On Friday, the Portage Theater hosts a rap showcase organized by Lyrical Lemonade, which has come to occupy an unusual position in the local hip-hop scene since music videographer Cole Bennett founded it in 2013. Bennett, now 21, has developed Lyrical Lemonade into much more than an outlet for his video work: today it's also a rap blog, a show promoter (LL booked Lil Uzi Vert
's first Chicago show last year), and a clothing line. Bennett's star has risen this year because he's made videos for several fast-rising "Soundcloud rappers," including Web sensations Smokepurpp and Famous Dex
. They're not necessarily part of a scene or community, but they've all built their substantial audiences on Soundcloud—and some of their shine has rubbed off on Bennett, who last month was the subject of profiles in Genius
and Rolling Stone
Notwithstanding the noteworthiness of Bennett's work with Smokepurpp and Famous Dex
(whose career doesn't seem to have suffered much from the leak last fall of footage that shows him apparently assaulting his girlfriend), I'm much more interested in the way Lyrical Lemonade has nurtured smaller Chicago rappers. Lyrical Lemonade writer Elliot Montanez, for example, manages the sensational Femdot
and the promising IsaiahG. Bennett is likewise in the management game, and Friday's Lyrical Lemonade showcase features his client Duffle Bag Buru. Earlier this month, the rapper dropped the best thing I've heard from him yet: "New Bag" floats by on a minimalist, candy-coated instrumental, and Buru juices up his serrated lines with a shot of reckless energy, allowing a bit of darkness to seep into the spaces left open by the song's bulbous, glowing synths. He's one of the first performers on Friday night, though judging by this song he ought to be higher on the bill for the next Lyrical Lemonade show.