Polo G brings the north-side projects of his youth vividly to life on Die a Legend | Concert Preview | Chicago Reader

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Polo G brings the north-side projects of his youth vividly to life on Die a Legend


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Rapper Taurus Bartlett, aka Polo G, grew up in Old Town’s Marshall Field Garden Apartments, and he’s channeled the resilience he learned as kid into one of the most durable hip-hop tracks of the year. On “Pop Out” he delivers a vivid hook that indicts the poverty and mayhem in Black communities, but his plaintive, melodic rap-singing can instill lyrics about suffering with a triumphant sense of pride. The song has had serious staying power: released in January, in June it went platinum and reached a new peak at number 11 on the Billboard Hot 100. That same month Polo G dropped his first full-length, Die a Legend (Columbia), which hit number six on the Billboard 200, making it one of the most successful debut LPs from any Chicago artist in recent memory. By drawing on violent street-rap tropes, syrupy pop songwriting, and hyperlocal history, he’s created a resonant, affecting album. On “Finer Things,” he details the long-term effects of poor public-housing management and lack of opportunity on young Black kids like him. He directly refers to the Cabrini-Green projects, where much of his family used to live: “Hardheaded, I grew up resilient / It wasn’t no heroes, so we looked up to the villains / For generations, bitch, my side of town been drillin’ / We been at war ever since them red buildings.” In June, he told Pitchfork about seeing buildings he thought of as home get demolished: “Imagine if you was somewhere all your life then out of the blue your family has to move to some place they know nothing about just so they could put new people where you used to live. It’s like you ain’t good enough to live in your own neighborhood.” Through his heart-wrenching music, Polo G shares that world with anyone who can hear.   v

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