Gowhere Hip Hop

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City Hall: The Justification of Bieber


You probably hate Justin Bieber.

And nobody's ever challenged you on that. Maybe you have a friend who kinda likes him, but has never been up to fighting for him in a public domain. Maybe your boys will torch you for ever listening to one of his songs fully, much less mentioning it as something you enjoyed. Maybe you think you know his story and assume he's a product of the Disney teen-star system, a boy who has replaced the Jonas Brothers as undeserving and soon-to-be irrelevant stars. Maybe you even contributed to the hate-fueled 1.2 (of ten) user rating of his documentary, February 2011's Never Say Never, on IMDB.com.

Maybe you hate his floppy hair, his baby face and his shoes-three-sizes-bigger-than-his-feet swag. If you're a little more tuned in, maybe you hate how Usher and Justin Timberlake had a full-out bidding war for his services. Once signed, maybe you hate how he had stone-cold hitmakers The-Dream and Tricky Stewart write his two biggest hits. Maybe you think, since you have an average voice, that those two could turn a star out of you. Why him, why not you?

Simply? Because he's legit.

No offense to you, of course. But for not giving the kid a true shot, for writing him off for a few iffy issues, for chalking his success up to "luck" or "hair," you're completely missing the point. You're stereotyping, pigeonholing. If you'll continue to do that after reading my intro, do us both a favor and stop reading. Seriously. But if you're open-minded and secure in yourself, stick with me.

Continue reading...

AG Da Gift 'Get It Up'


I met a grip of talented artists this past Thursday at the House of Blues for the Chicago Hip Hop Connects networking conference. One that stood out to me was a Milwaukee bred rapper/producer known as AG Da Gift. His mixtape, Business As Usual, surfaced the web this past month and I felt the need to share his tunes (the free download is linked below). My personal favorite off of the tape is "Get It Up" but you can decide for yourself.  What stood out to me the most was AG's precise flow pattern matched with his feel good beatsFor this track, he sampled KC & The Sunshine Band's "That's The Way (I Like It)".  Press play and you'll naturally bounce to his melodies and rhythm. 

His latest single to hit the web is "Let's Ride" which will be featured on his upcoming mixtape Purple Collar District hosted by Vanilla TV.  S.R.G. Management revealed that the tape is set to drop in May '11. Until then stay tuned for AG's updates and appearances at facebook.com/AgDaGift.

AG Da Gift 'Business As Usual' [MIXTAPE]

City Hall Re-Reviews: Tyler, the Creator (of Odd Future) 'Bastard'

Features 15 Tracks!

Three stars (of five)

As recently as a week ago, I didn't like Tyler the Creator. I'd read various things in passing about him and his crew, "Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All," which included uproar over devilish rhymes, lyrics straight out of Arkham Asylum's daycare and stirring up trouble with B.o.B (among others). I don't like instigators, and that's what I wrote Tyler off as. Then I caught him on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon; granted, I was falling asleep, but I saw him bouncing around stage and could barely make out a single word of whatever song he was performing. (I watched it again today, wide awake... Result was the same.) I flipped the TV off and fell asleep. That wrote him off even further.

But a guy's mind can change. I make it a personal mission, a crusade if you will, to not write something off, not totally discount it, unless it's tried. I don't always succeed, but I try. So Tyler was in my head, nipping at me over the past month: "I was compared to Eminem. You love Eminem. I've gotten a ton of pub recently, gotta be something to it. You read some of my lyrics... they made your jaw drop. Who says stuff like this? I do. Listen to me. Give me a f*cking shot." He won; I did.

Odd Future's system is inherently modern. Their website has links to each of their members' releases, whether mixtapes or albums. To them, I'm not too sure what the difference is. But there are a ton to choose from, to their credit. They roll these albums out on an assembly line.

Tyler, the Creator is the founder and leader of Odd Future. He's the mouthpiece, by far the most famous member (117,000+ Twitter followers as of this weekend). So naturally, I chose his solo effort -- entitled Bastard, posted to the group's website in February, 2010 -- to dive into. (Fitting that his new album, Goblin, should be out this month.)

I didn't know what to expect; but when the middle-finger shaped dust cloud cleared, I was impressed. The guy may be an instigator, but he's a talented one. And although he has a fraction of Eminem's charisma, I found myself gripped to the lyrics, wondering what the hell he could possibly say next. Because the good tracks -- "French!" "AssMilk," "Session," and "Inglorious" -- suggest a guy with real ability under that, to put it oh-so-delicately, coarse exterior.

It's also possible that the exterior is a front. In the phenomenal opening track "Bastard" -- if you hear this track and expect something as good to pop up again, nothing does -- Tyler lays out a blueprint for the chaos to come, while shining a shockingly human light on himself. Bars include: "I roll with skaters and musicians with an intuition/I created O.F. cuz I feel we're more talented/Than 40-year-old rappers talkin' 'bout Gucci/When they have kids they haven't seen in years/Impressin' their peers."

(A number or percentage couldn't express how much I agree with those lines. Tyler may delve into what Satan would rap if given a mic, but as crazy as it sounds, at least he's saying something. With every generic song from some club-cars-and-hoes rapper, music dies a little more. Tyler is more likely to kill a person than music itself.)

Then he dives into his father issues, which pop up more often than anything else (hence the album's title): "The shit is so bare/My diary isn't hid/My father didn't give a f*ck/So it's somethin' I inherit/My mother's all I have so it's never meet the parents/When Danielle or Malonda decide to f*ckin' share/This confused boy/I want a hug hoy/I'm bad for you kids to listen to/Soy is not the choice/I'm bad milk, drink it."

After hearing bits of his story, his raw emotion and the undeniable talent he possesses, you feel a bit sorry for him. That feeling doesn't last too long.

"When it comes to your perception of my shit, I'm Helen Keller," he raps on "French!" Well, there's no way that's possible. Sweet line though, right? It brings up something my mind wanders into occasionally, the paradox of artist vs. actuality. Is there any way Tyler, in his real, day-to-day life, really thinks all this stuff? Is he cool with butt rape? Does he really think anyone cares that he does or doesn't pay $50 for head, as he incessantly tweeted about on Friday? Does he live to push buttons and get off on the reaction? His lyrics literally need to be heard/read to be believed. The stuff he touches on... I could make a list, but It would be two times longer than this post. Does he truly believe what he says? I don't know him, so I can't say anything for sure. But it's possible. And it's unnerving.

As a whole, Bastard stands as a representation of what any jilted kid with a MacBook could do. It includes glowing bright spots as well as tracks I'll never listen to again. But he made me listen.

Kidd Russell, a writer for Gowhere, wrote this when posting the video for Tyler's new single "Yonkers:" "This kid may turn out to be one of the most important new personalities of 2011. Just like when Kurt Cobain & Nirvana arrived & helped end the hair band metal movement; Tyler & his crew could be the start to a new wave in hip hop that goes against the Hip-Pop movement of the last few years. Either way you look at it he created an amazing piece of art to be just 19."

I agree partially. I agree that Tyler is doing his damnedest to push rap out of the current hip-pop (a great term) phase, and I commend him for that. Especially at 19? That's nuts. But he won't do it unless he makes better music. One of Eminem's first albums, 1996's Infinite, was not good but showed great promise. He was figuring his style out, discovering what kind of artist he wanted to be (which is fascinating to listen to now). I'd put Bastard above Infinite, but assuming Tyler will make an Em-like jump is not something I'll guarantee, or even expect. The guy is rapping about these things to raise our eyebrows and drop our jaws, and doing so with an advanced skill level. But let's temper our expectations a bit. 

To me, the bottom line is that Tyler may be a douchebag; but who cares? Concerning his musical ability, there's plenty of promise. And in the end, isn't that all we should care about? We don't have to hang out with him. Just listen; he's not going away yet.

Must-hear: "Bastard," "French!" "AssMilk," "Session," "Inglorious"

City Hall Re-Reviews: Road to 'Recovery' - Eminem


BUY: Eminem 'Recovery'

5 stars (of five)
I'm a sucker for epic and the extraordinary struggle to reach it. The human mind/body jostling with a seemingly insurmountable foe, sometimes coming through when expected but other times defying all odds and doubters? I love it. I always have. It's why I think Avatar not winning the 2010 Best Picture Oscar, after revolutionizing the way films are made, was a disgrace to the industry. It's why I think Jurassic Park, with its still-phenomenal effects and life-will-find-a-way meaning, is one of the greatest movies ever. It's why I have crazy respect for Josh Hamilton and Lamar Odom (among others). It's why I think having the confidence to go big -- regardless of the outcome -- is a victory in itself. And it's why I think Recovery, Eminem's most recent offering, is his greatest album.

What's important to mention is the record's context. Considering Em's own words -- "Encore I was on drugs, Relapse I was flushing 'em out" from "Talkin' 2 Myself" -- Recovery was the first disc he made with a clear mind in at least eight years; maybe ever.

"But it's music," you think. "Who needs a clear mind for that? The Beatles made the majority of their later triumphs on acid." This isn't the same. The Beatles were experimenting with new stuff, and they had reached a level so stratospheric that whatever they released would be worshiped by critics and fans alike. Em's situation wasn't like that. His was life-threatening. (And yes, I just compared Eminem to The Beatles. Deal with it.)

It was the album Em shouldn't have been able to make. The album which candidly chronicles the rock-bottom-and-subsequent-rise-from-the-ashes of one of the biggest (if not the biggest) stars in music. The album that many other drug-influenced musicians were never able to make. Recovery, to put it plainly, is his "I should be dead" album.

The Road...

I've followed Em very closely since he emerged on the mainstream -- remember this? -- in 1999. Sure, the guy could rap like crazy, make great beats and construct true songs, a severely underrated part of rap. (Example: Game is a great rapper. His voice is the perfect blend of raspy and powerful, yet he hasn't proven to be a good crafter of song since he and 50 Cent broke up. Have you really, genuinely liked any of his albums/mixtapes since borderline-classic The Documentary? Didn't think so.)

Yet it was quite clear, from the very beginning, that Em had demons. And where there are demons, there's hostility. And where there's hostility, there are episodes. Em had episodes. But these episodes were chronicled in classic songs -- "Cleanin' Out My Closet" perhaps the greatest of all -- that became huge hits and made millions of dollars for himself, his label, his handlers and clones, so everyone was cool. The calm before the storm, you might say. That was 2003.

Then things got a bit silly, to Em's own admission. As he told Rolling Stone in a riveting interview with contributing editor Josh Eeels (Nov. 25, 2010, Issue 1118), he would enter the studio with a "pocketful of pills, and I would just go into the studio and goof off." He referenced the 2004 sessions of Encore as his goofy peak. " 'Rain Man,' 'Big Weenie,' 'Ass Like That' -- that's when the wheels were coming off," he admitted.

Drugs had permeated the music. The mightiest star in rap -- a title which cannot, in terms of record sales, critical acclaim, pop culture impact, et al., be debated -- had fallen victim to what so many before him had. He would become the new Brad Nowell, Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison and Kurt Cobain, a star whose creative peak was blurred and washed away by addiction. Tupac and Biggie were killed -- these men were killed by their demons.

Continue reading...

City Hall Reviews: Chris Brown 'F.A.M.E.'

Chris Brown Fame.jpeg
BUY/PREVIEW: 'F.A.M.E.' - Chris Brown

4 stars (of five)

I usually have a problem with R&B. Not so much with the music itself, but with whoever's singing it. In my opinion, there are far too many generic singers out there, guys (and girls) who are content to have other people write and produce their songs, with their only objective to sing it and make it not sound like everyone else. Usually it does. A few people -- Ne-Yo, The-Dream, Ryan Leslie, Keri Hilson, Ester Dean and (soon) Skylar Gray among them -- have consistently passed my test, those who (at least co-) write their music and have their hands in its production as well. These artists take risks, and as a result, move the genre forward.

Chris Brown further cements his inclusion in that club on F.A.M.E; He co-wrote every song on the album, including sole credit on over half of the 13 songs. Call me old school, but this kind of artistry is appealing: it's the cathartic process of music pressed and burned onto MP3s or CDs; it's idealistic in the world of big business, but music is still music. And Chris Brown does music -- and musicianship -- very well.

It's been a long and emotional -- FF to 4:10, apologies for the crappy quality -- journey back from America's gutter. But as each day passes, Brown gets closer to where he should've been.

Under-appreciated classic Graffiti -- which I wrote about last week -- set the bar very high for F.A.M.E. "Deuces," "Yeah 3x" and "Look At Me Now" were dynamite singles, pushing the bar even higher. To that standard, the album falls a bit short. But to today's music standard, to today's R&B standard, F.A.M.E. thrives.

As with all Brown releases, the balance of club bangers, midtempo sex romps and lovers-lament slow jams is a plus. The flow of F.A.M.E. keeps the running time to a strong 13-song, 55-minute performance.

The album's titular acronym is rather curious -- "Forgiving All My Enemies" or "Fans Are My Everything," so he can cover all moods -- seemingly makes him a victim. Chris, you are where you are because of what you did. Those enemies didn't exist before the "incident." I just hope you truly know that and do well to remember it.

(Personal note: The Rihanna questions will dog him forever. Any song featuring regret, sadness or longing for lost love could always be about her. But they could also not. That was one of my favorite things about Graffiti -- a guilty pleasure, admittedly -- that we know exactly who the songs are about. We know exactly what happened to him, exactly what he lost, exactly how he lost it. It was clear on Graffiti. On F.A.M.E.? Not so much. But I digress.)

One song in particular was an enigma: "No Bullshit" has a great and catchy slow-jam melody, one which has been stuck in my head for days. As far as its content? Its intention is to chronicle Brown's bedding of a young woman; instead, it's a war against subtlety. Marvin Gaye's "Let's Get It On" is a masterpiece of R&B, partially because anyone over the age of 13 can listen and catch the subtext. You won't hear lines like: "3 in the morning/You know I'm horny," "Take off your clothes now/You already know what time it is/Reach up in the dresser where the condoms is" or "If you can't take it all, baby say when/Make you come over and over again/And Imma leave it in." Classics leave room for interpretation and imagination; "No Bullshit" bludgeons us over the head and makes me feel kinda dirty. And not in the good way. Brown should know better.

And for the most part, he does. It takes Justin Bieber to soften Brown for "Next 2 You," a heartfelt duet from two guys who should continue to work together. "Should've Kissed You" is a gem, a melodically phenomenal confessional of regret in the vain of "Lucky Me" and "Crawl." "All Back" follows suit.

"Yeah 3x" is a brother to his classic, 2008's "Forever," one of the best pop songs of the decade. Want an epic dance track? Call Breezy. "Wet the Bed," with Ludacris, is weaker, but had me laughing. "Beautiful People" is lyrically simple yet pointed, a good and positive way to close the album.

A few years ago, Brown was being lauded as the next Michael Jackson. But after the Rihanna incident, something strange happened: his approval rating plummeted, and his musicianship skyrocketed. He's a kid coming to grips with his talent in the midst of hate, and on an album that's No. 1 on iTunes/is expected to sell 275k this week/already has three top-15 singles, he's doing just that.

"She Ain't You," which opens with as memorable a guitar lick you'll ever hear in R&B, brought the MJ comparison back. Calling Brown the next Jackson -- nod to the guitar from "Human Nature" -- borders on blasphemy. So I won't go that far. What I will say is that Brown, to his absolute and undeniable credit, sees a vacant throne. And he wants it.

F.A.M.E. isn't as groundbreaking as Graffiti, and it doesn't quite vault Brown onto the R&B throne yet. But after a couple more albums on this level, his haters will have no choice but change their minds. Brown has found his groove. Consider this another strong statement on his application for the new King of Pop.

Must-hear: "Look at Me Now," "She Ain't You," "Yeah 3x," "Next 2 You," "Should've Kissed You"


City Hall Re-Reviews: Chris Brown 'Graffiti'

4.5 stars (of five)

Chris Brown's fourth album, F.A.M.E., is scheduled for release on March 22. Its leak date has already arrived. In anticipation of its official release, I'm revisiting Brown's previous release -- Graffiti, from November 2009 -- which was critically mauled, yet one I found to be an incredible step forward for an artist that has become one of the most polarizing members of not only the music community, but the country.

Some reviews from well-respected music critics:

Jody Rosen, Rolling Stone: 2.5 stars (of five)
Pete Paphides, The Times: 2 stars (of five)
Mikael Wood, Los Angeles Times: 1.5 stars (of four)
Greg Kot, Chicago Tribune: 1 star (of four)
Jim DeRogatis, Chicago Sun-Times: 1 star (of four)
Eric Henderson, Slant Magazine: 1.5 stars (of five)
Andy Kellman, Allmusic.com: 1 star (of five)
Michaelangelo Matos, The A.V. Club: F
Rich Mayor, Gowhere Hip Hop: 4.5 stars (of five)

The general population doesn't like Chris Brown, and maybe they shouldn't. It's difficult for anyone who's seen the TMZ photo of Rihanna, beaten, bruised and (yes) bitten by Brown to find remorse for the (young) man.

After this incident, Brown's talent, which had been lauded as comparable to early-Michael Jackson (FF to 4:17 for tribute), took a backseat. Over two years removed from their altercation, he's still paying for it. And he very well should.

So it's extremely difficult to focus on the music, to separate the man from the art. But isn't that what a critic is supposed to do? Because with or without the incident Brown, now only 21, is a young man with a lot of growth, both musically and mentally, ahead.

Upon its release, Graffiti was critically panned. And by "panned," I mean absolutely mutilated. Of the dozen-plus reviews I've read, he maxed out at 2.5 stars of 4. He received some "F" grades, some "1 of 5" ratings (as you can see above). On Metacritic, the "Rotten Tomatoes" of music, the album received a score of 39 of 100, signaling "generally unfavorable reviews," a gross understatement if I'd ever read one.

Most reviews dripped with hatred of the man, thus carrying over into intense disdain for the music. It was "bland, occasionally obnoxious" (Rolling Stone), "a simply below-average collection of paint-by-numbers R&B beats" (Slant Magazine). The lyrics were seen as not only poor, but complete fabrications. Jim DeRogatis of the Sun-Times finished his review with this flurry: "Sometimes, great art is made by reprehensible human beings, and squaring the two is enormously difficult. Thankfully, that problem isn't nearly as thorny when reprehensible human beings make art that is thoroughly mediocre and at times just garbage."

Brown was a monster, and anything he said, sang or created was a reflection of that. There wasn't a genuine bone in his body.

My appreciation for the album hinges primarily on my disagreement with the previous sentence. What Brown did to one of America's sweethearts was reprehensible. But was he lying each and every time he apologized, both rehearsed and candid? Rihanna has "forgiven" him and moved on; is that not enough? Why are music critics -- who are paid to give unbiased critiques -- so insistent on trashing his music to prove their hatred for him? It's irresponsible, and honestly, discouraging.

Upon hearing Graffiti for the first time -- on a leak, which came before all the scathing reviews -- I knew I was hearing something different. It was a kid my age who had made a terrible mistake and had only just begun to pay for it. It showed an incredible talent at a crossroads in his life, a boy attempting to become a man in the burning, despising eye of the American fishbowl. It was a hodgepodge of feelings, conflicting thoughts of lost love, extreme regret and the desire to, much like any 19-year-old, have a good time.

It was an artistic expression of the greatest kind. Much like Kanye West in his universally-acclaimed My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, Brown's mind was everywhere. He didn't know how to feel, couldn't narrow it down. So he let it all out. The album itself is far from a cohesive unit - but each of the songs are. And in that, the album makes a statement that we, as human beings, can relate to at our cores.

"Crawl" and "So Cold" are melodic, slow-churning, modern-R&B masterpieces of regret and internal turmoil. "Famous Girl" is a riveting commentary of mutual fault, contributing to the end of his and Rihanna's relationship. In it, he suggests that they both cheated during their time together. Ah, the perils of young celebrity love. "Take My Time" contains one of the most graphic sexual-moaning outros you'll hear today (can't say he's not attempting to push the envelope). "I.Y.A." and the Steve Winwood-sampling "Pass Out" are pop gems with nods to the 1980s. "I'll Go" and "Fallin' Down" are simple, vocally-impressive confessionals, the latter of which is Brown at his most human. And "Lucky Me" is the best of all, a building commentary of life in the spotlight when, quite frankly, being hated by everyone.

Perhaps you despise Chris Brown and always will -- what he did is impossible to erase -- but has enough time passed? His prodigious talent means he won't be going anywhere anytime soon. Are you ready to forgive him? Because in this never-forgiving, Brown-boycotting mindset, you likely let this gem slip under your radar. You may have missed a classic.

Must-hear: "So Cold," "Crawl," "Famous Girl," "Pass Out," "Lucky Me"

ED NOTE: City Hall is our newest writer and will be contributing album reviews for Gowhere Hip Hop!

Linkin Park LIVE in Chicago 01.26 [Review]


Linkin Park at the United Center, Chicago

For over 10 years now, I have been listening to one, and only one, rock band consistently: Linkin Park. For those who don't know, Maks G and I are longtime friends and he was the one that introduced me to LP at the very beginning. So naturally, when we got wave of the group's A Thousand Suns tour stopping at the United Center in Chicago, we had to go. Neither of us have seen Linkin Park live before and after rave reviews from critics (2010 Winner of 'Best Live Act' at the EMAs) and friends alike, we both agreed that this is something we should mark off the checklist, and what better time than now. As an added bonus, Maks' spot is walking distance to the UC, even on a brutally cold winter night last Wednesday. It was one swift and spontaneous decision that we weren't at all questioning once we settled in after that walk for what turned out to be an ultra-energetic performance and a memorable concert experience that exceeded the high praise we had seen only as mere words just hours before. 
Quite frankly, I didn't know what to expect exactly. After all, the amount of rock concerts I had been to previously is equal to the amount of Super Bowl rings Packers star cornerback Charles Woodson currently has: none. (After tonight though, I think the correct number for both of those will be one. As much as the Bears fan in me is rooting against it, I think Woodson, Aaron Rodgers, & Co. will hoist the Lombardi Trophy tonight. I also think Christina Aguilera will hold the word 'brave' for over 6 seconds, a Steeler will do the Aaron Rodgers 'belt' celebration, the Gatorade dumped on the winning coach will be yellow, and the MVP will thank God first. Prop bets FTW!).

The lights first dimmed to the point where you couldn't make out the championship banners of the Bulls and Blackhawks above. The only source of light came from the flashes of the screaming fans waiting in anticipation for one more cue that the band was in fact coming out. That cue came in the form of a GWHH-consensus pick for the 'Album Intro All-Star Team': "The Requiem". This chilling intro track would clearly start on our Album Intro All-Star Team (see what I did there?) as it is a simple, yet epic mood setter that begins the Thousand Suns album. From our close, side view vantage point, we had a glimpse of LP frontman Chester Bennington jumping up and down and getting absolutely hyped before hitting the stage at the intro's culmination. I am always curious about pre-show and pre-game routines, so Chester's will be quite the lasting image anytime I press play on A Thousand Suns. Instead of vaulting into the first song of the album "Burning In The Skies", the group rightfully opted to perform a more high-octane energy record to kick things off: Meteora's "Faint". They followed that with "Lying From You" from the same album (my favorite of theirs, for the record) and the show was off to a seamless and perfect start.

Linkin Park

Linkin Park at the United Center, Chicago

What first hit us about their live show was Chester's clarity in his mix of both singing and screaming - not only for the first two songs, but throughout the entire concert. I am still scratching my head today about how Chester's voice can sustain such loud screams throughout just one show, let alone the whole tour. He delivered all of his lyrics at near-studio quality, as he had a live sound and touch that made it all feel authentic. The same can be said for Linkin Park's other main vocalist: Mike Shinoda, who cranked out some melodies in addition to the rap that we first think of him for. No lip-synching and no skipping words here, and that made the live experience that much more enjoyable.

With the show fully underway now, Linkin Park ripped through many of the classics you would expect plus the perfect amount of new jams from A Thousand Suns that fans of the group who have seen them before were seeing for the first time. In addition, the stage was set up with a V-shape, leading Mike and Chester to walk up and down both sides and show love to the entire UC crowd and not just the rabid fans who were even starting mosh pits in the floor seats. And oh yes, there were plenty of crowd surfers who made their way to the stage, receiving dap from Chester that made it all worth it. Props to Chester for recognizing every one.

Onto my favorite stretch of the concert. It began with my favorite LP song "In The End", which doubled as the best performance of the night due to the goosebump-inducing crowd participation. After all, "In The End" is on the short list for Linkin Park's most well-known song, and the last verse naturally appeals for the crowd to sing along. Mike and Chester egged us along by holding the mics to the crowd and it translated powerfully in the official live recording you can download below (and you can download the whole concert at linkinpark.com). That experience alone was well worth the price of admission, but this energy was then bolstered, believe it or not, by an intense performance of "Bleed It Out" that followed. Truthfully, I was never really high on this song, but to see the energy that Chester put into this one - nearly stage diving, but settling for singing a duet with a random fan - made me a fan of the song. 

LIVE From Chicago 01.26.11 *TIBS FAV.™
This, however, means that my pre-show prediction of "In The End" being the concert's last song was wrong. I was left wondering what would be the Mariano Rivera of the Thousand Suns Tour: Chicago and it was none other than the band's first hit: "One Step Closer". Excellent choice. The crowd's energy matched the peak set by the two songs in the previous paragraph for a memorable farewell to the one-and-a-half hour set. We were also treated to excellent performances of slower songs like "Iridescent" and "Shadow Of The Day" in addition to favorites like "Numb", "What I've Done", and "New Divide" amongst others. But to my disappointment: no performance at all of "Somewhere I Belong" - one of my (and many others) favorite singles of the group. I would expect that one performed on other stops of the tour for what I assume is a sometimes-changing setlist. Flat out though, Linkin Park put on one helluva show and not only lived up to the hype, but exceeded it. Could my first rock concert have gone any better?

Be sure to check out Linkin Park on their remaining stops on the A Thousand Suns Tour, more photos from the Chicago stop below, and LP similarly rockin' the stage on SNL just last night below as well. Enjoy!
Linkin Park "When They Come For Me" LIVE on SNL
Linkin Park "Waiting For The End" LIVE on SNL

Gallery sneak peek (8 images):

View the gallery...

Mass Hysteria 'Chicago'

Mass Hysteria "Chicago"
Producer: SC & Mike Treese - FULL, CDQ
The much too underrated Chicago-based rap duo Mass Hysteria bring us another solid effort off their soon to be released album. The track entitled "Chicago" is produced by SC & Mike Treese. It samples Graham Nash's 1971 song "Chicago: We Can Change the World" about the infamous Chicago Seven trial.
"They call it Windy City not cause it's breezy here / They call it that cause the politicians are sleezy here." Mass Hysteria puts up a mirror to the darkness and scandal that has gone hand in hand with the incomparable Windy City: from Capone to the Chicago Seven trial to police corruption, gentrification to governors Blagojevich and Ryan. The sample, the beat, lyrical content -- a perfect marriage. The song will also be used by the MUL crew for their new grafitti video coming out later this month! Until then download the song and witness the beauty that can come from the darkest places.
A gift for all my Chicagoans and real hip hop heads all over the world. Happy holidays XOXO!
Mass Hysteria "So Amazing"
First single from their upcoming LP!
What do you think? Create a profile and comment!

~ Tina P

Kanye West "Runaway" Film REVIEW

Kanye West fever is at an all time high with the world film premiere of "Runaway", adding a whole new promotional and visual backdrop to his album My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy that is due November 22nd. This innovation of accompanying the album with a short film is yet another example that Kanye West is an artist in the general sense rather than just a rapper, producer, designer, etc. We've seen him break down many ceilings to get to this point, and I feel like we've come a long way to begin seeing musicians look at music outside the box. "Art" is everything, because there is an art form to every activity of life, even life itself is an art form. The best artists transcend their skilled mediums by stepping outside the box and integrate elements that will help fulfill a greater level of experience for the viewer. Mash up all the "artists" in the world, and you'll get the ultimate experience. This blurring of lines is the direction we are heading, and conservatives who cling to old traditional modes of thinking need to be overcome for the benefit and greater evolution of man. Love is growth, and hate is the obstruction to growth. 

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Hip Hop is just one example of this evolution as we've seen it integrated with almost all genres of music, blurring the line and meaning of Hip Hop itself. Lupe did it with Punk, Eminem did it with Pop, Kanye did it with film, and is going to do it with Broadway Theater! Honestly it was one of my ambitions to integrate theater with live music performance on stage, and can safely predict that if we make it past 2012 that we'll see this type of integration! Heck Michael Jackson was about to do it for his final tour before they killed him, and Kanye already kind of did it with the Glow-in-the-Dark tour, so we aren't too far away from seeing other artists pick up on this innovation. (Eminem, Jay Z, Cudi, Lupe? - Holla at me I got ideas) 

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Well back to the review at hand, it's important to note the obstacles that Ye had to overcome before this culminating venture came into its climax. Being schooled in the art world, I know how difficult it is to make your vision a reality especially if that vision demands that you learn a completely new skill for its completion. This being said, one of the biggest reasons I respect Kanye West as an artist is for his bravery of venturing out into the great unknown above all else. When Ye started all he had was crayons and a coloring book. Shortly after that he taught himself how to produce, and then eventually how to rap, but he didn't stop there after getting his record deal. While growing and breaking ceilings on the music tip, he was also passionate about fashion as he began to teach himself how to design clothes, shoes, and outfits. This development led to the designing of the unprecedented Glow-in-the-Dark tour, and even his own book "Thank You, and You're Welcome". I hope you can see where I'm going with this - Ye had to LEARN a million new skills, overcome hate from conservatives, and pull through the loss of his family just to get to the present moment of "Runaway". We've walked down the paved road, and now we are at another milestone of innovation as Ye passionately took a stab at the previously unfamiliar genre of film. Ask yourself how many new things did he have to learn to make the vision of "Runaway" a success?


I'd say Kanye is one of the first musicians who blurred the lines of music with fine art, simply by venturing out into the unknown. While the film is beautiful in every regard, its true power and hype lies in the unprecedented innovation of accompanying an album with the film. It's not the ballerinas, color schemes, storyline, or cinematography, but the juxtaposition of genres that's the ultimate success here. All of these elements together are the true power that Kanye West conjured up. While this is only scratching the surface, it is still an exciting step in a fresh new direction.

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So while we wait for the album to drop, the film serves us as a small foreshadow on the types of themes and concepts Ye will be dealing with this time around. To begin I'd like to mention that this film is an abstract work, and the gestalt's within it will provide each viewer with their own subjective interpretations... even for Yeezy himself. There is definitely no right or wrong answer, because the work is meant to make you reflect on your own life based on the general themes embedded within.

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The general underlying theme in the film, which all other sub-themes stem from is that of life, death, and rebirth. In alchemy, metaphorically speaking the ultimate goal is to burn away the dross of your being, in order to turn yourself into gold. This is the human condition where we must constantly struggle to burn away our imperfections of fear/doubt, so that we can ascend closer to love. Kanye beautifully captures this universal truth, and reminds us of how we all live the life of the Phoenix. We are all one living organism, breathing together, burning together, and being reborn together; striving towards love like flowers towards light.

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In this struggle there will always be evil for us to overcome, which Ye personified with a few cool scenes. I loved the part where he was confronted with the question "Do you know she's a bird?" at the dinner table. I thought that was hilarious, because it's a comical way of talking about caste systems dating back to the beginning of time. Ye's response was very poetic as he said, "No I never noticed that", personifying himself and this new generation to look past the caste you were born into. Yeezy himself is an example of overcoming the caste system by rising from the middle class to royalty so to speak, resonating the message that every being has the potential for greatness no matter their outward appearance. And if that comment wasn't enough sarcasm, Kanye ends up shitting on everyone at the bourgeois table by toasting to all the douche bags with an incredible performance of "Runaway". It was beautifully executed, because the ballerinas personified Ye's music on a physical realm adding to the experience of the song on another level. The addition of the ballerinas made you feel the elegant visual connection between body and sound.


Another evil Ye warned the viewer to overcome is that of their own perception by saying, "First rule in this world baby, don't pay attention to what you see in the news". This slight warning opens up a whole can of worms, because if you really open your eyes and look, you'll see how decisions are being made to keep the general level of consciousness at an all time low. People will believe anything they are told, and are open for easy manipulation. Did you know that the "news" is being controlled by companies that profit by others misfortune? While you watch TV and pay attention to fake representations of life, you're missing the black sack that's being pulled over your head. Food is being chemically altered to create long term health problems, crisis' are being created to bring us into wars for money, our economy is built on debt, education and healthcare are not a priority, we are consuming all of our natural resources, fear and terror is marketed to society through mass media, and we are being conditioned for control with troop imagery/microchip propaganda.

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Kanye ends up touching on this topic of slave mentality, with the visuals of the kid running with the red torch. Yeezy said that the kid represented passion that roams freely, however he foreshadowed that same kid falling into a slave mentality with the imagery of him wearing a red cult hood like the rest of the followers. As a society most of us spit evil to the young by saying that something is impossible, trapping them to think about life in a certain slave perspective; as Yeezy said, I think it's our duty to break out society from their own mental jails in leading by example, and showing that anything truly is possible.

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One of my favorite scenes in the film is when Ye is sprinting down the long road, which reminded me of our own unique metaphysical paths that we are assigned to walk. It made me smile that Ye was sprinting down his, and inspired me to pick up the pace! (Sidebar: the best teacher is inspiration, because it is the fastest motivator of evolution.)

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In conclusion the film "Runaway" foreshadows the cycle of life, death, and rebirth that is thrusting us towards spiritual evolution. I therefore predict that the album will have similar themes of recognizing evil, burning it away, being reborn in a new light, and lastly repeating the cycle all over again. While Kanye would never admit it, I do believe that we as a culture have finally turned him to stone by relating him to the Phoenix. His life exemplifies the Phoenix, and I believe we can always count on Yeezy to shine beautifully, burn beautifully, and be reborn beautifully. We've seen it done during 'College Dropout', '808s & Heartbreak', and most recently this past year from Taylor Swift to 'My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy'! This is why I respect Kanye West, because he burns willingly for the benefit of humanity as a whole. Make sure you pre-order the album, and be sure to drop him some kind words - LOVE!

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What do you think? Create a profile and comment!
~ Maks G

Prodigy? Probably


There really isn't an English translation for "Hence Opoku."

His emcee moniker is AON, which expands out to Ambitious or Nothing, but the 16-year-old rapper's sensational appetite for success does not fully describe his character.

Maybe "prodigy" or "wonder child" would suffice.

Why not?

The Ghana born, New York molded and Chicago raised rhymer reminds his manager, Neville "Bigman" Muir, of an artist the seasoned veteran knew from back in the day.

Now rapping under a different name, Wasalu Muhammad Jaco used to leave school in the afternoon with the same fire as Hence, the same ambition. Writing was the only thing that truly mattered. Spitting was what they wanted to do and both of their dreams revolved around microphone stands and instrumentals.

You probably know Wasalu; he's working on his third studio album under the stage name "Lupe Fiasco."

Making his way back into the music industry after a self-imposed hiatus, Bigman can only smile when he sits back and conjures up the similarities between the established artist and his potential successor.

Unlike with Lupe, however, Bigman can conceptualize a complete music renaissance centered on the Lincoln Park High School senior.

At first, his foresight might sound a little far fetched, as it did a few weeks ago in a Downtown Chicago studio where AON and co. spent their Friday night working on some new tracks.

In a dominating Jamaican accent, Bigman talked of revolution.

He visualized the reemergence of what he calls "real" music in almost perfect clarity.

Big bass, deep lyrics, and songs that everyone can vibe with.

Hip hop as a dense culture, not a diluted music form.

No more cliques.

No more boundaries.

No more ignorance.

When he finishes talking and the soft hum of activity buzzing around the studio settles back in, it is evident that Bigman has spent a lot of time thinking about this Utopia.

More importantly, he has spent a lot time diligently analyzing AON and the young emcee's place in hip hop.

The music speaks for itself. His lyrics are ripe with potential and his commitment to constantly better his game place the rhymer on the inside track. His new single Doin' it Big was released on June 6 and is available for download on iTunes.

On top of ability, the Uptown resident has already sparked global interest. His single "My Girl" featuring a catchy hook by singer Iyaz gets regular spins in Europe and Africa (think "Beautiful Girls" by Sean Kingston mixed with "Nothing on You" by B.o.B and Bruno Mars.). Interviews on Ghanaian talk shows and concerts at Usain Bolt's estate, AON has participated in both, appear to be only the beginning.

But that night in the studio a few weeks ago, none of this seemed to faze the surprisingly youthful teenager.

At times he appeared more concerned with a party later that night than with his mixtape that's scheduled to drop at any moment.

Titled "Young World," the mixtape is hosted by DJ Green Lantern and is not only highly anticipated because of its tracklist. This mixtape could potentially define what will come of the AON experiment.

If it produces the expected reaction and pushes his buzz over the top, the teen will officially begin his climb into the higher ranks of hip hop. A C.D., which is already in the works, will soon follow.

Then more talk shows.

More concerts.

More money.

More "real" music.

But, according to the manager, this must all happen in a matter of months.

AON will turn 17 in October and... well, as Bigman puts it, "From a marketing standpoint, there's a difference between a 16-year-old rapper and a 17 year-old-rapper."


Friday night is quickly slipping away and no one in the studio seems to notice or care.

At least not at this moment.

Only about a dozen eyes are still in the studio and each one of them is focused on the teenager scribbling away at a sheet of loose-leaf paper.

He's been hunched over for about 15 minutes now and the beat has already looped a few times.

Even the synthesizer and psychedelic sounds coming from the speaker are not enough to stir them from their concentration.

Everyone is anxious, in a Christmas Eve kind of way.

The eyes speak awkwardly over the banging instrumentals, simply killing time before the kid opens his mouth.

They know it is going to be fire, some inferno type heat.

Some nod your head; tap your feet type flow.

That make you think, won't let you blink spit.

Some of that Artistic Utopia, Renaissance type rap.

But for now, until he's truly ready, they are all patient.

Waiting for it all to translate.

Find all of AON's tracks and more here.
What do you think? Create a profile and comment!

~ OTJay

Eminem's path to 'Recovery'


As longtime Eminem fans, Maks G. & I were reflecting the other day about his career and how he came to this point today, with the release of his new album. In fact, we were able to draw connections to as far back as Encore that led him (and all of us) onto his path to Recovery.

In one of Eminem's most brutally honest songs of his career "Talkin' 2 Myself" (and there's been many), Eminem describes the insecurities he dealt with bouncing back from drugs and an absence from hip hop. The lines that explicitly connect the dots between Encore to Recovery, however, is this:

"Hit my bottom so hard I bounced twice,
This time around it's different,
Them last 2 albums didn't count,
Encore I was on drugs, Relapse I was flushin' 'em out.
I've come to make it up to you now, no more f**kin' around,
I got somethin' to prove to fans because I feel like I let 'em down"

- Eminem "Talkin' 2 Myself" (from Recovery)

Upon this revelation, we reflected back to Encore - an album that featured his usual mix of serious, emotional records with some silly 'Slim Shady' singles. There wasn't all too much in the music that indicated he was on drugs (ok, maybe the "Ass Like That" video), but the music also received mediocre reviews across the board. By 2009's release of Relapse, the hip hop world was at the very least curious about Eminem's return from a 5 year exile. Many of Eminem's early fans ended up disappointed with the agitating accents and a stark change in content on Relapse. Eminem put his pill addiction to the forefront and spilled some honest, yet disconnected rhymes about trying to rid the drugs that primarily caused such a long lay-off from hip hop and one of the darkest periods in the life of Marshall Mathers. People who could directly relate to drug addiction can definitely vibe with the album, but many like myself, could not connect to the content and even redundant sounds of the production. Relapse was my least favorite Eminem album - a notion that I feel I'm not alone on. The hear-say this summer of Eminem as the 'best rapper alive' where no where to be found this time last year. Numbers don't lie, however, as Relapse was the highest-selling rap album of 2009 and took home the Grammy for 'Best Rap Album'. Shady was back on top, but with what many felt was a mediocre 'comeback' album. Interestingly enough, Eminem agreed on the lead single of the album that actually brings the comeback full circle, Recovery

One of the iconic lines from "Not Afraid" goes "In fact, let's be honest, that last Relapse CD was 'ehhh', perhaps I ran them accents into the ground". Not only did that line inspire a head-scratch and/or chuckle (both for me), but also the whole idea of a first single that was not like a "Real Slim Shady" or a "We Made You" perhaps inspired a similar response. After all, this was the first time Eminem strayed from the 'formula' so to speak and hit us with a serious first single, in fact indicating a different direction for Eminem with Recovery. That direction is really driven home upon a complete listen of the new album, which is undoubtedly the best illustration of Eminem's most intense rhymes and flows in his career. Eminem took inspiration from conquering his drug addiction, falling so far out of the limelight in hip hop that he felt disrespected, and even the criticisms of Relapse, to take Recovery to an unprecedented level, even for him. There is not one moment of relaxation on Recovery as the complete body of work shows how motivated and hungry the Detroit emcee is - a hunger that he had always shown, but not to this degree. 

I, for one, love it. 

In the process of spilling his most fast-paced, furious rhymes, Eminem also experiments beyond his usual backing of Dr. Dre productions to a sound more parallel to hip hop of the past couple of years (and one completely out-there production, the "What Is Love"-sampled "No Love" from beatsmith, Just Blaze). The new sounds and the eye-opening intensity combine for an uppercut of refreshment, knocking you out when you least expected it. As a result, there's nothing really to sit back and vibe with on Recovery and you may need to be in the right mood for Eminem's ferocity to fully appreciate the entire body of work. Having said that, Recovery is an amazingly powerful album if you are in the mood to really listen to Eminem.

So now that Recovery has settled in with us, Maks G. and I concluded that Relapse was the mere beginning of Eminem's comeback, instead of the comeback itself. Recovery brings the methodical comeback for Eminem full circle to where he's once again at the forefront of the discussion of 'best rapper alive'. But the strange thing is: we would not have Recovery if it wasn't for Relapse. And we wouldn't have had Relapse, had Eminem created Encore while on drugs. The five-year layoff between albums was chiefly created by the drug addiction, but so much had happened in that time period in hip hop to also contribute to the new concepts and sounds of Recovery. Everything had to come together to get to where we are now, which makes this comeback so much more interesting. It's not a classic 'I'm back, I'm still the s**t' comeback (see: T.I. and this time next year, Lil' Wayne), but rather a gradual comeback that we can see in the broader scope was triggered as far back as 2004. Now that we have finally come to Recovery, isn't it that much more powerful?


Your reward for scrolling past all the text looking for new music reading all that? New music! Just the iTunes bonus tracks for your collection, if you fiend on the physical CDs like myself. Recovery available now!

Eminem "Session One" f/ Slaughterhouse
Producer: Just Blaze - FULL, CDQ, iTunes Bonus track off the album, Recovery *Tibs Fav.™

Eminem "Ridaz"
Producer: Dr. Dre - FULL, CDQ, iTunes Bonus track off the album, Recovery
What do you think? Create a profile and comment!

~ Sgt. Tibs

B96 Summer Bash Concert Recap

B.o.B @ B96 Summer Bash

Chicago's hit radio station B96 threw yet another awesome Summer Bash concert this past Saturday at Toyota Park. The lineup included T-Pain, Ludacris, B.o.B, Cascada, Jason Derulo, IYAZ, Taio Cruz, and New Boyz, along with B96's top DJ's. Also performing at the pre-bash were two upcoming artists that have long been spotlighted on GWHH: LA & Mr. Music and Mr. Robotic (more coverage coming soon). 

Some of my favorite highlights included:  A special appearance by Perez Hilton, IYAZ performing "Pyramids" along side Charice, and Ludacris introducing up and coming Chicagoans B.X.C! Luda also performed with Taio Cruz singing their hit song "Break Your Heart" - a personal favorite song of mine. I also loved how Cascada showed off her dance moves, and B.o.B pretended to fly around stage as he sang "Airplanes". As for Jason Derulo, he took the stage with an amazing and entertaining set, ending it by ripping off his shirt while performing "In My Head", which really got the crowd going. Check out the photographs taken by me below and experience the 2010 B96 Summer Bash for yourself. In addition, you can check out B96.com for more video coverage of the Bash. Enjoy!

Gallery sneak peek (82 images):

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'Fantabuloso' 103.5 Kiss FM Concert Recap

Ludacris (above) headlines 103.5 KISS FM's Fantabuloso

This past Friday, one of the premiere radio stations here in Chicago, 103.5 KISS FM put on quite the show at the Allstate Arena hailed as 'Fantabuloso'. We were on hand to witness the jam-packed lineup that featured Ludacris, Trey Songz, B.o.B, Ke$ha, Jason Derulo, Jay Sean, Taio Cruz, Orianthi, and Kevin Rudolf. Some highlights included: B.o.B beatboxing and singing the last bridge of "Nothin' On You", Jason Derulo surprising us with an entertaining set that showcased his dancing ability, being able to experience 'the leap' that Trey Songz has made with the whole audience drawn to every a capella, and Ludacris performing "Sex Room" with Trey Songz and "Break Your Heart" w/ Taio Cruz. Get your in-depth experience of 'Fantabuloso' by thumbing through the photo gallery below (all original photos taken by yours truly). The gallery features the aforementioned artists as well as members of the 103.5 KISS FM team: Drex, Tommy Black, and more.

In a couple of related links, our friend and nightlife columnist at the Chicago Tribune, Luis Arroyave, had the opportunity to talk with B.o.B about a few things including about how he has never met "Airplanes" co-star Hayley Williams. And our old friend and contributor Dave Cantor wrote up a little review over at TimeOut! Chicago. Enjoy!

Gallery sneak peek (120 images):

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Lupe Fiasco vs. RapRadar "diss" review


Lupe Fiasco went to the personal blog to respond to Rap Radar's Blackout section, as YN dissed Lupe and wrote how he's not a fan, but will continue to post on him due to his popularity. Check out the full story on Lupe's blog to get the gist in case you're interested.

Excerpt from Lupe's Blog:

-Via Rapradar.com's YN Blackout Section "I don't know. Never liked this guy. Not a fan. Ego doesn't match the catalogue. At least Kanye made classics in the '00s. Behind the boards and on the mic. This Chi-town fellow's Joe Budden-like Internets hype irks me. I just don't get it. I rather listen to an old Tribe CD. Ha. Anyways, dude will stay present on the RR site next year because that's what you young bucks want. As for me, the OG, I'll pass. Kiss my ass, if you don't like it. Happy Holidays!"

He talking about Lupe Fiasco by the way...ummm...Thanks I guess???

Why though?

Anyways, dude will stay present on the RR site next year because that's what you young bucks want."

Hmmm...I mean he has all the pertinent and professional information i.e. Ego v.s. Catalouge argument, not as good as Kanye, Joe Budden-esque derived fanbase, lack of classics etc, as well as all the right in the world not to post me up on his site. So why take the hypocritical stance of continuing to promote something that you thoroughly and strongly disagree with both personally and professionally?

[Read more here...]

Even though I'm a big Lupe fan & relate to him astrologically, I'm still going to have to say this whole fiasco (pun intended) is full of complexities and hypocritical happenings on both ends. The only reason I'm even commenting on this confrontation is because it brings up noteworthy topics.

In journalism and especially in writing for music you often may get an assignment where you have to review talent that you don't like. In my recent panel discussion at Columbia College, I heard 4 other professional writers speak on how they go about writing on topics that they don't like. The consensus was that the most truthful route was to reveal your personal bias out-front before the review. Therefore letting the reader know your perspective before having them read the negative or positive charged review. Lupe's argument in RR's case is why even promote something that you don't support personally in the first place?

That's a very complex question especially when you get into corporate settings such as our people at the Tribune or other information giants that have to cover an array of topics, and assign topics for writers to cover. If your boss assigns for you to do a review on Lupe Fiasco then it's your job to do it whether you agree with the promotion or not. Are these writers now also inauthentic by aiding in the promotion of something they don't support personally? It would be ideal for everyone to cover only what they wanted, but it seems that to be human is to experience compromise. Now with the blogging world many rules are changing where a personal voice is more desired, and blog site owners have the power to pick and choose what to promote. Being authentic comes more into play as you are directly affecting culture by choosing what content you output.

Now in YN's blog case, being in control of RR he could definitely stop all Lupe posts, however his fellow writer B.Dot supports the promotion of Lu's music being a fan himself. The question is whose reality do you have to sacrifice to be authentic?

It's best to be objective. To see all perspectives is to see truth. There is no authentic or inauthentic, they are both the same thing.  

I can understand why Lupe would speak on YN's negative write-up, because he basically just dissed Lu without any justification. It doesn't make sense why you would have a "blackout" section on your blog where you briefly diss artists to begin with? That's just negative! To end on Lu's note, "Why black out when you can just as easily shed light?...some people...i guess..."


What do you think? Create a profile and comment!

~ Maks G.

GWHH Review: Souls of Mischief 'Montezuma's Revenge'

When your first album gives the rap world an unmitigated classic, what can you do next?

'93 'til Infinity sounds its age at this point, but Souls of Mischief (A-Plus, Opio, Phesto, and Tajai) still need to be considered a group of lyrical stalwarts. After a nine year break, the ensemble returns with the Heiro released Montezuma's Revenge. And while the album might not have too much to do with the runs, its title at once summons something menacing and foreign.

Joining the group this time around is Prince Paul, who should be known to rap fanatics from his work with De La Soul, Tha Gravediggas and a variety of other high profile acts. And while his production, for the most part is impeccable, what SoM lends the disc isn't quite enough to get it over - which might explain why the proper disc is accompanied by a spate of instrumentals.

"I'm tryin' to represent the essence," says Taijai during a skit where the emcee is supposedly speaking with none other than Morgan Freeman. The sentiment is ample as the actor attempts to dissuade SoM from trucking simply on old school style raptastics. But even as the skit and the following track, "Fourmation," exemplifies the ensemble's attempt at change over time, there's not a tremendous stylistic departure on Montezuma's Revenge when contrasted with the Oakland based group's back catalog.

The disc's lead off single, "Proper Aim," boasts a beat that could have come out of any year since the early '90s. That doesn't mean it's not successful in propelling every emcee's flow forward, but the following track, "You Got It" presents itself as a more fully realized effort. Sporting vocal snippets galore, the cut's not only a production oddity and triumph, but also one of the few tracks were all involved contribute a noteworthy verse.

Only history weighs down Montezuma's Revenge. The disc is an accomplishment that SoM needs to flaunt even while listeners might still want it to be the early '90s.


What do you think? Create a profile and comment!

~ Dave Cantor

GWHH Review: Sene & Blu 'A Day Late & A Dollar Short'


Sene miscalculated when he tapped one of the most respected and soon to be famous underground emcees to produce his new disc.

Stealing the acclaim that the Brooklyn based rapper deserves is SoCal native Blu. Getting behind the boards for A Day Late & A Dollar Short after releasing a few instrumentals finds Blu crafting fourteen tracks of jazz and soul based beats. Everything represented on the Shaman Works released album comes off as a track that Blu himself would seek out for inclusion on whatever disc he's working on. But instead of selfishly hoarding these beats, Blu provides a musical backdrop for Sene's ruminations on life, work and love.

Unfortunately, because of the clamor surrounding everyone's favorite emcee, Sene's been lost in the shuffle - just read the reviews. What furthers the confounding situation is the fact that the east coast rapper possesses roughly the same flow as his west coast counter-part. So at times (and specifically on "WonLover") it's easy to forget who's on the mic.

The resulting confusion, though, is really just a compliment. Sene might not be as long winded or as conceptually heavy as Blu - the five minute "Good Life" is evidence of his prowess - but during the verses on "Smoke Rose Buds on Ashy Avenue," getting stoned by himself functions as a way to explicate the Brooklynite's loneliness. Sene goes on to lament his money problems and the fact that he needs a bus pass. At times, the track almost comes off as an updated and somber version of Del's "The Wacky World of Rapid Transit."

Escaping daily struggles may have been the impetus of A Day Late & A Dollar Short. The disc, though, somehow eschews sadness for sobriety and contemplation. It's no Below the Heavens, but being in the same league as that 2007 release is success enough for Sene's first long player.

BUY: Sene & Blu: A Day Late & A Dollar Short


What do you think? Create a profile and comment!

~ Dave Cantor

GWHH Review: Blackroc 'Self Titled'

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Folks seem endlessly surprised that the Black Keys are involved with hip hop in anyway. But if you're from Akron and play music, there's probably not too much else to do around town between the ages of 15 and 20 other than listen to records. So while, Damon Dash hadn't heard of the Ohio based blues and rock group until recently, there's really no way that guitarist Dan Auerbach and drummer Patrick Carney weren't aware of the Roc-A-Fella affiliated business man and the records that he had a hand in bringing to the masses.

After rounding up a spate of high level contributors and settling on the name Blakroc, all involved took turns running up on the Keys in a studio setting and spent some quality time with the duo.

Auerbach and Carney contributed some funky and more stripped down backing than anyone could have really guessed. And on "Dollaz & Sense," which features Pharoahe Monch and the RZA, the Keys turn in only a basic drum pattern and an ethereal bit of guitar playing as the two emcees talk about intelligence and soul. There's a huge break towards the end of the track taking focus away from the previous verses and even the hook. In the song's construction, though, layers of genres are jig-sawed together to create something beyond what listeners may have expected.

Nicole Wray crops up more frequently on this self titled release than any other contributor while singing hooks and the like, but Mos Def works on two separate tracks, as does the aforementioned RZA. Mos, though, supplies something of a rhythmic spoken word set of verses during "On the Vista." The emcee's known for being one of the more literate and unique talents of the modern day rap cognoscenti. Surprisingly on Blakroc Mos is able to pretty easily surpass the vast majority of work from his own 2009 released The Ecstatic.

Despite the spate of highlights, the disc lacks coherence even as the Black Keys give up some consistent beats for everyone to make use of. It's not as if there's a clunker amongst the 11 tracks here, but there is something missing. Maybe listeners will find out what that is if there's a second installment in the Blakroc saga.

BUY: Blakroc: Self Titled
What do you think? Create a profile and comment!

Dave Cantor

GWHH Review: Felt 'Vol. 3 (A Tribute To Rosie Perez)'


Q: Are super-groups functional?
A: No. They are not.

Spring boarding to relative stardom after recording with Living Legends, MURS partnered with Atmosphere's Slug, who possesses the lyrical range of a third grader, to crank out a series of supposedly themed discs that maintain little coherence from volume to volume. Attributing the disconnect to a different producer being affixed to each album makes sense. But seeing as Aesop Rock gets behind the boards for this newest offering after not having released anything of note since 2001's Labor Days, Vol. 3: A Tribute to Rosie Perez doesn't really have a chance to begin with.

The third installment of the Felt saga has finally arrived after a four year wait. It's dedicated to an actress best known for her appearances in Do the Right Thing and White Men Can't Jump, but hasn't really been busy of late. Becoming the center of Felt's rap universe, even if it's for a single album, finds Perez in the hefty company of the one time Adam's Family member Christina Ricci as well as grown up Cosby kid Lisa Bonnet.

What plagues most rap acts today, in contrast to Golden Age ensembles like Boogie Down Productions or Leaders of the New School, is the fact that there's not too much being discussed. Long gone are the politically minded polemics of the late '80s and mid '90s. It's surprising to find MURS so detached from his roots as a SoCal politico, but that's what happens over time.

Comprising Vol. 3 is a parade of songs discussing various talents that MURS and Slug tell listeners they each possess in spades. Alongside those endless boasts are innumerable tracks devoted to trollops, sluts and whores of varying degrees - "Henrietta Longbottom" being a particularly egregious violation of taste.

This latest disc from Felt, though, isn't concerned with fawning over the Brooklyn born star. And surprisingly enough, none of the femme focused forays into raptastics have any relation to Perez at all. She simply functions as a faceplate in the album's marketing campaign. The sticker that accompanies Vol. 3 dons her face and in visiting the Felt MySpace page any fan can cop t-shirts or hoodies with Rosie's visage emblazoned across the front.

Marketing aside, Vol. 3 makes mention of technology a bit too frequently for the disc to remain relevant far into the future - i.e. Zack Morris' enormous cell phone from Saved By the Bell. YouTube's referenced while mocking some fictional foe on the "The Prize" and internet rappers crop up here and there only to be endlessly lampooned.

"Like You" mitigates the mess that is this Rhymesayers released album to a certain extent. A supple guitar figure rises against a relatively angry sounding drum pattern. And as the brief melodic snippet finds its natural end, a robotic proclamation of some descending keyboard-notes brings it around to a place that allows MURS to explain why he's better than you and your favorite rapper.

The disc finally peters out with a track entitled "Paul Reubens." Unfortunately, there aren't any Pee Wee jokes - it's just another battle rap masquerading as thoughtful hip hop. And finding out that listener's need to "stayed tuned" as the fourth installment of the Felt project, a tribute to Heidi Fliess, is in the works doesn't make it any better either.

BUY: Felt: Vol. 3 (A Tribute To Rosie Perez)

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~ Dave Cantor

GWHH Review: Lupe Fiasco "Remember 2 Smile" show at Congress Theater 10/29/09


The Remember 2 Smile show was, in a word: inspiring. Lupe Fiasco developed a series of video installments to create a storyline throughout the 2+ hour show. The installments, titled Lyric, Life, Death, (minus Love), Faith, Politics, Fame, Progress, Chicago, and Lasers, captured Lupe's life to this point in a powerful, cinematic fashion. Every video included Lupe's viewpoint on each domineering topic followed by music from his discography of mixtapes and albums to bring it to life.

I can honestly say that those in attendance at the Congress Theater gained a personal picture of the person that Lupe Fiasco is just by simply analyzing the show and his conscious performance choices. The video topics were particularly evocative because the specific word choices held both literal and broader meanings. We got to see Lupe in spirit, on stage creating paintings of raw emotion. This created an experience that was a juxtaposition between earthly topics and the ethereal experience for each viewer. The mood was artistically captured through the alteration between amazing one color overhead lighting, bright rapid flashing, and smoke cloud machines that blew out mushroom clouds around the stage. I felt like I was Simba in the hyena den from The Lion King at times. The rapid one color lighting and stagnant smoke in the air above matched Lupe's fast-paced flow, even creating a sinister setting at times. Adding to the mood were the guitars that ripped through your body (most notably on Lu's performance of "Fire") and the epic percussion destruction coming from Bam on the drums.

Simply put, I loved it. I was lucky enough to experience the concert from the front row, giving me a chance to appreciate small moments like FNF's JROC on the side losing control not only to Lupe's performances of "Superstar", "Fighters", and others but also to surprise guest Crucial Conflict's performance of "Hay". Also noteworthy is how Lupe Fiasco shared the stage with fellow Chicago artists like Mikkey Halsted, Crucial Conflict, Dude 'N' Nem, and The Kid in addition to performing the appropriate "Sittin' Sideways" and "Go Go Gadget Flow" during the Chicago set. This action brought upon a prideful feeling within the home town crowd, longtime collaborators Matthew Santos, Sarah Green, and Bishop G contributing as well. When Santos came out to "Fighters", he absolutely killed it; I mean, murdered those vocals. That performance evoked emotions for me that are indescribable in words. Everyone is in spirit at times during a Lupe Fiasco show, because he's just that good at conjuring moods. He even moves his hands to the music almost like a sorcerer; creating influence onto his audience.

The nights' show really captured a sense of where Lupe came from, what he discovered, where he stands, and where he is going. It was the past, present, and future of Lupe Fiasco, as he performed songs from every stage of his career covered under a chosen list of explorations important to him. Further drawing on each vignette, Lupe Fiasco tackled the duality in each topic through his songs. In his first performance of "Solar Midnite" the following lyrics reverberated powerfully for me, "I can see the truth in you, even when you lyin'. Even through the darkness, I can see you shinin'.." I cannot say that you can call a person strictly saint or strictly sinner, because to be human is to understand the oneness in the duality of existence. Meaning both opposites can seem true depending on the perspective; I think Lupe deals with these values of opposites, which is why you experience a dark, sinister Lupe Fiasco and a shining,  gleeful Lupe Fiasco at every show.

To close out the show, Lupe performed "Shining Down", slated off of the upcoming album, Lasers, appropriately leaving the crowd with a sense of how Lupe Fiasco is growing lyrically and musically into the future. After his previous album, Lupe Fiasco's The Cool depicted dark moods, partly influenced by his father's death, Lupe seems to be moving away from darkness into light - a conclusion I reached based on the way "Shining Down" was performed & its content. It started off with a light fog to set the mood, and then the lasers hit! Sniping green lasers beamed in multiple directions throughout the Congress Theater before hearing the drop of Santos crushing the vocals in compliment to Lupe killin' the lyrics. It was a special mood setter, which reminded me of the the tons of silver confetti that got released into the crowd from the ceiling during Santos' piercing vocals of "Superstar". Each piece of silver floated down in a graceful, unique route onto the crowd, amidst reflecting light and smoke that resonated organically.

One last conclusion: Lupe Fiasco is the game's most underrated artist today. It is exciting to see that he is going to market himself more (even today announcing plans for a new mixtape), making his greatness more evident to more audiences that have yet to fully appreciate him. This would help change the world for the positive and I think he realizes and understands his power based on his recent statements and releases. Go see Lupe live for the magic, and the experience. It's different every time. FNF Up!

UPDATE: Check out a brand new HQ video of Lupe Fiasco and Matthew Santos' performance of "Superstar" below (shouts 2 S-Preme).


Lupe Fiasco "Superstar" f/ Matthew Santos LIVE @ Congress Theater (10.29.09)


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~ Maks G.

Jay Z Live at the House of Blues Chicago

Jay Z House of Blues Chicago.png

The House of Blues was host to musical icon Jay-Z on the night of his 11th studio album release of the Blueprint 3 in stores now! It's not often you get to witness a living legend perform LIVE in such a close personal setting. This is the man that is not a businessman, but a business in itself! He is a prime example of a mind that envisions a world with no limits.. building his conglomerate from the ground up, and directly changing culture through vivid imagination without even picking up a pen...

Jay Z House of Blues Chicago 2.png

Highlight: Jay Z Chicago Freestyle at the House of Blues
The Blueprint that 'Ye followed/ Too hard a pill for R. Kelly to swallow/ But I helped your other man/ Now the whole world gotta listen to Chicago/ Obama, O' Winfrey, ask 'em about me they tell you the boy's windy/ That boy HOV so cold, that when you come to my shows its like it snowed 10 feet/ I got my hat broke off/ I report to the ghetto I'm the black Brokaw/ No I'm the rap two-three/ So any championships must go through me!

There was a lot of respect for Jay that night with a hype Chi audience, and celebrity attendees such as Lupe Fiasco, Dwayne Wade, Derrick Rose, Michael Finley and Andre Igoudala. I was psyched to see Lupe watching the show and cheering Jay on; the juxtaposition of two great musical geniuses, one performing and one enjoying the show was a rare experience to witness.

Jay was draped in black when he came out on stage to open with "Run This Town", paying homage to the dark aesthetic of the video they premiered earlier. Black tee, black jeans, black kicks, black shades, black watch, and my personal favorite black & gold Jesus piece! As for the performance he was notably known for his great delivery of letting his massive persona fill the house with a high energy show throughout.

He ran through an hours' worth of hits covering other new Blueprint 3 singles like "D.O.A.", "Venus vs. Mars", and "Hater" along with classics like "Heart of the City", "H to the Izzo", "Dirt Off Your Shoulder", and "Jigga What, Jigga Who". It definitely panned out to be a classic show for the history books, as Jay tore down the house with a long finale which included chopped up mega hits like "Hard Knock Life", "Can I Get A", "Give It To Me", "Encore", and more! Everyone was eating it up, and who could blame them?

I especially liked when Jay Z went A Capella and really showed off the crisp lyrical skill you can see in the freestyle above. He even handed the mic to a female MC in the closing moments to lay down a few dope lines for everyone to hear. Then lastly after a heartfelt speech and thank you to the entire audience, Jay left the building to a roaring House of Blues and we wouldn't have it any other way.

I want to give a big thank you to Samsung & AT&T who put on the FREE event as part of their Summer Krush Tour stop here in Chicago, and of course to Jay Z who never ceases to impress!

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Photo Credits: Barry Brecheisen/WireImage.com

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~ Max G.

GWHH Review: The Modern Wing - The Art Institute of Chicago

Before we get into my day at the brand new Modern Wing, I have to point out the brilliant photo I took on Monroe St. in front of the Palmer House hotel. The background story is that the guy with the dreads in the photo holds down Monroe at all times of the day. I always walk down that street to get to art school, and he always stands at that very spot as people walk by never saying a word. The juxtaposition between this guy and the Modern Wing advertisement captivates me, because their relationship is both so connected & disconnected at the same time.

The Modern Wing of the Art Institute of Chicago is a three story wonder with high ceilings, and natural light bursting in from every direction. It features floor to ceiling windows, and a gorgeous courtyard & 2nd floor cafe inside. The main lobby gives you a sleek airy feeling, resembling a surreal courtyard with pristine white walls.

The three floors hold art by iconic modern celebrity artists such as Bruce Neuman, Jeff Koons, Barbara Kruger, Jeff Wall, & many more. They also had a few video installations that caught my eye by Neuman & Steve McQueen. One of my favorite ones was McQueen's, "Girls, Tricky", which portrays the famous London and New York-based "trip-hop" musician Tricky as he rehearses in his darkened studio. Sitting in the dark room and focusing on the raw emotion flowing from Tricky, detached me from my reality filling me with energy! Pure energy! I think that the merge of rock & hip hop that's taking place now is really fresh, because it creates a powerful energy like the one in McQueen's video installation. Check out Tricky's live performance below for a taste of that raw energy, which was captured even more effectively in the pitch-black room at the Modern Wing. 

Tricky "Girls" Live @ NYC

The Modern Wing has a lot of great gems embedded in it including the wonderful experience of spending the rest of the day in the downtown parks. Leaving the Modern Wing is an experience in-itself as you can take the 3rd floor bridge to Millenium Park, which offers the most beautiful views of the skyline and surrounding loop area. It's even more breathtaking than some of the art I saw there. Tickets are pricey at $18 per person, but the best day to go is on the free day, which is Thursdays between 5-8pm. Take out some time, and enjoy the summer with a trip to the Modern Wing

Continue reading...

Exclusive HD video and review of John Legend live at the Ravinia Festival

John Legend, amidst camera phones and screaming fans, surprised the 3400 people packed into the Ravinia Festival Pavilion by singing Bob Marley's "Redemption Song" and entering behind the audience from Gate 5. Lucky for this coffee sipping John Legend fan, Gate 5 happened to be where I was standing when the 6-time Grammy winner, dressed in an eye-catching white ensemble, stood on a platform facing the hundreds lounging in the lawn in front of him.

Legend battled through the mobs of fans reaching for him in the aisle and settled on stage in front of a full band featuring a 3-person jazz band, 3 backup singers, 2 guitarists, a drummer, and a man on keys. A mic stand and Legend's preferred instrument of choice, a piano, lay front and center with a video screen stretching across the entire stage in the backdrop. The Ravinia crowd remained on their feet, clapping and dancing through Legend's first four songs as he started with hits like "Used To Love U" and "Heaven".

The audience took to their seats as Legend slowed it down and fluctuated between the mic and the piano. The crowd rose once again, inspired to "Slow Dance" once Legend brought up a lucky woman from the front row to do just that on stage with him. The reaction almost made  Legend inaudible as the pair had a natural chemistry with Legend even taking a knee and proposing to her before serenading her with a rose.

Soon after, John Legend brought out India.Arie for a duet of the soothing "Good Morning". The two played off each other like one would expect with India.Arie holding her powerful last note, noticeably impressing the crowd around us in the process. But then it was time for John Legend to get the crowd moving again, performing his most recent upbeat hit "Green Light" sans co-star Andre 3000. Legend leaped up to the piano for its unique conclusion, taking a bow for what seemingly was his last song of the night.

However, Legend appeared from behind the video screen in a full tuxedo a few moments later to the sold-out crowd expecting an encore. Having seen Legend two times previously, I was expecting an emotional rendition of "So High" - his closing record of choice both times. Instead, I was pleasantly surprised with his most well-known hit "Ordinary People" as Legend crooned the classic to a crowd eager to sing along. "Ordinary People" evoked the most emotional and beautiful moment of the concert as Legend let the sold-out crowd sing "taaake it sloooow" a capella - truly an unforgettable experience. Legend rode out to an abstract version of "Stay With You", improvising on the piano and in his ad-libs.

TIME Magazine recently featured John Legend as one of the 100 most influential people in 2009. One look around at the sold-out Ravinia Festival and it is easy to see why. People of all ages and cultures were brought together by John Legend and judging from the tweets, everyone came away a happy camper. Don't worry Chicago, he will be back again tonight to do it all over again.


Confused by the new look GWHH? In case you missed it, CLICK HERE!

~ Sgt. Tibs

Exclusive live video performances featuring Mike Posner, Mic Terror, & Curren$y

Mike Posner LIVE @ Debonair

Mic Terror LIVE @ Debonair

Curren$y LIVE @ Debonair

Debonair was the place to be Friday night for good music as Mike Posner, Mic Terror, and Curren$y all took the stage to a lively, packed house. We edited each set into some ridiculous medleys on video from the 1st row! I was most excited to see Mike Posner's set and was impressed to see him rockin' both the mic and keyboard. Unfortunately, the sound system was not up to par and we could not get a full appreciation of every live act but regardless, they had the crowd moving all night. Mic Terror even brought some lovely ladies from the 1st row on stage for "Juke Them Hoes". Curren$y batted last, rhyming tracks from his latest mixtape and even going a capella for a little bit.

On top of the great live show, Debonair was host to a Who's Who of the Chicago hip hop scene. Naledge hosted the event, which was also attended by the likes of The Cool Kids, He Say She Say, S-Preme, Bullet, and Jordan Looney in addition to all 3 major Chicago hip hop blogs bein' in the house (pictured below). Shouts to dubFrequency and Ruby Hornet for puttin' on a poppin' event where everyone went home happy. In addition to the videos above, take a look at some of the exclusive pictures and goodies below. Enjoy!


Mike Posner & The Brain Trust - A Matter Of Time [MIXTAPE]

FREE iTunes Download (If not an iTunes user, CLICK HERE) *Tibs Fav.™


Naledge & Mike Posner


Naledge & Mic Terror


Chuck Inglish (Of The Cool Kids) & Curren$y


Sgt. Tibs & Drea (Of He Say She Say)


gowherehiphop.com X fakeshoredrive.com X rubyhornet.com

~ Max G. & Sgt. Tibs

GWHH Review: Lupe Fiasco LIVE @ Chicago Theatre

Above: LIVE Clips featuring "The Instrumental", "The Coolest", "The Cool", "Everyone Nose RMX", "Hip Hop Saved My Life", Tribute to Michael Jackson, & MORE!

The hometown hero Lupe Fiasco rocked the house at the Chicago Theatre last night to a raucous, near-capacity crowd - quite an accomplishment given the last-minute change to a ticketed show a little over a week ago. The love for Lupe Fiasco not only came in numbers, but also throughout the concert as the brash Fiasco had the crowd at his fingertips, playing to the fans who were singing along all night (catch the chilling 'Stack That Cheese' lines from the crowd in the middle of the video). He came out with his usual, unmatched energy to a crowd that was already hyped up thanks to the high-octane U.K. opening act of Lady Sovereign.

I have been in attendance for Lupe Fiasco's biggest shows since the release of his first album, Lupe Fiasco's Food & Liquor, and was pleasantly surprised about Lupe's set list, which differed from his previous Chicago shows. Of course he cranked out his biggest hits like "Kick, Push", "Daydreamin'", and "Superstar" but he also performed other fan favorites like "The Instrumental" and "Hi-Definition" that an experienced Chicago crowd has not seen before last night. Fiasco's live set is widely notarized for its attention to detail and was once again illustrated through simple drum intros, dark lighting effects for songs like "Hello, Goodbye" and "Little Weapon", and more small instrumentation effects that enhanced each performance.

The show did not go without its special moments, most notably Lupe's tribute to the legendary icon Michael Jackson. DJ Simonsayz played hit after hit as Fiasco danced along with the crowd in honor of the fallen pop legend. He even brought up a fan from the first row to dance on the stage (fast forward toward the end of the video) who even knew the "Thriller" routine. Lupe Fiasco also conveyed some powerful messages throughout, claiming "War is not necessary, never has been, never will be. There are no righteous wars." before launching into "Little Weapon" and delivering The L.A.S.E.R.S. Manifesto before concluding with his new single "Shining Down".

Yes, Lupe Fiasco, you are a laser shining down on all of us, but last night and for generations to come, the Chicago spotlight will always shine down on you.

~ Max G. & Sgt. Tibs

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