Monthly Archives: July 2010

Chicago Celebrates Hip-Hop

By Tamara Jenkins

Amina Norman-Hawkins, Chicago Hip-Hop Initiative

Peace, love and unity was the message of the day as prominent local hip-hop artists came together to perform at All Heads on Deck!.

The hour -long event, hosted by the Chicago Hip-Hop Initiative and the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs, was held on July 24th  at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park as part of the annual celebration of Chicago Hip-Hop Heritage Month in July in the city and featured an array of artists representing the true essence of not just hip-hop but Chicago hip-hop.

Capital D, GQ The Teacher, Ang 13 and Deja K Taylor

Featured performers included: dance crews Footworkingz and the Stick n Move Dancers; female MC’s An13 and Deja K Taylor, trio Poetree Chicago and Mc’s Lid Law, GQ The Teacher, Griffen, Capital D (from the duo All Natural), Notrydo Sincere, FM Supreme, Jitu tha Jugganot and the group Primeridian.

Since successfully lobbying the city to declare July as Hip-Hop Heritage Month in 2003, The Chicago Hip-Hop Initiative has acted as an umbrella for various events including showcases, forums and discussions with the goal of preserving hip-hop’s historical and artistic legacy in Chicago.  

For more information on The Chicago Hip-Hop Initiative, please visit

Photos by Tamara Jenkins

I Still Love H.E.R.….and so do I

By Wendy Simmons

Rap is a musical genre. Hip-hop is a culture. A culture that encompasses the art of music, dance, graffiti, and other forms of expression that resonant the sound of the urban community.

In the play, I Still Love H.E.R., a tribute to hip-hop, we learn its history while being highly entertained by music, dance and comedy. The use of H.E.R. is an acronym for Hearing Every Rhyme. The theater performance took me down memory lane as well as taught me a few things that I didn’t realize.

The play, created by Wendell Tucker, also stars him as LoveOne, an urban music radio personality. LoveOne decides to leave the music industry because he felt that the music with the most airplay was no longer as powerful and meaningful as it once was. On his last day at the fictional WHOP, he was determined to only air hip-hop classics. He, his co-host, and D.J. went as far back as playing old jazz musician Cab Calloway. This was done in order to show the roots of the music. As an array of music played, dancers and people depicting different artist hit the stage for exciting performances. There were tap and hip-hop dancers, as well as a lip licking LL Cool J impersonator.

While LoveOne conducted his last hoorah, he was abruptly joined by a woman claiming to be hip-hop herself.  Lady Hip Hop tells the audience that her origins are Jamaican, Egyptian, Caribbean, Asian, and mostly African American. However, most of us only think of the Boogey Down Bronx in New York as the birthplace of hip-hop.  LoveOne and Lady Hip Hop were able to combat against one another on the state of hip-hop at this time. They even went toe to toe on how Lady Hip Hop feels that LoveOne is abandoning her by leaving the music industry, thus leaving newer generations without an outlet for “real” hip-hop.

Throughout the play the characters discuss how new music artist like Gucci Mane, Soldier Boy, and Wakka Flaka Flame are misrepresenting the genre that many cherish. Therefore, the musical artist that were featured during the productions were those such as Common, Kanye West, Tupac, Biggie, McLyte, DMX, Public Enemy, Slick Rick, Lauryn Hill and more that are subjectively considered to be hip-hop’s finest. The play also discussed the many forms of hip-hop. Many assume that hip-hop is a straight road, when in fact it has many twist and turns. There’s spiritual hip-hop, political hip-hop, conscious hip-hop, women in hip-hop and even friendly hip-hop such as the sounds from Will “The Fresh Prince” Smith.

I Still Love H.E.R.did a great job condensing a huge cultural movement into just a few hours while inducing sympathetic emotions for LoveOne, who just wants to see hip-hop appreciated and not watered down for radio play.

On top of being extremely entertaining the characters also encouraged the audience to be interactive. We were expected to yell out lyrics to the songs that we grew up listening to on our Walkmans that are still in heavy rotation on our iPods today. The music made me jump to my feet, bob my head and sing along as if I were watching the real artists perform these iconic songs.

I was a little surprised to never hear hip-hop artist Common’s 1994 musical tribute to hip-hop, I Used to Love H.E.R., because I assumed that was the basis for this play.  But with so many other hip-hop classics being featured, I guess we can let that slide.

I Still Love H.E.R. was performed at the legendary Regal Theater on Chicago’s south side. The same theater where I witnessed Notorious B.I.G. perform One More Chance as a young child. The entire play put me in a nostalgic, yet hopeful mood. Hopeful that younger generations and hip-hop non-supporters will be able to one day enjoy and appreciate the music that helped to mold my generation.

Whether you love hip-hop or it makes you sick to your stomach, I Still Love H.E.R. is a definite must see. There’s no excuse for you missing this informative, argumentative display of raw, unadulterated hip-hop history. It will alter your idea of what hip-hop is. It will make you question why you ever doubted its impact on America and the world.

The performances and acting touches you and commands your respect for hip-hop. It’s a proven success which is why is it now headed to the great white way of Broadway in New York. Now more people can get the chance to witness an ode to a culture that has influenced a new world. Don’t give up on hop-hip, it’s still alive, and some of us used to and still love H.E.R.

I give this play $$$$…it’s worth front row seat prices.

Nightlife Impresario Joe Russo

By Toyin Alaka

Back on the scene after a brief absence Joe Russo is once again carving his own unique niche into Chicago’s nightlife landscape.  His latest venture, The Shine Chicago nightclub, located in the south loop, is an ambitious, theme focused outing that mixes his traveling experiences and loves of Afrobeat and live music. 

His pervious venues include Funky Buddha Lounge, Thyme Restaurant and the dearly missed Sinibar, with its priceless vibe and beautiful energy made it a favorite to Chicagoans.

The Shrine recently celebrated its one-year anniversary and UnRated Urban Magazine took a minute to chat with Russo and find out what makes him the “King” of Chicago’s nightlife and his innate ability to create spaces people gravitate to.

UnRated Urban: Hi Joe, tell me a little about yourself. Where you were born & raised?

Joe: I was born on the North Shore in a suburb called Riverwoods and moved to the city when I turned 18.

UnRated Urban: How did you get into the nightlife business?

Joe: I used to own a clothing store on Halsted Street called Russo and most of my best customers were owners of nightclubs and when I was faced with a career change, because it was very tough to make money in the clothing business, I decided to go into the nightclub business. I asked some of my friends who owned nightclubs if I could work with them and it turned out to be a good thing. 

UnRated Urban: Can you elaborate about your previous ventures: Funky Buddha Lounge & Thyme Restaurant. 

Joe: 1996 was when I opened Funky Buddha and that was an amazing time in Chicago, because back then it was all about the mega clubs and the lounge culture had not existed in Chicago let alone a lounge that catered to people who loved soul, funk & hip-hop.  It (Funky Buddha Lounge) shaped lives back then and changed the game and we were front and center, a pretty special time.

Thyme was an idea that we had after the success of Buddha was to open a restaurant that complimented the Funky Buddha customer and was kiddie corner from Funky Buddha and with the concept being a casual French style and we were successful.

UnRated Urban: Let’s talk about the spot that I know I’m not alone when I say: I miss Sinibar!

Joe: Sinibar was a concept that we came up with and was originally supposed to be a desert lounge as a compliment to Thyme Restaurant and it was the room where people could commit sin, so Sin.I.Bar.  

It always had the soul and funk soundtrack of course the room was very intimate and very sexy.  All the women felt very beautiful in that room. It also capitalized on the whole lounge culture that we’d started with Buddha Lounge, but with more of an upscale feel and it was probably the most fantastic room to work because when people walked through the door they felt so comfortable and they would work to get a great seat so they could lounge and enjoy themselves.

UnRated Urban: Describe the concept & vision behind The Shrine?

Joe: The concept was a five to six year project, I became a fan of Afrobeat music in 1996, Joe Bryl (former owner of famed Sonotheque nightclub, now musical curator for Shrine’s Wednesday nights) introduced me to Afrobeat and when I heard it for the first time it was an incredible experience because it encompassed all the music I was into and when I delved into the music of Fela (famed Nigerian musician), I learned that his legendary club in Lagos, Nigeria is called the Shrine and it was a venue for live music and Afrobeat. 

When I sold Sinibar in 2004, I moved to Brazil for 3 years and for 1 year I traveled through Africa and there I kind of conceptualized the design of the Shrine.  Thru my travels in Africa, I stayed at a safari boutique hotel in South Africa and the aesthetic was very similar to what the Shrine is.  So using my travels thru Africa and what I know of Fela, a combination of funky Buddha Lounge & Sinibar but with an added live music component to pull it all together The Shrine Chicago was born.

UnRated Urban: What made you think of adding the live music component to The Shrine and not making it just another club?

Joe: Most clubs are strictly DJ driven. After my five year hiatus, I wanted to do something that was just a little bit more than my previous offerings so having a stage for live performances has really opened up a whole new world for the city because now the city can see all their favorite R&B, Soul, and Hip Hop acts in a club that also specializes in that type of music.

UnRated Urban: How does The Shrine differ from Sinibar?

Joe: The design of The Shrine is what we like to describe as Africa meets James Bond.  It has a very African feel and flavor in terms of the design, with the artifacts and pictures but with a sophisticated air. It is more similar to Sinibar however with a heavy African vibe.

UnRated UrbanIt’s been a year since you opened The Shrine, what do you attribute your success to?

Joe: One of the major components of The Shrine’s success is the location.  The South Loop is a location that has been overlooked for many years. 

The South Loop is one of the most progressive neighborhoods in Chicago and is perfectly situated. South siders can come down without going too far north and north siders also appreciate the south loop because there are other interesting venues such as Reggie’s Rock Club and Buddy Guy’s Legend. So it was a no brainer to use an untapped area and The Shrine is very at home here.

UnRated Urban: Describe Chicago’s nightlife scene and how it differs from other cities? What makes Chicago unique or doesn’t in comparison to other cities?

Joe: I think nightlife is very similar in most cities, nightclubs can offer top 40 music and play it safe or they can go out on a limb and try to be different. 

The Shrine offers a little bit of everything but we always stay close to our roots trying offering a soulful experience so you won’t see us offer a techno night or a drum & bass night but we always play soulful music. 

Nightclubs in general is a difficult business and what I think separates us from most other clubs is that this club is operated with extreme passion and love for the music and I think that’s what sets us apart from other clubs in the city   

UnRated Urban: Favorite DJ?

Joe: Tone B. Nimble because he plays the music that I love especially on our signature night which is Wednesday’s and called UPR!SE from Fela to Funk.

UnRated Urban: Favorite Restaurant?

Joe: So many, of course I love Italian food, there’s a little restaurant on Clark St called Riccardo Trattoria.  However I like anything from Riccardo’s to La Pasadita the little taqueria on Ashland Ave.  Or just give me a casual Italian restaurant and I’m happy.

UnRated Urban: Do’s & Don’ts of nightlife?

Joe: Don’ts: Parties that are athlete driven.  We have nothing against athletes, however this is a venue for people who want to come here, who appreciate the aesthetic, want to meet great people and listen to great music. Not taking  away from venues that want to do that type of thing however for me that’s a don’t. 

Do’s: Basically to be passionate about the offerings that we put out there weekly as well as the artists and bands that we book.  It just goes back to passion of music.

UnRated Urban: For someone who’s never been to The Shrine, if they were to come here for the first time, what would you hope they would come away with?

Joe: First off if they are coming for the first time, they must come on Wednesday, because that’s the signature night of the club. I hope they will come away with experiencing a great neighborhood, south loop, a great sound system, an amazing aesthetic, and people who are happy to be in an awesome space partying and willing to greet people with a smile and are just enthusiastic about being here.

When visiting The Shrine, you will definitely come away with an amazing experience, no matter what night of the week you decide to go and be sure to check for information.

Qwan Sauce!

Contemporary dance company Chicago Dance Crash will present their latest production, Qwan Sauce! to Chicago audiences this August.

Described as modern dance meets break dance, inspired by the films You Got Served, and Save the Last Dance, Qwan Sauce! tells the story of break-dancer Qwan’s (Daniel “Qwan” Gibson) struggle to overcome his troubled background and modern dance prodigy Becky Hutt’s (Rebecca Hutt) search for success and happiness on her own terms.  

This story of the struggle between modern dance and breaking ends with an ultimate final battle with the audience deciding the victor.

Qwan Sauce! will run for two weekends, August 6-15, 2010, at Stage 773 located at 1225 W. Belmont Avenue in Chicago. Friday and Saturday performances will begin at 8:00 pm and Sunday performances at 3:00 pm., Tickets for all performances are $18 in advance and $20 at the door.

For general audience information, please contact Stage 773 at (773) 327-5252. For more information on Chicago Dance Crash, please visit their website,

Crime Drama Hits Hard!

By Wendy Simmons

Dark Shields, an independent film from Indept Pictures, is a crime drama that shows the dark side of the good guys. Directed by Larry Greene, who also stars in the drama, the film depicts the lives of five police officers who grew weary of working day in and day out, without the same financial benefits of the hustlers and criminals that they arrest.

Desmond, played by Larry Greene, is the leader of a police detective group and the mastermind to the corruption. He, along with four other officers, robs and kills as they see fit, all to acquire the mighty dollar. Some of these men are fathers, devoted sons, as well as men scrapping for child support; therefore, in their eyes, dirty money is their only way to survive on a cop’s salary.

They justify their actions by adhering to the old creed of “it’s only dirty money held by dirty people’’. However, once they are mixed in a situation that takes the control from their hands, they realize that greed may not be worth the risk.

The anticipation of knowing who comes out on top leaves you on the edge.

Although this movie is not Oscar worthy, it does do a good job with what it was given. It is very action packed and has some surprising moments. The performances were respectable and once these young actors become a little more seasoned, I am sure their talent will take them far.

Dark Shields was screened at the Portage Theater in northwest Chicago. The atmosphere of the old time theater added to movies’ appeal. The director and some of the films actors attended this event.

I recommend viewing Dark Shields because of its old tale of good guys gone bad.

I give it $$ ½

Ranking =
$$$$ Evening Show Prices
$$$ Matinee Prices
$$ Rental Prices
$ Wait For TV

XXL LIVE Featuring Twista and the Clipse

Join music fans this summer as XXL and Rémy Martin Fine Champagne Cognac blend live hip-hop and premium specialty cocktails as part of the XXL Live Tour.

The six-city tour will feature the Clispe (Chicago), Trina (Miami), Wale (Washington) and Three Six Mafia (Los Angeles) and surprise guests.

Chicago’s own and Twista will be the special guest for headliner the Clipse on July 29 at 10:00 p.m. at The Shrine, 2109 S. Wabash Avenue, Chicago.  This event is free before 11:30 p.m., with RSVP to For more information, visit

Venus Williams Promotes Book Come to Win

Tennis champ Venus Williams recently visited Borders Bookstore on State Street in Chicago to promote her book, “Come to Win: Business Leaders, Artists, Doctors, and Other Visionaries on How Sports Can Help Top Your Profession”.

Williams, a three time Olympic gold medalists and entrepreneur, brings together some of the world’s most successful visionaries in politics (Condoleezza Rice), business (Nike co-founder Philip Knight), Fashion (Vera Wang) and sports (Earvin “Magic” Johnson) to discuss how their participation in competitive sports helped them achieve their successes.

Photo by Adam Bielawski

All Headz on Deck!

As part of the eighth annual celebration of Chicago Hip Hop Heritage Month, The Chicago Hip-Hop Initiative, along with the City of Chicago, will present Chicago Hip-Hop- All Headz on Deck at noon Saturday, July 24, 2010 at Jay Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park.

Devoid of commercial influence, the show will feature raw, organic hip-hop from local artists All Natural, Primeridian, Ang 13, Urbanized Music, Deja K. Taylor, FM Supreme, Jitu tha Jugganot, GQ The Teacher, Notrydo Sincere, Griffen, Lid Law, 80’s Babies and DJ Bvax.  The show will also include performances by the Footwork Kingz, Stick & Move Dance Crew and Poetree Chicago.

Since 2003, when The Chicago Hip-Hop Initiative successfully lobbied the city to declare July Hip Hop Heritage Month, the Initiative has acted as an umbrella for a variety of events aimed at preserving hip-hop’s historical and artistic legacy in Chicago while also promoting an agenda of family, community, positivity and peace.

For more information on The Chicago Hip-Hop Initiative, please visit,

I Still Love H.E.R. (atributetohiphop)

I Still Love H.E.R., the critically acclaimed play/musical written by Chicagoan Wendell Tucker and choreographed by Jeremy Noah, will debut at 8:00 p.m. July 23 and 5:00 p.m. July 24 at The New Regal Theater, 1645 E. 79th Street, Chicago.

The play centers on the final broadcast of a Chicago radio personality and his visit from “Hip Hop”, who tells her story and begins an honest dialogue that examines feminism, parenting, racism, capitalist media domination and violence in the Hip Hop community.

Writer Wendell Tucker stated he wrote the play with three intentions: to teach what Hip Hop is, to show young people how their culture is being packaged and sold to them and to help parents better understand their children.

Performances will be held at 8:00 p.m. July 23 and 5:00 p.m. July 24 at The New Regal Theater.  Tickets start at $20 and can be purchased at, at The New Regal Theater box office or by phone at (773) 768-9900.

North Coast Music Festival

Nas & Damian “Jr. Gong” Marley, Lupe Fiasco, De La Soul, Jay Electronica, Moby, Flying Lotus,  Umphrey’s McGee and The Chemical Brothers are just a few of the acts that will be hitting the stage at this year’s North Coast Music Festival Labor Day weekend Friday, September 3 through Sunday, September 5, 2010 at Union Park, 1501 W. Randolph Street, in Chicago.

The North Coast Music Group, a collaboration of independent promoters in Chicago, produces the 3-day festival that will feature the eclectic mix of electronic, house, jamband, indie and hip-hop music.

Single day and 3-day festival passes are available, a portion of all ticket sales will go to support Urban Initiatives, a Chicago-based non-for-profit health and education program that’s mission is to boost physical fitness, health education, academic performance and character development in Chicago’s underserved communities.

For more information on the North Coast Music Festival, including complete festival lineup information, single day schedules and passes, please visit the website, Twitter: or Facebook: