So I had two days off school this week. My friend and I drove her ’71 Cutlass to Chicago to hang out with my friends for a few days. They live in the south loop (a stop north of Chinatown) because they go to school at Columbia Chicago which is like a community/technical/art school in one. Or some shit, I donno. Anyway it was a good time and I had Dim Sum for breakfast on Saturday.
Anyway while I was there I picked up Mass Hysteria’s newish CD Chicago: The Underworld Mixtape. It’s a pretty great example of Chicago’s strange position in the hip-hop world. Chicago’s always been in a really weird place because when hip-hop was developing in New York all the b-boys in Chi-town were listening to house music because that shit was huge and it’s still pretty influential. I was born in Chicago in 1983 so I don’t really remember this shit but apparently we had something of a hip-hop culture. William Upski Wimsatt’s written a lot on hip-hop in the late 80s and early 90s but it’s important to remember that WBMX, Chicago’s house station, was the most popular station in the city as hip-hop was becoming the predominant music culture outside of the second city. And House music never really broke in the U.S. so Chicago was denied any sort of big important cultural impact, and then for a long time there was almost nothing here. What did we have, crucial conflict and Common and R. Kelly? Shit when I was ten just like every other kid my age from the Chi we were into Dre and Snoop, that stuff was big – “The Box” was almost all G-funk and 2pac and maybe some biggie here and there. At my high school it was all cash money – even the kids who made beats in high school were imitating the Mannie Fresh double-time bounce music.
Kanye West’s picture dominates this mixtape’s cover and its easy to see why – the guy pretty much dragged Chicago into the spotlight and helped to put Twista on and revitalized Jay-Z. He has a song of his own on here from before he was big. Its called “Nothin’ Gonna Stop Me” and it’s a really good example of how awful his drum programming can be and his rhyme style sounds a lot different and more amateurish. Its also got his beats on Common’s new single “Food” which I actually like a lot more than Common’s other recent hendrix bullshit and the “Overnight Celebrity” remix with Cam’ron and 50 Cent. 50’s verse is surprisingly exciting.
For the most part though this mixtape is all about Dug Infinite. He produces a bunch of the tracks and drops a verse on No I.D.’s “State to State (Beatnuts Remix).” My personal favorite is All Natural’s “Stony Island” which is on the Pete Rock-style piano loop steez.
Just like when House was king, Chicago is in its own world when it comes to hip-hop. The south is revitalizing hip-hop production and meanwhile these cats are sampling like its 1993. Dug Inf is pretty good and I like this mixtape a lot but some of the production veers towards dull. There are a lot of good MCs on it though, most of the major guys you’d want to hear from Chicago – J.U.I.C.E., Rhymefest (who absolutely rips it over a Mark Ronson beat), All Natural, and No I.D., for instance. And there’s something endearing about Chicago’s refusal to even acknowledge what’s happening outside its own city limits.
For a history of Chicago hip-hop, check out the galapagos 4 website. This history was written by Kevin Beacham aka Formless.
Here are two mp3s of my favorite tracks from Chicago: The Underworld Mixtape.
All Natural – “Stony Island” (produced by Dug Inf)
No I.D. featuring Common and Dug Inf – “State to State (Beatnuts Remix)”
Buy the mixtape here for only 6.99.
Here is the tracklist:
01 – Intro – Gee Field & Mike Treese (Prod. By Matt Monster)
02 – Plane Terror – Mass Hysteria (Prod. By Dug Inf)
03 – Respeck – Rhymefest (Prod. By Mark Ronson)
04 – Renegades – Cap D ft. Ali & Tree
05 – Middle Ground Anthem – Prime & Clew (Prod. By Crates)
06 – Hot – Kaos (Prod. By Memo/Molemen)
07 – In the Trenches/Wake Up Call RMX – J.U.I.C.E.
08 – Stony Island – All Natural (Prod. By Dug Inf.)
09 – Rockin’ w/ the Best – DJ Presyce
10 – It Ain’t Safe – Mass Hysteria (Prod. By Dug Inf)
11 – Freestyle – Zoser from Frontline (Prod. By Spike & Jamal)
12 – Feels So Good – SMP ft. Earatik Statik & Pace Won
13 – Smoke Signals – Primeridian ft. GQ & DJ Kiko
14 – We Made Us – Mass Hysteria (Prod. By Dug Inf)
15 – Autobiography – Sham God (Prod. By Manos)
16 – Nothin’ Gonna Stop Me – Kanye West (NOT ON ALBUM)
17 – Chapelle Show Intro
18 – The Food (Full Song) – Common ft. Kanye West (BRAND NEW)
19 – Lost Boys – Longshot (Prod. By Panik/Molemen)
20 – Fall Out – Mass Hysteria ft. J.U.I.C.E. (Prod. By SC)
21 – This’ll Have to Do – Sef the Executioner (Prod. By Spike & Jamal)
23 – State to State (Beatnuts RMX) – No I.D. Ft. Common & Dug Inf
24 – Persevere RMX – Mass Hysteria (Prod. By SC)
25 – You Know I’m Wit It – SMP ft. Kool G Rap & Ma Barker
26 – Overnight Celebrity RMX – Twista ft. Cam’ron & 50 Cent
27 – Peace to Chicago Artists
All Natural (Tone b. Nimble and capital D)