forget. My best friends and I had some pretty good floor seats and were geeked to say the least when Elle hit the stage. For me, Elle Varner epitomizes a beautiful woman, inside and out, and seeing her live only further solidified my previous notions of the songstress. She sang her heart out, sounding just as amazing live as she does on every one of her tracks from her “Conversational Lush” mixtape and debut album “Perfectly Imperfect.” I had gotten the opportunity to interview her a few months back, and she seemed like such a fun corky, spirit and onstage she was no different. The girls throughout the theater sang along with her on tracks like, “So Fly,” and “Not Tonight,” as we connected to her every word. The men stood and watched in awe of her beauty. The girl was spectacular and I’m super excited to see where she will be in a few years. With so much talent, at such a young age (she’s only 23) I think that she will make a huge mark on the genre of R&B music.
Miguel is also an artist I have grown to have a huge appreciation for. His voice is angelic to me. I was sold when I first heard his track, “The Girl With the Tattoo,” off of his debut album, “All I Want is You.” His sophomore album, “Kaleidoscope Dream,” has only further made me a believer. I recently read that when asked about his collaboration with Miguel on the “Adorn” remix, Wiz Khalifa described Miguel’s voice as golden. To me, that’s exactly what he is as an artist, golden. After seeing him live, I understand this even more. He brings something so different to the game. Not only does he create a unique and beautiful sound, but it’s matched with eccentric lyricism and a stage presence like no other I’ve ever seen. The 26-year-old, mixed dances from the likes of Elvis and James Brown with his own special twist. Overall, it was definitely an experience like no other.
When it came down to the main act, my friends and I lost our minds like pretty much every other woman in the audience. This excitement was only elevated when a passerby handed my friend two tickets to the pit area, right in front of the stage. The only problem was there were three of us. In a frenzied attempt, we created a plan to work it out, and sure enough, 10 minutes later, the three of us found ourselves less than 5 feet away from the man of nearly every girl’s dreams. Being up close and personal made the experience even more overwhelmingly amazing. We enjoyed as Trey sang tracks from his newest album, “Chapter V,” along with other classics like “Neighbors Know My Name,” and cover songs of a few club bangers like the 2 Chainz and Kanye West hit, “Birthday Song.” The energy was live, everyone seemed to be having a good time, especially Trey, and even this girl who at one point thought it was okay to just hop on the stage before quickly being escorted off. After 5 albums, and my 4th concert, the only words I can think of to describe Trey as an artist and performer, would be those of one of his “Chapter V” singles. Trey is “Simply Amazing.”
As a proud lover of music, I have become somewhat of a concert fiend. Going to concerts is by far one of my favorite things to do. I’ve been to quite a few, and the one I went to this weekend is pretty high on my list as one of the best I’ve attended thus far. It would probably only fall slightly under Watch the Throne, and believe me, that’s saying a lot.