Laying Low & Blocking Numbers: Eight New Songs for Your Memorial Day

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Block List by Rico Nasty

Rico Nasty is a camera ready living cartoon with an endless array of candy colored wigs, doe eyes frosted with the expertise of a beauty vlogger and mannerisms perfectly adapted to the finite frames of gifs.

The jewel in her finely polished album Tales of Tacobella is the Kidz Bob ready sing-song ditty “Block List,” a bubbly revenge fantasy and declaration of power for anyone who’s ever had someone’s delusional romantic or sexual fantasies projected on you via SMS.

I don’t need to tell you not to underestimate her versatility or prowess as an MC based on her pop star artifice. She’s a self directed businesswoman who knows exactly what she’s doing, and she’s happy to rob you blind while you’re distracted.

Go With the Flow by UnotheActivist (produced by Krookz)

Our first glimpse of Uno’s next project is a dancefloor-grind-worthy single perfect for fans of Key!, Sahbabii and Chief Keef’s singing (we exist, ok?).

With the anticipation for Live.Shyne.Die building, I’ll be exactly zero percent surprised to see him grinning from the next XXL Freshman cover, probably next to his buddy Thouxanbanfauni.

YSL by Gunna featuring Playboi Carti (produced by Pierre Bourne)

The most common criticism levied at Playboi Carti’s breakout self-titled mixtape was that it’s simply a beat tape with ad libs over it. Pi’erre Bourne’s unmistakable production (which of course I’ve written about before) absolutely does contribute to the character of the mixtape; Magnolia woulda been a bop no matter what you put over it.

If all a Pi’erre Bourne beat needs is a “yo, Pierre” drop and a random rapper, though, why does Carti sound so different than longtime Bourne collaborator (and relative of 21 Savage) Young Nudy? And why does Gunna, a YSL signee and Thug protégé who delivers a solid performance across the Drip Season 2 mixtape, fade in contrast to Carti’s incandescent flame over a beat they had equal opportunity on?

26’s by Valee featuring Hoodrich Pablo Juan (Produced by DJ Bandz)

Valee makes music for that moment when the molly hits and your stomach flips like you’re strapped into an ascending airline. His mixtapes are cool-to-the-touch roadtrip records for ill-advised forays on driving on acid with two bitches in the backseat; music for the moment during an orgy where you say wow, we’re really doing this right now.

Out of his versatile toolbox of flows, the most undeniably unique is a wheezy falsetto, the last word in each bar drawn out creakily as he runs out of breath. It pairs beautifully with a bouyant feature from Hoodrich Pablo Juan on “26’s“, a cut off one of Valee’s two recent tapes.

I hate myself for not researching Hoodrich Pablo Juan when Lil Uzi shouted out the Atlanta rapper on Twitter months ago, because I slipped and nearly missed the excellent HoodWolf project which is just like, the most deliciously nasty and decadent trap shit.

Lay Low by D Savage featuring Joey Fatts (Produced by Milan)

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California rappers and A$AP Mob periphery figures D Savage and Joey Fatts teamed up to create this mellow track; there’s something incredibly relatable about the teenage D Savage singing an autotuned melody about hiding out in the house, even if I’m just watching episodes of Japanese Style Originator in bed and not ducking the opps or my enemies.

Gotta Have Some More by Lil Bibby Featuring Tink

Bibby’s Free Crack 4 (Free Crack 3 The Epilogue) has faced endless release delays, the released singles “You Ain’t Gang” and “Aww Man” (with Future) already past their East Room expiration date – I mean, I wrote about “You Ain’t Gang” in my 2016 roundup and the album still hasn’t surfaced in late May of 2017.

Still, Bibby’s staying busy, raising his puppy and dropping WorldStar loosies like “Gotta Have Some More,” with Bibby’s hoarse voice crunching like toasted wheat bread next to fellow Chicagoan Tink’s rich creamy-peanut-butter vocals. There’s a reason why Ja Rule and Ashanti made so many goddamn songs, and there’s a reason Bibby and Tink keep working together.

Don’t Come Ova Here by Drayco McCoy featuring Mathaius Young (Produced by DZY and Grimm Doza)

Drayco’s long been a favorite of mine; Baby Guillotine is back dragging bloody medieval weapons and smirking at your doomed fate with fellow Indiana rapper Mathaius Young.

Different Color Molly by Smokepurpp

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The word “Florida rapper” doesn’t have ultra pleasant associations for me at this point, often conjuring visions of kool-aid dipped white boys with rictus grins of metal glinting in dirty sunshine like Riff Raff or Starfox La Flare, domestic abusers like XXXTentacion, or brown boys throwing around antiblack slurs like Lil Pump.

Those aren’t all equal offenses or anything, I’m just listing reasons why it might seem like I listen to more music out of Atlanta and Chicago. I just do. But I also fuck with a lot of the Sunshine State’s artists who manage not to offend my probably hypocritical morals or aesthetics, and Miami-Dade’s Smokepurpp is near the top of that list along with Palm Beach’s Wifisfuneral.

Lil Purpp rhymes “make the choppa sing like Beyoncé” with “counting chips, chips, chips like Frito Lay” on this dreamy, hazy, and downright relaxed song. I understand that some people don’t like artists who half-sing and half-rap, but then why are you listening to bleeding edge Soundcloud rap from teens with facial tattoos anyway?

I saw Smokepurpp perform in a crumbling movie theatre a few days ago, the historic-building-turned-derelict-shell packed with anti-smoking sponsors and kids in Anti Social Social Club and (Knock) Off White shirts by promoters. Purpp rapped a cumulative total of maybe six lines over the course of the set and invited all of his fans to hop the barricades and climb on stage. Even if you don’t fuck with it, there’s enough teenagers who do to start a riot.

More Recent Articles by Lorena Cupcake:

Five Songs You Can’t Stream on Spotify on Store Brand Soda

Feature on Mykele Deville for Bandcamp Daily

Profile of Chicago streetwear destination Fat Tiger Workshop for MEL Magazine

Primer on Mexican soda for AV Club

Articles for High Snobiety on Kanye, Drake, slang and Nicki Minaj

Observations on 90s references as subcultural currency for Mel Magazine 

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Five Songs You Can’t Stream On Spotify

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With songs like Lil Uzi Vert’s “XO Tour Llif3” permeating the cultural consciousness before ever hitting a streaming service besides Soundcloud, the discussion about the cultural ramifications of the upending of all traditional metrics of song popularity by the shifting landscape of music consumption has reached a fever pitch…

…and I haven’t been listening, because I’ve been too busy playing these extremely sick songs that happen to not be available on Spotify, Apple Music, and probably Tidal. I don’t know anyone who has a Tidal subscription to check.

Don’t let the lack of a Distrokid/Tunecore account keep you from getting acquainted with rap’s next wave.
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I Got Wateva by Valee

Lean, unsmiling, hooded eyes peering through satin ribbons of blunt smoke and heavy hair shot with turquoise tied on the back of his head. The appearance was a surprise, but I recognized Chicago rapper Valee the second he stepped onto the stage at Fake Shore Drive’s Lil Bibby & G Herbo show to perform his breakout Soundcloud/YouTube hit “Shell.”

I was starstruck. Most of the crowd was not, confused who the unannounced interruption was.

Valee has an album with producer ChasetheMoney (his collaborator on the most ominious and threatening tracks off the recent 12:12 Again! project, including “I Got Whateva” and “Molly Fun Ride“) coming 5/21. This time next year, the entire venue’s going to be screaming when he drops into a show.

Seeing Faces by MfnMelo

Loss and those left behind are a constant theme for Chicago’s Pivot Gang, who lost a founding member right before heading out on a North American Tour in support of Saba’s phenomenal Bucket List Project. No matter why those you love are no longer near – “god took em or they caught some cases” – anyone who’s come to terms with their own particular ghosts will find this emotional track heartbreakingly relatable.

Eat Your Heart Out by Drayco McCoy

Indiana’s most global thinking local rapper Drayco McCoy recently dropped the 19 track Skull Collecta mixtape. While he displays range – “Let’s Do Drugs” is a hookup generation Piña Colada frappe where he reassuringly coos “I just wanna do some drugs after midnight” – the majority of the tape is aggressive turn up music, which rules. I’m obsessed with “Suck My Dick I’m Popular,” but it’s been out for a while, so for this list I picked “Eat Your Heart Out“: a proudly bitter, misanthropic, petty, and ultimately cathartic fuck you to everybody you’re not fucking with.

Trap Star by Lite Fortunato ft Squid Nice

Famous Dex (blech) protégé Lite Fortunato links up with fellow New Yorker and adolescent autotune crooner Squidnice after previously teaming up on tracks like “Who?!” for sing-song street rap over a barely-there beat on “Trap Star.” Their interplay is fluid and affectionate, meriting pet names like “Squiddy” and “Nato” as well as your time.

#FREESMOKE by UnoTheActivist

So, if the cover art didn’t tip you off, this is a diss song about Lil Yachty. Basically, Uno & Thouxanbandfauni allege that Yachty orchestrated a stain on chain(s) belonging to one or both of them. Fauni attempted to confront Lil Yachty at SXSW and was instead dragged off by an assortment of escorts and security, all captured with a cell phone camera for the internet’s amusement. Uno & Fauni are like that (gestures to a peanut butter and jelly sandwich), so this song got made.

It’s worth noting that producer Pi’erre Bourne also produced Playboi Carti and Lil Uzi Vert’s Woke Up Like This. His credit turns up on the better songs on mixtapes throughout the Atlanta rap scene’s scene, but with a running clock ticking down to Carti’s debut mixtape, Bourne’s beats are about to get a larger audience than ever.

More Recent Articles by Lorena Cupcake:

Feature on Mykele Deville for Bandcamp Daily

Profile of Chicago streetwear destination Fat Tiger Workshop for MEL Magazine

Primer on Mexican soda for AV Club

Articles for High Snobiety on Kanye, Drake, slang and Nicki Minaj

Observations on 90s references as subcultural currency for Mel Magazine

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Remembering John Walt / Dinnerwithjohn

In a city where so many people were not just John Walt’s friends, but his family – literal blood relatives, or damn-near-might-as-well-be – we weren’t that close. He was quiet with me, talking softly enough that he’d have to dip his head to talk to me in crowds, smiling broadly in answers to questions, responding to texts briefly: Yep. Wyo. Bet em up.

I wrote before, in my Top 6 Chicago Songs That Changed My Life in 2016 list, about how the release party for his song Sundress Season introduced me to people who I still see around, who I still spend time with, who I still care bout and try to help where I can.

Maybe that’s why his death has me fucked up. The knowledge that retweeting a new song or writing up a SoundCloud isn’t enough. The knowledge that my ritualistic worrying about my friends, neatly prioritized by which neighborhood they live in, doesn’t do shit.

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The Author & John Walt at Lollapalooza 2016

I have a huge tattoo of Santa Muerte on my thigh. Despite her origin in God-fearing Mexican Catholicism (the bootleg flea market version of our occupier’s weaponized religion, a way of continuing our indigenous beliefs under the watchful eye of Spanish priests) the Mexican goddess of death has a vague whiff of the occult about her: the burned-wax smell of botanicas and intimations of her worship by murderous drug cartels clinging to her long cloak.

Despite this, she’s a calming presence in my life. You learn to live with the omnipresence and acceptance of death. There is some comfort in acknowledging death as capricious and cruel. “God has a different plan for him” doesn’t comfort me. I can’t imagine a God whose plan leads to the side of the Metra tracks. I can’t imagine devising a plan for a talented young man that ends before his twenty-fifth birthday.

The knowledge that the people you love can be taken from you at any time is as indelible as my tribute to Santa Muerte. There’s a lot of people In Chicago, including people who are now mourning John, who had to learn that lesson earlier than I did, in more ways, with more trauma, who shouldn’t have had it hammered home again.

I’m going to do everything I can not to remember him as a figure in incredibly disturbing security footage that I wish I never ever watched. I’m going to do everything I can to not line his unique story up with well worn tropes and narratives about violence in Chicago: street justice, senseless death.

Instead, I’m going to remember John on stage, singing about the joys of Pineapple Wildwood, a bright yellow soda that you find in drafty convenience store coolers next to the Little Hug Fruit Barrels.I’m going to remember him taking the stage with Saba at Lollapalooza, larger than life on stage. I’m going to remember him pouring out shots of Hennessy for girls in sundresses in a beautiful, expansive Oak Park backyard.

I’m going to hold my friends a little closer, knowing Santa Muerte is always lurking around Chicago’s streets.

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Dead DIY Space: The Beach House

It’s a crisp night on the tail end of a prolongued summer, and the leaves on the trees are making one last ditch effort to stay relevant and fashionable by taking on the hues of pumpkins and other decorative gourds.

Hungry eyes flit and flicker about as the gamemaster clears a bong and exhales an Impressionist landscape of clouds, announcing what we already knew, “The game is SPIN! THE! BOTTLE!” A spent bottle of Andre Spumante is placed sideways at the center of the circle.

Behind us a bald man with a wispy goat beard, baggy eyelids and a lineless, smiling Gerber Baby face is plucking out the melody to “Bohemian Rhapsody” on a banjo.

Defying Newton and his laws of motion, the bottle spins a near infinite amount of times, even hopping, skipping and chipping on the uneven backyard gravel before making its choice.

A bonfire surges behind the banjo player (he could be any age between 17 and 70, he’ll likely look the same for that entire span, and I can only guess he’s on the younger end of the spectrum because of his tolerance for shit beer and his ebullient roommates), and the flames illuminate a stack of Frankenstein bicycles leaning against the wooden fence: choppers, tallbikes, trikes, and small-talls.

The bottle lands, decisively indecisively between two more babyfaces, a vegan straightedge boy and a trans boy goth, maybe not actually a rivethead but rocking the look in his studded coller and long, black Keanu-in-the-Matrix overcoat.

“BO’FUM!” the entire circle shouts excitedly.

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6 Chicago Songs That Changed My Life in 2016

I don’t believe in End of the Year Best Lists; Emily and I solemnly swore to never do one, a pledge I had an itch to subvert when I realized I’d never written one ever.

I’m not arguing with anyone over what the best albums were this year, or songs, or singles or mixtapes. It’s so subjective. All you can talk about is your own opinion and feelings, and that’s what I’m trying to do here.

I’ve collected six hip-hop songs that came out of Chicago that have stuck with me throughout the year. I’ve listened to them all too many times, and I have particular memories and feelings associated with them. For better or worse, they’re a part of me now.

Read the Post & Stream the Tracks

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Dead DIY Space: The Adelphi Theater and the Magic of Chicago Radio

We were huddled around an ancient, double-headed cd-player in the dark projection booth above a grand, sprawling art deco movie theater, cavernous and full of velet, and terra cotta. Around us were gelled stage lights with wires hanging loose and old projectors from every era; scattered about were countless cd-r’s and PBR’s. A tiny, tinny boombox tuned to our frequency way left on the dial served as a monitor. If someone made a golden age hip hop remake of The Brave Little Toaster, this boombox would be the scrappy protagonist discarded and confined to the scrapheap. It let us know we were broadcasting though. A grimy cover of a Green Day song sung in German was fading out.

“I’m Eric lab Rat here with Ruby Aftermath and this is the Black Power White Power Power Hour on Red Line Radio, you just heard Weisse Wolfe and this is the Last Poets with “The White Man’s Got a God Complex”.

It was a dumb joke, obnoxious by intent, mixing music about oppression with music about liberation as if they were at all equal. I probably wouldn’t make it now that I’m a humorless PC punk, but I was more of a provocative asshole back then.

Besides, I was 21, falling in love but too immature to say it, living out my “Pump Up the Volume” dreams, and probably drunk. Besides, I didn’t know enough about nazi bands to stretch it even a half hour. Our station boasted a broadcast range “from Evanston to Uptown” … maybe… if the weather conditions were right. Even if the little tinny boombox in the projection booth was the only one tuned to our show, we were radio pirates.

READ THE REST OF THE STORY OF THE ADELPHI THEATRE

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Upcoming Chicago Label Showcases: Dumpster Tapes’ Demolición & Tall Pat Records’ Cuddlestock

This Friday, join five Chicago Latinx-fronted garage, punk and psych-rock bands for a celebration of mi gente in the punk community. Organizer & badass Chicana femme and Dumpster Tapes label head Alex Fryer will be playing Latin American and Latinx bands all night and donating $1 of every admission fee to El Rescate, a Humboldt Park independent living center that provides identity-affirming housing to homeless LGBTQ and HIV positive youth.

If you want to know what to expect from brown punks Cabrona, Bruised, Divino Niño, Rai, and Mia Joy Alex wrote an awesome show preview over on Medium. Or just head to Auxiliary Art Center on Friday night and be surprised. Either way, this is exactly the show the north side’s white dominated punk scene needs.

Dumpster Tapes Presents: Demolición
Cabrona, Bruised, Divino Niño, Rai, Mia Joy
Auxiliary Art Center, 3012 W Belmont Ave
Fri, October 14, 7:30pm / BYOB / 21+ / $7

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Cuffing season’s fast approaching, sneaking on silent slippered feet and cozy in Uniqlo heattech. Get a headstart on little spoon bliss at Cuddlestock, Tall Pat Records‘ annual garage punk showcase that’s taken on epic proportions through four years of good ass booking, fancy posters, 5758686 shots of Malört, and drunk ass speeches from Pat fueled by the aforementioned Malört. Party with labelmates Jollys, Swimsuit Addition, Bleach Party, and Clearance at The Empty Bottle next month, and try to drink a few glasses of water between the shots, ok?

Tall Pat Records Presents: Cuddlestock
Jollys, Swimsuit Addition, Bleach Party, Clearance
The Empty Bottle, 1035 N Western Ave
Fri, November 18, 9pm / 21+ / $8

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