Let's be totally honest: There's a lot of crap out there that's disguising itself as hip-hop. It's not always easy to spot, and for the loyal hip-hopper it can be a harsh reality to confront. We've all heard the "golden-era" heads lament that hip-hop is dead, and sometimes the whole operation seems like it's crumbling at the hands of some evil villain. But what many fans fail to see is that for every Joker there's a Batman lying in wait, and in Chicago's case, that's the Super Heroes of Sound. Who are the Super Heroes of Sound, you ask? We asked longtime member Itch13.
Who makes up Super Heroes of Sound and what are your respective talents?,br> Me, Itch13: DJ, MC, producer, promoter, head organizer. Aquil: DJ, MC. Insight: MC/host. See More Perspective: founder, MC and producer; he now lives in Minneapolis. 1nce Again: DJ, designer and promoter, and also a member of WLUW's "The Hip Hop Project" radio show, which is a co-sponsor of our event. You can tune in every Saturday night. 18andCounting: visual artist, designer, MC. The Chose In Few: made up of Dmntd and Rasheed, who are a couple of MCs/DJs/producers who do all of those things live on stage.
How did all of you meet?
Aquil and I met in an AmeriCorps program, Public Allies, where we became fast friends. See More and I met around the same time in the open-mic circuit at a place that was integral to us doing what we do now, the now defunct restaurant/performance space Square One.
Aquil is the executive director of an organization in North Lawndale called The Crib Collective. See More worked with him there for about three years. They held regular open mics for area youth, and found a lot of talented folks that way. Insight won the open-mic competition, one of the prizes being to record music with See More in his Luv 'n' Dedication studio. He began coming to all the Crib's events and just hanging out and vibing with See More, Aquil and I, and the collaborations rolled out.
We met 1nce Again, The Chose In Few and 18andCounting in the past year or so, and have just had common interests, and so they became involved. Super Heroes of Sound was a show See More started throwing on his own. I came on board to help out. Throwing shows is definitely a team effort if you're looking to be successful in your endeavors! We made it official in December of 2005, and threw the first of our team efforts in January 2006.
Does the Superhero motif have anything to do with fighting the shitty music that's out right now?
Definitely. We view the show like The Hall of Justice or something, a place where a league of talented artists can perform and congregate and fight shitty music in a club, which is where a lot of shitty music can be heard, indeed. We try to bring together performers who don't usually perform on the same stage, so we can expose them to each other, and each other's audiences, and build a greater network and community. You know, like the Hulk and Wolverine joining forces and fighting evil-doers together and when the deed is done, the citizens of the world applaud their heroics, hopefully. But also, since I DJ immediately after the performances, I play a lot of mainstream music to get the floor moving, some of it being very sugary. It's the spoonful of sugar that helps the medicine go down. [The Funky] Buddha [Lounge], however, is more liberal than most clubs, so I definitely get to play a little more freely.
I've noticed that SHOS performs primarily at Funky Buddha. What's keeping you locked down to that spot?
It makes it a little easier if you know you have a certain date locked down every month. We know that every third Thursday Super Heroes of Sound will be happening at Funky Buddha. It makes it a little easier to promote because people get used to the pattern. So our audience expects it to happen on that day, and may not even need to see a flyer to know they should come out! Funky Buddha is a staple in Chicago nightlife, and it is an honor for us to be there. A lot of venues won't get packed unless there is something special happening there, and with a lot of promotion. The thing I like most about it, is that people just go there...they don't have to be persuaded to go there. So, for any artist that graces our stage, they are able to perform for new people who just happened to come by that night, not just their friends. We've also had acts like Guru of Gangstarr, Common and Mickey Facts grace the stage because of Funky Buddha! It would be real difficult for us to make those kinds of moves on our own at this point.
A few months back it seemed that you guys took a break. Did that time off have something to do with See More's departure?
We actually never took a break! See More left about a year ago. He is working for a record label, Tru Ruts/Speak Easy Records. He was the one designing all of our flyers, and also the main person helping me spread the word. So, when he left, we had to find a new rhythm, which was sort of a setback. We didn't have flyers for a few shows, or enough help with outreach. So it was scaled back a bit. So I can understand why someone would think we were on hiatus... we weren't out there in full force. We also stopped doing shows at Elastic Arts Foundation, our all ages venue, because of the workload, and the fact that they can only accept donations, not a cover at the door, which made it impossible to cover our costs. Doing one show a month allowed us to focus more, too. We do look forward to throwing events at Elastic again though. The place is a gem, and it's one of the only places I know where I can book some of the extremely talented under-21 folks I know. But we ain't going nowhere, except up, up, and away!
There's a wonderful golden-era vibe to your sound. Where are you pulling your influences from?
Thanks for calling it wonderful. We all grew up and were primarily influenced by the golden era and we love that sound and style, it shaped us. We definitely experiment and try to make it modern, and our own, but I think that's just one side of us. We are into expansion, and do some real weird, left-field stuff, as well as probably more accessible stuff. See More and Insight especially have played around with more mainstream sounds, and they pull it off while maintaining the same ideals that make them who they are. A spoonful of sugar...
How is Chicago influencing your sound?
Chicago surrounds us, so I think it would just be impossible for it to not affect our sound. I don't even know if we can see the ways in which it actually influences us because we have our noses in it every day. But as far as the shows we throw, a majority of the artists we present are Chicago-based.
Any favorite spots for SHOS to let loose?
I think we're all sort of homebodies. We stay at home in our caves, concocting ideas and music to give to the world. I know when I go out, it's usually to Funky Buddha. I genuinely love the place. It's fun, and there are a lot of good folks who go there. I also DJ upstairs at Ohm every Saturday. When I'm done spinning I like to hang out and dance and let loose on the dance floor!
Will SHOS be dropping an album in 2009?
Super Heroes of Sound is actually just the series of shows we throw. Everyone who performs at our shows is a Super Hero! What we call the crew is Free School. We all work on music separately, but have worked on music together in the past, and hopefully will continue to do so in the future. We are more of a loose-knit family than a musical group. We have talked about a project, and we hope to make strides to that end in the coming year. We already have a ton of songs together, it may really just be a matter of selecting the ones we use for the project.
Any future collaborations with other Chicago talents?
We try to view every show as a collaboration! That's the only way it can really work. On February 19 we are uniting for a post-Valentine's show called The Love Movement with The '80s Babies, Spq-Her, and Insight. The idea is that love is more than just romance. Valentine's Day leaves most unattached folks feeling sad about not having someone to be romantic with, and at the peak of the winter season, which is already depressing enough. So, we are holding an event celebrating love in its larger form.
On March 19, Animate Objects, a band that Aquil is a part of, as one of its two MCs, is doing their album-release party. Lungz, a talented, young MC will also be performing. And on April 16, we will see the return of SHOS founder See More Perspective, the first album release of Jacorey, a talented new cat on the scene, with that golden-era sound you think is so wonderful! We will be bringing a crew called Tree City from Ann Arbor, MI. We also have live art, and a resident B-boy crew called Awesome Style Konnection every month. Shouts to DJs Trilogy and Dream, who are resident DJs at Buddha on Thursdays! Our shows are free before 10 and a discounted $5 after if you say "SUPER HEROES" at the door. If you don't say it, you will pay $15 or more!