I must admit that when I set out to review this compilation, I had my doubts. Not about its quality, of course—the music constantly churning out of the third largest city in America is always worth paying attention to, if not through a strictly formal or technical lens, then at least a cultural one. New York and Los Angeles, although perhaps more diverse in bands and styles, truly do not hold a candle to the solidarity and enthusiasm of Chicago’s musical identity. And perhaps this is exactly the reason why I had doubts—doubts about my ability to successfully capture in writing the zeitgeist of Bop, to articulate a new genre’s features and characteristics. I listen to many different types of music with a deliberate intent to learn about them, I know some things about drill and even more things about footwork, but I am no scholar of musical subcultures.
But the lovely thing about this mix is how it is a curation in the most effective sense—it truly edifies, bestows knowledge in a way that is both accessible and formative. Chicago’s premier radio personality and discoverer of talent, DJ Moondawg, begins the mix with a reassuring and orienting introduction, and then begins the slew of tunes, one after another, flowing with a uniformity and consistency of vibe that any other artistic movement should envy. As I listened to the mix, the anxieties about my own ignorance melted away, and the review began formulating in my head. This is always a lovely feeling, the realization that in that void above your eyes, your writing has begun to exist—yes, it is chimerical, prone to unexpected changes or even complete transformation, but it is there.
Right before I began my writing, I made sure I had not come to any egregiously incorrect conclusions by reading Meaghan Garvey’s favorable assessment on Pitchfork, the one other review of the mixtape I could find, besides the one that was beginning to wiggle its fingers and toes in my own brain. And then came a shocking moment of both affirmation and dismay—everything I was planning on saying was right there, already put down on (figurative) paper. “An active defiance of perpetuated violence” manifested through “aggressive positivity”—this was my thesis, the exact idea that I had been checking this review to make sure was not a symptom of my foolhardy college student naivete. So, my opinions were confirmed valid. But this could no longer be my review.
Instead, this review is about a musical genre that, in the very beginning of its formation, is already putting forth material so stable and self-knowing in its conveyance, that two people who have never talked to each other have come to the same conclusion about it. This review is about a city that for years now has been archiving its psyche, translating it into a language that anyone can understand. This review is about writing down sound, about the intersection between the body and the mind, and how it is sometimes the most visceral music, that which is most grounded in pure feeling, that can be most easily and substantially intellectualized.
We Invented the Bop is out now—click here to download.