“The poetry thing was a really big thing for me. I used to be at YOUmedia, Real Talk Live and WordPlay, and all types of dope Chicago poetry spots. Chicago has a super-rich poetry scene, it’s actually buzzing, with people that are well known. LTAB [Louder than a Bomb: The Chicago Youth Poetry Festival] takes place in Chicago every year. Kevin Coval does huge stuff with Young Chicago Authors, and actually, those were my gigs for a long time. Right after high school, I would get paid, literally, to play these city-funded shows that were poetry readings for kids. It’s how I met a lot of my friends. The shows weren’t even that crazy—it wasn’t even like I would have a DJ or anything. A lot of times, I’d just be rapping acapella raps for like $250, and I would just pay that straight to the studio.
I’d just be rapping acapella raps for like $250, and I would just pay that straight to the studio.
“Between those poetry readings and random birthday parties and Reggie’s [Chicago concert venue], that was what it was for a long time. We were really strategic about having my first actual headlining show—we could have done it a while ago. We got Lincoln Hall last June, and it was my first headlining show and we were able to sell it out. It was during the time I was on the road traveling, so it was like a really quick stop, but it was some really clean, dope shit. It was ill because there weren’t a lot of shows done by Chicago artists that were selling out like that in all reality. It wasn’t really a lot of business going on in Chicago music for a minute, and I think it was a great time. Not just for me, but for a lot of people. All of our shows are crazy. I don’t really need to talk about the live aspect, but it’s a huge thing. A high-energy show is something we pride ourselves on.
“Every time I performed, I’ve gotten to add something to my show, but I’ve always performed pretty wild and erratically. It’s a very different feeling when I’m on stage. It’s something that takes over and allows me to tap back into the first time I wrote or recorded or thought of the song I’m performing. It’s not really like I get that same feeling when I just play it off the record, but when I get to perform it live, it’s like it’s all there and I get to make the song over in real time. I think that’s my favorite part of it.”