Everyone who knows me, knows that I am a HUGE Hip-Hop head. I love a great beat, vivid storytelling, clever word play, gritty themes, and irreverent party anthems. I'm particularly blessed to be friends with one of my favorite emcees. Several years ago, during the run of I Still Love H.E.R., I was bemused by the state of Hip-Hop in Chicago. Yes we have Kanye, Common, Lupe... but I was waiting for the next great Chicago Emcee that wasn't a backpacker or a drill rapper. There is a happy medium in Hip-Hop where legends vibe out, that mixes street intelligence, with book smarts, an intrinsic smoothness, and a ferocity that resembles that of tribal warlords. It's that well rounded guy or girl, who can reach people on several different levels while not seeming phony on any of them. You can play their music when you're getting ready for work, going out to get your mack on, or about to hand out a fade or two.
As I sat musing over this current missing link in our scene, my boy Andre DuBois (CEO of Reflective Music and Co Founder of Theori Fine Arts) sends me a link of this guy freestyling and tells me this is a guy I need to know. Now I get these messages all the time, but Dre doesn't vibe to Hip-Hop on the level I do, and his seriousness about this dude has me curious. I take a listen... and my first thought is "This is what the **** I'm talkin' about." I ask for the cat's name: D2G.
Fast forward to 2015. 2 Albums and an EP later. I am listening to an album that shows growth, hunger, and bevy of emotions and experiences. This isn't as much an album, as it is an Opus that could have been orchestrated by Chicago's soul itself. It has a sound than is inexorably Chi. The first single, "Hydroplanin" ft. Isaiah Jones and Ashley Laschelle of the Reflective Music camp, is a smoothed out tribute to cruising down Lake Shore Drive on a warm summertime Chi night. It's the type of song that anyone can vibe to, but if you have experienced it... seeing the skyline, the lakefront, the crowds of people change from brown, to white, to an assortment all over again... it reaches you on a molecular level. It's a powerful connection.
The features on the album have a feeling of magic. It's not so much in the names, it's in the coherence of the vision between D2G and the featured artists. Collaboration can be tricky, with artist looking to "murder you on your own record" and what not. When you have collaborators who not just come to bring their A game, but make sure that their contribution is with pure intentions... prepare for your aux cord to catch fire. My favorite collaborations on the album are the features from lady emcees. Long Days ft. AP Remedy is an intense, look into the times when an artist is searching for a reason to continue to create beauty in a world so ugly. The brooding, melodic beat catches you from the beginning and never releases you. Immediately I was given memories of sitting in the park at night, listening to Psycho Drama, and ranting about how the Chi doesn't get the proper shine in Hip-Hop. Love it.
I Got It ft Breezy City, D2G's long time collaborator and label mate brings the infectious Chi-Town Chopping/Soul Bounce feeling that made Do or Die and early Kanye West songs so amazing. Breezy and D2G seem to bring out the best in each other, as Breezy delivers some of her finest bars ever. She's powerful, intense, and completely in control of a beat that is absolutely bananas and would swallow a lesser emcee. D2G shines as his comfort with his sister in art brings out a verse that is simply fire.
That's not to say that any of the other features are not awesome, JDP, C. Rich, La Royce Hawkins, Katrina Valene, and Sohje all bring their unique brand of amazing to this project that shows why Chicago should NEVER be underestimated when it comes to Hip-Hop. Herbalist will especially love the dreamy Fall Intro by Mon Cheri Soul, a sing-song/spoken word libation that sucks you into the essence of the cosmos themselves.
All in all, I can't express how much I love this project. But if I had to sum it up, I would have to quote my father, Zack Lewis, upon listening to this album for the first time:
"This ain't no ratchet Hip-Hop shit, this mothafucka got soul. He reminds me of Pete Rock."