We’ve now gotten the chance to write in a sphere of Chicago centered blogs which  holds a more supportive community.We look forward to our new partnership with ChicagoNow which is under the same entertainment umbrella as the Chicago Tribune. (But don’t be confused I work with ChicagoNow not the Tribune!) All that to say, Hey We’ve Moved. And we’d really love it if you check us out and read us on our new site:


And remember, you keep reading, we’ll keep explorin’.


Vonnie Coleman


4-Star Explorer


Living It Up In La Villita! 26th Street Mexican Independence Day Parade

Chicago has been separated into ethnic quadrants for as long as I can remember. Only in our city could you literally go around the world in 80 days in respect to a multitude of cultures and food. But 4-Star’s destination was a little closer to home as we visited La Villita or the Little Village area, which forms a perimeter from about 31st and Cicero and then moves eastward ending at about Western Ave. In this capsulized version of Mexico many of the traditional constructs can be seen from the terra cotta found decorating many of the buildings as well as the welcome sign once you enter into the area. You can also find these signs of tradition in many of the shops selling authentic costumes and especially in the food offering centuries old recipes that always whet this blogger’s appreciative appetite.But as the area expanded there was a sort of marriage between Mexican and American cultures. And as with any marriage there has to be a mix of old and new, examples of this can be seen in the expressive graffiti murals of symbols such as the Virgin Mary that can be found throughout the area.

I, Vonnie Coleman along with Chris Thompson, on behalf of 4-Star Explorer kept all of this in mind as we parked and began to walk towards one of the biggest celebrations in Little Village, the 26th Street Mexican Independence Day Parade! As we stood near 26th and Kedzie, we got a chance to take in the array of colors and sounds. As the parade rolled on there were more than a few popular floats making their way down the packed lane.

A local Latino motorcycle club, the Pulaski Boyz, were one of the first floats/attractions to show up and show out as they made a spectacle with their constant revving and tricked out rides. Sporting the mantra Death or Glory these riders were real cool despite the fact that it was really hot out. Parade watchers also delighted in the many Spanish radio stations that were in attendance. Radio Personality and DJ, Jesse El Grandote, kept the parade live mixing for La Que Buena 105.1 FM float. Speaking of plenty of music acts there was a plethora of Mariachi! Mariachi, which can refer to either the music or the collective band, was one of the customary performances that popped up the most during the festivities. Sporting ladies and gentlemen decked out in traditional garb these prominent floats were numerous among the parade. It was hard to pick just one favorite. One of the other types of attractions that made up the vast majority of the parade were the different equestrian groups in the parade. Club Ruramuri Chihuahua was a noteworthy float that showcased the history of the majestic art of horse ranching. Modern tastes also rang through in the parade offering several troupes of the local Boy Scouts as well as some more “adult” tastes. Adult beverage purveyors like Miller Lite and Corona held floats filled with ladies dressed in “charming” costumes that got more than a bat of an eyelash from some of the men in the crowd. Regardless the float or attraction there was a unifying quality among them as they all rang out the popular chant “Viva Mexico!”

The 26th Street Mexican Independence Parade has lots of pros to its credit. One of the things I absolutely loved is the amount of children participation. From the yelling mouths in the crowd to the fanciful participants riding floats, kids really made the difference. There were young horse riders, beautiful teens sporting glittery Quinceañera gowns, tiny Bachata dancers, as well as junior volunteers who helped pass out flyers and information for causes such as voter registration and free safe cps bus rides for children. Another great attraction was the swag! I’m not talking about style, I’m talking about the almighty FREE. There were many free treats, trinkets, and gifts tossed into the awaiting crowd. This blogger was lucky enough to score a pack of chocolate chip cookies and a pink water bottle, my high school softball coach would be proud.

I have always appreciated the preservation of the rich history of the Latino culture. The proceedings always brought it back to their mother country Mexico. Mayan costumes were displayed as well as vibrant Puebla dresses for women and Charro suits for the males. Another of the mounting merits for the day’s exhibition was the efficient take down and clean up of the event. The parade ran from noon precisely and ended about an hour and a half later. The event organizers did a good job of dispersing the crowd and getting the roads back to drivable condition. Dare I say, it ran much better than another famous parade the annual Bud Billiken Parade which we as Chicagoans know can unofficially run all night thanks to constant patron flow at all times of the day. Lastly, and most importantly were the bountiful booths that parade goers could purchase various wares. Also sold at these wondrous booths, FOOD, glorious food. Horchata, mango sprinkled with chili, and the heavenly creation known as Mexican corn consisting of either Parmesan cheese, butter, mayo, chilli, or a concoction of two or more. I had never before tasted such a filling and amazing treat as this. After a day of taking in so much it was nice to wind the day down visiting the neighborhood, Lalo’s, and having their famous Blue Margaritas.

I just wanted to take a minute to give a real note of thanks. Let’s be real Chicago, we know there’s certain neighborhoods where race is still a very prevalent issue. There’s certain places where “black folk” aren’t allowed but when I say I felt so welcomed, it was very gracious. I’ve always come from the belief that we as minorities and people in general should never undercut each other because we struggle with the same hurts. I, as a black woman, appreciated the overall experience of the fiesta. That’s all from 4-Star.

Did you like the article? Have any other cultural festivals you want us to visit and review? Contact us at fourstar.explorer@yahoo.com. Also take a peek at our Facebook page at facebook.com/4StarExplorer and don’t forget to “like” us!

26th St. Mexican Independence Day Parade
On 26th St. from Albany to Kostner
3100 W. 26th St.
Chicago IL 60623

4126 West 26th Street
Chicago, IL

Pennjamin Bannekar 31/31 v.6 Verses Series

4-Star has been giving you the very best in fresh Chicago artists and this month is no different as yet another lyrical contender graces the mic. Illwrite Music Group’s, Pennajamin Bannekar, shows us mixtape innovation with his 31 verses in 31 days for the month of September, essentially giving us a deal of 30 verses, get one free being that September only has 30 days. And we at 4-Star Explorer can appreciate a great deal! Many of the instrumentals used are currently popular songs like Meek Mill’s Amen and Watch the Throne’s Ball So Hard.

Making his start with the group Project: Fr3sh, Penn, worked on his writing skills as well as the inception of his playful moniker Pennjamin B. He eventually went solo and worked tirelessly to expand the Chicago music scene going on to grab MTV’s Album of the Month recognition for the success of his 2011 titled compilation Heartbeat.

Enjoy a sample of this talented artist with the latest in the 31-n-31 series with Sweater which borrows it’s inspiration from another pioneer in Chicago music, Kanye West’s Get ‘Em High from the College Dropout album. I must say that this song goes hard, creating a strong 70s like vibe with drums and cymbals ringing strong throughout. It’s gritty, flowy and cool. Please give a listen to today’s verse as well as take a gander at this week’s recap of the series. Happy Friday!

Day 7-Sweater:


31/31 Week 1 Recap:



Have any new music you want 4-Star Explorer to review? Contact us at fourstar.explorer@yahoo.com. Also take a peek at our Facebook page at facebook.com/4StarExplorer and don’t forget to “like” us!

Rejoice for the Voice! Marcella Jones’ 15th Year In Gospel Radio Anniversary Celebration!

For 15 years now, Marcella Jones has held many roles in the city of Chicago. She has played radio personality for both WKKC 89.3 and Inspiration 1390. She has hosted gospel events including covering the Stella Awards. She has been a guest speaker at many a church function, speaking words of devotion on the goodness of the lord. But her role in my life has literally hit home closer for me, for you see, I am Marcella Jones’ niece. And while I’ve always known her as my mom’s bigger-than-life younger sister, this night she was noticed all her own. For one night, all of Chicago got to recognize my aunt’s contributions to gospel radio and the city as a whole. Marcella Jones’ 15th Year Gospel Radio Anniversary Celebration was definitely a cause for rejoice and I, Vonnie Coleman, on behalf of 4-Star Explorer was there to witness the spirit.

Upon arriving to the event we were welcomed by one of the event coordinators, Yolanda Williams, who kindly ushered us to a VIP reception which was held before the event for family and friends. With me, my mother, and my grandmother (who was decked out for the evening I must note) in tow we made our way to the designated area. There we got a chance to see longtime friend of the family and one of the greeters for the evening, Emma Childs. The reception wasn’t pretentious, instead offering a good ole family style gathering. Before any choirs started singing I already felt sanctified in the form of fried chicken and mild sauce. Amen! All jokes aside it was a nice spread and imagine my surprise while chomping down on my meal who should walk in but the 17th Ward Alderwoman, Latasha Thomas who I found out is personal friends with Marcella. Who knew? The faith was strong as the reception turned from a light dinner to a revival as some of the church’s members joined together in an impromptu hymn.

Once the event began there was a procession of accolades from coworkers and fellow admirers. Among them were Dennis Snipes, WKKC 89.3 FM’s station manager as well as another Dennis (of no relation I’m sure) president of the Chicago Area Gospel Announcers Guild, Dennis Cole. Alderwoman Latasha Thomas did more than play audience member. Standing to give thanks and personal accounts of the work that Marcella has done in aid of community issues and events. More colleagues and entertainers gave rousing speeches as well as amusing anecdotes of Ms. Jones’ journey through gospel radio. (I recall an especially hilarious mention of one of Marcella’s early nicknames, “Dead Air”) As if there couldn’t be enough of Chicago’s finest singers, announcers, and community workers things really got prestigious as the president of Kennedy King college, Dr. Joyce Ester,  stood up and just gave the most wonderful recollection of Marcella’s talents as well as her kind and welcoming demeanor.

Now a “Marcella Jones” event just isn’t an event without booming performances and let me tell you the show was chalk full of them! There was so much talent there the show ran over nearly an hour. Rev. Bryant Jones and Chosen proved to be an energetic and charming act who performed their popular song Walk This Road to Glory. They then performed a new song based on Rev. Jones’ father’s saying He Loves You and There’s Nothing You Can Do About It. Another standout performer, Phil Tarner, livened up the crowd with his own one man show. He even mused the lady of honor out of her seat to join in the praising. One Body, an all male quintet  were especially appreciative of Marcella’s support of their budding musical career. There is just something about five Christian brothers singing out strong about their faith in God that makes you wanna shout! But the highlighted performance had to be the reuniting of Love Unlimited Core Ministries originally led by Pastor Wesley Hayes. The group had not performed together in nearly 20 years and it was a treat because I remember being a rugrat running around spying on their rehearsals and meetings often stationed in my grandmother’s basement.

In between the star-studded performances the diva finally took the stage and spoke to the audience. There were many thanks made to her cohorts, family and fans. In a truly gracious action, Marcella took an opportunity to pass on her blessings by awarding two special participants in her growth in radio and faith. The first being Pastor Kevin Brown who acted as sort of a founder of the station. Those in attendance got a chance to learn that in a time of great tribulation in Pastor Brown’s life there was no gospel radio at Kennedy King College. He would go every week to the station and play inspirational music if for no one else’s ears then his own. Because of his persistence, WKKC has grown to the station it is today. Pastor Wesley Hayes was again recognized and given a plaque for aiding in Marcella’s career by laying the foundation of her faith in Christ. She then gave the history of how she started her career at WKKC.

While singing with Love Unlimited Core Ministries she would call into the station asking the announcer to play their album…there was just one problem…it didn’t exist at that time. She hoped that this would make the station more interested once their music came was released. After many calls and a rather frustrated DJ, the album was finally released and Marcella was asked to bring it to the station. Never the one to be described as apprehensive, Marcella continued her goodwill by showing up weekly bringing donuts and coffee to show her thanks. The more she came to the station, the more jobs they found for her to do. First it was answering phones. Then it was working the sound boards. She acquired more training and education. And finally, she was asked to become an announcer

The night proved to be one to remember. I appreciated the quaintness of the surroundings. It didn’t try to be this over extravagant show. It was a close celebration for those who “love them some Marcella.” It was a good-natured service that let people feel comfortable in their level of faith. I found it kind of haunting seeing the show of appreciation from the immense groups of supporters and listeners who look to my aunt for guidance. I sat in awe as she transformed from one of my caregivers, sometimes stylist, and overall life coach into a wonderful entertainer. I couldn’t help but think as my aunt Marcella took the stage, “wow, she really makes a difference. She really is famous.”

Did you like the article? Want to see pictures from the event? Contact us at fourstar.explorer@yahoo.com and visit our Facebook page at facebook.com/4StarExplorer and don’t forget to “like” us!

TreStyle *Dark Days, Bright Nights* Mixtape Review

If you’re like me, then listening to the radio today is like a personal challenge of endurance of just how long I can listen to a station without having my brain turn to putty and ooze out of my head. The new industry formula for creating a song by constantly worshiping: sex, money, and other vices paired with tinkered tailored sounds on beat machines has turned many a music fan away from contemporary rap and hip-hop. Even R&B is becoming a nuisance thanks to monotonous, dancy pop tracks of artists like Usher and Chris Brown. So what should appear before my very eyes, well actually come across my inbox, but an invitation to listen and review Chicago artist TreStyle’s, debut mixtape Dark Days, Bright Nights.

The 24 year-old Chicago native, West-side born and bred, records out of the “The Jungle” recording studio where we also interviewed fellow Chicago artist WhoisCHI in our previous article An Interview With A Chicago Artist. Rapping verses to himself since he was counting times tables, TreStyle got his professional start early joining the group F.A. The Squad just in his sophmore year of high school. The group members consist of Rel, The Boy Illinois, Rip the group’s manager, as well as TreStyle himself. While working with the F.A. family, TreStyle has contributed to 4 music projects, the most recent being a mixtape entitled “The Pilot.” Though all the group’s members are still very much a unit, they contionusly work on solo projects which leads to our listening pleasure TreStyle’s first solo endevor Dark Days, Bright Nights. As per the artist himself, the musical collection really appeals to “the emotions of everyday people” as well as “the hard issues that need to be highlighted in today’s music.” And I would have to agree that this compilation is driven, fun, and uplifting.

Though the mixtape as a whole is very focused and underground, honing on deep universal messages and a cleverly crafted sound, there were a few standout tracks that I wanted to mention.

*Stand-Out Tracks*

P.O.V.-this is the mixtape’s opening track and does a good job of setting up what the project is all about. If you couldn’t tell from the mixtape’s cover there’s definitely traces of early Kanye West and other local artists like Consequence. It’s a very conscious piece and in my opinion displays where music should have gone after albums like Graduation. This track stamps itself and clearly defines the rest of the project as true hip-hop.

H&H– a very catchy song and the beat does a nice job of supporting the lyrics. H&H, which stands for Hoodies and Headphones, highlights the universal attire among urban music lovers. I especially enjoyed some of the wordplay in the song, lines like “I ain’t say kill yourself/just go take some suicide lessons” are among the humorous, witty hooks that deal with the hating tendencies of naysayers.

What You Sippin–  upbeat but not necessarily a dance song. But, hey, can you really go wrong with a drinking song? The song rings very true to the going out lifestyle but doesn’t make it sleazy. It’s a good song to bob your head to on the way to the club. Guest artists Spud and 3 Tre do a very good job of elevating the sound of the track. It sounds radio ready to spin.

Like Kings– upon first hearing the track I couldn’t shake the feeling that it sounded very familiar to me. After a few replays I pinpointed the sound. In my head, it sounds loosely reminiscent of Drake’s Underground Kings but the beat and song in general hits a lot harder with strong drum tones throughout. Again, TreStyle displays a clever lyricism not seen today. I mean who else has tried to fit The Office‘s “Dundler Mifflin” reference in a song?

The Jungle– this track may be my favorite of the bunch. Once the beat drops you just instantly get the all-too-familiar Chicago custom of bobbing your head while waving your right hand in the air. If someone would have played this for me I would have never thought it was a mixtape. The sound is so professional and clean, especially the staccato drum machine beat which can sometimes sound amateur. The unmentioned singer on the track does a good job of complimenting the easygoing feel of the song.

Struggle Vs. Relief– Now if the previous track, Like Kings, is reminiscent of Drake I’m gonna go ahead and dub this with one of my favorite sayings, “this that Drake shit!” And what I mean by that is it invokes that all too familiar habit of staring longingly out of the nearest window and thinking deeply about your life.The song itself is very introspective and allows the listener to use what music is intended for, which is getting lost in the ideas and sounds which the artist has created for you.

Green Room– a euphoric racy track that comes across almost as hip-hop “trance” music. It really took me to another state of mind. This is what I dub “zoning out” music for those of you who use different methods, both legally or otherwise, at reaching a “high”-er mental state. It’s also a cool song just to chill and ride around exploring the city to.

Bright Night– I thought Green Room was a riding song, but with Bright Night the lyrics are practically a step-by-step instructional for hanging out on an especially chill Chicago evening. I couldn’t help but gush over the retro feel of this song. It was if I had been transported back to my junior or senior year of high school when I didn’t even think about the possibility of clubbing. When riding around the city blocks or general area of your residence in your best friend’s mother’s car that she managed to steal for the night was the highlight of your night. (Or maybe that was just my life?) The Boy Illinois is a great addition for the closing of the song and gave me some Andre 3000 realness.

Overall, this mixtape is a heartfelt and thoughtful piece of work but it’s not without fault. There really should be more upbeat and dancing songs you can bop to but with all the dancy dribble out today I won’t hold it against him. Tre Styles does a good job of not selling us a fabricated, non attainable image of opulent lifestyle but real poignant words. The mixtape gives us what we should expect from music artists, which is a very deep, authentic account of an artist’s life. It calls out to a lot of the great hip-hop we got from artists in the early 2000s while still remaining quite modern. It’s what Chicago music needs, moving forward from violence and injustice by recalling a better day, a better sound. This mixtape undoubtedly gets 4-Star’s gem of approval!

Don’t take our word for it listen to F.A. The Squad‘s artist, TreStyle with his debut mixtape Dark Days,Bright Nights by clicking the link:

Support Our Local Aritsts!!!!



Follow On Twitter @TreStyle3


Are you a Chicago artist who’d like to get their work reviewed? Have any suggestions for future articles? Then contact us at fourstar.explorer@yahoo.com and check out our Facebook page at facebook.com/4StarExplorer and don’t forget to “like” us!