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Chicago Rap’s Future is in Vic Spencer’s Hands

By Winston Cook-Wilson, Contributor

Today, more than two years after the release of Chief Keef's drill anthem "I Don't Like," Chicago's hip-hop scene is more a talking point than a driving force. Its breakout stars (Keef, Lil Durk and Lil Reese, in particular) have either been unable to replicate their early commercial success, or are precluded from the possibility of doing so by restrictive contracts or stints in jail/rehab. Oddly enough, though, drill music (and the much-mythologized "Chiraq")… more »


Remembering Bobby Womack

By Douglas Wolk, Contributor

Bobby Womack, the singer/songwriter/guitarist who died June 27 at the age of 70, was one of R&B's greatest musicians, and one of its most confounding. His 50-year career was marked by one wrong turn after another, party due to his habit of making genuinely catastrophic personal decisions; yet it always righted itself over time. Womack was a singular talent who very often subordinated his own vision to other artists', or relied on other voices to… more »


5 Feminist Lessons From Missy Elliott

By Madeleine Holden, Contributor

Missy Elliott — destroyer of one-minute men, big [elephant trumpet] searcher and unapologetic freak — is woefully underrated as a feminist icon. She busted through the boys' club of rap in the late '90s, clearing a space for the Nickis and Azealias of today. But even in when judged against the people who followed her, Elliott's career has been uniquely woman-positive. During her peak run from the late '90s to the mid '00s, Elliott provided… more »

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Remembering Bobby Womack

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Shabazz Palaces, Lese Majesty

2014 | Label: Sub Pop Records

Ishmael Butler, the vocal force behind Shabazz Palaces, traffics in a strain of Afrofuturism that refuses to jettison the past or charge headlong into tomorrow. A quiet survivor who first gained acclaim as a member of the ’90s hip-hop trio Digable Planets, Butler is too grounded and skeptical to be utopian, yet too self-assured for dystopia, and Lese Majesty is the clearest statement yet from abstract hip-hop’s calmest bomber. The album has all the heady info-overload you’d expect from something debuted at the Pacific Science Center Laser Dome, but it… more »

Trey Songz, Trigga

2014 | Label: Atlantic Records

Trigga warning: As strong as his new album Trigga is, it does little to solve the fundamental problem with the recorded output of our man Trey Songz. He remains a nimble vocalist with strong range, one who acquits R&B’s formal clichés with precision. But his versatility comes at the expense of personality: No matter how well-executed the music is, at its center is anonymity.

But first, the good: Trigga, at its best, suggests contemporary R&B — that popular, populist strain of radio-friendly soul music holed up in R&B’s diminished center —… more »

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Bass, Beats & Bars

By Nate Patrin, Contributor

Hip-hop's spectrum is broader than ever, with a scene in every city and a thousand ways to control a mic. Bass, Beats & Bars ties it all together — the hustler opulence of Rick Ross, the street-level grind of Freddie Gibbs and G-Side, underground scholars like Shabazz Palaces, and iconic veterans from DJ Quik to Pharoahe Monch. more »

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