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:

http://soundcloud.com/joe-flowers-2/pennjamin-bannekar-sweater

31/31 Week 1 Recap:

http://www.datpiff.com/mixtapes-detail.php?id=393012

 

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!

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!

Don’t Knock the Hustle! Hustle*My*Flow Music Showcase

Now as Chicago residents-especially if you’re from either of the South and West sides- you’ve been exposed to some sort of hustle. Whether it be the famous “bucket boys” beating their plastic percussion beats or multitude of “hood vendors” selling anything from candy to cold water on hot days. Or maybe its the Shea Butter man who sells his wares faithfully on the corner of 79th and State. Regardless of the scheme we’ve all been aware of the grinding tendencies of the urban underground. Imagine my excitement when I got a message from comedian/actor Real Shannon D about a place that hosts the ultimate hustle. Rappers and singers from all around the Chicago-area gather in one place to not peddle dime-store products but to distribute their lyrics and skills at Club Jags monthly event Hustle My Flow. Shannon D, who plays host to this frequent event, assures me the event goes hard. The event which is often standing room only let’s artists sign up to perform at 9pm and come 10:30 its showtime! And the last artist to perform is sort of the headliner of the event. I, Vonnie Coleman, on behalf of 4-Star Explorer came out to witness these performers do their thing.

Once I arrived at the location of event I thought I was lost being that the structure of the bar looked very modest. After a short time I ran into Real Shannon D and he was instantly warm and welcoming in demeanor. I got a chance to ask him a few questions about the event before it started.

Vonnie Coleman of 4-Star and event host Real Shannon D

4-Star: How long has the event been going on?

Real Shannon D: The show has been going on about once a month for about ten months now.

4-Star: How long have you hosted?

Real Shannon D: This is my second time hosting so about a month now. I’ve hosted a lot of shows like this before and once I voiced my opinions they liked me. They brought me on the team and now I’m doing a little bit more behind the scenes.

4-Star: Give me a breakdown of the event.

Real Shannon D: It’s a hip-hop showcase. Artists come in between 9 and 10 o’clock to sign up. The DJ begins spinning about 9:30. We give as many artists as we can a 5-minute slot. Each show we have a featured artist and after the featured artist performs we announce the new featured artist for the next event. Whoever is picked to be the featured artist gets a V.I.P. table and gets more time to perform than the other acts.

Ah…what the allure of V.I.P. won’t make some people do. Once my travel companion, Kalise Anderson, and I entered the event I got a chance to get some shots of the performance space.The showcase is actually held in the rear room of the bar and though small it still seemed spacious and tastefully decorated. The registered spin doctor DJ Batman stood reserved as he culminated and transformed songs blending them one into another. As I sat waiting I noticed that I was only one of a few patrons of the event. The host assured me they always got a packed house. I worried if the also vastly popular music event Lollapalooza had not conflicted with the attendance.I also noticed that the dress code was very casual as I sat with high heels and cocktail dress (which is not my preferred attire mind you, I’ve very much a jeans and blazer girl)

Rap Mouth the Genius and manager Lynda Payne

Rap Mouth the Genius Performs

Once the audience swelled and the performers began I noticed the different talent level. The first few acts were very underground….I mean extremely underground….I mean basement party level. And I love my city but some of the artists were very “bounce and break yo back-ish” if that makes any sense. And while that level of music talent is very nostalgic most of us have outgrown it and I for one am not here for it. But every cloud has a silver lining, every rose has its thorn and any other nonsensical idiom you can come up with and for me, there was a rapper who stood above the rest. Local artist, Rap Mouth The Genius, was the standout performer for me. He took me back to a time when a rapper’s words outshone their beats. When there was no gimmicks required but just raw talent and flow. He even killed it A Capella and had the crowd hanging on his words.

Duble “R” Da Great performs as the featured artist of the month

Also very much the crowd-pleaser was the event’s featured artist, Duble “R” Da Great, self-proclaimed greatest Puerto Rican Rapper in the Chi. His set was very rousing and energetic as he took his shirt off eliciting a boisterous reaction from the crowd. But I just couldn’t hold back my surprise at the mention of what he reported was his latest hit to drop a lovely song entitled “Cock You Down.” While the crowd waited between sets I was pleased to make the acquaintance of a great Chicago urban fashion designer Rowan Richards who is owner of the King Lizzy t-shirt and sneaker line and subsequently sponsor of both Duble R Da Great and the Hustle My Flow event.

Rapper, Duble “R” Da Great, and King Lizzy owner Rowan Richards

So what’s the rundown of this event?

-Very casual dress

-Affordable only $5 each event

-You might want to bring something to do because with the Open Mic layout of the event you may be waiting some time before people sign up to perform and start the show. May I suggest beating that Temple Run score?

-Great for true hip-hop heads. DJ Batman does a good job of playing to old and newer music lovers.

-Local Chicago artists should take advantage of this chance to hone their skills in front of an audience without being harshly critiqued.

-Be wary, you have no control over the amount of talent that evening. You might hear the next great hip-hop emcee or….you may get your next headache.

 

Does this sound like an event to remember or forget? I’ll let you be the judge but what I can definitively say, this event is great for city dwellers not interested in the nightlife scene but looking for a low cost, chill night out.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jagiellonia “Club Jags”
3634 West Belmont Ave
Chicago, IL 60618

 

Support Our Local Talent!!! These People are 4-Star Approved:

Real Shannon D
Comedienne/Actor/Event Host
@RealShannonD via Twitter

Rap Mouth The Great
@RapMouthFlow via Twitter

Rowan Richards of King Lizzy Apparel
rrichards@kinglizzy.com
http://www.kinglizzy.com

 

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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!