Saturday, July 22, 2006

Music Reviews and News

--by the Kid

Rhymefest

I buy a lot of CDs. Generally my tastes are fairly eclectic and my purchase of music reflects that. A few years ago I started to make an effort to buy CDs of Indiana based musical artists who had a major label debut. It was a no questions asked personal policy where I would buy the CD, no matter if I was wowed by what I had heard previous to the purchase or not. It started with the Why Store’s first CD for MCA (even without being overly impressed with the lead single “Lack of Water”) and I have continued it since. I thought it was my small contribution to showing the mighty powers that be that Indiana based artists had some commercial viability. Granted this has not required a great monetary contribution on my part (unfortunately) and my single purchase here and there did little to bring fame and fortune to Hoosier based bands.

For these reasons, I agonized recently about whether to purchase Rhymefest’s major label debut on J Records, “Blue Collar”. I have heard about Rhymefest for a few years. He has been touted quite a bit by the local alternative press. Every article I read about him seemed to casually mention his semifinal defeat of some nobody by the name of Eminem at the 1997 Scribble Jam, Cincinnati’s hip-hop festival. Of course Eminem went on to great fame and, until recently, Rhymefest remained in national anonymity.

My problem did not stem from the genre of music. I admit that rap makes up the smallest percentage of my music collection but that didn’t cause me a problem because there is a great amount of rap I really like. My problem was to whether to consider Rhymefest an Indiana based artist and if so, whether or not I should purchase the CD based on this policy I started a few years prior.

Rhymefest is a native from the South side of Chicago. He certainly makes no secret of his native origins and in fact boasts of them repeatedly. The lyrics on his debut mention multiple times where he is from and the CD itself includes “Chicago, Illinois” under his moniker made to look like a patch. All information I found on-line refers to him as “Chicago” rapper Rhymefest. In fact his myspace page indicates the same. Also his new video for the second single for “Blue Collar” shows him rapping on an “el” train while scandalously clad women dance and myriad of Chicagoan landmarks drift by the windows. I never have ridden that particular “el” but would love to take it for a spin next time I am up in the Second City. I did ride an “el” one time where a guy put his feet on my lap the whole ride and told me I had no pride over and over, but I digress.

Not withstanding where he grew up, Rhymefest lives in an Indianapolis suburb. He moved here a few years ago for family reasons and if recent media reports are true, remained even after the reasons for his move ended.

I decided to buy the CD, regardless of my personal confusion of whether or not it fell into this policy I started. For one, Rhymefest grew up in Chicago and obviously loves and respects that great city. I can’t blame him for associating himself with the city where he came of age. If I moved to, say, Omaha tomorrow and one day woke up with Rhymefest’s talent you bet I would drop bombs about Muncie and Vincennes. Second, a video based on the “el” certainly a little more street cred than taking a spin on the People Mover out at Clarian Complex. Also Rhymefest (the story goes) has had a series of tough jobs to support himself and his family and this experience has resonated in his lyrics on his new album. As a former factory painter, corn detasseler, dishwasher, short order cook, watermelon thrower, third shift stock boy, and waiter, I felt I could identify with the lyrics. And most importantly, even after his reasons for moving here ended, Rhymefest stayed. I picked up the CD the first week of its release for only eight bucks.

The CD begins with the introduction and then leads to the three most radio friendly songs on the disk. In fact, the CDs first two singles are found within the first four selections on Blue Collar, “Brand New” and “Fever”. “Brand New” features Kanye West, his friend and his collaborator on West’s hit “Jesus Walks”. Both songs are good but I swear I could hear the record company executive in the background pushing for songs that could translate well to that medium. The songs have a good beat but are not the highlights of the disk. I was most impressed with his other collaboration with West, “More”. The song “More” is a Rhymefest self-boasting of his own dreams and aspirations in the music business. It begins with Rhymefest telling the story of a rapper who had a moment of glory now since removed. I am not sure if Rhymefest is talking about his own insecurities about a very fickle business but the song, one of the slowest on the CD, is a highlight.

I also really liked the next song “Chicago-rillas”. The beat of the song is actually the growling of a gorilla and though it sounds bizarre, it works (maybe it’s a dog who knows). The song, like many on the disk, is actually telling a story with this particular song describing life on the streets of his native city. The other song I really enjoyed was “All Girls Cheat”. The title certainly gives away the song’s theme but contains many of the best lines on the disk (“I ain’t telling ya that ya are wrong for keeping her, All I’m just trying to say ya you don’t own her ya leasing her.”). This song might be Rhymefest’s most personal song based on recent events.

I have enjoyed Rhymefest’s first CD. No matter where his address may be, he is certainly very talented and “Blue Collar” will likely find itself a national audience.

Virgin Millionaires

On Final Four weekend the City held a concert on the Circle. The concert had several popular national acts and was hosted by the former Mr. Jessica Simpson himself, Nick Lachey. One of the bands that played was a band that I never heard of, Virgin Millionaires.

The band gave a good performance and certainly an animated one at that. But, I have to admit the music didn’t overly wow me. When I made it home, I checked them out on line and I was surprised that they hail from Indianapolis. It impressed me that the local organizers would put a local band on the stage with established national bands.

Virgin Millionaires have certainly done a good job of promoting themselves. Their song “Bombs Away” is on heavy rotation on WZPL and they have received airplay on X-103. A review of their myspace page shows they are actively playing shows here in the greater Indianapolis area. Last month they released their EP here locally. For many of the reasons I noted above, I picked it up at Luna for eight bucks.

When I picked up the EP I had hoped that my initial impression would be changed. Unfortunately, it was not. I don’t dislike this band, I think they are good but I don’t know if they will have quite national appeal as touted by Nuvo recently. Their music reminds me similarly when I hear a band such as Train, Fall Out Boy, or Matchbox 20. I don’t find the music offensive to say the least, but I also don’t find it memorable either. My gut is telling me that there are probably a hundred bands throughout the country every bit as good as Virgin Millionaires. It makes me wonder how they will catch the attention of a national label.

At this point I am reserving judgment on the band. I don’t regret buying the CD but I haven’t found myself grabbing for it too often. If they have a great album in them hopefully they will show that when they release their full length CD.


Midwest Music Summit

The Midwest Music Summit, held here in Indianapolis, announced their schedule of concerts recently. You can access the entire line-up here

The Midwest Music Summit features several up and coming bands signed and unsigned to labels. For only twenty bucks you can get a wristband that will get you access to all shows over the course of the three days. It is held on August 10th to August 12th.

One of the highlights of the three days will be on August 10th at the Vogue when Margot and the Nuclear So and So's make their return to the Vogue since their there in April. You can read about that concert here .

Support local music.

--The Kid

10 Comments:

Blogger Vengelyne said...

Mmm hmm....

July 23, 2006  
Blogger Butchieboy said...

I enjoy this post, as I have worked with all of those bands, some more extensively than others. And, yes, Fest lives in Plaifield, not Chicago.

July 24, 2006  
Blogger lastlifeinmyuniverse said...

i wish i could support local bands here in singapore but most of their stuff sucks ! its not the same caliber i had expected. granted theres maybe ONE or TWO great local talents but the rest is just isnt worth listenin to.

thats what you get for being in a country where its government never supports its countrys art and music scene until recently.

July 24, 2006  
Blogger cinnamon said...

check out Block Prophets. funny stuff. hard to find. only at Karma stores around indiana.

July 25, 2006  
Blogger Smartypants said...

"The Kid," huh?

Smarty wants to know who you are.

July 25, 2006  
Blogger Nölff said...

Dirty south rap is not as good as they make you think on sucker free sunday.

July 25, 2006  
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