Galaxy Francis drops two-pack, announces upcoming EP

Chicago rapper-singer Galaxy Francis, formerly known as L.A. VanGogh, has carved out his own lane within the local music scene due to his uncanny ability to straddle the line between hip-hop and R&B with ease. When he’s not churning out thought-provoking, Saba-esque rap verses, he’s laying down warm, lively vocal performances, usually over jazz-tinged production topped off with grandiose horn sections and dense vocal layering.

On past projects such as his Everything Is Subjective series, Francis explores the depths of his inner-psyche, his relationships with vice, existentialism and his past.

But after undergoing a name change, announcing the May 24 release of his upcoming EP iNNERGALACTIC: Side A and dropping two brand new singles from the project, Francis is entering a new era as an artist, one where he invites us to blast off with him into outer space.

On this brand new two-pack, Francis trades the jazzy, neo-soul sounds that usually pop up in his music for a more accessible, laidback trap sound without compromising quality.

The first track, “Skip To My Lou,” is a hazy, smoked out tribute to the city of St. Louis. Assembled with minimalism in mind, the instrumental is sparse, consisting of little more than a scampering set of 808s and some broad, watery synths, setting up the perfect backdrop for Francis to deliver his breathy, intimate vocal lines.

“Smoking this, Reefer Alston hit the skip 2 my Lou,” Francis spits in the track’s first line, a poignant triple-entendre referencing his home city while comparing his love of smoking weed to NBA player Rafer Alston’s ball skills that earned him the nickname that also happens to be the track’s namesake. 

The second track, “SOURFACES,” is way busier despite its brief runtime of one minute and 20 seconds. Over a more piercing, urgent set of synths, Francis brings a much faster flow and a lot more clever lines: 

“I can see the future like Eminem in 8 Mile,” he raps in the second half of the song.

While some fans might be taken aback at first by the sudden change in sonic aesthetics, Francis sounds right at home going over these synth-driven trap instrumentals.

Stream “Skip 2 My Lou/SOURFACES” here.


Chicago rapper Qari packs an emotional punch on “Step by Step”

In the mid 2010s, Chicago hip-hop artist Qari was known for being one third of the eclectic group Hurt Everybody, where his abstract lyricism and chaotic deliveries found a perfect home over producer Mulatto Beats’ psychedelic, genre-bending production. 

In more recent years, as Qari has embarked on a solo career, he has softened his tone and stripped back his sound.

On his 2022 project Stronghold, produced by jazz extraordinaire Eddie Burns, Qari explores the many forms of both grief and loss over a series of nocturnal, barebones instrumentals, making for a moody listen that never runs short on emotional potency.

Back on November 28, Qari returned with his new single “Step by Step,” where he sticks to a very similar formula, yielding himself a result that feels every bit as satisfying.

Qari opens “Step by Step” with a question: “What’s in it for me if I keep running?” The themes of angst and uncertainty that have carried over from Stronghold are ever-present here as Qari searches the ends of the earth for a sense of emotional resolve. 

Qari’s verse plays out as an inner monologue, his soft spoken delivery meandering around a set of chunky, watery synth chords. 

Despite Qari employing his trademark abstract, open-to-interpretation lyrical style, there are glimpses of his emotional headspace that are more concrete: “Never forget we blessed, stay fresh/I wasn’t living with love on my breath,” he raps in the track’s opening seconds.

Stream “Step by Step” Here.


Daydream Review announce upcoming album, release new single “Have You Found What You’re Looking For?”

“Have You Found What You’re Looking For?,” The lead single from Chicago indie rock outfit Daydream Review’s upcoming album Leisure, opens up with a sheet of icy, kaleidoscopic synths before cascading into an irresistible dreamscape of spacey guitars and heavily layered vocals.

Between legato guitar lines and some dense drum work, lead singer Elijah Montez ponders the existential, formatting the lyrics as a series of questions to self.

“Does it seem clear, what you want?/Or what you need?” Montez belts out, his vocals stretching over the instrumentation like warm mozzarella.

In a press release, Montez said the uncertain lyrical tones of “Have You What You’re Looking For?” mirror some of the broader concepts of the album.

“The overarching theme of the song fits quite well in the context of the album,” Montez said. “Being dissatisfied with work, dissatisfied with the state of the world, and dissatisfied with capitalism at large, and searching for something that can fill in the void that all that dissatisfaction leaves.”

The instrumentation pulls back a bit toward the song’s second half, leaving room for Montez’s reflective words to take center stage, where he asks himself perhaps the most important question of all: “I guess you gotta ask yourself .. have you found what you’re looking for?”

Leisure drops April 7.

Stream “Have You Found What You’re Looking For?” Here.


On “TRUTH,” Juice Mazelee shares his pain

Chicago hip-hop artist Juice Mazelee loves channeling his pain through song. His 2021 project Hvnsnt (pronounced heaven-sent) is an emotive rumination on hardship, despair and ultimately, personal growth.

His new single “TRUTH,” released on January 5, touches upon a lot of the same sentiments while also packing the same level of emotional punch.

Over a spacey, drawn out synth line and a heavy set of bass kicks, Juice celebrates his successes while drowning in his deepest burdens, all while exuding an undeniable, even-keeled confidence in his delivery throughout.

“I volunteer my heart and story to peers, I saw some shit I always fear so over years I shed tears,” he rhymes, expressing a desire for his personal struggles to be educational for others.

In moments like this, Juice is vulnerable and open, willing to share a piece of himself to the world. In other moments, he’s more closed off, yet every bit as revealing:

“Can never show ’em what I feel, won’t see emotions from me/Mama’s baby coldhearted, stuck with PTSD,” he spits jarringly in the second verse.

Despite the piercing level of emotional intensity, Juice sounds completely comfortable on the mic. His tone is confident and ever-so-slightly gruff, never wavering in his belief in himself.

“TRUTH” sees Juice picking up right where he left off from previous releases. Sharing his pain is his bread and butter, and as the calendar flips to 2023, he is sounding smoother than ever doing just that.

Stream “TRUTH” on Spotify here.


Cldwaterr and Mugen! The Human officially arrive on new single “LOSE !”

There was a time when labels such as “rising star” and “next up” were often used to describe Chicago lyricists Cldwaterr and Mugen! The Human. Between their soulful odes to the underground rap of a bygone era, their sharp, aware lyricism and a willingness to experiment and evolve, it was only a matter of time before these two young spitters shed those labels, proving to the world that they are here to stay.

On Cldwaterr’s new single, “LOSE !,” both artists show that that time is now.

Arriving just in time for Cldwaterr’s birthday, “LOSE !” sticks to a familiar blueprint for both artists: dusty, old school production, reflective lyricism and piercing deliveries. The only difference now is that both artists are following it better than ever.

“Chop it up with God, fuck it we alive/Got my family by my side, can’t lose if I’m the prize,” Cldwatrr spits triumphantly over some airy synths and a rhythmic snare pattern.

Mugen! pops up in the middle of the song to deliver one of his best verses to date. His deep, groany timbre meshes perfectly with the laid back instrumentation, and his lyrics cut through as always:

“I want more out life than money, but for more the fam I cannot stop/I would trade my life away, could give a fuck ’bout what I got,” he spits authoritatively.

With both artists fresh off of stellar EP releases, “LOSE !” is yet another stepping stone in both Cldwaterr and Mugen!’s ongoing artistic maturation. What is different this time, however, is that they are no longer “up-and-coming.” They have arrived — and are here to stay.

Stream “LOSE !” everywhere here.