Chi City

Local. A word that we imbue with so much knowledge, meaning, an innate sense of belonging and understanding the way things work. Some of us value local produce, local musicians, and a pint of the local ale. This was supposed to be the piece de resistance for our Quintessentially Local series – after all, everyone else had written (and published) theirs, and I just had to crystallize the crazy idea that gave spawn to the series. Five hundred words, throw in a couple of links, and easy. Right?

Unfortunately, life often gets in the way, and us dreamers can be left… well, just that – dreaming. The creativity and spark for the big ideas needs to be married to drive and a work ethic. And a paycheck helps. So, while the Dead Curious machine continues to roll on, the laptops need to have power, and power bills need to be paid, so the last few weeks have been spent mostly at the office (at my “job”), in airport lounges (traveling for “work”), and in crappy hotels throughout the Midwest (on “business”). I’ve been everywhere and back, victim of pickpockets, con artists, and voluptuous seductresses (I wish). But still, the draft for this article stayed on my to-do list. So now, from a Chicago Starbucks, the final installment in our Tune Love Original Series. Disregard the irrelevant ramblings of an idiot, and enjoy Quintessentially Local: Chicago, Atlanta, & New York.

Chicago – Kanye West, The College Dropout

It’s strange to think that the Rap Superstar/sentient ego/Kardashian +1 that is Kanye West was once just an up and coming hip-hop producer who, despite his influential connections in the game, couldn’t get a break as a rapper. Even more incongruous to our story is to think that he was quite close to losing his life in a car accident, having his jaw crushed in the process. Despite having his mouth wired shut during reconstructive surgery, West braved the pain and laid on one of his most inventive, heartfelt, and poignant raps ever, sampling Chaka Khan in the process of creating one of the most memorable debuts for any artist. It’s soulful, vulnerable, and not afraid to make light of a near brush with death.

The video is a revealing insight into West’s life at the time, and far removed from the excess we often associate with him. He remains one of my favourite artists, and a musical genius, but I found myself moved while listening to this track on the Chicago L train my first week here. New beginnings, sky is the limit, and everything can change in a heartbeat.

Atlanta – Outkast, ATLiens

Atlanta, much like Chicago, is another hub of African-American culture – the focus of a great deal of rural to urban migration, an oasis in a (tolerance) desert, the epicenter for culture and all things creative for an entire region. It has been the home and cradle to many influential artists, and even has its own rap “sound”. Outkast’s ATLiens is the prime example – snapping snares, woozy synths, lyrics that drip and flip and roll playfully. In all fairness, this band went a long way to shaping the Atlanta sound, but even now, 16 years since this album was released, its sounds persist (just check out Kendrick Lamar, A$AP Rocky, and Big K.R.I.T.) For those of you considering going to Atlanta, be sure to join the email list for our affiliated site THE FUNSERV. Oh, and definitely go to MJQ on a Wednesday night. You’ll thank me later.

New York City – The Velvet Underground, The Velvet Underground & Nico

Few bands capture the essence of the frenetic energy of New York City as well as The Velvet Underground. A product of the band’s creativity, and the artistic freedom granted to them thanks to their association with pop-art icon Andy Warhol, The Velvet Underground & Nico was a totally groundbreaking, bleak, and real portrayal of New York City at the time. Rampant drug use, prostitution, S&M, and experimental art are all featured on the album, and it showcases the grimy awesomeness that is the World’s Greatest City (no sarcasm there – it really is). Sure, we could have chosen a certain song by Frank Sinatra, but that’s really only showing what life is like for the 1% (Occupy Tune Love!), and that’s not what makes New York amazing. It’s the fact that no matter what you are doing, what you have, or whether you can get your next fix (of whatever your vice may be), all New Yorkers are damn proud of their city. Here’s to wishing it a speedy recovery in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.

Any suggestions, or cities you think we missed?