Exciting things are happening once again with Donda’s House as they partner with The Chicago Track and The Sean Anderson Foundation for a Q&A session with Big Sean. Held at the Chicago Cultural Center, the rising organizations took back the city from the subzero temperatures and gave us another reason to be proud of Chi-town. With featured performances from Donda’s House and The Chicago Track artists, it was great to see how both these organizations have grown within the past few years. With bigger, better, and even more culturally aware artists stemming from these programs, Chicago is going to continue its reign as the creative mecca.
Capping off the night was the Q&A session with Big Sean whose arrival on the scene has been anything but silent. From tracks like “Marvin Gaye and Chardonnay” to the catchy hit “IDFWU”, Big Sean kept it equally real with the folks of Chicago as he spoke about his humble upbringing, music, and his own advice to other music hopefuls. No stranger to the Donda’s House or Kanye West circle, this isn’t the last we will see of Big Sean and his social efforts. Much like his big brother, Ye, Big Sean is giving back to the community with his own nonprofit organization, The Sean Anderson Foundation, another organization aimed to provide the community with better educational and environmental resources.Now with two mainstream artists providing the community with an creative outlet and social purpose, the possibilities are abundant as the music scene continues to grow. Hold on tight, 2015 is just the beginning for the new age of hip hop.
Go hard or go home. Nothing short of a surprise as Kanye West’s nonprofit opens up AAHH! FEST, the most talked about concert this summer between Common’s Common Ground Foundation and Kanye’s own organization Donda’s House.
Led by the creative director of Donda’s House, Rhymefest and music legend, Common, the community showcase answered the many questions the media has been asking and buzzing about with this music event. “What Chicago got that is not violence?” “How can this concert save Chicago?” “Chicago hasn’t made anything original in years, what do they have to offer now?”
The answer? We’re still producing talent. Now, cue the awkward silence.
Featuring a lineup of 25 artists representing every corner of the city, people from all sides of Chicago came to rep their neighborhood and all the talent this city is notorious for producing. From the tiny vocalists with huge voices, the enigmatic rappers, and the larger than life dancers, it was hard not to admire and give out love to all those who walked the stage. I mean, how many times will one witness three young vocalist sing in perfect harmony to Adele? Or rappers who have the caliber and insight to be the next Kendrick Lamar? Not too many.
Even Diggy Simmons even came through to Chicago to give kudos, commending the city for our overall talent while performing some of his hit tunes. Oh and making all the girls swoon in the 40 degree weather. You know, typical stuff. Yet nevertheless, not a bad compliment from the son of legendary hip hop artist Joseph Simmons aka Rev. Run of RUN DMC.
And with an influx of talent bordering all realms of the city, the creation of AHH! FEST and Donda’s House own individual efforts is exactly what Chicago has been yearning. Even with the show’s lengthy line up, cold morning weather, and occasional stage hiccups, the organization once again proves why Chicago still is the city to be. Don’t be surprised to see Donda’s House pop up once again. I foresee a great wave coming from the organization as they continue their stride to make Chicago even bigger and larger before.
As for AAHH! FEST, if you weren’t there well, I can’t say you didn’t miss out. Cause in all honesty, you REALLY did miss out. No worries though, coming straight from Rhymefest and Common, this event won’t be the last to come for the city of Chicago.
This is my personal favorite festival lineup for this summer and it’s only right that it’s a “save the best for last” moment, right?
AAHH! Fest is coming up in about 3 weeks to Union Park (the setting for the 5th year of North Coast this weekend) and wow, look at that lineup again. Chicago’s own Common & Lupe headlining. Rhymefest also curating the Community showcase with Lil Herb holdin’ it down for the hometown too. Jay Elect, De La Soul, MC Lyte too? I’m also excited to see Dave Chappelle hosting it all after missing him the last couple times he’s made it to the Chi. Best believe we’ll be there, you should be too.
Released July 4th, Donda’s House teams up with Revive to bring us Empowerment, a short documentary featuring Rhymefestand the artists that make up the growing creative hub. Set in the city of Chicago, Rhymefest gives us a candid look at his work at Donda’s House and shares some of his driving life philosophies.
The saying is…”jump and the net will appear.”
Within the first minute of his documentary, Rhymefest’s words and overall realness sets the overall tone of the documentary. Whether it was sharing advice or jamming along to the artists of Donda’s House, Rhymefest gives us a great reminder that with anything in life that we choose, we must choose what truly fulfills us. Regardless if it’s to be creatively, physically, or spiritually whole, his honesty transcends beyond cultivating talent. It is about living, it is about growth, and it is about choosing what it is that makes our lives intrinsically complete. And you know what? In 6:00 minutes, Donda’s House and Rhymefest proves wholeheartedly how easy one can come to that decision.
Without spoiling too much (cause I ain’t no Wikipedia page), I highly suggest y’all check this documentary out yourselves. For those struggling to figure out whatever it is that you need in life, this short will be a great inspiration stepping stone to clarity. In the wise words of Rhymefest, “jump and the net will appear”. Trust. Jump and the net WILL appear.
A legend and definitely not a stranger to the city of Chicago or to Gowhere Hip Hop, Commonhas 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.
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.
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.
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.
Legendary hip hop heavy weights, Common and Rhymefest, announced on April 9 their partnership with The Chicago Urban league. During Wednesday’s conference at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago, the Chicago natives and rappers spoke about a fall season music festival “AAHH! Fest” and their plans to begin a youth job initiative.
AAHH! Fest scheduled to begin Sept. 20-21 at Jackson Park is one of the first efforts to build awareness for their program. With tickets going on sale May 1st, the festival will be a two day event featuring some of the top names in the music industry and rising locals.The first day will feature an all-star lineup from Chicago and around the country. Day Two will be led by Donda’s House showcasing some of Chitown’s aspiring artists.
In a further effort to break down the “Chiraq” label hovering over the beautiful Windy City, the coalition aims to combat the declining opportunities for low income, minority youth by providing a year-long employment program for those ages 16-24. Slated to begin in the fall with 1,000 jobs, organizers hope to continue adding more job opportunities per year.
Backed up by five other organizations including Common’s Common Ground Foundation and Donda’s House founded by Kanye West and led by Rhymefest and his wife, Donnie Smith. These organizations are not only giving Chicago another chance to live up to its best city name but also a chance to provide for their people who fight hard every day to make the city beautiful.
For more information about AAHH! Fest and the organizations listed in the article please visit their websites:
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.