Mortal Kombat – [Pivot Gang] ft. [Kari Faux]

By Mike del Ro // 17 Jun 2019

The rise of Chicago’s own Pivot Gang has been a long time coming, and earlier this year, the crew came into full effect with their first project as a collective in five years. Today, they’ve returned with a new visual for “Mortal Kombat”, one of the standout tracks on ‘You Can’t Sit With Us’. Pivot takes a victory lap in this new video, cruising around palm tree-lined streets in a convertible and bringing the whole squad out with them. Director Cam Robert aka Contact cloaks Pivot Gang in black-and-white tones, adding a sinister, classic vibe that coincides with the song’s straightforward lyricism. Robert doesn’t need much to keep a viewer interested, utilizing camerawork that immediately reminded me of GOOD Music’s classic “Mercy” video and other details that let Pivot shine with minimal special effects. Saba holds the track down, fitting a handful of flows into one verse and squeezing in ridiculously clever one-liners that might need a listen or two to fully sink in. Joseph Chilliams comes through with his signature hip rolls, dancing for the camera as he delivers his verse packed with his untouchable sense of humor. As the song winds down, rising star Kari Faux steals the …

Friends EP – [Omar Apollo]

By Mike del Ro // 11 Apr 2019

Less than a year ago, Omar Apollo was one of the Midwest indie scene’s best-kept secrets, with his constantly evolving talent likely to soon reach mainstream levels of attention. Today, with sold-out solo tours, major festival appearances, and late night talk show performances under his belt, it’s clear Omar’s no longer just indie music’s favorite Indiana boy. As with any artist on the rise, whether or not their music will evolve with them becomes an essential question—one that Omar gives a resounding answer to with his latest release. Less than a year since his debut EP ’Stereo’ dropped, Omar returns with another 7-track project titled ‘Friends’. Early singles “Ashamed”, “Trouble”, and the EP’s title track gave three distinctly different windows into what the rest of the project would sound like. Delivering a funk-infused pop track, a coming of age ballad, and an acoustic tear-jerker, the rest of the EP follows suit with a track list that highlights Omar’s versatility. A constant quality that transmits across his mingling of different genres is his candid songwriting style, with lyrics that come across as moments of vulnerability. It’s these moments of honesty that have made Omar a distinct artist since his earliest songs, …

THE 1-9-9-9 IS COMING – [Kevin Abstract]

By Mike del Ro // 9 Apr 2019

Over the past couple of weeks, Kevin Abstract has been teasing a yet-to-be-announced project entitled ARIZONA baby. The hype surrounding these video clips and song snippets continues to build today in the form of a more lengthy music video, “THE 1-9-9-9 IS COMING”. It’s unclear exactly what this video is a part of, but judging by the cryptic rollout that has led up to this point, something big may be just around the corner. It’s been over two years since Kevin Abstract released his second solo album, American Boyfriend: A Suburban Love Story, and a lot has changed in the life of the 22-year-old artist since then. Namely, Brockhampton — the boyband of which he is a founding member — has reached global success, garnering a #1 Billboard album debut for their most recent record iridescence. He alludes to the much different stage of life he is in now with this new video, rapping “I got rich way too fast” before reflecting on the different effects newfound success has had on his relationships. The track itself features eerie synths that build up into a disorienting, jazzy outro, making this an incredible preview of the great music to come. We may …

Next Song (DaBaby Remix) – [D2X]

By Mike del Ro // 5 Apr 2019

2019 has already been a breakout year for DaBaby. After inking a major deal with Interscope, dropping his Billboard-charting ‘Baby on Baby’ project, and embarking on a national headlining tour, it doesn’t seem like the Charlotte, NC native will stop heating up any time soon. His rise has drawn eyes and ears of hip-hop fans and other up-and-coming rappers alike, even inspiring one Chicago rapper to put his own spin on one of DaBaby’s hardest tracks to date. D2X is in the midst of his own come-up himself, and the seismic waves of his talent have already started reverberating through Chicago’s local scene. Last year, he released his ‘Enjoy Life’ EP and gained the attention of DJ Pharris at Power 92 with his song “Woop Woop”. For his latest drop, he’s remixed Da Baby’s “Next Song”—one of the standout tracks on 2018’s ‘Blank Blank’. The “Next Song” instrumental serves as an ideal blueprint for remixing, with its hard baseline and a simple yet remarkably menacing melody. D2X takes full advantage of this beat, filling in the gaps with his straightforward lyrical style and self-assured presence resonating throughout. He weaves in his own story to take possession of the track, referencing his …

Intlxl – [Intellexual] [Nico Segal] [Nate Fox]

By Mike del Ro // 2 Apr 2019

If you’ve been tapped into Chicago’s music scene, chances are you’re no stranger to the immense talent of Nico Segal and Nate Fox. The two musicians have played an integral role in shaping the sonic framework of the city in recent years, most widely known for their work with Chance the Rapper as The Social Experiment. That collaboration gave us 2015’s Surf—a mixtape whose mingling of neo-soul, hip-hop, and jazz left an imprint that still resonates years later. Today, Segal and Fox embark on their next collaborative effort under the name Intellexual. The announcement comes with a new single, too, that gives listeners a peek at the possible direction this project may take. Staying true to the lush, live instrumentation Segal’s and Fox’s names have become synonymous with, this new track assures that the two artists still find ways to hone their craft even more. An LA-based vocalist by the name of Danielle Davis carries the song with her airy harmonies, playing around with the same lyric throughout the song as if it’s the group’s personal mantra. The project itself will also have a selection of frequent collaborators and friends, with names like Vic Mensa, Grace Weber, Raury, Francis Starlite …

Something To Say – [Young Jasper]

By Mike del Ro // 1 Apr 2019

Young Jasper’s work ethic seems to know no bounds, and you wouldn’t need to look any further than the Chicago rapper’s latest EP to know that. With an already busy 2019 behind him (including opening for our Blueface show back in January), Jasper lets us know of his next moves on ‘Something To Say’. The 4-track project makes a solid argument for why Young Jasper is next up and an artist you won’t want to ignore right now as he continues to refine his style. On ‘Something To Say’, he cooks up some of his lyrically strongest work to date. He alerts a listener to his knack for rapid flows on the opening track “Problems”. From the jump, Jasper comes off as laser-focused on his craft and he highlights his own hustle in his lyrics. His delivery makes it tough to doubt him too, as he comes off as rightfully confident in his own abilities. Adding extra punch to Jasper’s bravado are some carefully selected beats from producers Yung Germ, J.U., and Ignite. Together, they supply Jasper with the appropriate 808 arsenal to back his boisterous tone. This fine-tuned balance of lyrical concentration over beats that still knock comes through …

Table of Context – [Cautious Clay]

By Mike del Ro // 30 Mar 2019

You know an artist is worth checking out when all of your favorite artists are the ones reposting them. RnB/Soul songwriter Cautious Clay has been popping up consistently over the past year or so, and as evidenced by his latest EP, there’s a good reason for that. On Table of Context, the Cleveland-raised, Brooklyn-based musician makes a case for himself as an artist on the verge of breaking into mainstream success. The project’s cover art describes it as “an extended play exploring the notions of purpose and happiness”, and as you play through each song, this intention becomes clear through Clay’s songwriting. “Sidewinder” serves as a slow-burning opening track where Clay retells what sounds like the ending of a relationship. He folds each instrument into the production, setting each layer one-by-one. Things come to an abrupt shift on the next track, “Reasons”, introduced by distorted synths and blaring horns. Clay delivers a stadium-level chorus on this song, mixing lullaby-like melodies with lyrics resembling a moment of self-reflection. The rest of Clay’s songs fit in a similar space; he pens verses filled with emotions like vulnerability, heartbreak, and restlessness sung in a distinguishably smooth voice. He gets across a feeling of …

Everyday – [Monster Mike] [KISHIE]

By Mike del Ro // 28 Mar 2019

Monster Mike has been making waves around Chicago’s underground hip-hop scene, and the rising rapper’s hustle already shows in the sheer volume of content he puts out. He’s also no stranger to our platform, and he returns today with his latest song, “Everyday”. If you haven’t been acclimated to Mike’s sound yet, let this track be a perfect introduction. The most distinguishable weapon in Monster Mike’s arsenal—his booming, gravelly voice—really anchors this track, livening up the sparse trap production with raspy, monstrous delivery. Backing Mike’s cold bars is an eerily bright and melodic beat made by KISHIE—a producer whose name is also getting some heavy circulation among Chicago’s current underground heavyweights. A quick survey of KISHIE’s Soundcloud reveals a producer who’s finding his niche sonically with a disorienting combination of ambient synths and hard-hitting 808s making up the bulk of his recent beats. KISHIE’s style creates a unique pairing with Monster Mike’s heavy presence, and “Everyday” is an example of a rapper and producer in-sync in a refreshing, addictive form. Listen below: