Taking a break from the action, shrouded in shadows of purple and red, Carl of Hurt Everybody stood stoically along the front right of The Metro stage and looked out over the crowd that extended all the way back to the sound booth. As the fans, sweaty and packed in closely, stared up at him for directions on what to do next, he scanned the room.
"It's very lit in here right now, this might be peak lit," said the 19-year-old rapper.
With that he went into the next track, "2K47", shouting, "Fuck you, I'm amazing" as the bass throbbed the audience into a frenzy before him.
And so began another year for the most consistent hip-hop scene in the country as of late.
Working in an industry where success is valued in many different ways, it can often be forgotten why we do this at all. This weekend, Ovrlord and These Days offered up a succinct reminder of just that by throwing a pair of shows that seemed to at once serve as a reminder of the kind of community-based work that we've all been involved in for awhile. These shows acted as a stamp on what 2016 can bring for this bubbling scene and those adjacent to it. From Friday to early Sunday morning, I was personally reminded of why I have spent the better part of my twenties covering the music and culture that happens here. Whether it was the unfettered love that was shown at Chop Shop where 17-year-old Trapo and rising wunderkind Ishdarr made their proper Chicago debuts, sandwiching an inspired performance from WebsterX or the continual motion of the show the next night at The Metro which offered up a sampling of who's next and currently on locally, the weekend was a culmination of several years of work and served as a sort of peek into the kinds of things Ovrlord and These Days will be teaming up on moving forward.
Wisconsin Showcase at Chop Shop
Photos by Jimmy Bui
Friday night saw an invasion of talented artists from just north of the border as Ishdarr, Trapo, Pizzle, WebsterX, and Klassik headlined a truly Midwest affair that paired some of the fastest rising names from the state of Wisconsin right alongside familiar faces from around town. Feeling more like a well put-together showcase at SXSW than a concert in January in Wicker Park, the whole affair had a very calming vibe to it that felt like a family party. Of course, the artists performing had a decidedly different effect on things. Klassik showed why he's been holding it down up north for several years now, Pizzle proved he's got the bars to move the crowd, and Ric Wilson even popped out to perform a couple songs from his recent release, The Sun Was Out.
Leading in to WebsterX's set, things were getting nice and loose. A few drinks in myself, I had to do a double take during his set which was my first time catching the angled MC. Teaming up with an eclectic backing group, he put on one of the livest sets of the weekend, incorporating coordinated dance moves, inspired vocals, and an overall sense of showmanship throughout that kept me watching from start to finish; his performance had the crowd rocking. 17-year-old Madison native Trapo made good on our personal excitement off of his performance as he delivered singles off his The Black Beverly Hills EP release from 2015. While an obviously talented dude with a lot ahead of him, the rapping over a backing track was one piece of the show that proved his room for growth, albeit splitting hairs. He was also joined by Hurt Everybody's Carl for a live debut of their unreleased collaboration, "Basic", which was a highlight for the night.
Photos by Rene Marban
Ish headlined the event with the kind of energy we've come to expect from him. Earlier last year, I remember him performing a capella in front of a room at Soho House and being able to hold the crowd. Friday night was no different. Running through his set like a point guard playing all 40 minutes, the Milwaukee native put a stamp on the show as a whole, bringing out Smino to bring the show full circle in the Midwest and wrapped it up with one of my personal favorites, "Too Bad".
Kirk Knight, Alex Wiley & More at Metro
With Friday in the books, the These Days team rolled our collective ass out of bed a second day to get back to it with an early, all-ages performance Saturday night at The Metro. Headlined by Kirk Knight, the show packed a who's who of local talent into the building without feeling the slightest bit overbearing. The event had a solid crowd in the building until the performances ended around 10 PM.
Lit from top to bottom, the lineup for the second show of the weekend boasted some of the biggest names preparing to emerge from the city, along with several who already have. Logan kicked things off with his bass-heavy performance that never seems to disappoint his ever-growing legion of fans that seem to follow him wherever he goes. Setting the stage for Sunny Woodz, the energy didn't stop there as the DJ brought out a seemingly endless list of names including YP, Roy French, and many more that kept coming out from backstage like players coming off the bench. Hurt Everybody, perhaps one of the most anticipated acts of the night, continued to impress with a live show that toes the line of hip-hop and punk rock better and more organically than anyone I've seen approach performances from that angle. I've yet to see them do a set that disappoints.
Photos by Rene Marban
Alex Wiley re-emerged after a lengthy Chicago hiatus with a fresh haircut, looking like he got down to fighting shape for the performance which saw him get on his Kanye "Runaway" steez with theMIND as he guided the show from his lone MPC set up in the center of the stage that acted as a sort of podium for the 21-year-old artist to espouse his singles from Village Party and Village Party 2. From there, Sunny Woodz came back with Ty Money, and DJ Oreo offered up a brief look at how turned up his Oreo Fests can get by bringing out Saba and others before Kirk Knight took over, bringing out Mick Jenkins.
While the shows were a big success across the board and only an inkling of what we have in store for the city moving forward, we did run into some growing pains at the after party that led to a couple issues which included the loss of our good friend Yakub Films' camera, which you can lend money to replace here. All that said, we love all of you and the city and are going to continue pushing forward for everyone.