Bless the Mad pay homage to Black music history—and to Chicago—on their self-titled debut | Music Review | Chicago Reader

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Bless the Mad pay homage to Black music history—and to Chicago—on their self-titled debut

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Chicago natives and lifelong hip-hop heads Ibrahem Hasan and Matthew Rivera met decades ago while crate digging at a flea market. Their new self-titled debut as Bless the Mad, released by their own Stay the Course label, exudes a collector’s care for music history and a producer’s ear for finding overlooked diamonds and giving them brilliant new settings. Even the album’s artwork contributes to the vibe, collaging together images steeped in the lore of Chicago architecture and music—it includes the logo for Phil Cohran’s jazz band the Artistic Heritage Ensemble, which looks like two Xes connected by a bold line, and a business card for infamous local music reseller Record Al. Bless the Mad understand the spirit that connects the blues, jazz, gospel, soul, R&B, funk, and hip-hop, and they spend the entirety of Bless the Mad stitching together distinctive elements from all those genres into blissed-out, kaleidoscopic music. Though these tracks sound like sample-heavy hip-hop—especially the beats—Hasan and Rivera have built them entirely from scratch, with help from a small community of Brooklyn musicians that includes bassist Diego Alzate, drummer Flávio dos Santos Silva, multi-instrumentalist and vocalist Edson Sean, and vocalist Silka. On “Ancestors, Pt. 2,” a reflective funk melody buoys blurry voices as they recite the names of past greats—Alice Coltrane, J Dilla, Art Blakey, Charles Stepney—in an act of homage that helps link Bless the Mad to this chain of history.   v

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