Posted by: Mark Nielsen | March 27, 2009

Southside of Chicago Invades SXSW, Kids Invade the Music World

It’s a good day to get funky, y’all!

I’m in Chicago on the North Side, but seriously wishing I was WAY south, as in the South By Southwest music and culture festival in Austin, Texas. I’ve been to Austin before, a pretty cool city, but by reputation not much like any other part of Texas. But I’ve never been to SXSW. It used to be this quaint indie music thing… but now they got corporate sponsorships all over, and big name stars showing up both to perform and listen in on others… the whole fest has just blown up big-time.

But thanks to bloggers and the internet, I’m there in spirit! Bringin y’all some fresh rhymes from a couple of our Southside of Chicago favorites. (Shut up with the fake homeboy talk, Mark. Get on with the music…)

So below is a vid somebody posted of Chicago’s own Common, performing his song The Light live this week in Austin, with a little help from Erykah Badu and the other minor Southside genius, Kanye West. Be forewarned, some foul language in here. But also some interesting freestyling. And take note of how the Common lyric references some titles and songs by R&B greats Stevie Wonder (Signed, Sealed, Delivered) and Rev. Al Green (Love & Happiness). That’s one reason I like these guys: they respect their elders!

Representin’ !

Lastly, also on the subject of Chicago’s South Side music scene (back in the day, when Common was a shortie), yesterday I was dropping my own shortie Graham off at a friend’s for a playdate. We were playing an Earth, Wind & Fire greatest hits CD in the car. So I told him they were from Chicago, and we started talking about the band, and how they helped bring that thick horn sound back into mainstream music– one of the many reasons I like R&B, and some rap. I explained that EWF was African American, and my sweet little paleface six-year-old said something like “I’ve never seen an African American band in person.” Which is true, unfortunately.

One more item for the parental “to do” list: take Graham to see/hear some rap, R&B, or jazz being performed by the specialists who invented the stuff.

Though I have taken him out to see a Zydeco band (Hurricane Gumbo), and an alternative country/Irish punk band (The Waco Brothers), and some folkie friends of ours, plus a handful of other live shows and neighborhood festivals with good music for both kids and adults. So he’s not sheltered, musically speaking. But he does deserve more variety.

I don’t mind “kids’ music”, though. I even listen to a few children’s CDs when Graham is NOT with me (stuff like Ralph’s World and Wee Hairy Beasties). But I do believe in exposing kids to a variety of musical opportunities, and seeing if they will step up and develop a taste for a certain style or a certain artist. They’ll surprise you, if you let them…

Graham’s partial to Laurie Berkner these days, a self-identified children’s music performer, which is fine. But I’ll be a happy man the day he goes dancing around the house singing James Brown (“I Feel Good… na na na na na na na na na… I knew that I would now!”), or starts spontaneously rhyming in rhythm like my man Common.

G-dog’s in the house, yo! Lissen up. Graham’s gonna be layin’ it down for you, in about ten years. He also starts his weekly piano lessons next week. Watch this space for further developments on this rising star…


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