by Leor Galil
BBU made politically charged music whose grounding in community organizing and radicalism extended beyond its lyrics. On the band's breakout tune, "Chi Don't Dance," MCs Jasson Perez, Michael "Illekt" Milam, and Richard "Epic" Wallace pack their rhymes with local references (Lake Shore Drive, Dude 'n Nem's "Watch My Feet") and sharp sociopolitical critiques ("Uncle Sam stole 'me' from 'we'"), and the beat mixes a faint, otherworldly synth melody with lean juke percussion. It manages to celebrate and skewer our culture at the same time—it's a love letter to Chicago that doesn't shy away from the "drive-bys" and the other struggles of people all over town ("from the north to the south to the east to the west"). "Chi Don't Dance" deals with some weighty subject matter, but it's also catchy and easy to dance to, which is what makes it great.
Earlier this year BBU released their second mixtape, bell hooks, a collection of bold pop-ready songs; as Miles Raymer wrote at the time, the mixtape is filled with "big, banging productions that make it easy to imagine BBU's radical music on the radio next to Rick Ross's hedonistic hits." That's part of why it bummed me out when I heard that BBU had decided to call it quits; bell hooks melds "extreme" politics with the kind of accessibility that could've made BBU as beloved nationally as they are locally.
Of course BBU could still find a bigger audience, but I don't think it's controversial to say that their odds would've been better if they'd kept making new songs. Maybe they'll get some love during the upcoming barrage of year-end music lists.