Raw Material

Stop and Drop

Dave Chamberlain

"The amount of attention Chicago hip-hop is getting right now, from the streets to the business world, it's just crazy. In fact, the whole scene in Chicago is crazy right now."

That's something that's been happening since Kanye West and Twista broke out of hip-hop's soldiering ranks and became superstars, according to Cary Kanno, a member of local underground hip-hop crew The Abstract Giants. "That's a big part of it," says Kanno, "but the Chicago scene has been around for a long time. It's only recently that it's beginning to get national attention. But, you know, we're doing something that's very different from Kanye West and Twista, but it's still good for us--anything that draws attention to Chicago is good for us."

Hardly riding tailcoats, Kanno and the Abstract Giants are doing something to attract attention to themselves, by themselves. This Saturday the Double Door hosts the first of two record-release parties for "The Chicago Drop," a compilation of local, underground hip-hop acts produced and released by Kanno. The release parties conclude next week at the Metro, January 28.

Kanno explains the genesis of the project. "Basically, we've been playing around for about three years, and we've encountered all these underground, under-exposed hip-hop bands that we love. And through forming friendships and alliances, we always wanted to create some kind of event or something that would unite us. I mean, there's power in numbers."

Walking a road paved by the All Natural hip-hop community, the "Maybe Chicago" compilation and too many rock scenes to mention, Kanno and his roommate came up with the idea to release a compilation of their friends. After getting the acts--all of whom are playing one or the other release party--to agree on contributing music, some of which was recorded specifically for the "Drop," Kanno let the pieces fall where they may. "After that, it was just the next logical step to roll it out into a party."

Without a single gangsta or battle rapper in sight, "The Chicago Drop" assembles ten extremely creative hip-hop acts. Whether it's the Tribe-influenced meter of Treologic's "Clap Clap" or Tabakin's wildcatter rap style, or even the vocal/rhyme combination espoused by Dynamic Vibrations, the length of the record doesn't just supply an introduction to one sector of Chicago's underground, it's actually good as well.

Kanno, who also does booking for his own band, admits that assembling the release parties--securing the venues and acquiring Red Bull as a sponsor--was much more difficult than putting the CD together. "Doing the booking for Abstract Giants is one thing, but getting ten bands together? Man, that was a lot harder." And it would have been even harder, but Kanno has three years of working the hip-hop world under his belt thanks to the Giants. And over the course of those three years, getting shows for his crew has become much easier.

"It's easier now than it's ever been," he agrees. But unfortunately, when he books out of town Kanno must deal with the looming specter of hip-hop. "It's weird," he explains, "but we go to do shows at the Big Ten schools--especially in Madison--and there's this stigma that says violence comes along with the shows. And apparently it happens, too. But what's great it that it never happens here in Chicago."

"The Chicago Drop" release party starts January 22 at the Double Door and ends January 28 at The Metro. See listings for details.