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We in the Midwest: 100+ Years of Chicago Music

Posted on March 26th, 2010 by admin


Last year, some of the genius dudes at Numero Group teamed up with Chicago cultural historian Tim Samuelson to create a three hour mix of music recorded in Chicago by Chicagoans for Millenium Park’s Audiopicnic series. Just a couple months ago, they posted the resulting “History of Chicago Music 1908-1980” online. It’s dense and it’s awesome. I’m a fairly plebeian music nerd. My tastes lean more towards the contemporary, and a lot of the early stuff in the mix leaves me limp (like I love me some Jelly Roll Morton, but have no interest in the Louis Armstrongs and Tommy Dorseys of the world). If your tastes ally with mine, you might want to give the whole mix a listen the first time (it’s worth it if only for the novelty of hearing tracks that were recorded on wax Edison cylinders), and then just skipping 1/3 to 1/2 the way in, where the blues kicks in with Muddy Waters and Little Walter, and soon morphs under the influences of cats like Sun Ra, before giving way to R&B, early rock, soul, and mod, hippie and garage rock, into proto-punk, funk, disco, and just the earliest hints of rap. If I have a complaint with the mix, it’s that it’s divided into three sections, and the third section, spanning 1969-1980, has the fewest tracks, and that a lot of great funk and soul gets overlooked. Seeing that Numero Group puts out several disc of amazing, mostly undiscovered/forgotten soul tracks a year, I figure it’s intentional, and that what I wanted to hear is just not exactly what they were looking to make, but still… no Baby Huey?! No Curtis Mayfield?! No Pharoahs, Fontella Bass, or Gene Chandler???

I would love to see someone else’s take on 1960-1980, especially someone coming from a place of rocknroll or hip hop (and it’s practically criminal that Plastic Crimewave hasn’t already done one of these to accompany his Secret History of Chicago Music comic series) to see what they would do with it, and I don’t know why this mix ends at 1980, just before the rise of house music in Chicago, whether it’s due to time constraints, a lack of interest, or just a glut of resources to sift through. It would be pretty incredible to see something like that, with music filtered by year instead of genre, with Naked Raygun and Silver Abuse rubbing up against Farley Jackmaster Funk and Steve “Silk” Hurley and Liz Phair and Wesley Willis and the Jesus Lizard going head to head with Da Brat and Crucial Conflict and Do Or Die AND Screeching Weasel and the Bollweevils and Apocalypse Hoboken, and Wax Trax and Trax records and all that.

Still, this mix is impeccable, it’s full of surprises, whether it’s tracks I’ve never heard of, or whole variations on genre that I’d never anticipated. My personal favorite is “It’s Free!” by The Bishops. It’s a funk track reminiscent of The Last Poets, where a group of men and women rap frankly about Syphilis and Gonorrhea in performance poetry tones over a bunch of hand drums.

You can download the whole mix from Paste Magazine here


Ghetto Division fills in a lot of those blanks of what directions Chicago dance music went after 1980, with their house-centric addition to XLR8R Mag’s City Guide podcast series. Of the several dozen mixtapes I’ve downloaded this year, this is the first one I’ve heard since back when I was a little kid, buying bootleg mixes on cassette out of pop up kiosks in the mall that actually sounds like those old Chicago mixes (how many of the words in that sentence sound wrong and outdated now, like I might as well be talking about riding a horse-and-buggy to work?)

It’s amazing how just a couple of old record labels dominate the mix, like Trax and Cajual and a handful of others have a fine showing, but damn near EVERYTHING comes from Dance Mania and DJ International, with artists like The Outhere Brothers, Julian “Jumpin” Perez, Fast Eddie. The mix ends with a bunch of Ghetto Division’ own tracks and remixes, with Charlie Glitch, Maddjazz, M-Dok, Rampage, Rob Threezy, D-51, and Louie Cue all popping up.

You can download the mix from XLR8R here



Where Ghetto Division gives you a perfect primer on the past and present of Chicago house, Moneypenny’s newest mix is a showcase for everything else that’s going on in the dance scene right now, from electro pop to party rap to disco to juke, with tracks from Prairie Cartel, Hey Champ, Gemini Club, Kid Sister, BBU, Kid Color, Zebo, Only Children, Flosstradamus, He Say She Say, and of course, Moneypenny. The breakout track is the debut of their collaboration with the hip hop group Free Sol, where they turn the Breeders’ song “Cannonball” into a dance track.

It’s all sorts of WTF?!, but in a good way.

You can download a shit ton of Moneypenny mixtapes from UR Chicago here



In case you haven’t been following along, Chrissie Murderbot has been putting out a mixtape a week for going on a year. His juke mix tends to be pretty Chicago-centric by nature of design, rather than intent, simply because most juse is produced and consumed here (birds fuck birds, bees fuck bees, bounce mixtapes are NOLA-centric, ghettotech mixtapes are Detroit-centric, the only things that are guaranteed in life are death and taxes, etc. etc. obvious statements).

Here you’ve got more tracks from Kid Sister, Maddjazz, and Mic Terror, along with Dude N Nem, Rashad, Spinn, Slugo, Twista, Thunderous Olympian, a lot of DJ Gant-Man, and some surprising remixes of Three Six Mafia, Justice, and Mariah Carey.

The standout tracks on this one win because of their dumb simplicity. Mike Love turns the moment Don Imus, one of the whitest of the old, white men in America (right down to the cowboy hat), got himself fired from TV for referring to the Rutgers womens basketball team as nappy headed hos, into a pretty-serviceable and not-at-all out of place juke track. The track is immediately followed by a “I Nutted In You”, a collaboration between Murderbot and Gant-Man with the lyrics “I skeeted / I came / I ejaculated” repeated over and over. Sometimes my Dad will praise the lyrics of a song as being “the dumbest since ‘Wop Bop a Lubap’, ‘Shama Lama Ding Dong’, or ‘Papa Oo Mao Mao'”. A couple of fun, simple tracks have left more of an impact on me than a whole lifetime of sincere and serious music, on rainy days and on the dancefloor, and this track is fucking gold.


“With an economic recession still raking its cold dead hands across the US, and online music destroying artist’s careers, I paid for the highest quality sound available, Vinyl, and each track on this mix was chosen because it was well worth every cent I paid, and every moment the artists spent creating.”

This is one of the things I love about DJ Demchuk. He’s always scouring record stores and special ordering songs from all over the world, even when most of the money he’s making comes from douchebag bars that just want the greatest hits of what’s on the radio, and he seriously likes what he likes, so he’s still picking out the best of Brazil and Baltimore when so many DJs made themselves experts for a year, and then stopped caring when Diplo stopped pushing the genres.

For the latest edition of their Midwest Best mixtape series, the clothing label/blog Novem Life tapped DJ Demchuk for an all-vinyl set that starts out with classic Chicago house and veers wildly into some of his favorite subjects in South America and Europe. There’s a bunch of bmore, a bunch of baile, and a bunch of electro with tracks from Rampage, Bird Peterson, Fast Eddie, Proper Villains, MC Gringo and Bonde Do Role.

Demchuk is an old back-in-the-day friend who has DJ’d parties at almost every house I’ve lived in, and it’s always great to see him come out with something new, but this is leaps and bounds above his previous mixes, and one of the cleanest sounding vinyl mixes I’ve heard in a while.

You can download the mix from Novem Life here


I ain’t gonna say a lot about this mix, because you should’ve downloaded it two years ago, but it’s dope. Vintage Chicago vs. Chicago’s new school. Kidstatic raps over Ministry. Kanye shares the stage with Wilco and the 1985 Bears on one track and Big Black on another. Mic Terror and Green Velvet work so well together, I expect to hear his verses every time the original “Shake & Pop” gets played.

I expect you to own this already, but you can download it from Hood Internet’s soundcloud if your hard drive crashed or something.