Album Review: Philmore Greene - Chicago: A Third World City
Mainstream and independent Chicago hip-hop artists sporadically mention in songs either the ills that plague the city of Chicago, their upbringings, or how beautiful the city is in architecture and in culture: Common (“The Corner,” “Chi City,” “Southside”), Da Brat (“Chi Town”), Shawnna (“In Tha Chi”), Chance The Rapper (“Angels”), etc. There are few that make thematic albums apropos the Windy City that become a magnum opus (Lupe Fiasco’s “Food & Liquor”). Philmore Greene’s latest album Chicago: A Third World City is exemplar and serves as inspiration to write this review.
Chicago: A Third World City is distinguishable in innumerable respects. The amalgamation of one of the illest producers in Chicago (Rashid Hadee) with the dopest emcees (Philmore Greene) is unmatched: the Hoop Dreams and The Untouchables of Chicago hip-hop. It is Hadee’s envenom boom bap production entwine with Greene’s lyrical assessment that brings this album to life, displaying bravery of carving their niche in hip-hop apostasy of today’s music industry soundscape. The soulful and genteel sound of Hadee makes listeners envisage Greene’s lyrics tinted on car windows parked on Cottage Grove and on walls as murals on the South and West sides of Chicago in 3D and graffiti.
Additionally, the album cover holds serious weight. It is visually stunning indicative of what the album delivers in form of content: stories of infested crime, corrupt politics, poverty, and of extreme violence balancing his professed love for the city. The draconian to the ears “Reaganomics,” the deleterious “Fly’n on Lsd” and the vintage “Nighttime Maneuvers 2” is just the icing. The featured guests give Chicago: A Third World City a hardcore texture and one of enrapture: the lyrical terseness in “Tryna Get It” featuring Neak, Hadee, and Yarbrough when trading verses, the savory butterscotch vocals of FLYKelly in “Sonlight,” to the Peter Jericho assisted “Co$t of Living.”
The heroic artist whose vocal qualities are similar to Big L and Styles P of The Lox earns tremendous respect for not recognizing Chicago as the stereotypical Chi-Raq- a name referenced by some of today’s artists in their music as a way to describe the city as having heightened crime rates and violence than the war in Iraq. It is not only apparent throughout his music but also on the album cover where the city’s name in large font replaces the rather.
Altogether, Chicago: A Third World City is an epigrammatic and truculent force in independent music in the genre of hip-hop. It is a street musical within a movie. It flags a survivor’s adage, “If you can make it out here, you can make it anywhere.” Chicago: A Third World City is Greene’s Hill Street Blues where it is massively intricate short of elementary making him an epicure of authentic rap.
Hector De La Rosa