Article by: David Mingus
Photos by: Thomas Mayer
Closing up a year following tours of the US and Canada, the Lyricist half of Duck Down Music's critically acclaimed rap duo Kidz In The Hall and Chicago native Jabari "Naledge" Evans took to Reggie’s Rock Club Tuesday night to preview his new upcoming mixtape with DJ RTC "Chicago Picasso 2" releasing Nov 6th.
Unfortunately, due to it being a Tuesday and a beautifully pleasant night for late October - as well as an array of other issues relating to promotion and planning, I’m sure - the attendance at the show was dismal throughout most of the night.
Opening acts and local artists Stacks, Puzzle & Polo, and Trey57 performed to a crowd that seemed half-interested at best, but all maintained enthusiasm and drive throughout their performances and seemed to give it their all. However, with a still very minimal crowd and poorly mixed backing tracks it was difficult to follow most of the performance. Although these opening acts didn't quite embody the same essence of hip-hop as Naledge would later, the crowd that was in attendance showed support with moderate applause.
Rama, performing self-proclaimed new age kid rock, used mostly rock-sampled hip-hop to drive his set. He brought great energy while performing songs from his newest mixtape Role model, hosted by DJ Semi (DJ for Chris Webby), as well as from his first release, Drink, Smoke & Be Merry. In addition to bringing the second-largest fan base of the night, Rama displayed good crowd control and was able to draw most of his crowd to the stage to rock out and show support. Rama ended his set with a catchy Mike Posner tribute/remix of "Smoke and Drive."
Lake Effect Delegates brought in the largest individual crowd for the night with their heavily blues-influenced live band Hip-Hop/Rock. Driven primarily by the guitar stylings of Matt Nelson, the whole band performed with great energy. Unfortunately a lot of that energy drowned out the MC/Lead singer Brandon Hurn (a.k.a. Seally) for much of the performance. He had a unique flow in tune with much of the "Underground" Chicago hip-hop sound, but with emotion and energy reminiscent of Zach DeLa Rocha, without the political consciousness. A consistently smooth baseline from Sir Arthur and precise keyboards by Dave Konieczny, filled in with heavy live drums from Gabe Coria, rounded out the rest of the band to create a progressive sound-encompassing hip-hop, blues, jam, funk & rock n' roll.
CoolieREV's Fitz Fonzarelli came in from Gary IN performed with hype man/featured artist Hajj Prime and a drummer on an electronic Roland V drum kit. He grabbed the crowd’s attention with an a cappella "Ni***s in Paris" homage which he then accompanied with electric drums only. This was followed by a collaboration between Fitz Fonzarelli and Hajj Prime called "Them Again," produced by Hajj Prime from Fitz's promotional Mixtape Mind of a King. Although the electronic drum kit helped keep the energy up, Fitz lost some attention from the crowd only to draw everyone back in with his smokers’ song "September 11th," again featuring Hajj Prime, then ending to "Bong Power," his tribute/remix of Kendrick Lamar's "Hii Power.”
Performing with DJ Audio Kush, Naledge started off with a new song from his upcoming Chicago Picasso 2 mixtape. Prior to Audio Kush dropping the beat, Naledge explained the title of the song "55th & Cicero" as being the location of Chicago's Midway Airport and inviting us to fly with him. Smooth, horn-heavy production with solid drums from The Fr3shmen aptly allowed Naledge to showcase his style and open up the show with a little bragging, chanting "we fly like 55th & Cicero." Once the intimate crowd was warmed up Naledge followed up with the heaver guitar and synth-driven "Break It Down," the lead single from Kidz in the Hall's 2011 release Occasion. Taking a short break from the music, Naledge brought out special guest and Braniac Society mate Vic Spencer for the fourth song and a trip down memory lane with the reminiscent and self proclaiming "I Swear," also from Occasion.
Vic Spencer then took over the stage for a solo performance of "Michigan Ave. Bully" from his newest solo mixtape Walk Away Music. Upon Naledge's return to the stage Vic stated a change of plans and that he just wanted to freestyle, because not enough artists do these days. At Naledge's instruction, Audio Kush dropped a beat and the two performed freeystyles over various industry instrumentals including Cam'rons 2004 "Killa Cam." Audio Kush smoothly flipped through instrumentals while Naledge and Vic Spener alternated, effortlessly laying their unique lyrical flow and witty punchlines, coming to an end after about 5 minutes.
Naledge then brought things back with the Kidz in the Hall classic "Wheelz Fall Off ('06 Til)" from their debut Rawkus Records album School Was My Hustle, updating the song by singing "this is how we chill 2012 Til," showing the timelessness of the music. Before returning to the debut single from Chicago Picasso 2, M. Stacks’ produced "Cruisin'," he promoted Braniac Society and himself, reminding everyone of the work and time he has put in, saying, "Shout out to myself, Shout out to my manager. I manage myself, guess that I'm the man and stuff," and "Ni***s gettin' deals, I had that in '03". He closed out the show with "Driving Down the Block (Low End Theory)" from Kidz in the Hall's 2008 release The In Crowd.