Tag Archives: chicago


The whole Chief Keef/Jojo situation reiterates the strange relationship we have with rap and gun talk. Everyone seems to love the gangster talk vicariously, but when the reality — youngsters wielding weapons and snuffing each out over seemingly trivial actions — enters their timelines, it gets a little too close for comfort. The whole @rosemo700/WorldStar Hip-Hop situation earlier in the year opened a few eyes, but the lack of major label money, “intelligent” rappers getting sonned on social media and profile meant that loss of life and the ignorance of goonery as a spectator sport didn’t become the issue that it became last week. Have you backed any ratchet rap lately? Thrown up faux gang signs behind closed doors in a suburban environment? I plead guilty to rooting for the “realness” but tutting at the fallout of beefs turned deadly. I plead guilty to being excited by the firearms in the studio for the SMACK DVD video to a Jeezy “freestyle” back in 2005. Keef’s bringing the scary kid with braids O-Dog aesthetic back, except he’s not played by a tender actor who played Frankie Lymon.

We love to hear about a club brawl, slap caught on iPhone and in an era when pop stars and rappers are interchangeable, some of us might long for a time when bullets were exchanged outside HOT 97. You can decry that as ignorance, but you know you’d be frantically hitting the touchscreen if you heard it happened. Recently I was listening to the second NWA album en route to work and I was pondering what happened to that kind of gleeful nihilism. And here it is. You wanted rap to get scary again after all the emo choruses and Stargate-produced white paper spliff anthems? You wanted somebody who actually used a firearm after you put your head in the sand over the actors playing crime boss roles? You got it. Pitchfork even took a teenager to a shooting range, then pulled the video. Keef seemed to be visited by the three ghosts of PR, communications and label bosom and had a Twitter change-of-heart and became all positive overnight.

How would the Ruthless roster have talked on Twitter? Would we have seen Bushwick Bill’s breakdown narrated by the newly one-eyed Bushwick Bill from his hospital bed? Would Chi-Ali have updated on his post-murder antics as the police closed in? Would Dallas Austin’s teeny 13 and 14 something (at least 3 years younger than Keef) gangster rappers Illegal have talked about slaying Kris Kross on there? And with the talk of Interscope, who’ve made a fortune from gun talk, involved, how would @deathrowrecords have carried on if Twitter was around in 1995? Would we have blamed Twitter for 2Pac’s death?

The essence of internet rap fandom

Our own fascination with gun talk is perfectly encapsulated in Michael Bolton’s Scarface rap-along at the beginning of ‘Office Space’. We’re facilitators, but Chicago’s South Side has long been a gang epicenter and even back in 1967, it was considered a problem area. I loved Lee Balterman and Daclan Haun’s images of Almighty Black P-Stones and Disciples from ‘LIFE’ but ‘Ebony‘s August 1967 edition featured an equally excellent article by Phyl Garland on the situation in the South Side, complete with a visit from social workers and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, dwelling on the Blackstone Rangers (the gang that spawned the Almighty Black P-Stones, with membership estimated at 1,500+ at time of writing) and their ladies’auxiliary. Twitter shit talking is just a byproduct of something with far deeper roots.


Motherfuckers are impatient. Really, really impatient. A couple of days ago, Pusha-T’s ‘Fear of God’ mixtape made its official online appearance and pretty much shut down select Twitter timelines for an afternoon. Reactions were online within least than quarter of an hour after a Mediafire link appeared. That’s crazy. We knew the moment it would drop (despite a rogue streaming site) and Pusha even hosted a listening party for the tape…MP3, whatever. It was event rap, and that’s the rapid route to a fast-tracked backlash.

On Googling the name, fiending (I’m sure the Thornton brothers would use that as a jump off for yayo-wordplay) for a download, I chanced across a mediocre review made by a forum user that had been made at 4:30pm (half an hour before the release). It deemed the project unsatisfactory with track-by-track commentary. I respect that kid’s journalistic turnaround, but this decision to elevate the mixtape into a social media flooding, forced moment of ground breaking, epoch-defining magnificence, rather than your favourite rapper enjoying royalty freedom with promo-only status is a harmful one.

Nobody expects good any more. They don’t want acceptable, or a slow-burner. They want their music free, fast and immediate. ‘Fear of God’ doesn’t match any of the ‘We Got it 4 Cheap,’ trilogy (thankfully they dropped before the Tweet-rap era, otherwise the excitement may have broken the internet), but any Pusha-T material is worthy, given us that cold-blooded coke talk, with the quirkier touches that he seems to unconsciously apply to a verse, with pleasantly dated cultural references (as I’ve said before, Ric Flair analogies will always earn points with me) as well as Based God nods. One day, references to Lil B cooking and Twitter will be as archaic as 2Pac’s tales of mobile phone envy, but we can get a kick out of them in the short term.

I’m glad that Clipse have maintained their buzz after the Jive fiasco and bullshit Re-Up LP. Hopefully Pusha won’t have a problem with former Jive nemesis Barry Weiss being the new man in charge at Def Jam. Unless you’re Jada, 50, Kanye or Shawn, rap’s in the hands of 21 and below, and at 33, Pusha’s pensionable…Malice is 38. The affiliations with Kanye and that constant Pharrell helping hand, plus a constant lyrical elevation just keeps the duo relevant.

When Pusha spits over Soulja Boy’s ‘Speakers Going Hammer’ he isn’t like dad at the party drunk — he actually sounds at home on it. That’s a rare thing. With some of their early years pilfered by the goons at East West who confined them to bonus CDs with Nicole’s ‘Make it Hot’ CD in 1998 and buried the brilliance of ‘The Funeral’ in 1999. Anyone else remember Pusha being called Terrar and appearing on a Kelis track? Philly’s Most Wanted caught a brick (insert powder reference here) and Fam-Lay ended up in limbo, Rosco P Goldchain has his own legal issues and Lee Harvey vanished as quickly as he appeared…somehow, Clipse beat that Neptunes-affiliated curse. ‘Grindin’ could have gone ‘Tipsy’, even though ‘Lord Willin’ was hard as hell.

The Timberlake hookup had Pusha and Malice spitting some corny lines — you could tell they were itching to talk homicides right there. I met them briefly in early 2004 and they were nice guys, but I assumed that their moment was over as they performed ‘Grindin’ and some appalling commissioned track for London’s ‘World B-Boy Championships’ at Wembley stadium. I was surprised to see how BAPED-out they were, after early press shots had them in FUBU.

The fact their manager went to prison for trafficking, gave Clipse that edge like BMF and Jeezy (though Jeezy’s refusal to to Tweet due to his belief it’s a form of snitching) may have edged him out the conversation lately) to indicate that they weren’t mere studio fantasies in those wild tales of county lines and lavish car seating. Using mixtapes to fill the label-limbo between albums was a shred move. People still haven’t realised how good ‘Hell Hath No Fury’ actually is — these things need digestion time which 2011 rap refuses to allow — but it was ‘Freedom’ from ‘Til the Casket Drops’ that sold the new Pusha-T to me, living up to the promise of “Hip-hop on steroids” with that verse. And he hasn’t looked back since.

I was more of a Malice fan once (still am, but Pusha took pole position) once with his gloriously monotone, “The boy’s such an author, I should smoke a pipe” line, ‘Kojak’ references and elegantly tasteless Amistad references, but Pusha-T is my current favourite MC. This tape confers that.

Watching Tyler and company shut down talk of Nas in a recent interview was fun to watch. Why should young ‘uns be in thrall of those who’ve peddled tin-eared mediocrity for so long is no real mystery, yet they’re still expected to revere old guarders who’ve squandered their legacy. They spoke of Jay-Z and 50 Cent as their choice of listening growing up (let that be the final word in who one that battle) and there’s a respect for Pusha as a favourite MC too. Ignore the hype. Let that mixtape slow-burn, log out of Twitter and stop expecting freebies to be classic LPs. Just kick back and enjoy deadpan nihilism done well and (illegal) substance that those Rapidshare rappers have yet to develop, despite the singular subject matter..

RIP to Michael L. Abramson — the skinny whiteboy who shot Chicago clubs like Perv’s Lounge and The Patio Lounge in the 1970s, resulting in his portraits of 1970s South Side blues club goers that filled the ‘Light: On the South Side’ book.

The Grey Skateboard Magazine ‘Grey Nights’ video is online and despite its short running time, there’s some offcuts available on the Slam City Grey blog. It’s a great video.


Blog post from May 2009.

Fuck technology. I had a blog on Integrity (the band that is, nothing to do with my lack of it) prepped on my BlackBerry, but it lost it. Or I could be lying. Anyhow, before I rewrite a paen to Dwid and company, I can fall back on the lapsing blogger’s friend, the LIFE photo archive. I could trawl through that thing for 72 hours straight like a crack binger and still be fiending for more.You might be familiar with the photo journalism of Declan Haun primarily his documentation of the Civil Rights movement – spending 15 years in Chicago he documented his hometown in depth, and given the Windy City’s gang problem, it was inevitable that he’d be there gaining access to capture it in its formative years.