Album Review: West-Chicago Rapper Saba Unleashes New Bucket List Project

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The Austin, Illinois native brings hope and energy to his neglected neighborhood with poetic lyrics and organic production dripping with neo-soul

2016 has been a year filled with soulful projects stemming from young Chicago artists, including; Noname’s ‘Telefone’, Mick Jenkins’ ‘The Healing Component’, and of course Chance the Rapper’s explosive ‘Coloring Book’. Saba, an independent poet-turned-rapper, has consistently collaborated with each of these artists, and on his new ‘Bucket List Project’ (Released October 27) he establishes his role in Chicago’s progressive music scene. This project is the follow-up to the 22-year-old’s 2014 mixtape, ‘Comfort Zone,’  which highlighted his creative storytelling and impassioned beat selection. 

A bucket list typically consists of goals and aspirations one dreams of achieving in their lifetime. On his new project, Saba pushes the importance of utilizing ambition through lyrical anecdotes and scattered voicemails regarding the bucket lists of various friends and fellow musicians. Luscious production provided by frequent collaborators Phoelix, Cam O’bi and Monte Booker serves as a perfect backdrop for the album’s poetic reflection on West-Chicago’s repressed neighborhoods. Tracks range from warm and intimate to blunt and intense, but remain focused on inspiring optimism in “the part of the city that they don’t be talking about” to quote the fiery track, ‘Westside Bound 3.” Saba addresses the influences of childhood experiences and relationships in songs like ‘Church / Liquor Store’ and ‘Stoney’ while demonstrating his determination to chase his dream. By speaking on the obstacles obstructing his hometown’s community, Saba finds beauty within the struggle and poetically reinforces the prospect of a brighter future on tracks like ‘Most’ and ‘California.’ All in all, the vibrantly vivid ‘Bucket List Project’ encapsulates the importance of fulfilling goals and living life to the fullest while reflecting on the difficulties of developing in a harsh environment. I highly encourage curious readers to give this innovative project a listen, you won’t be disappointed! 

Listen to Saba’s ‘Bucket List Project’ here

Favorite Tracks: Photosynthesis (ft. Jean Deaux) // Church/Liquor Store (ft. Noname) // Bucket List (ft. Matthew Santos)

Robert B

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Show Review: Chance The Rapper Brings his Imagination to Life on his Magnificent Coloring World Tour

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Monday night I had the privileged of experiencing Chance The Rapper’s uniquely brilliant Magnificent Coloring World Tour inside the cavernous WaMu Theater. Mountainous black curtains lined every inch of the venue instilling a rich sense of mystery. Despite the flowing crowds, I felt alone in the space-like complex. This feeling was short-lived as I was quickly surrounded by masses of colorful people pushing me towards the illustrious ‘front row’. Nevertheless, the vast darkness of WaMu’s towering walls created an alternate dimension isolating the stage and the crowd.

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The show opened with Chance’s electrically awkward collaborator Francis Farewell Starlite of Francis and the Lights accomponied by Chance’s go-to producer, Nate Fox. The Oakland, CA native has been on the alt-pop radar since 2007 and recently dropped his debut studio album Farewell, Starlite! in late September. Francis possessed a very soft-spoken demeanor despite his musics’ jagged edge and funky synthesized melodies. He consistently addressed the well-being of the restless crowd and didn’t serve as much of a hype man until the end of his set. I reluctantly began to enjoy his shameless dancing and oddly groovy style due to his undefeated positive attitude. The man was having fun. It then dawned on me that the true purpose of Francis’ modest performance wasn’t to hype up a restless fans, but to set a peaceful precedent for an enjoyable evening.

After Francis left the stage the show encountered a brief 30-minute delay coupled with a preset playlist containing only Drake and Future. This pause disrupted the concert’s energy momentarily but any shadow of a doubt was obliterated with Chance’s immediate energy.

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Excitement rushed through my veins as the Broadway-esque red curtain rose to reveal the wondrous stage set. Singing animatronics, colorful supersized crayons and Carlos the spirit guide/lion/mega puppet transformed the stage into an animated fantasy land. Chance opened the show performing classic hits off his breakout mixtapes 10 Day and Acid Rap including songs like; Cocao Butter Kisses, Brain Cells, Favorite Song, Long Time and Juice. Each song exploded with spirit backed by Social Experiment members Chi-town producer Peter Cottontale on the keyboard, Stix on the drums, and the incredible Donnie Trumpet toting his famed bugle. Brilliant multi-color lights and textural animations illuminated the once colorless auditorium adding to “Magical Coloring World” experience. After taking his fans on a trip down memory lane, Chance rerouted and began performing his latest masterpiece, Coloring Book, in its entirety. Carlos the Lion acted as Chance’s mentor, guiding him to push the message of the gospel-inspired album. Loving ourselves. The animatronic choir conveyed the setting of a southern-baptist church as Chance’s soulful-jazzy beats served as a perfect medium for his advocacy of God, peace and happiness. I even teared up as Chance spoke personally on the importance learning to love yourself and his current emotional struggles. For his finale Chance brought Francis back out to perform their song (and one of my favorites off Coloring Book) Summer Friends with an extended outro courtesy of the Social Experiment team leaving the crowd with a sense of musical wonderment. I was absolutely blown away by

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part rap-musical part spiritual service the concert turned out to be. If you have yet to experience Chance the Rapper’s music you can find his latest project here. I have also provided links to his previous mixtapes and Soundcloud if you’re interested in exploring this innovative artist’s past work. Chance’s music certainly changed my life and it could change yours too. 

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For fans of: Kanye West, Lupe Fiasco, Childish Gambino, Mick Jenkins.

10 Day

Acid Rap

Chance the Rapper’s: Soundcloud // Twitter // Instagram

Robert B

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Canadian artist Sonreal interview

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Aaron Hoffman walks up into a room and knocks down a
handshake for a warm hug. “Hey, how are you doing?” with a huge smile on his
face. “Are you ready for this? It’s going to be a real fun night.”

Canadian artist Hoffman, who goes by the stage name SonReal,
is incredibly humble—yet still cognizant of his skill. When first asked about
how long he’s been doing music, he responds, “3 years, but you know, like
everything it’s a journey. I wrote my first rap when I was a kid, but I was
lucky enough to get signed and here we are.”

Here we are indeed. We reference SonReal’s elaborate music
videos, which portray Hollywood level quality of budget and casting, and the
artist is all humble smiles. “I’ve always loved acting, I’ve always loved
trying new crazy things. Rappers always try, since the beginning of time, to
look and be cool and I can’t do that. I can’t do that, but I do know how to be
goofy and have fun and that’s what I love about the videos we make.”

He laughs when we asked how he does it, over and over. “I
have an incredible team,” he replies. “I have the same director for each video
who pushes me over and over to get things perfect but it works.

First a rapper, SonReal’s musical aesthetic has progressed
over time, with more melodic vocals intertwining into his albums. The artist
smiles when trying to explain his musical structure but finally expresses
himself with a declaration of love for music. “I just love singing,” he says. “I’ve
always just loved music. You know, when I first started, I just wanted to a rapper. I wanted to rap and that was
what I knew how to do, and I wanted just that. But as time passed and I started
making more music, it was just a natural progression. I would be writing a lyric
and I just wanted to sing, so I did.”

It works well, on tracks like the single, “Can I Get A Witness,”
in which SonReal showcases his vocal range—a range, we might add, we did not
expect the artist to have. In the chorus of the track that has, as the artist
scales higher in octave, we’re shocked, but pleasantly. It’s a distinct switch
from his lyrical verses of rap to the almost reggae chorus he sings, and
unpredictably so. “I like that I’m unpredictable,” he says. “I don’t want
people to ever just get used to what I do or sing or rap. I want to keep you on
your toes, and so sometimes that might mean just singing a whole song on the EP [The Name] with no rapping at all or rapping a love sing entirely. Who knows, but I don’t want
to be predictable.”

And the artist is anything but, as we see him pump it out on
stage, dancing every which way, reminiscent of Chance the Rapper’s stage
presence and Macklemore’s dance floor energy. We see big things for SonReal,
currently touring with Jon Bellion. With a new album out in August, we’re hoping
to see Sonreal make more unpredictable music and collaborate and work with big artists,
making a name for himself.

“Here’s thing,” he tells us, sitting back. “I want to work
with people, I do. But the thing is I kinda just want to make my own music. You
know, I don’t want to ever walk into a room and have to tell you who I am. I
want to get so good, be so well recognized, that someone walks in and says, ‘I
like that guy, his shit’s dope, I really like what he does because he’s
different and unpredictable and does what other people don’t, I want to work
with him.’ It doesn’t matter how I make people feel with my music, whether it
makes them cry, smile, laugh…I want to work with other people.” He smiles and
looks off for a second before back on us. “But it’s not my time yet, I need to
get there first.”

Be sure to take a listen to SonReal’s singles currently out,
and be the first to grab that new album, The Name, August 12.

Ariana Rivera

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Women and Alternative Genders in Rap

Kari Faux

Kari is super self-aware and it shows in everything she makes. She gained internet traction after working with Childish Gambino; he remixed her song “No Small Talk” on STN MTN and she featured him in her video for “Gahdamn”.  Even so, she mocks internet fame on her track “On the Internet”: “Doing the most for a little fame / But one thing remains the same / When you log out you’re still a lame.” Her videos are stylistic and sarcastic too and definitely worth checking out.

Junglepussy

Junglepussy hits on all the subject matter that a strong modern woman cares about – self-love and care, looking good, and keeping lame dudes away from you. Her flow is sexy and smooth yet commanding. Her new album Pregnant with Success is a continuation of her unique style. She also has one of the best Twitter accounts of all time IMO.

Babeo Baggins + Barf Troop

Babeo Baggins is a genderfluid member of the rap group Barf Troop. The group has gained recognition in the press most recently for being seen with Drake and some other members of the OVO crew. Babeo’s latest album Positive highlights their cheeky and playful style. With a flow that reaches lightning speeds, Babeo’s clever lyricism will blow you away.

Mykki Blanco

From the start Mykki’s music has addressed gender, sexuality and queer culture. She’s made a name for herself with her bold, aggressive sound. She’s also made headlines for coming out as HIV positive, being best friends with the OG riot grrl Kathleen Hanna and reportedly pursuing a career in investigative journalism. In any case, she continues to make waves in the rap scene.

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Chloe Hagans



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Annoyance In Opposition To The Appliance

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In my never-ending quest to obtain an acceptable
audiophile-grade setup for my listening pleasure, I listen to a lot of music.
Like, a lot. But whenever I need to tweak something or get new equipment (who am I
kidding? I’m broke), I always return to the same album: Rage Against The
Machine
’s self-titled debut album. This is because the album is considered by many to be
perfectly mastered. This should come as no surprise, since it was mastered by
none other than the OG master-of-mastering Bob Ludwig. I’ve listened to the album so much lately that I decided to do an album throwback on it for all of you beautiful readers. So let’s throw this album
back and relive the glory of the first album to merge rap, metal, and Bernie
Sanders’
ideals.

If you start up this album expecting beautiful vocal
melodies and sweet lyrics about love and happiness, then you should probably
look somewhere else. The polar opposite of Taylor Swift, vocalist Zack de la
Rocha
doesn’t sing. Rather, he raps, and he yells. His vocals are angsty and
emotionally charged, like a drunken high school pep rally. His vocals are quite
the juxtaposition to Tom Morello’s guitar playing, which is technical and
perfectly-executed. Utilizing I-don’t-even-know-what, he makes the weirdest and
raddest sounds ever produced by a guitar. The guitar is so unique and
unbelievable that the album booklet comes with a disclaimer: “NO SAMPLERS,
COMPUTERS OR KEYBOARDS WERE USED IN THE MAKING OF THIS RECORDING.”

Zack and Tom are the two powerhouses of the group, and the
ones you’ll hear about more often than not. There’s also bassist Tim
Commerford
, whose intense and growling basslines lead the songs and cause you
to turn the volume up far louder than is healthy. The importance of the bass is
often overlooked, but without it, it would sound like you’re listening through
a gramophone. But let’s not forget Brad Wilk, the drummer of RATM. Although
seldom talked about, this dude can drum like there’s no tomorrow. The heartbeat
of Rage’s music, Brad fills the album with intense and angry drums that match perfectly
with Zack’s angry vocals.

While everybody and their mother has heard the track “Killing
in the Name”, the album is literally full of classics. Every single track is as
good as the others, with none standing out to me as the clear best. This is
rare, and the mark of a truly fantastic album. I do, however, have a new favorite
track from this album every few days, with my current favorite being “Township
Rebellion” for its lyrics reminding me of the current political and social
climate. Or at least, that’s what I tell people when I want to look like a
sophisticated adult and not just a 19 year old who releases his angst
vicariously through Rage Against The Machine’s music.

Whether you’re about to fight somebody in a fit of road rage
or are consuming food and drink in a lecture hall that explicitly forbids it,
this album is the soundtrack to your irresponsible decisions. Give it a listen,
then another, and then maybe four more. Rage Against The Machine is a national
treasure. Hide it from Nicholas Cage.

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Niles Kyholm



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