For 2014: D2G

D2G-July-9th-A-Caner-StoryWhen it comes to hip-hop in Chicago, contrary to “popular” belief, there is a rather extensive history of successful artists. Perhaps most of them did not reach a national level in terms of popularity, but on a local level, they provided a soundtrack to many of our lives. I won’t regale you with tales of rapping along with Crucial Conflict, Da Brat or Do or Die, but I will tell you that in my somewhat biased opinion, Chicago hip-hop is experiencing a renaissance of sorts. A part of this new movement is artist/songwriter/hungry MC, D2G.

I first heard D2G on the DC-produced Hard Bars, a 2011 collaborative effort with fellow Chicago hip-hop artist, Vic Spencer. While I knew what to expect from Spencer and to an extent, DC, it was D2G’s performance that not only caught me off guard, but forced me to look at Chicago’s rap and hip-hop scene in an almost completely different way. Far too often rife with gang references and odes to violent acts, Chicago’s rap and hip-hop landscape can appear very watered down to some. And, not to dismiss trap artists like Lil’ Durk, Chief Keef and King Louie, but I always knew that there were artists who more accurately represented the struggle and desire to overcome it, in a less materialistic, self-centered way. Enter, D2G.

In December of 2011, D2G released The Blood Diamond Tape. Sixteen tracks long with features from Spencer, Lili K, Jay Rashard, A.M. and others, it was a very solid project, from start to finish. Evident was the fact that not only could D2G rap, but he actually gave a shit about his craft. Similar to Lil’ Wayne on Tha Carter, you could hear the hunger in D2G’s verses. You simply cannot listen to “Mom’s Prayin'” and tell me that D2G is half-assing it on the track. Period.

After a 2012 that seemingly came and went for just about everyone, whether in the music industry or not, D2G gifted us on his birthday, July 9, 2013, with July 9th: A Cancer Story. Holy shit, what a mixtape. What. A. Mixtape. I reviewed it earlier on this site, and if I were forced to review it again today, my opinion of it would probably be even more glowing and positive.

I listen to an awful lot of hip-hop and it’s not often that I can sit down and listen to a project in its entirety without thinking that the artist is bullshitting me, at some point. It happens; the need to appeal to your fans who are borderline hip-hop purists and those who simply want to hear good music without the requirement of it actually speaking to them in any way, shape or form. Maybe it’s harsh to call addressing the needs of one’s entire fanbase “bullshitting,” but it is frustrating to listen to such code-switching. D2G’s struggles are not mine, and mine are not his. However, to hear the raw effort on J9: ACS made me a believer in D2G. I have faith that D2G can establish himself as one of the premier hip-hop artists in Chicago, for years to come.

I’ve had the opportunity to do a little “Q & A” with D2G, and his answers didn’t seem contrived. They appeared to be thought out, in order to provide me with the insight that many artists seem to not think is very important in how they are viewed not only as artists, but as people. Regardless of what anyone says, we all judge. Most of us do so unfairly, but nevertheless, we all judge. And while I’d love to write that we as fans can easily separate the artist from the person, more times than not, it is incredibly difficult to do so.

In conclusion, I appreciate the music that D2G puts out, and the effort that goes into it. He certainly isn’t the only rap or hip-hop artist in Chicago who gives a damn about their product, but he’s one I rock with the most, arguably. With the momentum he built in 2013, especially after J9: ACS, it wouldn’t be surprising that he uses that to propel himself to another level in 2014. It’s a “GoILL” movement, y’all.

For 2014: Milli Mars

a4061242399_10I’m not sure if everything is really bigger in the state of Texas, but I do know that San Antonio has a hidden gem in hip-hop artist Milli Mars. Thanks to a friend in the Austin area who hipped me to his music, I first learned of Mars in 2011 when I heard his second musical venture YMID, and was essentially blown away. Not that I am one to generalize, but the project didn’t sound very…Texan. Nevertheless, it stayed in rotation. Once I went back to the proverbial lab and listened to his debut, BrainwashedI knew that this was an artist I needed to keep an eye and ear out for.

After dropping only one track in 2012, “Au Revoir,” Mars came back in 2013 with a shorter, but equally dope release, The Toyotomi EP. Only seven tracks long and with support from Gianni Lee and Babylon Cartel, The Toyotomi EP has a much different sound than YMID, as the production, entirely from whizKIDDA (who also produced all of YMID and Brainwashed), at least appears to be a bit more focused. While the listener doesn’t enjoy the diversity heard on YMID, they will enjoy the layers of “Tokyo Noir” and the thumping drums of “Red Alert ’87.” “Hattori Hanzo” is my second-favorite track on the EP, and the bassline is seemingly perfect, although it arguably could have done without the bridges. The combination of drums and almost eerie bassline on the second half of “Battle of So-Chon,” along with the intermittent vocals, make it my favorite on The Toyotomi EP.

I’m sure that Milli Mars has more in store for us in 2014, and I hope he can build off of The Toyotomi EP. Regardless of commercial success, I know he has a buzz in Texas and assumingly, some sects of the south. It’s not enough to support artists in your area; the underground is the underground. Whether or not Mars or his fans consider him to be a part of the underground doesn’t matter. If Mars makes his way to the Midwest or I happen to be on my vagabond shit in the state of Texas, I’ll be sure to check him out if I can. I implore you to do the same. In the meanwhile, check out his music and thank me later.

Album: ‘Free Hugs,’ Hologram Kizzie (bka Psalm One)

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I once won tickets to see Chicago rap artist Hologram Kizzie (or Psalm One at that time) and others perform at The Hideout, and the night culminated with me getting a sweaty hug from Psalm One herself. ‘Twas glorious, I tell you. Be jealous.

Besides all of that, Madame Kizzie released Free Hugs on May 28. This 7-track EP was produced entirely by Compound 7, a duo comprised of A Plus and Aagee. You had better believe that Kizzie leaves everything on the floor on Hugs, and how effing dope/clever is that artwork?! Head to her site, throw down some scratch for Free Hugs, and then give it a listen. Oh. You’re welcome.

Download: Free Hugs, Hologram Kizzie (Psalm One)

Album: ‘We’re Still Disappointed,’ Vic Spencer & Sulaiman

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About three years ago, Chicago rap artists Vic Spencer and Sulaiman teamed up to gift our ears with We’re Just Disappointed. Well, they’re still disappointed. The rappin’ ass duo released We’re Still Disappointed a few days ago, much to the delight of their fans. This album features production from Ikaz, Black Spade, Thelonious Martin and others. Also, there are no features. All you’ll get on this album is Vic and Sul, Sul and Vic. If you’re familiar with the theme of We’re Just Disappointed, then this project won’t catch you off guard. Head to their Bandcamp page, name your price, and download We’re Still Disappointed.

Download: We’re Still Disappointed (Album), Vic Spencer & Sulaiman

“Go Louis”, Vic Spencer/Black Spade

All hail the artistic return of Vic Spencer. By now, you already know the story behind “Go Louis”. At least, I’m assuming you do if you’re reading this. Here’s the abridged story: Chicago rapper Vic Spencer meets St. Louis emcee/producer Black Spade and “Go Louis” is born. Before this release, I had only really been familiar with “Vic Magorium’s Hip-Hop Emporium”, which has been in steady rotation since I downloaded it in December, 2009. Normally, I wouldn’t approve of Chicago and St. Louis mixing in any shape, form, or fashion, mostly because I’m a Cubs and Bears fan, but I was happy to make an exception in this case. Without spoiling a great listening experience, I’d like to say that the intro, “The Way An Intro Should Sound” and “Politics & Bullshit (That’s All You Hear)” are tracks that have great replay value, while accompanied by others, such as the semi-light but tight “Meltdown” and what I believe was the tape’s grittiest track, “79th Street”. Guests include Vic Mensa, Primeridian, Brian Fresco and Naledge, among others who help Spencer take another step towards establishing himself as one of the rappers who everyone should be listening to in 2011.

“Go Louis”, Vic Spencer/Black Spade link below:

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"Go Louis"