Kanye West x Rhymefest: Donda’s House

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Launched August 2013, Donda’s House “Got Bars” program is slowly making its mark as the creative hub of our generation. Founded by the legendary Kanye West and led by Che “Rhymefest” Smith. Rhymefest, childhood friend and West’s cowriter, started the “Got Bars” program with the focus on music/lyric composition and performance. This unique program aimed towards 15-24 year olds, prides itself on the “90’s artist environment” where all artists are pushed to become creative mentally and physically.

Backed by the largest names in hip hop, Kanye West and Rhymefest, applicants from different corners of the city wrestled the cold Chicago weather to be part of the Donda Family. As the air grew thicker inside the Ark of St. Sabina, tensions ran high as applicants proved why they earned their title as an artist.

This statement could not be truer than the moment one walks in. Decked in the freshest gear and applications at hand, crowds of candidates huddled in rooms. Nervously waiting, practicing, and watching as judges, volunteers, and renowned entertainment figures moved from room to room. As candidates scanned the rooms, a mixture of excitement, fear, and raw passion filled the air.

From the blurbs of sound coming from the gymnasium, emerging artists battling on the staircases, or the young vocalists humming a tune in the hallway, creative energy spilled from all corners of the building. “You can feel the energy. Every inch of this building is buzzing,” said Donnie Smith, Executive Director of Donda’s House.

With the boom of artists hungry to showcase their talent, Donda’s House prides itself in harboring this type of energy.  However, with limited resources diminishing the edge for creative expression, Donda’s House aims to nurture and give a home to the city’s growing creatives.

“We want to give artists an environment where they can collaborate and really nurture their artistry. In reality to be a great artist, it takes time, dedication, and money. But here we take away the financial hardship and provide our members with premium access to the best in the business,” Che “Rhymefest” Smith noted.

Beyond the high-profile names backing this program, “Got Bars” is more than perfecting your craft as an artist, “it’s about being a better you and letting your experiences shine through your work,” “Got Bars” alumni Diamond Pugh said. Take it from her, she was one of the first to earn her spot in this program.

Born and raised in the Southside of Chicago, Pugh, 21 a veteran at Donda’s House fell in love with music at a young age. After answering an ad for Donda’s House in hopes to pursue music, Pugh not only got accepted but now leads many endeavors for the organization. However, her journey to Donda’s House wasn’t easy, as she too, had to endure the same rigorous audition process.

“It was nerve wrecking being in front of Rhymefest. Not because he is so well known in the industry but the fact that what he has to say won’t always be what you want to hear,” Pugh said, “But he cares and it shows. Being in this program I don’t think I would have pushed myself as hard as I did if it wasn’t for him telling me I could do better.”

The love from Donda’s House is apparent whether candidates are accepted or not. “We care about you and your dreams deeply. This whole process has a purpose, a deep purpose. It’s beyond the concept of making music, it’s about one living up to their potential,” Rhymefest said closing the event. “All of you are talented beyond means and we welcome you all to come back. Regardless if you have been here for a day, a month, or a year, you are all family.”

As the audition comes to a close for its second consecutive semester and the organization continues to grow their programs, it is without a doubt that Donda’s House will soon be at the forefront in the creative community. For more information about Donda’s House, please visit dondashouseinc.org.

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#gowheredoesSXSW Recap

Every year SXSW gets bigger and bigger, but did this year get too big and crazy? There is such a thing as too much of a good thing. I hope that made sense.

As expected, there was music everywhere. People lined the streets hoping to get a glimpse a celebrity or catch a free show.  Everything from Lady Gaga showing up at the Doritos Stage, Ludacris at the Dickies, Rick Ross bringing Erykah Badu to help him close down the Fader Fort Saturday night, SXSW was very sure to please.

Video by Lerin Lockwood

And of course… there were the parties. Nothing like coming up to the Illmore to see Steve Aoki and capping the evening off with G-Eazy.  The parties went on till 6 in the morning, even when the liquor ran out closer to three.  Moving from the previous year’s mansions, this year was at a youth center. It was a little bit of a throwback vibe. I almost felt like I was at my high school’s homecoming. The line up was still sick though and of course, Steve Aoki caked some concert goers.

Isaiah Rashad Thursday night at the SoundCloud House.
Isaiah Rashad Thursday night at the SoundCloud House.

Some of the hottest house parties were Soundcloud who introduced the public to some great hip-hop acts that will really make some big waves this year.  Soundcloud hosted a laid back but really solid set Thursday night with Ab-Soul, Isaiah Rashad, Chuck Inglish, and the perfect ending with Schoolboy Q. During the daytime, the Spotify House was solid. Filled with interactive demo walls of their upgrades to Spotify, trivia games, free food and drinks, and brand new sounds from up and coming artist Vancejoy.  I love coming back from Austin with a filled playlist that I will be sharing later this week.

Schoolboy Q performs “Man of the Year”

Live at the Fader Fort (Video via Fader Fort)

Always a go to spot, with the 3 block line to prove it, the Fader Fort opened and closed hard bringing in unthinkable lines everyday. From old school smash hits like Jeremih’s Birthday Sex and Jojo’s Leave Get Out, to new songs by Chromeo, Vic Mensa, and lastly Rick Ross shutting down the fort, Fader has become an institution and definitely a festival within itself. //instagram.com/p/ljKjD5CnwF/embed/ Then there was’s Ludacris’s Friday night show.  He came out so hard the soundstage basically imploded forcing a 10 minutes intermission at Dickies. He made sure to come even harder, playing throwbacks like Stand Up and Whats your Fantasy, I think this my favorite show. Thanks BMFMedia for hosting.

photo credit: Childish Gambino IG
photo credit: Childish Gambino IG

Childish Gambino seemed to have OWNED SXSW.  Everyday he had something. From his appearance at the MTVU Woodies, his Hackathon, and his Saturday night free show in Butler Park, Gambino owned it all.  I didn’t get to check out all of his shows (I know, I’m kind of bummed), but I will be seeing him in concert on Wednesday in Chicago. Though Wednesday night’s tragedy had a looming presence on Thursday’s shows and with Tyler the Creator inciting a riot and later being arrested at the airport proves how out of hand anything goes at SXSW. Would I do it all over again? Yes, absolutely, because seriously I wouldn’t know where else I could experience anything like this. Every year is a wild card. As always, follow us on Instagram and Twitter for the latest updates.

Srirachana at the Fader Fort
Srirachana at the Fader Fort

SRIRACHANA’S RESTAURANT WEEK PICKS ROUND TWO WITH MUSICAL PAIRINGS!

The love/hate week for many of Chicago’s restaurant staff is coming up.  Fresh new line up of $22 prix fixe lunch and $33/$44 dinner menus offered from February 1-10, 2013.  I encourage you to take that extended lunch or excessively fancy dinner during the week because you can!

To find the full list of restaurants and reservations check out OpenTable!

These choices were my close contenders (mainly because I’m not made out of money and had to narrow my choices for my bank accounts & shoe collection’s sake). See my first round picks and continue with my second round picks! I hope you find your new favorite spot in the city!

Srirachana’s Picks Round Two with fine musical pairing!

 photo courtesy Time Out Magazine

pairs well with Rihanna, Lemme Get That

Allium, Gold Coast.  The revamped space inside the Four Seasons Chicago, cleaned up quite well.  Though still pricey, Kevin Hickey, head chef, breathed new life into the menu. The old restaurant was old school, and I mean old school. Way past #TBT status, they served petite fours and all (though that will be missed). The new joint’s kitchen knows what their doing! The food is modern, upbeat, but definitely not too gimmicky. The reason why I can hold off on this is because for all of the month of January, their three-course value offered through the month of January. With their Anti-New Year’s Resolution January menu, they couldn’t haven’t gotten more modern than that. I personally would like to highlight their high end all you can eat FRIED CHICKEN TUESDAYS. Splurge from your waistline and not from your wallet with three course prix fixe, extra entrée helpings, and fancy schmancy drink pairings including Spiked Sweet Tea.  Lemme Get (some of) that!

photo courtesy of NYT Travel

pairs best with TLC, Creep

 Balsan at the Waldorf Astoria Chicago, Gold Coast. This sister restaurant to the famed EPIC, also in the Waldorf, gives you that Crazy, Sexy Cool vibe with their unique American Contemporary Bistro fare.  The chefs pay attention to every detail on your plate and every micro detail to flavor.  There is a certain American “sensibility” and luxury at your fingertips.  I’m surprised to see this on the restaurant week list this year – a definite must try!  The hotel itself is a stylish celeb filled haven. (Ahem – I met T.I. & Marlon Wayans here and had the best meal in my life at Ria with my boo- I might be a little sentimental).  Though after morning the short lived and highly respected Ria, (the partners after two years are trying new adventures), the Waldorf still boasts the Balsan.  May the Waldorf forever transcend Luxury Hotel Dining!

photo courtesy of Belly Q

pairs exceptionally with Drake, Thank Me Now

Belly QWest Town.  Brought to you by the brains behind Belly Shack and Urban Belly, Chef Bill Kim’s new concept restaurant brings your season Asian BBQ utilizing local ingredients and a definite jump above regular chinatown roasted meats.  Tradditional yet new, the combination pops in your mouth. I have to admit I was hesistant at first.  I personally don’t care for Asian fusion or different reinventions of Momofuku’s pork belly buns.  My belly is very happily suprised! Your taste buds can just thank me now. You’re welcome.

GWHH X CHICAGO’S FNO [PHOTO RECAP]

 

Last night was Chicago’s forth FNO.  Originally started four years ago to boost consumer economic confidence, many of the Michigan Avenue stores opened their doors for freebies, cocktails, food, and prizes.

I met up with Heather after work.  When she said she was wearing a high low top with white shorts, she wasn’t kidding!  I loved it. She happened to stumble across her outfit in Akira while looking for a maxi dress and discovered the amazing top.  The whole night, I was chasing after her in that stunning backless number with dramatic tail.  I wore a polka dotted ruffled wrap dress from Topshop with a vintage Prada parrot belt.  The weather was perfect and kicked off the evening at Sable.

 

Stop number one was Haberdash.  A local Chicago boutique filled with tons of dapper men’s pieces.  Ladies, if you need to pick up an attractive (and successful) male date, I suggest you pretend to buy your brother a wallet and just browse the store checking out the um… merchandise. Big props to their staff that was so friendly and personable.  The in house barber even offered to shave our legs and trim our eyebrows… but we politely declined.  The team that works there is so fun.

 

 

Next stop was Sak’s Fifth and Zara.  Sak’s hooked our friend Danielle up with a free make over by Chanel.  The stylist gave her the cat eye / winged tipped eye.   Zara had champaigne flowing.   Tables after tables of champaigne glasses with seemingly limitless amounts of bubbly.  I bumped into this fabulous couple completely decked out in white and had to get a quick pic.  Was it the incredible black highlight, daring crusted jewel headband, or the all white pair… you decide!

Megan & Jackson

 

After spotting a pregnant woman snacking on a breadstick, Heather, Danielle, and I later figured out that the center pieces were actually edible.  Always trust the pregnant women.

 

I copped some killer flats with cap toe studs for only $50!  And last but not least, Matt Rolanwas spinning killer disco vibe beats all night long at the event.  Gotta check him out at Paris Club tonight.

The night was already flying away so we booked it over to Macy’s. I got a free facial from Origins, Heather got some killer smokey eyes, compliments of Mac Cosmetics.

  the finished product!  Danielle, me, and Heather

Cat eyes, no make up, and smokey eyes… Chanel, Origins, and Mac Cosmetics, respecitively

 

 

Final FNO stop of the night was the 900 North Michigan. Sipping on cocktails, free massages, manicures, and a Beauty Bazaar that could keep up entertained for days, these were all things that we were not able to enjoy because were so fashionably late.  We know where we will be starting next year.

 

my dates vamping it up!

 

Our final stops of the night was the Rooftop at the Wit.  Great music on a rooftop over looking the river made me realize how much I love this city.

…and then we made a couple more friends in the lift.