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Documentary on Chicago’s Hip-Hop Scene Aims to Tell a Story Rarely Told

Evan F. Moore | 11/4/2015, 3:44 p.m.
New York and Los Angeles usually get the limelight when it comes to crediting the origin of Hip-Hop music. But ...
Chicago Hip-Hop Music Legend Twista was interviewed for "Midway: The Story of Chicago Hip-Hop,” Two Seven Eight Media

New York and Los Angeles usually get the limelight when it comes to crediting the origin of Hip-Hop music. But two local music aficionados from Chicago beg to differ and want to set the record straight.

“The New York story has been told over and over again. I’m done with it. I don’t care about it,” says producer Chad “Risky Bizness” Sorenson, a music producer by trade. “It’s time to hear Chicago. We have an important, rich and diverse story.”

“Midway: The Story of Chicago Hip-Hop,” is a feature-length documentary film and archival project telling the story of the history and struggles of Chicago hip-hop music and culture and its artists. The documentary will focus on Chicago’s role in the traditional four elements of Hip-Hop music such as freestyle rap, breakdancing, graffiti art and djing, along with music production.

Chicago resident Ryan Brockmeier, the film’s director who quit his marketing job to focus on the project, and Sorenson, head up a staff that consists of eight people who are getting the project off of the ground. Brockmeier says the genesis of the project started in 2013.

“The first person I called was “Risky” because I knew he’d be down for it,” Brockmeier says. “The second person I called was Kevin Beacham. We started planning everything. Compiling the list of the names and putting the story together.”

Brockmeier, who is a journalist by trade, echoed Sorenson’s sentiments about a properly done Chicago-based Hip-Hop documentary.

“No one has really covered everything. We wanted to show that a foundation was built here before Kanye West and Chance The Rapper,” Brockmeier says.” They are standing on a solid foundation that most people don’t know about. “

To date, over 130 artists and personalities have been interviewed for what will be the most comprehensive look at Chicago hip-hop, including Twista, DA Smart, JUICE, E.C Illa, Grav, Do or Die, Rubberoom, Psychodrama, Slang, Ang13, Krash Man, Lord Cashus D, Add-2, GLC and the Go Getters, JP Chill, Vic Spencer, Kingdom Rock and Rhymefest.

Sorenson says that the documentary which will include an upcoming online archive will be eye-opening for whomever takes a look at it.

“One person that you may not even know, could be the cog in the wheel or the domino to effect what we see today,” Sorenson says. “A person who was behind the scenes, caused this domino effect. I’ve been in Chicago Hip-Hop my whole life and I’ve learned so much from these people.”

The documentary will also cover a sore subject …the so-called “Crabs in a Barrel” syndrome that has kept many Chicago artists from branching out.

The documentary, which covers the late 1970’s until today, will also highlight how many of the local Chicago Hip-Hop legends made the transition to the social justice and political realm. Che “Rhymefest Smith and Faheem Shabazz both ran for alderman. Also, Jitu Brown, a legendary Chicago freestyle artist, sat in as a key figure in the Dyett High School Hunger Strike.

“For you to have the bravery to want to take that on, and to be a leader such as an alderman in your area, if don’t give that man all of the credit in the world, it comes from a good place,” Sorenson said. “Whether he won or not, he’s [Rhymefest] a hero to me.”

Midway: The Story of Chicago Hip-Hop is scheduled for a 2017 release.

For more information, log on to Facebook.com/midwaydocumentary.