Chicago flavor in new music from Rick Ross and Kendrick Lamar | Bleader

Chicago flavor in new music from Rick Ross and Kendrick Lamar


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Rap fans had a field day last week when Maybach Music Group honcho and Miami rap kingpin Rick Ross announced the name of his latest mixtape: The Black Bar Mitzvah. The mixtape's title and its ridiculous cover art—an image of Ross superimposed on a golden Star of David—had plenty of music writers and bloggers desperately milking every last Jewish joke out of it.

Some of those one-liners turned out to be better than The Black Bar Mitzvah, released Monday evening through DatPiff. At its worst it sounds like Ricky Rozay has done his own version of the "Ja Rule Duets" meme, basically yelling over hot tracks instead of trying to top the original versions. But Ross is a major force in hip-hop—he uses "bar mitzvah" as shorthand for wealth, a nod to the frequent excess of American bar mitzvah parties—and his choice of instrumentals, even on a subpar mixtape, is sure to benefit the up-and-coming acts responsible. Among them are D.C.'s Shy Glizzy—though I prefer Glizzy's original "Southside" to Ross's "Bible on the Dash"—and Chicago rapper and GBE affiliate Lil Reese, whose "Us" gets reworked on The Black Bar Mitzvah.

Rumors began spreading that Ross and Drake were going in on the Lil Reese track even before The Black Bar Mitzvah came out, creating more anticipation for it than for any other song on the mixtape. Ross and Drake's involvement is a huge coup for Lil Reese, who suffered some backlash following the death of Lil JoJo, and the timing couldn't be better: The Black Bar Mitzvah came out the week after Def Jam released "Us" as Lil Reese's first official single.

Lil Reese isn't the only artist bringing local flavor to The Black Bar Mitzvah. In fact, traces of Chicago rap are all over the first part of the mixtape; Ross went in on three songs by Kanye's G.O.O.D. Music crew, including the remix of Chief Keef's "I Don't Like," and Ross's version of "Clique" features local MMG signee Rockie Fresh. Ross also uses the mixtape to push the forthcoming major-label debut by MMG artist Meek Mill, Dreams and Nightmares, whose cover art is by local designer Chaz L. Morgan.

Dreams and Nightmares comes out at the end of the month, the week after Kendrick Lamar's Good Kid, Maad City—another highly anticipated major-label debut that bears the mark of Chicago. Former Reader writer Jessica Hopper details the Compton-based rapper's Chicago roots in a great profile for Spin magazine, and Lamar mentions them himself in the first single from Maad City, a grim look at alcoholism called "Swimming Pools": "Granddaddy had the golden flask / Backstroke every day in Chicago." Here's hoping that the rest of Good Kid, Maad City is just as good.

Leor Galil writes about hip-hop every Wednesday.


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