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:

Chicagonow.com/4Star-Explorer

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

Blessings,

Vonnie Coleman

Editor-in-Chief

4-Star Explorer

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:
http://trestylefa.bandcamp.com/

Support Our Local Aritsts!!!!

TreStyle

http://www.facebook.com/TreStyleFA

Follow On Twitter @TreStyle3

freeatre@gmail.com

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!

Chicago Fashion Fest 2012

Paris. New York. Milan. Chicago? There are many things Chicago is known for, unfortunately, a booming fashion scene is not one of them. What many don’t know is that the Chicago fashion industry is picking up. Insert our latest exploration, the Annual Chicago Fashion Fest. Starting in humble beginnings at the bar Moonshine, also located on West Division, the festival is now branching out to its own outdoor area next to bar and grill The Anthem who also sponsor the event. Now going on its 4th year, the fest has grown and spread its opportunities to many fashion and fashion related workers in the city. I, Vonnie Coleman, on behalf of 4-Star Explorer marched out to the event with 4-Star’s photographer Christopher Thompson as well as that day’s travel companion, former model, and good friend, Ashlee Robinson.

While 4-Star explored the fest and all its workings, we got a chance to view the event’s fashion show and had a chance to pick up some of the hottest trends for the fall.

1. Add a pop of color!

This fall is all about mixing colors. A pop of bright color with a dark color can really add to an outfit. Adding maybe some lime green to your look can redefine the little black dress making it more modern. Even patterns like plaid can be added with fun colors like purple to take it from stuffy to funky.

2. Cut It Out.

A clip here, a snip there and you can forget all your cares…of being fashionable for the fall. But don’t go cutting the midriff out of your old dress, subtle cut-outs are the way for a tasteful ensemble. This style usually comes in the form of bared shoulders, tiny slits at the waist, or as the “wow” effect at the back of a shirt.

3. Collar necklaces make a “statement.”

Chunky necklaces can add “oomph” to any outfit and can instantly attract attention to an outfit without trying too hard. Styles like teardrop stones and layered chains are the favorites for fall.

courtesy of James Jeans Blog

4. Guys…spread your jeans.

A lot of guys think their style is limited, not having as many accessories or outfit options as the ladies. Don’t worry guys, jeans will save your style. Guys are really making a statement with different denim looks for the fall. Whether their faded, bleached, cut up or even pop colors like teal or green…jeans are a man’s way of getting noticed.

5. Neutrals and Navy.

I have been seeing neutrals paired with navy practically everywhere! When looking for something to pair with the color nude, navy is this season’s winning combination. You can pair a nice nude pair of shoes with a navy dress or maybe your style’s more nautical with with a nice navy and cream striped shirt? Neutrals and navy give a touch of sophistication to your wardrobe.

After the fashion show we made our way to some of the local clothing stores who occupied booths to display their designs. Le Thrift, a local consignment shop, offers previously owned but well taken care of garments and focuses on an overall vintage style of clothing. Not only can you buy designers like Coach, Chanel, Gucci and others for a steal, you can take your own gently used valuables, because you know you’ll never fit those Prada strappy sandals again, and trade them in for cash.

We continued our rounds and eventually made our way to the So Ness Boutique booth run by young stylist Vanessa Betance and her mother. For the hottest in edgy accessories and clothing you can’t go wrong here. Could she interest you in a spiked cuff bracelet? Or maybe you’d like to go bold with a spiked nail ring? Then So Ness Boutique is sure to make you look fierce.

One of the standout booths Elevenzees, offered a more zen-like approach to style. Offering enchanting jewelry designs and natural oils, Elevenzees gave a calming demeanor. But don’t let the bluegrass roots fool you, the store flaunts many a spicy number for brides-to-be.  I especially enjoyed speaking to Elevenzees spokesperson, Patty Johnson, about some of the ways they cater to different clientele from ladies planning a “girl’s night out” to the bridal industry. They don’t just sell clothing they also have an entertainment space in the downstairs area of the store. Here, they offer different event options that best suit the host including snacks and bubbly. If this wasn’t enough, they even have free monthly yoga and spiritual enlightenment events. I’ve never seen one store do so much!

 

My style assistant Ashlee and I didn’t just search the racks we got to meet, gab, and question some of the shop owners, the question we asked, what style tips do you have to give the Chicago fashion beat? Sarah Sabastian, of Jojo and Sofia emphatically believes you should “show personality through accessories!” For the ladies she says “necklaces are a way to be bold with out overdoing your outfit.” And for the fellas she thought sporting necktie clips can take you from guy to gentlemen status in no time flat. “It’s a fun and easy way for classing up a man’s look.”

Alicia Rogers of CocoNutU, says “less is sometimes more.” “Choose one thing to focus on,” she says, “You don’t need big earrings and a glittery necklace. Choose one piece as a statement of your outfit so an onlookers eye knows where to focus.”

But the general consensus on advice on style is to be original. We got a chance to meet up with Duble “R” Da Great, from the Hustle My Flow article, once again at the King Lizzy booth. Their belief “whatever you see in the magazines, do the opposite.” According to the King Lizzy philosophy “if everyone’s going right, you go left” and this state of mind seems to work for their team as they gear up for their September 12th relaunching of their clothing and sneaker store. Boasting brand new designers and an interactive experience you can be sure that 4-Star will be there to cover it!

As we departed from the fest we stopped across the street at Noir, who weren’t officially apart of the festivities but kept their doors open to its stylish patrons. Inside their walls are filled with cool, campy duds that sport a retro feel. While perusing the brightly colored racks my fellow fashionista Ashlee R. couldn’t help but laugh and muse on why everyone should want to dress like this to which she added, “yea instead of wearing pink lace leggings.” Oh 79th street girls, will you ever learn?

All and all Chicago Fashion Fest was small in stature but huge in potential. I look forward to Chicago growing in fashion notoriety in the next five years but we as Chicagoans need to get out and support these stores!

Did you like the article? Want to know more about Chicago Fashion Fest? Want to see all the exclusive pictures from the event? Then drop us a line at fourstar.explorer@yahoo.com and visit or facebook page at www.facebook.com/4StarExplorer and don’t forget to like us!

Support our local business!!!! These stores are 4-Star approved!!!!

CocoNut U
Hand Crafted Jewelry
etsy.com/CocoNutU
coconut57@gmail.com

Elevenzees
1901 West Division St.
Chicago, IL 60622
http://www.elevenzees.com

JoJo & Sofia
http://www.jojoandsofia.com
jojoandsofia@gmail.com

King Lizzy
2540 West Division St.
Chicago, IL 60622
http://www.kinglizzy.com

Le Thrift
1754 West Division St
Chicago, IL 60622
http://www.lethrift.com

Noir
1726 West Division St.
Chicago, IL 60622
http://www.noirclothing.com

So Ness Boutique
http://www.sonessboutique.bigcartel.com/
http://www.facebook.com/SoNessBoutique

Notable Fashion Fest Booths Which Were Not Mentioned

Lauren Cheri
Fashion Illustrator
http://www.facebook.com/Lauren.Cheri.Designs
LaurenCheri@yahoo.com

Gabrielle Zwick Designs
http://www.gabriellezwick.com

Viva La Femme
2048 North Damen Ave
Chicago, IL 60647

Also…
C DALSTEDT
DALIA ACEVEDO
MAISON DE LACOUR
M.GO FASHION CO
SMASH TALENT
SMART CHIC
SOUTH LOOP

Navigating Chicago Part 1: *My Hero Zero, Zero*

Though I consider myself a native Chicagoan, living near the South-side since birth, there’s a secret this self-acclaimed explorer has been carrying around for some time now…I never learned directions. It’s true! For shame! When most urbanites were sent off into the world with a bus card, maybe a map, and the simple directions “find your way back in two hours,” I was unfortunately born to an overattentive mother who wouldn’t let me walk up the block let alone ride a bus. I was thus denied this rite of passage and some twenty odd years later, I was finally getting rid of my “exploring training wheels.” I, Vonnie Coleman, on behalf of 4-Star Explorer set out find an easy and helpful way to navigate the city. But where to start? Chicago is so vast….bring in my hero zero, zero.

A little history first. Chicago is set up on a grid system that is, streets run like longitude and latitude lines on a map. Some run up and down, some run left to right. In Chicago, major streets are counted at every four blocks or half mile. In the heart of this grid system lies Madison and State, the zero point of Chicago, where all city block measuring is started. Madison running East and West, while State runs North and South.

So what exactly does all that mumbo jumbo mean…is exactly what I was thinking as I was reviewing maps. Which brings me to “helpful tip” number one for navigating Chicago, Do Your Homework. Work with mapping websites, I suggest Google Maps. They have a helpful app that is a lifesaver if you’re ever lost. They even have a walking GPS! Giving you turn by turn walking directions for what I term, us directionally challenged individuals. After perusing some of the major downtown streets I came up with an acronym system to group some of the streets together that almost guaranteed my memorization. I started with State-Wabash-Michigan giving it the oh, so appropriate “Sexy-Wet-Men.” Now I don’t know how your mind works but nothing is more unforgettable than a soaking wet man fresh out of the shower. Now if you’re a fella and that wordplay is something you’d like to keep far from your mind I came up with “Soliders-Win-Merits” for all you Call of Duty fans.

Next was Madison-Washington-Randolph given the phrase “My-Wild-Rabbit.” Then there’s State-Dearborn-Clark-LaSalle with the phrase “Silly-Dogs-Cuddle-Lovingly” and lastly there were the parallel streets Madison-Monore-Adams-Jackson paired with the saying “My-Mom-Answers-John

Once my research was over I was ready to pack up and explore but like the catchy Expedia handle “helpful tip number two” suggests you should Never Roam Alone. If you’re a newbie to downtown directions I would suggest sticking with the buddy system, at least until you have a working knowledge of where you are while near the Loop. Not only is it easy to get turned around in the swell of a crowd but not to mention the safety precautions. With this in mind I called on 4-Star’s interim photographer, Chris Thompson to act as my inside man.

After riding the Red Line up to Monroe we stopped and had a small “awe-filled” moment as we took in the hustle and bustle that is downtown Chicago. The plan? Walk around the Madison and State parameter while collecting useful insights to help the GPS junkies out there LEARN the streets, not just mapquest ’em.

While walking with Chris I learned that there is a “100 block series” measurement system that lets a traveler know their location in relation to another street. For example, If I were waiting for Chris at Millennium Park on Michigan and he was located on Madison and State getting ready to travel towards me, I would in fact be 200 blocks East of State Street or simply I’d be two blocks over to his right. I can feel some of the seasoned Chicago explorers’ blasé stares in my general direction but what is your long forgotten history is my latest revelation.

There is an exception to this, some streets which is the case with the above picture of Garland are counted as half of a city block and thus do not fit into the 100 block series count. Garland Court is in fact placed between Wabash and Michigan but these half blocks, places, and courts are mostly used as alleyways for local businesses.

Continuing my journey, I did whatever I do when taken to a new or scary place that I’m not sure I’ll return from, make mental note of my surroundings. For example, while walking towards “The Lake” or going East on Madison one of the first things I noticed once I got to Wabash was a high hanging Tilted Kit restaurant sign. So, “helpful tip” number three, Peep Your Surroundings urges you to do just that.

After taking Madison, over to Michigan and then eventually walking down to Randolph I tried to think like the average lost out-of-towner. Who is the first person I’d go to in crisis? As I made my way on Randolph past the Chicago Cultural Center, yet another visual landmark, I happened to see a group of Chicago’s finest and slightly less finer police officers and security guards. Of course, as luck would have it I happened to ask the most stubborn security officer of the group. After some time I got him to reluctantly answer some questions on what to do if you ever get lost.

His advice was to seek out policemen, bus drivers, and taxi drivers for directions. “Helpful tip” number four Uniforms Friendly! is a proclamation of our fine fitted workers of the city.These people are put in these position to be able to work with the public. Quite frankly, it’s their jobs to know these streets. And even if you catch a traffic control attendant or the Starbucks guy you’ll get a reasonably helpful and friendly response.

Another oasis for the lost explorer is one of the many Metra Information Centers. Every bus or train at the very least has a mapping system chart with the different city routes carved out. Some of these train and bus stations even have attendants or officers stationed on them which again, these friendly uniforms offer a guide to a helpful direction. Beneath the Chicago Cultural Center, holds one such information center. Boasting one of the more extravagant information centers than most in the city, the Chicago Cultural Center’s Metra Information Center holds six different restaurants and stores for the weary traveler needing to replenish their supplies and achy soles.

While looking around the underground safe haven I noticed a compass Chicago Pedway Symbol and decided to research some facts on this passageway. Constructed since the 50s this underground walkway system is connected to over 40 downtown area blocks, specifically occupying the central business district. It connects to many shopping areas, restaurants, city buildings, as well as different CTA (Chicago Transit Authority works with bus services) and Metra (works with train services for those who don’t know). This tunnel system is a godsend to a lost explorer seeing as many times it can lead you straightway to the business or building you are looking for. So “helpful tip” number five encourages you to Look for the North Star. These compass star designed symbols can be an explorer’s salvation, so keep an eye out for these. And remember a lot of local stores and restaurants are connected to them as well like this picture of the pedway sign on the side of the State street shopping center Block 37.

Wrapping up the trip and all its grandeur would be a cathartic experience for anyone so of course, me being me, I had to go and ruin it by putting myself through what I can guarantee is one of the most terrifying things a person can do; walking blind and being lead by someone around the downtown area. Considered crazy by most, extreme by some, but for us at 4-Star Explorer it’s just a day at the office.  Trust me, there is a method to the madness. I had Chris blindly lead me to different streets in the area to quiz me on identifying the intersection, giving the correct “100 block series count” from Madison or State, and lastly knowing the proper direction of either East/West of State or North/South of Madison.

Once the first of my quizzes was administered after being told I could open my eyes I looked around and noticed we were near the business district. I made my way to the nearest intersection which read Dearborn and Adams. From there I was able to determine that the location was 200 blocks south of Madison and 100 blocks west of State…and of course I was correct. Riding high off my first win I felt a little more comfortable as I closed my eyes again and was spun unceremoniously around then lead to the next challenge. Once again I was told to open my eyes and after peering around the area I noticed the Wabash and Adams sign to which I gave the correct answer of being 1 block east of State and 2 blocks south of Madison. After urging Chris to give me something more challenging and not located on Adams…he spun me around and off we went. After what felt like hours and what must have been countless confused stares I was told to open my eyes and was instantly met with the familiar musings of Millennium Park . I looked up and found the intersection of Madison and Michigan. Being stationed on Madison we were on the Zero Point and thus only 200 blocks east of State.

Soaking in the glory of all three quizzes I inquired on the proper address formation of our last intersection. I was confused because though we were on Michigan the address said 200 E. Madison. Chris filled me in on why that’s the case. When you are at intersecting streets the dominant street, or the street that naturally runs in the direction you are traveling, gets the placing. For example, if you were located on the intersection of LaSalle and Randolph the address would read 300 W. Randolph because Randolph naturally runs East and West whereas LaSalle runs North and South. But LaSalle isn’t completely forgotten with the “300” letting travelers know it is 3 blocks from State.

Well in a day filled with triumphs and terrors (the whole time I had my eyes closed I just knew I was gonna hit a curb and face plant so hard for the whole world to see) I can definitely say it was a trip I’ll never forget and cherish as the first of many Navigating Chicago series. Here’s some of my favorite pictures from our outing, we got a lot of great shots!

Wanna see all of the 70 photos we took on our Navigating Chicago Part 1 Trip? Any suggestions on what we should explore next? Drop us a line at fourstar.explorer@yahoo.com or go to our Facebook page facebook.com/4StarExplorer to see extra pictures or leave notes, don’t forget to like us!

Just a reminder folks that tomorrow, August 16th, WE’RE BACK!!! 4-Star has come off it’s break, got a little sun, and is back and ready as ever to explore our great city! We’ve got exciting new articles and events for you all to peruse so get your backpacks on and join us to explore the best in urban Chicago. We’ve got pictures up on our facebook page already of the latest event we reviewed and tomorrow you can read the full article, where else other than 4-Star Explorer. Thanks so much for the wonderful birthday wishes! It was truly a blessing.

courtesy of Big Cartoon Database Online

Blessings,

Shavon “Vonnie” Coleman

The Big E-I-C

(Editor-in-Chief)

4-Star Explorer

Smash Play at the Goodman Theatre a *Crowning* Achievement

Whoever coined the saying “use your head for than a hat rack” hasn’t met the ladies of Burlington, North Carolina; the setting of the smash hit Crowns. 4-star got up and out, hatless unfortunately, to see this raved reviewed production. And frankly, we tip our hats off to the cast.

provided by “Stage and Cinema” online

Crowns, written by playwright Regina Taylor,was originally produced in 2002, first brought to the Goodman Theatre in 2004, and for its 10 year anniversary has been reworked for its second Goodman release this summer in 2012. The story follows Yolanda, played by fellow Illinois State University alum Marketta Wilder, as she must leave the familiar yet dangerous streets of Englewood, Chicago. After being shipped off “down south” to stay with her grandmother Mother Shaw, Felicia Fields, she must reluctantly become apart of this new rural backdrop and all its customs. Along with Mother Shaw, four ladies of the community’s social hierarchy work to change Yolanda’s stubborn and flamboyant ways by sharing analogous monologues of past memories, hurts, and lessons learned. These experiences all revolving around the wearing of different ceremonial hats, unite the ladies in a common societal understanding.

I, Vonnie Coleman, of 4-Star Explorer ventured out to the 2 pm matinee showing of Crowns. It was very convenient buying the tickets online and having them waiting, nestled safely in the box office waiting for my arrival. I was lucky to score a ticket for $25 in the first Box seating on the main floor, stage left of the crowd. It was surprisingly busy for an afternoon show, my understanding of plays were that they were usually busier on evenings, but every seat in the house was filled. Once I scurried to my seat I was shocked to see that the box was raised higher above the main floor setting an exquisite allusion of 18th century French theatre.  I was practically a modern-day version of “matinee ladies.”

An example of the raised box seats on the main floor that I sat in.

Once the theater goes black the ears are assaulted by the rhythmic drumming from the orchestra pit. A man and woman dressed in African garb make their way to the stage. They stand quietly off to the side and the spotlight turns off. And as a first to my eyes from any other play I’ve attended the backstage disappears as the walls of the set literally close in around Wilder as Yolanda dancing rhythmically to a unrelenting hip-hop beat. As the space around Yolanda grows smaller,  the backdrop is filled with urban cityscapes, an echoing of metropolitan sounds such as trains and buses, and the words “I was born in Englewood” are etched lovely in script writing.

Without giving too much of the play away Yolanda tells us of the sad circumstances on how she has come to stay in Burlington. The five ladies who shape her knowledge of the town are first introduced dressed in white signaling a pure almost guardian angel quality to them. After giving varying soliloquies we discover the characters are Wanda, played by Pauletta Washington, a stark Gospel traditionalist raised up in the church to follow strict guidelines. E Faye Butler usually plays the role of Mabel, the preacher’s wife but at the performance I attended understudy Shari Addison gives a riveting performance as the harsh often times judgmental church first lady. Jasondra Johnson plays Velma, a young socialite in the congregation known for her wild streak during her “sinning days” but has since mended them and become the funeral director. Jeanette the tiny coy seductress lives very much by the “Hat Queen Rules” (also an upbeat song and dance number in the show) but believes in breaking them a little bit just the same. And of course sagely Mother Shaw rounds out the accomplices in Miss-Yolanda-Education. Though originally dressed in white the characters make an onstage costume change seemingly slipping into their identities. Ms. Wanda in Gold, Ms. Mabel in feisty Red, Ms. Velma in royal Purple, Ms. Jeanette is flirty Blue, and Ms. Shaw in sparkling White and Silver. It rang familiar to me with the color characterization in the popular play For Colored Girl

Through out the play you see that Yolanda struggles between the love she comes to have for these guardian angels and the reluctance she has for assimilating into any custom deemed as normal. I also appreciated the strong African influences that are fuzed into this play. The Ensemble members, regardless of the different roles they must invoke, are always wearing Afro-inspired clothing. The audience is always showed the comparison between old African customs and common practices displayed in modern black churches such as shouting, group chantings, and donning ornamental costumes. There is also a fusion in the music. Please, please, PLEASE, do not let the “Gospel” aspect of this play lead you astray just about every form of music is covered in this play from 50s doo wop to spoken word to popular gospel hymns to jazz and old timey music of the 1900s and always strumming back to the hip-hop beats, specifically Lauryn Hill’s Everything is Everything plays a big part.

A quick shot of Marketta Wilder, the leading lady Yolanda and our editor Vonnie.

 

For me the standout players in this crowd pleasing hit were Marketta Wilder and Felicia Fields as Yolanda and Mother Shaw. Their relationship was so organic and emotional that I really got the sense that they were grandmother and granddaughter. They were also captivating on their own as well. Wilder gives a powerful performance with an overall commanding presence in every scene she is in. This girl can’t go unnoticed. And Mother Shaw tugs on the deep nostalgic longing in all of us of providing the “Big Mama” role that is so desperately needed in today’s society.

Crowns the Gospel Musical, is certain to bring your family together and entertain all of the differing characters of your familial camp. There is assuredly something for everyone. This play is truly something to be “explored.”

 

 

 

For extra parking convenience I suggest you use the online parking spot holder ParkingWhiz.com to reserve the best spot also for the cheapest price. It takes a lot of fuss out of the already hectic downtown parking experience.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Crowns! The Gospel Musical

running now to August 12

visit online for tickets and hours at:

http://www.goodmantheatre.org/

170 North Dearborn Street

Chicago, IL 60640

 

Like the article? Want to see more pictures of our trip to the Goodman? Any suggestions for the blog? Visit us on facebook here at Facebook.com/4StarExplorer

WhoisCHI? An Interview With A Chicago Music Artist

I waited anxiously with my friend and 4-Star’s interim photographer, Chris Thompson. I looked up at the address which read 345 North Loomis. I was suddenly worried about how this artist’s personality may be. I was surprised when not a group but one singular man came out to greet us. It was the artist himself, Diontae Johnson, better known as WhoisChi. The West-side raised Chicagoan greeted us warmly and had an air of humbleness that was greatly appreciated. He walked us up to booth 308, appropriately dubbed as “The Jungle.” “It’s because all kinds of musical animals run through here,” WhoisChi jokes, Chi for short.

Since 2009, WhoisChi has been self promoting and independently releasing his music to the masses buliding a substantial facebook and twitter following. He has managed to network and collaborate with such artists and producers such as BluClown, Young Chi, DGrams, and J Green; just to name a few. He impressed many with his first mixtape self-titled, WhoisChi, seemingly wedging his foot in the door gaining many a music-lover’s attention. Chi, has been hard at work gearing up for the release of his second mixtape, IamChi, which does not yet have a tentative release date. His music covers various topics from grinding to girls to overcoming tribulations to staying real and gaining an understanding of self.

Vonnie taking notes before the interview

Chi offers us a seat and excuses himself before the start of the interview. He and Cruz are working on two new songs today which will be featured on the upcoming mixtape. While sitting on the couch trying to keep busy I got a chance to chat with Chi’s main squeeze, IamPrincezz. She giggles while looking on at her beau rap furiously in the booth. “It’s important to get to know the man behind the music. When I met Diontae, I didn’t know he was a rapper. I was a little worried once I found out but I learned to love Diontae, and be a fan to WhoisChi,” she shares with me. Princezz works with Eminent Phenomena Media she books acts for different events and also promotes for clubs. She believes in the important fundamental that your name, your look, your personality, is all apart of your brand. We chatted a little bit more and discovered a shared love of leopard print!

 

WhoisChi comes out of the booth with the effects of sweat on his brow and undershirt from rapping, almost attacking the microphone. He dries off and though standing is his custom he agreeably sits down and we begin the interview. I, Vonnie Coleman, on behalf of 4-Star Explorer prepared the recorder for questioning.

4-Star: Okay, I know you represent for the West-side, tell me a little about how you grew up.

WhoisChi: I grew up in St. Stephen, which everyone calls a community. It’s not really a project but let’s just say it’s a becoming project building. I grew up in a single parent home. I always had the kind of family that worked to keep me out of trouble…I never got into too much trouble though, because I always found a way to work around the system.

4-Star: Well that’s a good trait to have. How did you start rapping?

WhoisChi: When I was at Illinois Central College, some of my friends used to play around with music. They’d have a mic set up and we’d just make music for fun. Somewhere between the rapping we decided to put together a mixtape on Datpiff website. A mixtape which I suggest you never listen to. Only if you want to compare my growth from then to now. The rest of my progress has just been through word of mouth. Meeting new people and expanding my style.

4-Star: So do you work with any entertainment groups?

WhoisChi: I’m currently part of a group called Tag Team. That’s made of me, WhoisChi, and another rapper named, Young Chi. We both come from the same hood. One day we were just working on a song in the studio and we went back and forth, sort of like some Jadakiss and Styles P. stuff, and we just came up with the name and it stuck.

4-Star: Any other people you collaborate with?

WhoisChi: I also work with BluClown. He produces a lot of my beats and he’s helping me on the mixtape that I’m working on now.  I also work with my friend Joseph who goes by the name of Boobie of Boobie Beats.There’s also Narcotics Beatz. I work with a clique of artists who also put on for the West-side:  J. Green, DGrams, Ace-FlyGuy, and Millzi.

4-Star: What drives you?

WhoisChi: My son, DJ. I call him Lil Boss. My son drives me to do better, leave something for him. Plus he’s a junior so you know he has to be like his dad.

4-Star: So for everything that you do, everything in your music, what’s your overall message?

WhoisChi: That West-side has talent also.

4-Star: So do you think the South-side gets more recognition?

WhoisChi: Don’t get me wrong, the South-side has definitely opened the doors for Chicago artists I tip my hat to them. I just feel like the love should be spread throughout Chicago. I’m here to show what the West-side has to offer.

4-Star: What’s the process for writing your lyrics?

WhoisChi: I really just play off the music. I listen to the beats and I think in my head the story behind the sound. Then I just jot the lyrics that come to mind.

4-Star: I’ve gotten a chance to go to your Sound Cloud and listen to some of your tracks. I just wanted to highlight a few. Can you tell me sort of the behind the scenes of how they were written and made. Let’s start with Testimony.

WhoisChi: That was a song again for Tag Team, the group with me and Young Chi. We really wanted to just do something different from the other “look what we have” song lyrics out there. We wanted to set a different vibe and hopefully reach an entirely different core group of people.

4-Star: And 100 Freestyle?

WhoisChi: That was actually a song done for my friend, Romell, Rest in Peace. At the time he didn’t even know I was taking the rapping thing seriously. He was with me when I made it and I shouted him out in the song.

4-Star: Ok, Spotlight‘s a good one.

WhoisChi: I actually wrote that on the train. We were trying to do a little club theme song, something to get people moving. There’s actually a video on You Tube for it. I really like that song because it’s featuring myself, J. Green, DGrams, and Young Chi. We wanted to get out there and show our faces. We work well together because we’re all diverse, we got different styles, and we’re all from the West-side.

4-Star: So what’s the future look life for WhoisChi?

WhoisChi: Mixtape! I’m just really focusing on my music. I want to get 12 or 13 songs together and make a great mixtape to put out for everyone. And whatever’s left over…I’ma just leave them and release another mixtape! After the mixtape I just want to reach out to different people in the business in the Chicago area.

4-Star: Thanks for giving me a great interview. I guess the last question is do you have any advice for other aspiring Chicago artists?

WhoisChi: Keep grinding. Show your face everywhere. Your appearance is everything. As IamPrincezz would say your name is your brand. My name is my brand. So build yourself. Make sure you act professional then you’ll be presented as professional which will make it easier for you to keep grinding.

How does he do it?

Ay Cruz is a musical wizard turning knobs and switches. Clicking different effects and sound levels. It’s all very reminiscent of the old Disney animated epic The Sorcerer’s Apprentice for me. I am mesmerized by how he takes squiggly lines and spiked pitches and turns them into music. He is a chief engineer with the Audio Engineering group, “The Jungle.”

After the interview we are greeted by Manny, a videographer, fellow member of “The Jungle” Audio Engineering group, and friend of Cruz.We network a little bit with him and he shows us some of his work.

IamPrincezz and Vonnie, 4-Star Explorer’s Editor

I couldn’t shake the feeling of awe as the afternoon spent watching WhoisChi and his cohorts make music and deals wound to a close. We snapped pictures and gave our goodbyes as ended a meeting that was hopefully a wonderful beginning for all of us.

WhoisChi, Vonnie, and Cruz

Check out WhoisChi’s newest single Save Me produced by BluClown by clicking here. Enjoy and stay tuned for his new mixtape, IamChi, coming soon.

 

 

Make sure you support our Chicago talent by contacting the following:

WhoisChi

For full track list click here at Soundcloud

Follow on Twitter @TheReal_CHI

Like on Facebook at facebook.com/WhoisCHI

 

Princezz of Eminent Phenomena Media

Follow on Twitter @IamPrincezz

 

A. Cruz of “The Jungle”

Chief Engineer

ACruz@TheJungleAE.com

Want to see more pics from the interview? You want in-depth coverage of just what “The Jungle” looks like? Head over to our page Facebook.com/4StarExplorer for more pics and don’t forget to like us!

House Heads Stand Up! An Evening at Shrine Nightclub

Facebook can clue you in to a lot of things. You can see who’s in a new relationship. You can get visual evidence of someone making a fool of themselves the previous night. And let’s not forget the all too familiar “I just need to be by myself” status update. And sometimes, you can get actual useful advice. This was the case when facebook friend and sorority sister, Pamela Estwick, hipped me to Shrine nightclub. Now I was no stranger to Shrine. I’d been there multiple times sandwiched into the poorly ventilated “hip-hop” section of the club, but that was mostly Fridays and Saturdays. Those days of course dubbed as “young people” days because majority 21-25 year-olds visit during those days. But the grown and sexy crowd need not break a sweat. They know the score, that Sundays…belong to the “house.

 The Shrine

2109 South Wabash Ave

Chicago, IL 60616

Shrine is an appropriate name for the club seeing that its walls stand practically a mecca to all things urban. From the decor to the beats to the crowd this nightclub gives off a “soulful” glow of ambiance welcoming you in. The club is actually two spaces converging into one. Either side often holding two differing styles of music for club goers to enjoy. A bar on either side as well as two lounging areas each, Shrine muses its guests to stay awhile. And this blogger is not too bashful to admit that the restrooms were first-rate, practically upscale. And ladies, we all have been on the bad end of a dreadful club bathroom experience. Signage saying “Ladies Room” when it’s really anything but. But once again, I digress.

Out on a Sunday! So grown-up lol

When I entered the club I was a little nerved being that I had never ventured into such an establishment on my own before. I was excited once I walked in and saw Pam sitting in the lounging area seemingly unfazed as she vibed to the music while glancing at her phone. We chatted and she gave me some further dish on the customs of the harmonious conservatory. Pam has paid patronage to Shrine House Sundays for a couple of years now. She insights that the best time to come is around 11pm and this was rightfully so as I noticed we seemed to come right before the crowd came to a onrush onto the moderate dance floor. From 9pm to about 11:30 there is a Dee-jay who spins some intriguing melodies. We vibe out to the melody and Pam shares with me that she loves hearing him every week. “I love this DJ and I really get to moving when Terry Hunter gets on the turntables,” she divulges. And I am instantly intrigued. While mulling our last few moments over in the lounge before we pay visit to the opposing side of the club to see how the other half parties, I am gobsmacked by what can only be legs…a pinkly wrapped vessel of legs. She is nice enough to let me snap some pictures of her and I apologize for them in advice seeing as they do her no justice. It is entirely my fault seeing as I let the batteries in my camera die leaving me my camera phone which is only useful for grainy night vision pics. Fellas, if this isn’t your enticement to come then I don’t know what else to wager with.

Is she not like…part Amazonian

We walk around the club within a club format and see that there is a reggae side for the Rastafarian in all of us. I swayed my hips and dutty-wined for a few hot seconds before we noticed that there was a little outdoor clubhouse for partiers to rest and have a quick smoke break.

As Pam and I were resting and gearing up for some two stepping back on the “House” side I spoke to a group of girls that drew me in. Especially, Breezy. You heard right, Breezy and her personality was as such. To be honest with you I have never seen a lady pull of a clean shaven head such as she. She equally impressed me seemingly winning me over by asking me if I wanted to “chill” with them later. She explained she was a concierge and the invite seemed so tantalizing but I told her I was on the job. (The things I sacrifice for you people!)

Once the “House” side was in full swing it was on! The hypnotic beats mixed with the varying purple, blue, and green strobe lights were almost similar to trance music. I got a couple of dances in with some nice overzealous partners but all and all I enjoyed myself and the thrill of being out late on a Sunday night burned deep within me as I made my way to the car.

So how does The Shrine measure  up?

Pros: The Shrine is a seemingly hodgepodge of people, a proverbial tossed salad if you will. (Am the only who thinks that sounded a bit dirty?) Shrine holds my personal meaning of the word “urban” being that they have visitors of different races all coming together under one roof  representing a shared ethnic vibe.

Even if you have been to Shrine often there’s something new for you to see. During those peak days regular customers can’t sit in the lounges at least without purchasing some ungodly priced bottle of alcohol. Sundays all areas of the club are open to everyone.

Did I forget to mentioned its Free…. yep, Shrine is free .99 on most Sundays begging bored singles with Monday off and nothing to do to come out and kick it and maybe sample a nice drink. There are special events though that sometimes charge but the price is never over $5.

Here’s everyone’s favorite Amazon dancing on a speaker. (She’s there every week boys *wink*)

Cons: The music was way too loud. I had to leave a bit earlier than I intended because my ears couldn’t take it any longer…but then again in their defense, I may just have girly ears.

If you are not a lover of House music then obviously this won’t be for you. Also under 25 crowd…this is not the usual bump and grind, juking, bang-bang-bang music you are accustomed to. This is a classy place so if you feel you need constant stimulation this might not be the night for you.

If you enter a dancing agreement…then you are practically locked in. Now it might have been just my amazing outfit or my dancing moves but
I found once a guy started dancing with me I had to almost beat him off with a club. And being that House music beats go on and on sometimes with no end or transition I found myself moving a lot longer than I usually like to.

Shrine House Sundays gets my approval but definitely for the over 30 crowd but I believe I will find myself back there soon on another lonely Sunday night.

What did you think of the article? Love it or Hate It? Similar stories or anything to add? Email us at fourstar.explorer@yahoo.com. follow on Twitter at @4StarExplorer and did we mention we have a Facebook page? Facebook.com/4StarExplorer

***My special thanks once again to my friend Pamela Estwick for being my guide into the club. This piece would not have been written without you.

Taste of Chicago 2012: Budget or Bust?

A Chicago trademark for thirty-two years and running the annual feeding frenzy fest known as the Taste of Chicago is a foodie beacon for all. When I heard news that the “Taste” would be pushed back after the July 4thholiday I toyed around with the idea of coming out and walking Columbus Drive once again. Reminiscing on days of my youth spent waking up at ungodly hours to take one sometimes two buses to Midway, hopping the Orange Line down to the fest, sporting freshly purchased “fits” (a common urban colloquialism referring to a brand new outfit, usually gaudy and by some sort of B-rate designer, see also Coogi) bought with parents’ money while always seeking the important pursuit of attention from boys.  The bash has been scaled down over the years but the event had over 2.35 million patrons in attendance and 4.9 millions in sales in 2011. So what was the worst they could do this year right? They were already experiencing some less than stellar concert sales only selling half of 15,000 available tickets for all five acts. But hey,that’s $200,000 in concert tickets before the event began, that’s still a lot of coin. Before we debate the suppose it financial crisis that Chicago seems to be in, despite the fact that they are continuously taxing and ticketing our asses, let’s get into the important part of the Taste, the food! I, Vonnie Coleman, on behalf of 4-Star got up and hit the fest with a good friend in tow.

I started out my journey the CTA’s tightly packed 29th Route from Chinatown on 23rd and State. In already 91 degree heat you can imagine the pleasure it was to be face-to-armpit with the “strongly scented” gentlemen next to me. In the words of one of my favorite bloggers/YouTube Commentator Kid Fury, it was “hot boots!” After being packed up in there like the Middle Passage my friend and I were finally liberated and walked a couple blocks over. You know you’re nearing a major Chicago event whenever you hear the city famous “buckle boys” beating on drums, plastic containers, and whatever else recyclable material they can get their hands on. Wanting to enjoy the sites but with notepad and recorder in hand I figured it’d be no better time than ever to interview some fellow fest goers. Three questions. Three questions are all I asked but gave me a lot of insight into the soul of the Taste.

The questions asked were:

1.What brought you out to the “Taste?”

2. What vendor was your favorite?

3. What would you change or take away for the following year?

Michelle C. came out to the Taste on a lunch break with her coworkers. She confessed that one of the crowd favorites Texas de Brazil brought flavor that would make our American state of Texas feel small in comparison. The dish she loved? The Chicken wrapped in Bacon stood tall amongst the other booths. 4-Star grabbed a “Taste” portion, the smaller meal portion that allows you a nibble without squandering your hard earned tickets, and we’d say we would have to agree.

As we made our way around the distributors we found two foxy ladies of a “certain age” (you know a lady never tells) standing in front of The Fudge Pot indulging in some of their famous chocolate covered strawberries. For them, the Taste was an annual event. Two best gal pals hitting the scene!We gabbed and they professed that Lou Malnati’s, only a Chicago institute in pizzeria prowess, was the best there is, hands down! What would they change? Nothing at all! For them, the Taste of Chicago was as much a part of the mystique of our city than the skyline. Good to see there are still some diehard Chicagoans out there.

While trying not to keel over and die in the blazing heat I stumbled upon a trio of teen divas making their way around the action. I must admit I had a soft spot for these ladies. You know, childhood memories and all that jazz. (Yes, before the painful reality of adulthood set in) Destiny L., Ashley R., and Autumn R. were extremely cheerful and welcoming which was awesome for a newbie newsie like me. I mean seriously, you go up to complete strangers in Chicago and expect to leave without your face on the floor.

For the trio of ladies the Taste offered a constant reminder of the joyous time known as summer break before the crushing return to their 10th grade year started up in the fall. Because nothing says screw responsibility than spending your parents money. But don’t let the age deter you the ladies offered some valuable input. Their favorites were Reggio’s and a southside favorite Harolds. The pizza offered a mouthful of Italy’s boot and need I say more on the mild sauce goodness of Harold’s?

After nearly spontaneously combusting this editor had to take refuge under a tree. I had almost forgotten that shade was a thing to rest in and not throw (“shade” being an urban reference to attitude giving as well as putting a particular nasty person in their place). Anywho, after taking a break and sampling some more food I was in awe  of what could only be described as a “crew,” several people brought together in the essence of having fun. I got a chance to pick the brains of Oscar A., Jose S., Maya H., Victor T., and last but not least the gorgeous Janet T.

Why’d they risk near heat stroke to come out that day, “Food!” they all said. Victor T. was more than upset he was near on gospel at discovering the fact our famous turkey drumsticks were no longer in fashion at the Taste. “It’s the only reason I came!” he exclaimed. I felt his pain and promised to mention it on the blog. We were even in talks at starting a petition demanding the reemergence of the gargantuan turkey legs. They shared that the pot stickers at Star of Siam were first rate and the corn from O’Briens was mouthwatering.

Shortly after I was able to strike interviewing gold! A real live tourist group. Victoria, Maurice, and simply known as “Mom” traveled to Chicago from Kansas City, Missouri or KC Mo. It was their first time in the city and they seemed a little reserved but that didn’t stop them from chatting about some of the scrumptious food they tasted while on their travels. For Victoria ice cream from Original Rainbow Cone was the ultimate for cooling and chowing down combined. “Mom,” loved the rib tips from Robinson’s No. 1 Ribs. “They were almost better than mine,” she shared.

So What was 4-Star’s Favorite Picks?

Best Value: Went to Dominicks for offering a 2-ticket slice of watermelon that was more than generous.

Best Dessert: Sorry, Eli’s but Franco’s Ristorante’s took the top spot in dessert decadence with icy but satisfying Italian ice.

Flavor Surprise: Went to Cubby Bear’s Macaroni Bites. Fried morsels of ooey gooey cheesy delight.

Overall Favorite….the first vendor I visited at the Taste, Bacino’s Pizza of Lincoln Park. The cheesy, piping hot wonder stayed on my mind all day as I wished I hadn’t skimped out on the full portion for 9 tickets. Ah, what can you do?

Out of five interviews including the advice of my friend, Denise C., the resounding advice for next year’s Taste of Chicago was more booths and cheaper prices! Only featuring a scarce 36 compared to 70 in the past, after Taste patrons hit up some of their beloved eateries…there wasn’t much left to see. That coupled with steadily climbing ticket prices left Taste-goers wondering did they get what they paid for?

It is 4-Star’s opinion that prices change but entertainment lasts forever! We have got to get more things for the event goers to do while we are not filling our gullets I mean palates. Successful Tastes that I have been to in the past always had something going on: a radio station giveaway, FREE concerts, attractions, demonstrations, you name it. It was there, it was fun and it was free. Many times friends and I would be done eating but still manage to stay at the event until it closed.

I guess others in attendance felt the same because numbers went down from 2.35 million from last year to half 1.2 million fest goers. Official numbers are not yet in on how much Mayor Emanuel racked in, I mean acquired, from the 5 day extravaganza. But many were not discouraged by this. Taste of Chicago overseers’ commented that given the fact the event had been all but rebooted attendance was not looked at as a disappointment. At the end the Taste of Chicago is still America’s largest food festival so I think we as Chicago-dwellers can be relieved in that fact.

Welcome to 4-Star Explorer! I hope you enjoy the content and things we have to offer. We’re cleaning up around here and even though we’re small we’re dedicated to bringing the best stories and write-ups for all our urban readers out there. We’re still cleaning up and always changing our style so please…pardon our dust. We urge you to check out our About 4-Star Section and drop us a line at the Contact Us link.

4-Star Out!

– “Vonnie”

Editor-in-Chief