Monthly Archives: January 2011

Bryan Sledge aka B.J. The Chicago Kid

By Tamara Jenkins

A young, soulful voice with an appreciation for and the gift to write “good” music Chicago native Bryan Sledge, aka B.J. The Chicago Kid, has worked with the likes of Mary J. Blige, Mary Mary, Jamie Foxx and Musiq Soulchild to name a few.

Now on the verge of becoming a household name himself, Sledge took time to talk to UnRated Urban Magazine about his humble beginnings, aspirations and future plans.

UUM: You got into music at an early age with both your parents being choir directors, is that the cause of your music ambitions?

B.J.: I mean, just growing up being around real music kind of helped open my eyes period, like the older I got, to kind of understand what was taking place around me. Just growing up seeing, you know, mom in church, it was pretty normal. It just seemed average to me until I actually started getting into myself and I was like ahhhh…this is what this world is like.

It was like a forced marriage, once I fell in love with it, it was no way in the world I could escape good music; and no matter what it was always around me.

UUM: Did they encourage or discourage you to pursue music as a career?

BJ: At one point, my mom and dad wanted me to go to college and take another route. But I realized and I saw what was in me and I saw the potential and I knew my dreams. I was working with maybe some of the best people in Chicago in high school and right after high school so knowing that I was actually working with people that got attention from out of state and from labels I began to understand that I had more power than the average person musically and what I had kind of connected with more of the powers that be than naturally. So I wanted to take it to another level so I began to study certain artists and certain genres in music and the things that made me fall in love with it to the point where it became second nature.  

UUM: Gospel music was obviously a heavy influence, but was gospel music the only type of music played around your house? Were you allowed to listen to other types of music? 

B.J.:No, it wasn’t a strict home like that. My dad, he was a pretty big guy, he was a bouncer at a club and when he was getting ready, he would turn on the radio and at that time V103 was the station everybody listened to. My dad played everything from V103 to the Whispers to the Isley Brothers to Sam Cooke to The Temptations to The Four Tops to the Chi-Lites; I would get that side of the game.  I would listen and say oh, what is this. I would get the soulful realm that’s a little bit of it outside of the church.

My family was just so musically inclined they had a lot of different genres of music it wasn’t just gospel in the house, it wasn’t just soul in the house, it was a little bit of everything.

UUM: How did you get your name?

B.J.: I just came up with it one day. I was trying to figure out something catchy. Of course, I’m a fan of Hip-Hop, but it sounds like a rap name. B.J. The Chicago Kid kind of kills the question of where ya from and answers a few questions using that name. It’s young and kept me vibrant and things like that, but right now, I’m going to start going by Bryan Sledge, my government name. I feel like its more professional, it’s more international.

I would rather go see an Anthony Hamilton than a B.J. The Chicago Kid if I didn’t know either artist and someone said they had tickets for both, just judging off the name I would probably go see Anthony Hamilton because what does the name say? I used it as a catch in the beginning because I had braids and I sing but now the image, the brand and a lot of things have matured along in time and now its time to deliver the main course.

UUM: Why did you decide to move to L.A., why not New York?

B.J.: I had the choice to go to either place but I knew more people in L.A. and there was a job waiting for me in L.A. as well.

I met Mary Mary before I moved to California. About a month before I came (to California) something happened to one of their background singers and he couldn’t do the gig anyone and the position was opened and I was very close with a sister of theirs and she told them about me and they (Mary Mary) said if he gets to California, the job is his. I sent them a couple songs and I sang over the phone and they said when you get to L.A., the job is yours.

Maybe six months before that my good friend Kevin Randolph from Chicago, I was working with him, he’s the same guy that taught me how to count bars and write songs…he was working with Mary Mary, so I had two people routing for me on the same team.

I came and stayed out here with a friend of mine’s family I never met in my life, that’s how thirsty I was to come out here. I said if I like em’ Imma stay, if I don’t, I’m out, I liked them and stay for a year and a half after that I got my own place and the rest is history.

UUM: How has being in L.A. positioned you to do what you do?

B.J.: When can I ever be in the studio with Chris Brown in Chicago? That could never happen. That just took place last night. Just the sporadic opportunity of being in the right place at the right time.  Like if you’re in the right city, you can always get there at the right time, I don’t care if you’re catching a cab, but you’ll be there.  Go where everything happens. A lot of shows happen in New York and a lot of entertainment happens in New York, but I think New York is more business than L.A., L.A. has labels, but I think New York is more label heavy than L.A.

I like it (L.A.) because a lot of the main artists come out here because they want to get into the movies and there trying to get in with the music, endorsements and things like that. I wasn’t thinking it then, but now it helps me understand that I made the best choice for myself. Knowing that this is where they make Red Bull and everything is here from pornography, everything is here so people come here to expand their brand, so if I live in the home where they expand their brand, I figure its like one of the huge golden tickets that I can have, especially coming from the south side Chicago where very little is promised.

UUM: You’re a singer and a songwriter, which is very impressive. You helped co-write Mary J. Blige’s Hurt Again.

B.J.: As soon as we heard them making the music (for Hurt Again), we said aw, it’s a rap, we got it. I love old school music that reminds me of putting the toilet seat down, sitting on the toilet seat while my dad’s getting ready, like shaving in the bathroom, like dad, who is this on the radio? And he was like aw man, this is this. I was getting small little history lessons of what I was going to be doing and not even knowing it. I think that’s what helps people feel the music and feel the passion, like when I sing I think they feel the passion more because I feel like this is really in me more less than something I chose to do.

It’s like natural ability will always beat out skill to me. That’s like when you fat and ate 60 donuts and ice cream in the bed, falling asleep with the ice cream melting on the mattress your still going to get out there and shoot the same jump shot and probably hit it because that’s you’re natural ability. Its weird, but that just lets you know that when you have a gift from God, no man can take it away but you. Depending on what you do with that gift is totally up to you, you can let it prosper and turn to gold or let it spoil and mildew on you.

UUM: Which do you prefer, singing songs or writing them?

B.J.: I can’t just love one. Even when I sing other people’s songs I make up my own part in it, I don’t know why, it just happens.   

UUM: But if you had to chose?

B.J.:Writing can change my great grandchildren’s lives from just my life. Singing can feed me, my family and my grandkids. So at the end of the day, I can’t choose just one, both of them I absolutely love.

UUM: What artist’s do you listen to or inspire you? 

B.J.:I love artists like Little Dragon, I’ve always been a Cee Lo Green fan. I love John Mayer, Kendrick Lamar. I like J. Cole’s music. I listen to my brother’s music, Aaron Sledge, his project is nominated for a Stellar Award, that’s like the gospel Grammy’s. I listen to Fly By You from Columbus, Ohio.

UUM: Who’s your favorite artist that you’ve worked with?

B.J.: In studio or on stage?

UUM: Either

B.J.: Just as a person, without working, just like as a person?

UUM: Yes

B.J.: I would have to say Anthony Hamilton. He’s a great dude. He’s a comedian; I think his second job is a comedian. He’s a great businessman; he’s just a good guy. He’s not just an artist out for himself; he makes sure his people are straight. I respect him.
UUM: Do you consider yourself to be a gospel or R&B artist?

B.J.: I like to call it World Soul R&B.

UUM: Chicago is gaining ground as the place to find new, hot talent as a result of Kanye, Common, Jennifer Hudson, Lupe Fiasco, GLC, Twista. Do you think this will continue?

B.J.:I say, the only way as a unit to really show people what we have is for everyone to really study a craft and really go hard and try to improve.

We had Crucial Conflict, Do or Die and Twista, then you got Common on his b-boy and then you got R. Kelly coming out with Honey Love and Vibe and then you hear about Donnell Jones and then you find out that this guy you’ve been hearing singing all along is Dave Hollister and you never knew Dave Hollister was the guy singing on Keep Ya Head Up for Tupac.

Just knowing that different voices of the town is popping up let’s you know that it all isn’t one thing, that some guys and some artists do have the same understanding but today its so many voices of the city, I feel like I’m one of the rare voices of the city, my brother is a rare voice of the city as far as what you chose to stand for as an artist and what you want your message to be to the world.

If people could say ok, if you release eight albums, out of all of those eight albums, what is the one message you want people to understand from you as an artist? Summing your artistry up, what is your message? If we are start up and finally find out what we want to be and what we are to be as artists, as musicians, as producers, as A&R, as managers as PR’s as anything we’re doing that’s going to affect the world and put that internationally, I feel like that’s what’s going to help.

Kanye found out who he was, that’s how he’s able to show the world who he was. I can’t show you nothing unless I show myself first and I gotta know what it is to show you to make you believe it.

The fans, and I’m not belittling them, but you have to feed them in ways to understand it the first time or close to the first time as possible. You got to really concentration and hone in on how you want to do it and do it correctly.
UUM: How do you feel about the notion that Chicago is full of haters?

B.J.: I agree that we don’t really help each other as much as we could but I think that’s the artists that are dope. It’s a lot of people that don’t need to be doing this, let’s just be honest. That’s why I can came up with my crew M.A.F.E. (music ain’t for everybody), because its not, some people are suppose to enjoy it, everybody ain’t meant to make it. Some people are just wasting money and wasting time. Wasting a lot of energy I feel. But it’s not up to be to tell them that, it’s up to me to prove it through my music.

UUM: Let’s talk about you upcoming CD. Do you have a title for it yet?

B.J.: The pre album is called Pineapple Now and Laters, the reason why I call it Pineapple Now and Laters is because it was one of my favorite candies as a kid but I didn’t want it to be an actual theme for this pre album; its just a taste of some of the best things that BJ creates. It’s a little bit of laid-back soul type stuff and R&B stuff, it’s a combination of the sounds of BJ but the best sounds of.

Some of them are songs I can’t use for the album, some I recently created and the others are songs I created to round off the project, so the thing is still fairly new, it’s not old and I aim for timeless music.

Its going to have somewhere between 12 to 15 songs and it will be available on Amazon, ITunes and everywhere else you can buy music on the internet. I have a few videos together for it. I’m super excited about this. The album is coming out sometime in the summer or after the summer this year.  

UUM: Will you have any guests on the pre-album?

B.J.: I don’t think I’m going to have any guest stars until the main album.  

UUM:  Who would you like to work with that you haven’t already?

B.J.:Those people I named earlier like Little Dragon and John Mayer. I would love to work with Rascal Flats, Leona Lewis, Natasha Bedingfield, Brandy.
UUM: Do you have anything else in the works other than releasing your pre-album and debut album? 

B.J.:I’m working on some stuff with Snoop Dog for his album, he has an album coming out to show his appreciation to women – I’m glad I’m apart of that one, cuz God knows I love women. I got something coming out with Busta Rhymes. Busta Rhymes and MF Doom are on the same track as myself, that’s pretty heavy. Working on some stuff with Anthony Hamilton, Chris Brown, my brother Aaron Sledge, his album is going to be ridiculous.

For more information on Bryan Sledge, visit and

Fantasia’s Back to Me Tour

By Tamara Jenkins

2010 was a tumultuous year for Fantasia Barrino.  Allegations of an affair with a married man and a subsequent suicide attempt left many wondering if this would be the end for the singer. But she’s proving them wrong and come back strong which was evident during her  semi-shoeless performance on the Chicago stop of her Back To Me tour December 30th at the Auditorium Theater.

Barrino took her fans on a voyage through time with a myriad of costume changes from big band conductor in all white to 70’s soul sista in a afro and black catsuit while singing hits like Collard Greens and Cornbread, Free Yourself, I’m Doing Me, Bittersweet, Teach Me, When I See You and Even Angels.

Things got emotion at the end of her set, dressed in a purple gown Barrino addressed the crowd informing them that she’s now living for her (self), no longer living for others and performed Diana Ross’s Do You Know Where You’re Going To.  

R&B singers Kandi Buruss (former member of the 80”s R&B girl group Xscape and currently starring on the reality show The Real Housewives of Atlanta) and Eric Benet were the opening acts and gave impressive performances.

Buruss, opened with the angry women anthem How Could You….Feel My Pain then showed her lighter side with Me and You(written by Ne-Yo and samples OutKast’s Cadillac Doors). She later took it acapella performing versions of Xscape hits Just Kickin It and My Little Secret as well as her current ballads Haven’t Loved Right and I Just Know.

Dressed to impress in a 3 piece suit and sunglasses, Eric Benet belted out hits Love Don’t Love Me, Hunger and Chocolate Legs, wedding anthem Spend My Life With You and Sometimes I Cry.  Midway through he relinquished his armor (jacket and sunglasses) causing a mini riot and finished with Never Want To Live Without You, You’re The Only One and Georgy Porgy during his encore.

Photo by Dan Locke

Winter Block Party

Chicago Public Media (WBEZ-Chicago) will host its 3rdAnnual Winter Block Party for Chicago’s Hip-Hop Arts 11:00 a.m. – 10:00 p.m. Saturday, January 15, 2011 at the Chicago Urban Arts Society, 2229 s. Halsted Street, Chicago.

This year’s event will again feature a visual art and a graffiti gallery exhibition by some of Chicago’s most notable and up and coming contemporary artists, along with a marketplace, Hip-Hop barbershop, film screening, live sampling showcase, a one-on-one B-Boy/B-Girl battle hosted by the Legendary Brickheadz, an open mic academy and music all afternoon by Chicago DJs including Itch 13, Sweatpants Money and more.

The day’s festivities will culminate at 8 p.m. with a live studio audience event with the founders of Chicago house music entitled Original Style: Exploring the History of Chicago House. Hosted by Kevin Coval, Original Style will feature house music pioneers Jamie Principle and DJ Frankie Knuckles as well as Robert Williams (owner of the Warehouse and Music Box), Reggie Corner (House music promoter) and others. Following the event, an after party will be held featuring DJ Ron Trent and DJ Jesse De La Pena.

Admission for daytime events is $5/$3 for WBEZ members and students (ID required); evening events $15/$12 for WBEZ members and $10 for students (ID required).  For more information, visit WBEZ.

Amel Larrieux LIVE @ The Shrine Chicago‏

Chicago’s Shrine nightclub welcomed R&B songstress Amel Larrieux to perform at its first GOOD Fridays’ set of 2011.  Larrieux opened her show with new songs from her upcoming Ice Cream Every Day album. Larrieux also treated Chicago fans sang old favorites For Real and Tell Me from her days with the group Groove Theory.

Backstage, Larrieux discussed details about the much-buzzed Groove Theory reunion staging  she and band-mate Bryce Wilson are working on syncing schedules. Larrieux’s new album Ice Cream Every Day will arrive in stores in May and the first single will released in March.  

Photo by Rich P

Mr. Immortal Will Undoubtedly Live On

By Wendy Simmons

In the documentary, Mr. Immortality: The Life and Times of Twista, rap legend Twista, from the hard streets of Chicago, gives us a glimpse of his life behind his gift for speedy lyricism. Twista allows us to ride along and witness the raw reality of how this relatively shy talent really looks at his life, career and the city he calls home.

Twista, formerly known as Tongue Twista, gained world renowned famed by being one of the only Chicago based rappers to make it “big time”. With his record breaking speed for rapping, he placed himself on the map way back in the early 90s. From the days of rap battling in school and in basements, Twista prepared himself for greatness simply because he didn’t want to lose. He would lyrically destroy any competitor that challenged him.

Even after multiple gold records and countless big hits, people and critics continuously try to count Twista out but he always prevails. After leaving Atlantic Records in 2007 he has once again regained praise with his latest project under his own label GMG Entertainment. The documentary is laced with his new music. Giving us the latest example of why Twista has such longevity in the rap game.

Twista is a very humble guy, unlike most in the music industry, and he views it as a gift and a curse. A curse because media rarely focuses on a man that is not making noise. But now we get to know the Twista that isn’t on the magazine cover. The Twista that is humble enough to let his music speak for him.

While watching the documentary we hear testimonies from everyone from producer Scott Storch to R&B singer Ne-Yo to Chicago’s own Rep. Danny Davis. They praise Twista for his talent and longevity.  We get to see the very home that Twista grew up as well as the gritty and tough Westside streets of Chicago. His brothers describe how he was focused on his success which deterred him from a life on the streets. According to Twista he was more afraid of his strong mother than anything a gang could throw at him.

Unfortunately though, many Chicago youths have fallen victim to gang violence. Twista talks about the unbelievable violence that is taken place in his home town. He remembers performing in Iraq and hearing that at that very moment, there were more killings in Chicago than in Iraq. He was floored by the immense violence and the many high school and elementary school students that were victims of these senseless shootings.

Twista speaks candidly throughout the entire documentary. And he even allows us to witness his marijuana habit. I was captivated at how a man with such a speedy tongue could smoke marijuana at any given time of the day, consistently. But that is only a part of Twista’s whirlwind life on the road. He makes an effort to stop and greet fans along the way.

If you listen to Twista’s latest rap songs, you will notice that he has slowed it down a bit for a better understanding. The flows may have slowed but not his motivation to succeed and to continue to represent Chicago to the fullest.

This is a captivating yet simple documentary that allows you to travel along with a rap legend. Rap fan or not, this documentary will keep your interest and will give you on appreciation for a side of Chicago that is rarely ever seen in a positive light.

For Seven Women, Drama Chases Their Dreams Almost Into Inexistence!

By Wendy Simmons

Soul Kitten’s Cabaret is a musical stage play that takes place in; you guessed it, a cabaret in Detroit where the women are engulfed in drama. Dealing with such issues as drug abuse, alcoholism, divorce, and identity crises they are battling demons within the cabaret as well as in their personal lives. This club already faces scrutiny because it is thought to have been acquired through false pretenses. Now the very over the top owner has to try to keep it from falling into the hands of the bitter son of the previous owner.

Fantasia Barrino of American Idol fame and singer Faith Evans headlined the play; however, they were only seen for a brief moment. Fantasia belted out a beautiful performance while singing as the Good Conscious of the club. With Faith portraying the Bad Conscious it would have been more fulfilling to get to know their characters and to see a conclusion to their war of good versus evil. However, outside of the characters battling with the cabaret’s thick aura of negativity, their presence was virtually forgotten.

I understand that the basis of the play is to not fall victim to the temptations of the world while pursuing your dreams.  However, had the play been more organized and detailed I would have been able to get more of a connection to the women that were dealing with these very real and self destructing issues.

Although there weren’t many musical performances there was plenty of conflict to keep you interested. The time line was confusing but the twist at the end will hopefully put it into perspective for you.

If you love drama, you will love this play and can now enjoy it in the comfort of your home. The DVD debuts on Tuesday (January 11, 2011).

BET Brings ‘THE GAME’ Back to the Field!‏

Following BET Networks’ successful syndicate acquisition in February 2009 and hearing the tremendous response from fans, the “San Diego Sabers” and their significant others will make a return to television on BET on Tuesday, January 11 at 10:00 p.m. eastern time (9:00 p.m. central) with the hour-premiere of the 4th season of THE GAME.

When the series first premiered, Melanie was a first-year medical school student who gave up an offer of admission to medical school in order to follow her boyfriend Derwin, a first year rookie with a professional football team, to San Diego, against the advice of her parents.  

When Melanie settled into her new life, she met Tasha, the mother of Sabers’ starting quarterback Malik, and Kelly the wife of Sabers’ captain Jason.  Both of whom immediately warn her to keep a close eye on her boyfriend because of the numerous “gold diggers” who target professional football players.  

The BET premiere of THE GAME picks up where things left off at the end of season three.  Viewers will join the team two years later with Derwin Davis (Pooch Hall) and Melanie Barnett-Davis (Tia Mowry Hardict) as the celebrity “IT” couple; Derwin is now the star he had always dreamed of becoming and Melanie has willingly traded in her residency for the demands of being a superstar’s wife.  The ever opinionated and outspoken Tasha Mack (Wendy Raquel Robinson) continues to make her mark in the field of sports management now that she has rebuilt Derwin’s career; Kelly Pitts (Brittany Daniel) – the former Mrs. Jason Pitts –tries to finesse her past as a footballer’s wife to leverage a lucrative future in reality television.  

Meanwhile, former San Diego Sabers’ star team captain, Jason Pitts (Coby Bell) has found a new career in sports commentating.  The fun-loving Malik Wright (Hosea Chanchez) continues to be the life of the party, but will he take things too far this time around? Fans can once again join their favorite team in the end zone as season four will surely not disappoint.  

THE GAME is executive produced by Mara Brock Akil, Salim Akil, and Kenny Smith. Salim is the Director of all episodes.

For more information, please visit