The Chicago Drop - Various artists
Music Review
by Max Herman


In hip-hop it's hard to always tell what innovations will catch on in the mainstream and which ones will be carried on by only a select few. In the mid-90s, when the Roots introduced their ³organic² jazz-fueled brand of live hip-hop, they laid the foundation for a truly unique sound‹one that was never quite rivaled by a hip-hop group on a commercially successful level. Sure, Kanye West has made hip-hop violinist Miri Ben-Ari famous by putting her on various MTV and BET-accessible material. But, to see or hear a full, four to five piece hip-hop band on MTV or on commercial radio is a rarity.

In the 2000s, however, we have seen an insurgence of these bands on a smaller, independent level. No longer is the ³two turntables and a microphone² arrangement the only way to keep it true. In New York there's Dujeous making noise with live instrumentation, in the Twin Cities it's Heiruspecs, and in ChicagoŠwell Chicago doesn't yet have one or two truly renowned hip-hop bands. With The Chicago Drop compilation, Cary Kanno of the Abstract Giants is helping to change this dilemma. Here, he assembled ten of the better hip-hop bands out of the windy city and gave them the chance to carry on the ³organic² spirit that the Roots help incite ten years ago.

What's most impressive about this project is the variety of sounds that are showcased. While many of the groups featured obviously carry influence from the Roots, they are hardly rehashing the same old material. Instead they take the listener on an entertaining and unpredictable ride through the underground. Things certainly start out on a high note with ³Take It In Stride² as Dynamic Vibrations live up to their name, presenting a melodic, keyboard-driven groove and an uplifting lyrical message. From there the rhythms remain airtight. Small Change delivers some Golden Era-esque hip-hop as they utilize authoritative flows reminiscent of a young Kool G Rap and a lively guitar chord and rapid-fire drums on ³Atmosfear.² Then on ³Spank,² Tabakin sounds like they're channeling the spirit of the late Rick James, creating a wild neo-funk soundscape. And in the rare occasion when songs are delivered in an eerily similar vein as the Roots, things still sound pretty fresh. With its sing-along hook and bouncy jazz-infused beat, it's just hard to deny the infectiousness of Treologic's ³Clap Clap.²

The Chicago Drop is a testament that hip-hop can indeed be a potent force with a full band. Moreover, it proves that Chicago has some of the best talent of this kind around, from Dynamic Vibrations to Small Change. While you may not see any of these cats on MTV or even MTV2 this year, look out for them and their product at a venue or store near you, ?cause they're only going up from here.