Common ‘Nobody’s Smiling’ x GWHH

A legend and definitely not a stranger to the city of Chicago or to Gowhere Hip Hop, Common has been making the city buzz for the last several months. With his announcement of a fall season music festival, a Chicago job initiative with Rhymefest, and a new album release, Common’s list of endeavors is longer than ever. However, nothing excited me more than the announcement of his tenth album, Nobody’s Smiling, set to drop July 22nd. With his album hype and a special invite to attend “Find Your Fortune”, Common’s exclusive listening party, I couldn’t say no to peeping his new work and chatting with Common as he circled back to the Windy City.

Video Provided by Miller Fortune

Set at Untitled, the private event was sponsored by Miller Fortune and Complex. Walking in, videos of the event’s theme lit the room with the caption “Fortune Comes to Those Who Seek It”, a true testament as the space filled with the who’s who and creative tastemakers of Chitown. From the street-wear gurus, Chicago rappers, to the hottest beat makers, everyone posted up with their finest gear in support of this legendary artist. Notable guests spotted among the crowd were Alex Wiley of Closed Sessions, a rising artist in the Chicago music scene and heavy weight rapper and producer, Rhymefest, were just a few who vibed out to this special gathering.

Photos by: Desmond Owusu

As the night continued with refreshments and guests pouring into the dance floor, the highlight and anticipation for the album soon began. Everyone gathered around the stage and screens as Common and Rhymefest took the stage to preview the album, my shortness (5’2 shorty but 5’4 with my high ponytail though) came through as I was lucky to be whispers away from Common as he discussed his new album. Previewing the album, track for track with the guests, the DJ spun songs from the album, the crowd bopped their heads in unison and cheered as Common started spitting few verses from each song. The energy grew fast as guests cheered and raised their bottles of Miller Fortune in the air, saluting Common on yet another successful record.

By the end of the event, I had the opportunity to sit down with Common. Situated in a warm, cozy interviewing room upstairs from Untitled, I was excited to speak more in depth about his new album and how Chicago continues to be driving force behind his music and life’s work as an activist.

Photo: Sgt. Tibs
Photo: Sgt. Tibs

GWHH: This album is your tenth album and after listening to a few tracks I can definitely hear the strong Chicago ties and influences. Are there any specific events or people in Chicago that influenced you in this album?

Common: For this album, I really tuned in to my own experiences living in Chicago and really focused on some of the music and people that continues to grow in the city. I feel like also just being an activist in general has influenced my work on this project. All the things I’ve saw as a child or learned my mother growing up and even the things I’m still seeing today is molding my music.

GWHH: What I’m particularly fascinated with are the Chicago artists featured. We have a large mixture of sounds from Lil Bibby, King Louie, Drizzy, etc. who are giving this album some of its greatest moments. What can you say about the mixture of sounds (classic hip hop and newer styles hip hop) being produced by yourself and others on this album?

Common: That was definitely one of the intents of this album. Its new energy and new hunger. Not only did I want to incorporate the elements of hip hop that I love and grew up on, I also wanted to showcase Chicago artists who are living, creating, and making musical changes in the city. Not only can I bring my own passion for hip hop onto the tracks but these artists as well, are showcasing how music is progressing and things are changing. This event by Complex and Miller Fortune is helping those artists showcase what it is to be a Chicago artist and just where the direction of music may be going towards. Here we can experience the music for all its elements and absorb it organically.

GWHH: Even though Chicago has always been a huge factor in your work, I know you mentioned that you titled this album, “Nobody’s Smiling” because of the some things you’ve seen and experienced in Chicago. Can you elaborate a little more on the title and just overall thought process when creating this project?

Common: Of course. I approached this record without fear. This album is definitely about me giving back to my city and the hip hop culture in which I love and grew up in. But it’s also about me shedding light to the violence that occurs in Chicago every day. I see it and I want it known that this happening every day to cities like ours. The title is a call to action, a clear indicator that events like these are happening and we need to start making a difference.

And you know what? I truly believe we can make a difference if you choose to follow whatever it is that we want in our lives.

GWHH: As an artist and activist, I know you continuously challenge and set goals for yourself. What goals do you hope to accomplish in both fields in the next 5 years?

Common: I say with the resources and plans I have developing right now I hope I can better Chicago and bring about more change for people. Whether its educating people on the situations that are occurring every day through music or my social efforts, I feel that small push regardless of which outlet can inspire people to speak and live without fear. I am definitely trying though, definitely pushing to try and trying every day to make these changes permanent in the long run. I see it and I can feel things are moving towards the right direction.

Photo: Desmond Owusu

As the interview came to a close and I thanked him for his inspiring words, I joined the rest of the party as it continued its way downstairs. With guests still enjoying the night, posing for photographers, swaying their bottles with drinks at hand, and skimming the pages of the latest Complex magazine, snippets of Common’s new album and interview spoke greatly as I scanned the room full of Chicago natives. Living in the city surrounded by both fortune and chaos, it was a nice reminder that change can definitely be made and cultivate based on our efforts. Whether its through what we produce musically or mentally, it’s a very clear reminder that with a little bit of effort and awareness we can make strides for change.

With only a few weeks till his album drop, I am excited for everything that is to come with Common and hope this lasting feeling of positivity continues to carry on into the summertime Chi. Thank you Miller Fortune and Complex for a dope evening and a great start to my summer.

One of our first impressions of 'Nobody's Smiling' — more here.
One of our first impressions of ‘Nobody’s Smiling’ — more previews here.

 

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YAWK YAWK YAWK!

Schoolboy Q‘s Oxymoron World Tour slid through Chicago last night for a sold out show at the Metro. Riddled with bucket hats and DBM fits, the crowd vibed along with Q’s yawks as he busted through Oxymoron. With more Chi town fingerprints on Oxy than lint on Drake’s pants, it was right of Q to bring some of that ‘GO flavor to the stage when BJ The Chicago Kid joined in for “Studio”.

GroovyQ kept the heat up for nearly an hour and a half, only briefly slowing down to address Chicago with a narrative of faith. Just two years out of jail, Q has come from not being able to provide for his daughter to taking care of his whole family. His message was simple – “have faith in yourself.” RT that.

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All Photos: @WhoDough

ICYMI: Schoolboy Q “Studio” f/ BJ The Chicago Kid [Music Video]

Mike Posner Unplugged Tour: Chicago [Review]

After watching the show it was clear that Mike Posner is in the midst of a personal transformation both internally and musically — One that you can date back from before he even started making music.

He openly talked about struggling with depression throughout his life, and revealed that “Save Your Goodbye” off the first album was about depression, and not a girl like most thought. He explains that even after making it as an artist, having his songs on the radio, and making lots of money — there were still feelings of un-fulfillment left lurking within him. Therefore save your goodbye to depression, because something from the unconscious keeps bringing it back.

Mike Posner “Save Your Goodbye”

Mike’s early career had a strong focus on making it as an artist, and his early songs channeled a more dorm room college party vibe. There was a clear vision of ‘I can make my dreams a reality’, especially after his Detroit homie Big Sean got signed to G.O.O.D. Music.

Before he started singing as late as age 20, there were plenty of obstacles Mike had to overcome until solidifying the conviction within himself that he can achieve his dreams. In this interview Mike talks about how no one believed in him, no one wanted to buy his beats, and all doors he actively sought to open were closed in his face. This kind of external rejection can stop you dead in your tracks, unless your inner vision is strong enough to keep the dream alive.

Mike Posner “Started From The Bottom” (Remix) ft. Asher Roth, T Mills, Chuck Inglish, King Chip

So with no one to depend on but himself, he started from the bottom and overcame the challenges that took him to the top — by creating out of love. He was in a creative G Spot while making that music in college, because he was doing it out of the love of self expression. There was no where to go but up, and there was no pressure to make a certain kind of music. He was making music that sounded good to him, over his own beats that no one wanted. He had nothing to lose, no one to help him, and a clear creative focus on achieving his dreams a.k.a. turning the pages from his notebook into real life.

But after achieving all his dreams, and now living them — it seemed that the depression he saved his goodbye for had come back. ’31 Minutes To Takeoff’ definitely had that vibe where Mike was working through new inhibitions that his unconscious was ready to confront him with. Now that there were no more burning accomplishments left to drive him, it was much easier to see what was left to be transformed within. Mike is already such a positive ray of sunshine that it may not seem like he has any demons, but if your happiness is dependent on your goals, your accomplishments, and your material possessions — then what are you going to do if all that is taken away or forgotten? Where will your happiness and stability come from?

mike posner unplugged chicago-2
Photo Credit: Maks G [GWHH]

 

These are the new types of challenges Mike seemed to be facing in order to reinvent himself as the more authentic Self he was discovering himself to be. He was no longer college Mike trying to make it big, and at the same time not totally sure what he was becoming nor where to take it. His debut album seemed to express some of these feelings, and was part of the process of his reinvention into the artist I believe we will see on his upcoming sophomore album ‘Pages’ – due this Fall of 2014.

After watching the Unplugged Tour at Schubas Tavern in Chicago, and hearing a few of the potential new records from ‘Pages’, I feel that Mike has begun to answer that question of where his inner stability and happiness comes from, with the record “My Light”.

Mike Posner “My Light”

“My Light” talks about happiness coming from within yourself, and not anything outside of you. I believe that we give meaning to our circumstances, and it’s through the meaning we give that’ll determine the outcome we’ll get back. Stability comes from knowing that the power is always in your hands — even if the circumstances look very negative, you always have the power to give them a positive meaning. That way you can always be at peace inside yourself regardless of what is happening in your outer world. That is the power of you, your light, and my light!

‘Pages’ is exciting to me because it will echo many of Mike’s newly discovered truths from his life’s notebook, and share them with the world in an unfiltered and poetic kind of way expressing his reinvented self.

Some themes that I’ve noticed at the show of this newly defined self I speak of is: a stronger desire to help others, gratitude for all of life’s experiences, an honest look at his own fears, and most importantly his inspirational motto of Love, Relate, and Inspire.

love relate inspire

To further elaborate, Mike has teamed up with the Food Bank for New York City, and vowed to donate a meal to a child in need for every album sold. He wants his music to help people not only feed their souls, but their stomachs as well.

Throughout the tour he talks about how grateful he is to each individual city and his fans there, even writing a personal letter expressing that gratitude on twitter. During the unplugged set, he also talked about gratitude for his family, his friends, and even his challenging disbelievers.

There was even an elegant 3-verse spoken word poem called “Gratitude” that he performed dedicated to his teacher Mr. Z for telling him he ain’t shit, to his Uncle Fred who believed in him, and to his Dad who inspired him. He said he was grateful for every experience that shaped him to be the person he is today.

Mike Posner “Gratitude Poem for Mom”

And while being grateful, he also performed songs that revealed some of his own fears that he’s still working on overcoming and letting go like in the records “Sad Songs” and “It’s Not That Simple” below.

Mike Posner “Sad Songs”

Mike Posner “It’s Not That Simple”

But throughout the whole performance he most highlighted his new motto, and most likely the motto for this new album and reinvented self: Love, Relate, Inspire. That was the general theme of the night, which was emphasized by his incredible talent to perform with dynamic vocal ranges, comedic commentary with the audience, real ass moments of truth, and a hype party sendoff to close the night.

So in the end Mike may not have everything all figured out, but being a longtime fan since the beginning of his music career, I know I’m excited to see how he’ll end up expressing and reinventing himself next on the upcoming album ‘Pages’ and beyond!

Mike himself said it best that night though “I still haven’t found where I belong, but I can write one hell of a song!”

True that Mike. True.

maks mike tibs throwback
2009 Throwback with Maks G, Mike Posner, & Sgt. Tibs

Gambino + Chicago = 3x the Encore

Gambino brings down the Riviera like never before with three encores, surprise performance by Vic Mensa, and duets with Chance the Rapper.

After filling Butler Park last Saturday with 20k+ attendees, Childish Gambino definitely took over the last night of SXSW. I, sadly, was not one of those 20K+ attendees.

Exhausted and tired from the exhaustive week spent in Austin, TX, I knew I had one more stop before I could truly finally take a day off – that one stop being the mayhem that Childish Gambino has grown into.

Following Gambino since his career infancy, I’ve found it harder and harder to catch his shows now with competing with his ever expanding and growing younger fan base. However, all of his shows are sold out for the right reasons though. He brings more and more to the table than ever.  Gambino’s gifted in all fields: A powerhouse of actor/singer/comedian/dancer/writer he now adds piano player.

Opening act, Vic Mensa, could have been a concert on his own but instead he tossed Chicago a surprise and went deep with #INNATETAPE.  Fresh off his split from Kids these Days, Vic shows that he has the chops to be in the running for XXL’s freshman class. So. Much. Chicago. Love.

After a long music intro, the crowd greets him to chants of World Star and he opens with Crawl. Playing the balance of his old and new stuff, including a super sexy jazz rendition of Heartbeat. His performance art drop down façade during Dial-Up, Gambino meditates in the smoke on his vision of Because the Internet nodding to those who have been following since his Tumblr days.  No energy was lost as he deliberately slowed down the crowd for his intermittent sets of freestyles.

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via @Gowherehiphop: Gambino performs Heartbeat

You experience the big bro / little bro bromance he has going on with Chance the Rapper and his newest bro Vic Mensa, his opening act.  The duet The Worst Guys showed off the softer side of the two (beat-wise at least). Gambino, once a perennial outsider from middle class upbringing is finally the big bro of hip hop’s next class.

Gambino is successfully walking the balance of becoming more and more confident, without the all that cockiness that makes his shows so successful.  He is still relatable. A college educated kid, I just trying to hustle and hustle successfully though life.

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via @Srirachana: Gambino Encore

He has all the makings of ordinary – middle class and college educated but just isn’t. He’s emotional. He’s insecure. He’s intelligent. He’s immensely talented. And above all, he continues to challenge himself.

Full Set List:

1. I. Crawl
2. II. Worldstar
3. I. The Worst Guys f/ Chance the Rapper
4. II. Shadows
5. Sweatpants
6. Dial Up
7. Freaks and Geeks / Firefly / Yaphet Kotto / Bonfire
8. Letter Home
9. II. Worldstar
10. One Up
11. Eat Your Vegetables
12. Unnecessary
13. Freestyle
14. Telegraph Ave.
15. Pink Toes a
16. 3005

Encore #1 & #2

17. So Fly
18. I Got This Money
19. Do Ya Like
20. Heartbeat Jazzy Remix
21. Firefly
22. Freestyle
23. Royalty
24. Blackfaces

Encore #3

25. Bonfire
26. Freestyle
27. Freestyle with Vic Mensa and Chance the Rapper
28. Lights Turned On

 Screen Shot 2014-03-20 at 9.58.47 AM

ICYMI: Gambino’s grand entrance at SXSW #GWHHReview

Gambino’s grand entrance at MTVu Woodie Awards

This year’s SXSW had a ton of great shows. Without a doubt, one of the standouts was the MTVu Woodie Awards. Despite a number of talented artists performing at the show, everybody’s attention was focused on the person set to close it out: Childish Gambino.

Around 10 PM, the first few notes from “3005” echoed through the speakers. To everyone’s surprise, instead of walking out onto the stage, Childish Gambino began the song from outside of his trailer. Wrapped in tiny color changing lights, Gambino worked his way past the ticket gate and concession stands. As the hook began, a small marching band (also decked out in small lights) appeared behind him. Gambino then proceeded to make his way through the crowd and onto the stage. Needless to say, it was an awesome entrance.

After “3005”, Gambino went straight into “Sweatpants”. He spit each line with his trademark bravado. The crowd went nuts as he went into his rapid-fire flow toward the end of the song. The last line of the song (“And I don’t give a f**k about my family name!”) was punctuated with him dropping the mic and then walking away.

But the show was far from over. As the night went on, Gambino performed a medley of his biggest songs including “Crawl”, “Telegraph Ave”, “Black Faces”, “Heartbeat”, and “Freaks & Geeks”. He closed out his set with an energetic performance of Bonfire.

Overall, it was a great show. Childish Gambino brought his A-game and showed why he’s one of the most exciting artists out right now.

Donald Glover backstage @ MTVU Woodie Awards (photo via Monster)
Donald Glover backstage @ MTVU Woodie Awards (photo via Monster)

ICYMI: #gowheredoesSXSW — a recap of all of SXSW, the hottest parties, shows, and new artists by @Srirachana

*Tibs Note* @Srirachana will be at Childish Gambino’s show in Chicago tonite! More coverage to come… #GowhereGambino