There have been a lot of eyes traveling to Chicago as of late. With the confluence of remarkable art and despicable violence backdropped against the regular interplay a city of it's size would experience, the Second City has been front and center, most notably for the influx of hip-hop talent that has sprung from the city in recent years. Beginning with Chief Keef, all the way up to Saba and Mick Jenkins today, the last four years have coincided with what many would refer to as a sort of 'renaissance' that has been mirrored around the city with advances in technology, movie production and general artistic expression. At the center though, is rap and with such a movement comes the penchant to document. Most from outside the city have failed in their attempts (see Noisey's 6-part confusion). While filmmakers have succeeded in showing certain pockets of the city few have captured all sides of what is going on around Chicago.
Enter Cole Bennett, purveyor of local blog Lyrical Lemonade who has been around for the last few years as a writer, show promoter, video director and much more. At 19, Bennett has transplanted himself into the middle of the storm and become a part of the machine. Making a name for himself through a tireless schedule of recap videos, interviews and music videos, Bennett has quite literally put his mark on a lot of visuals that have come out of the city in recent years. With that in mind, the young man decided to add his piece to history with the upcoming documentary The Culture. We caught up with Bennett to talk about the movie, what went into making it and the kind of responsibility that comes along with tackling this kind of subject matter. Check out the interview below and be sure to catch the film when it releases at the end of the month on Lyrical Lemonade.
What made you want to create a documentary about the Chicago hip hop scene?
Cole Bennett • It came to me randomly actually when I was watching Worldstar's Chicago Hip Hop Documentary: The Field. Although this was a great film, Chicago's more than that - way more than that. The sad thing is that people who aren't from the city don't know that Chicago is more than the violence, some people who live here don't even know that. So why not show the world every aspect of the city? Positives included.
How did the actual experience compare to the initial planning?
Bennett • When the idea initially popped into my head and the outline was being typed, I thought that it wouldn't be too incredibly difficult. I was in the wrong on this one, this has been a journey to say the least. It started with sending 10-15 emails a day trying to get whoever I could involved, most of the time I'd only receive 2-3 emails back. Also, I had to travel everywhere in the city you can imagine; taking up about 4-5 hours a day, everyday, which I had to balance with being a full time college student. I ran into a lot of other miscellaneous difficulties as well. All in all I can say it was definitely worth it though.
What kind of things did you learn along the way that you weren't expecting?
Bennett • I learned simple things such as having a tripod is always key. I also learned that investing in a real microphone is a necessity, your iPhone mic can only do so much when working on a full length doc. Yet, most importantly I learned that Chicago's is it's own world, there are so many different lifestyles and perspectives, it's unreal. I personally can say that I value being able to do what I love at my own pace more than I ever have, because there are people in this very city that have to worry about making it to the next day alive. That's crazy to me. You hear about it, but you never realize it's significance until you are around those people.
What was particularly important to you in making this project?
Cole Bennett • Being able to really vocalize my view on the Chicago music scene through the voice of others. Chicago's known for being a city of segregation, almost every native artist will agree on this. Yet, everyone coming together for this project in particular is the first step to a collaborative effort. Whether "The Culture" does well or not, I am honestly just happy to say I didn't give up on it.
How do you hope it will be received?
Cole Bennett • I just hope that people can resonate with it & truly appreciate it. This was something that I would of loved to watch a couple years back, and even today. Ultimately, I would love for the viewer to have a newfound perspective on the Chicago hip hop culture after watching this.
Why document this time in this city?
Cole Bennett • It is a renaissance period in Chicago right now, there's an elaborate, diverse sound coming out of this city that no other city can replicate. We really do have something special here, and anyone in the scene can vouch for me. It is important that this particular time in this particular city is documented for the people, that's what I am here to do. Whether it be next month, or 50 years down the road - there will never be another time like right now.
What projects can we expect from you and LL moving forward?
Cole Bennett • A lot of hard work and plausible content. It has been crazy seeing the brand grow over the past couple years, and I only wish to continue that. You can expect shows, cyphers, videos, interviews & much more as we move forward!
Thank you so much for the interview, Jake Krez + These Days. You guys are supplying incredible insight & journalism for the music industry in Chicago.