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.


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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


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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May Your Fave Be Unproblematic

“I’m so sorry, but this is a Famous Dex fan account now,” I tweeted, an hour before r&b artist Tish Hyman posted a surveillance video of the Chicago rapper chasing a woman down a hallway and beating her (video is disturbing; please exercise caution before viewing).

Before the footage was released, Dex was one of the South Side’s fastest rising stars, aided by an alignment with Atlanta’s Rich the Kid and an ability to release new material at a lightning pace. In a city captivated by angelic backpackers, scrawny Dex stood out as deeply weird with facial tattoos, bright red hair, and an off-kilter delivery that fit right in with the rest of the new crop of emerging “mumble rappers.”

I became a vocal fan after listening to Kanye off May’s OhhMannGoddDamm mixtape. I couldn’t stop replaying or talking about the compact and catchy track that captures everything I love about being young, successful, and killing it in Chicago. “All this money on me, all this designer on me, baby, call me Kanye,” Dex urges in a radio-ready hook as samples of ohhmanngodddamm echo behind him.

Dexter’s third mixtape of 2016, Dexter the Robot, was available for download for less than 24 hours when Hyman’s footage became public. The Puma x Pink Dolphin collection he recently modeled hasn’t even hit stores yet. Though it’s hard to say for certain in a world where a Chris Brown hook on your song isn’t enough to keep it off the Hot 100, common sentiment seems to be that his extremely short and fertile career has been cut off at the bud.

I’ve written before on how to evaluate the careers of artists who were abusive to those around them during their lifetimes. All of the examples I used had the luxury of a degree of academic distance for me. The perpetrators were dead, or so deeply sus I never engaged with their work on a deep level; rumors about Woody Allen and R. Kelly have been around forever.

I’ve recently had to wrestle with quandries much more unexpected and closer to home, however. Freddie Gibbs’ track Harold’s, a Madlib-composed ode to Chicago’s iconic fried chicken, fries, and mild sauce, was already a part of my heart when I heard he was battling charges of drugging and sexually assaulting a victim while on tour in Austria.

Kodak Black created one of my all time favorite love songs, a uncharacteristically sweet track called Honeybun off the mixtape Heart of the Projects. The Florida rapper probably has as many mug shots as he does press photos; I wasn’t any stranger to seeing him booked for drug and weapons charges, or hearing colorist or otherwise problematic statements in his lyrics. When he caught felony charges for allegedly sexually assaulting a victim in a South Carolina hotel room after a show, I was given pause. Should I have seen this coming? Should I already have disowned his music? Where do you draw the line?

Some people draw the line uncomfortably far; it’s not difficult to find rambling Snapchat diatribes and earnest tweets from Team Breezy pleading for folks to, yet again, disregard Chris Brown’s abusive behavior. If you draw the line all the way at the other end – throwing any music with sexist, racist, or otherwise oppressive content in the dustbin – you’re ruling out the vast majority of rap, which I’m not willing to do.

The question of when it’s appropriate to stop supporting an abuser is hardly limited to the sphere of hip-hop, however. I spent this last weekend at Riot Fest, a three day exercise in punk rock nostalgia. I was surprised to see a woman wearing a Swans shirt and tried to put myself in her shoes. How would I feel if I had that in my closet when Larkin Grimm came forward to accuse her collaborator and abuser, Michael Gira of Swans, of a long campaign of sexual harassment that culminated in raping her and dropping her from his label? I personally couldn’t see myself wearing the t-shirt anymore. Not to a music festival.

Part of the danger of supporting the new and the novel is that you don’t necessarily know what you’re getting yourself into. Hell, it’s part of the danger of supporting anyone at all. It’s impossible to know someone’s entire history, or predict their future actions. I refuse to stop vocally supporting artists, both emerging and established, because it may turn out that they’re mortal, with all the attendant messiness and pain that goes along with being part of the human race. At the same time, how we respond when allegations come to light says so much about how we feel about justice for victims, acceptance of a societal status quo, and whether we feel fame and adulation are unconditionally granted or earned.

Do we treat a case like Kodak Black’s assault, where our only information about an incident is filtered through a racist police state, differently than when unmistakable evidence is put into our hands through social media? Why do I feel ok listening to Gucci Mane, who almost certainly killed at least one person? Is Famous Dex’s career really over?

I’m not sure there are any absolute answers in situations like these. All I know is that Kanye, Harold’s, and Honeybun are incredible works of art, ones that I won’t ever be able to divorce of association with their authors. When I think of the playlist that I want to soundtrack my life, they’re not on it.

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Exclusive: Clearance Public House Sessions

clearance.jpegLofi locals Clearance have more of their patented poppy alt rock coming out on our favorite record label run by a man who might actually be Bigfoot. To celebrate the Are You Aware 7″, which you can totally buy from Tall Pat Records right now, we’re premiering live sessions of three songs recorded in the Public House studio, including the A-side for the 7″ and two other songs (including a Soft Boys cover, “The Queen of Eyes.”)

View the full post to watch the three videos, and don’t forget to pick that 7″ up next time you’re seeing a show at Bric-a-Brac.

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Glamour Hotline’s Calling with a New Ep

Photo by Kyle Goldberg

I recently had the opportunity to sit down and talk to one of my favorite Chicago bands over spaghetti and garlic bread. Listen to their new EP on Bandcamp (or Spotify!) and read the piece for Bandcamp Daily.

I’ve always been partial to their fuzzy sassy grrl power musical vibes, but I really enjoyed the chance to delve into music business and branding strategy with the trio. If you’re in a band and you want inspo on collborating on an aesthetic identity, you’d be well served to check the interview out!

Glam Hot’s got two upcoming shows on the recently updated Store Brand Soda guide to all your DIY / indie pop / weirdo rock / punk af needs:

Gula Gila, Not For You, Ze’ev, Glamour Hotline
Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood
Sat, August 6 / 8pm / $5 / respect the space / ask a punk

Glamour Hotline, When Ships Collide, Roach Beach, Beachoven
Emporium Arcade Bar, 1366 N Milwaukee Ave
Tue, August 9 / 8pm / 21+ / free

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Two Years of Running the Best Music Blog in Chicago: Lil Yachty & Pink Skateboards

About a year ago, my life was turned upside down when the snowball of press & social media attention around my article about harassment in punk culminated in an editorial pick for Best New Music Blogger in The Chicago Reader (#savethereader). I was presented with a new opportunities, some which worked out, some which didn’t. The biggest one was joining the Do312 team. Every time I tell someone the story about how I ran a music blog and show calendar and ended up doing the social media for an event discovery/promotion outfit that throws parties with sloths and bouncy houses, they’re like, “That makes sense.”

At the same time, it’s hard to come home from 9 hours of working on promoting local music for money and sit down to do 4 more hours for free. I’ve shifted from being a music journalist to a copywriter. I spend more time in Facebook Power Editor than green rooms. I’m not drinking right now, and rock and roll is deeply exhausting to me sober. I mostly just go to rap shows where half the attendees have X’s on their hands and impeccable teen streetwear outfits that dunk on my entire life.


I was shocked recently to find out that Store Brand Soda had won the popular vote for Best Local Music blog in the Reader’s new Best of Chicago issue. Like, Fake Shore Drive is an INSTITUTION.

I’m grateful to my coeditor Emily and our Dead DIY Spaces columnist Eric for keeping this lil punk rock music fanzine alive. I’m touched that people still care; that people stepped in to help fill in our calendar when we got overwhelmed (thank you especially to Eileen Marshall, who recently started writing some incredibly touching essays about her relationship with music and the world). That people wrote in our name to nominate us, then selected us in the final round of voting. That’s huge, and if I’m gonna be real, it gives me the power to keep going.

I don’t know if I’m going to keep writing about music in the same way I always have. But I know I’m not going to stop.

If you miss me talking about noisy rock and garage, I recommend you read this feature I recently published on the paranoid synth punk of Giorgio Murderer over on the new Bandcamp Daily. For now, here’s two music related things I’ve been digging lately.

Lil Yachty – Lil Boat


My endless Twitter thread about Lil Yachty is a running joke on Twitter that’s gotten more people into this deeply weird mixtape than I can count. “Darnell Boat,” the narrator of the tape’s intro track & interludes, introduces us to the bifurcated personalities of the eighteen year old rapper & singer Miles Parks McCollum.

Lil Boat’s Southern rap flow is boastful and confident, and not without accolades – Chano himself gave him the nod for best feature on Coloring Book, which also featured verses from, you know, Kanye West and Future, who have a few years on the King of the Teenagers.

Darnell describes the little Lil Yachty persona as “a little bit nicer” and “a little more emotional,” with an angelic sing song that tackles the album’s more vulnerable and intimate lyrics. The wavers and warbles in his voice are the cracks in the Liberty Bell; they’re warped rather than polished by Auto Tune and lend an eerie sincerity to the overarching message of positivity and the belief in serendipity.

My friend Tom floated the idea on Twitter that “Lil Boat and Coloring Book are viable treatments for depression and that doctors should study their effects on the human psyche.” When I’m singing along with “We Did It (Outro) *Positivity Song*” every morning while doing my eyeliner, I can’t help but agree.

Club 75 x Vans sneaker collaboration

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I spent 2008 obsessed with Bertrand de Langeron, the art director of Ed Banger Records. He was always there, open shirt and French accent, sleazing in the background of tour photographs from Justice’s whirlwind superstardom in the wake of their single D.A.N.C.E. (he directed the iconic video and their escandaloso documentary) and in Cobra Snake photos of fucking Fool’s Gold parties or whatever. I’ve always loved his palette of bright primary colors and fleshy pinks, endless handlettering finesse, and his ability to elevate a cartoony style that bubbled out of club flyers into a cohesive identity across a record label, web publication, and fashion label.

And now: sneakers! I love this throwback to those all-over print hoodies littered with tiny drawings, this time a souvenir print for an idyllic imaginary French seaside. I’m also digging the “Locals Only” embroidery on the Era iteration.

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