Qwel | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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On The Harvest (Galapagos4) local rapper Qwel and producer Maker do just about everything right: their 2004 collaboration has positivity without that cheesy uplifting vibe and gangsta-rap energy without the rabies. Qwel talks big about change--teaching people verbs instead of selling them nouns, to paraphrase the PR--but he rarely sounds disgusted with the here and now. He's more concerned with "The 'IT' in 'Keeping IT Real,'" to borrow the title of the album's second track. ("A little wisdom with some rhythm to pray. . . . Time's a lie, Yah's alive, why's it man that we praise?") Maker's killer in the studio, and works hand in glove with Qwel--the grainy, redlined sound of a naked piano perfectly matches his warm and gritty voice, implacable desert-caravan beats mirror his steady intensity, 70s porno bump nudges him faster without spinning him out of control, and spooky, droning, almost melodic backdrops wobble in and out of tune just as his level head threatens to tip. Even the deliberately saggy backing track and mushy, middling tempo of "Capathy" help Qwel make his point: he repeats "I don't care" over and over again, and you know what? It sounds stupid, which is exactly what he's getting at: apathy is passe. This is a WNUR hip-hop showcase, hosted by DJ Deluge and DJ Verbatim; Qwel headlines. Daily Plannet, Qwazaar, Jah Safe, Rusty Chains, Matlock, Keith Gamble, and Wordz also perform. Sat 2/5, 9 PM, Abbey Pub, 3420 W. Grace, 773-478-4408 or 866-468-3401, $10 in advance, $12 at the door, 18+.

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