The Mid 90s was a great time for the Chicago Underground. The fruits of labor set in motion by the local pioneers thru out the 80s and early 90s had built up some nice momentum and a few key things had just taken place to put a bit of a spotlight on Chicago Hip Hop; Mic Shane & Promo had started the Flypaper magazine, soon to follow was Caught In the Middle Magazine, Duro Wicks was doing some amazing shows via his Big Lip Productions, Twilight Tone was DJing some legendary parties, The Source ran an article about Breakdancing being alive and well in Chicago, Judgmental won the New Music Seminar MC Battle in New York, and, of course, Common Sense had just dropped Resurrection, soon to be crowned a Hip Hop classic. That’s by no means the full scope of what was going down in the early 90s Chicago scene, but it’s a solid starting point.
Unfortunately, all of this activity did not amount to the type of label attention that many hoped for. A few artists got signed to label deals, but most of those ended in shelved records or records with little or no promotions and fanfare.
At the same time, a few local people became interested in investing in the scene by starting labels or putting out compilations. Again, these generally didn’t pan out as their ambitious press releases suggested, but a few gems were harvested in the process.
One such gem is the Talent Fest Compilation (Beathole Records 1995). I don’t know how you have such a badly named compilation and record label and come up with something so good, but apparently it can happen. ☺ Talent Fest was a fairly diverse and spread out look at the Chicago scene in ’95. The man behind the compilation/label was Scott Kellogg and unfortunately, I can’t remember much about his involvement in the scene. He came by my radio show, Time Travel, at least once to promote the compilation and he actually brought Juice down for his first time on that visit.
The label started the Talent Fest campaign with a split 12” featuring two tracks from the Compilation; Get Of My Productions (MC Juice & RC Quest) and The Figure. Based off the Talent Fest liner notes and words in the press release about “Freestyling”, it’s probably safe to assume that Scott Kellogg was really impressed with Juice, as most people were who heard him do his thing. That theory is cemented by the fact that it was Juice who he took on his promo rounds for the compilation and also his choice for the first single.
However, the Get Off My Productions track goes a different route than freestyling and battle rhymes. Titled “Straight From The Go”, it’s a song about kicking it out in the city. It focuses on tales of partying, talking to ladies, and dancing. Although, Juice kicks a few nice punchlines and his trademark “perfect” flow, it doesn’t really capture his skill level. Yet, it’s still a solid track that probably would have tempted a few A&Rs.
Speaking of which, The Figure are on the B-side with a “Dream Come True”. The Figure are one of the two groups on the compilation that had previous major label deals. Just two years prior, they were signed to Onyx/Warner Brothers and released the “U Already Know” album. The deal fell apart fairly quickly and this track speaks on their struggles in the industry and the hard work that had got them that far.
One important thing about this compilation is that, in many cases, it was the only means fans could actually purchase music from some of the key groups in Chicago at the time, as they never officially released any of their own music; Spalaneys, Ang 13, & East Of The Rock in particular, who drop three of best tracks on the CD.
Other key tracks include; D2thaS feat Toxic of Tha Chamba “Dissing These Fools”, the brutal Naughty By Nature diss song. The Stedy Serv* conceptual masterpiece, “Better Safe Than Sorry”, where he rhymes from the perspective of the A.I.D.S Virus. Rubberoom “Bouncin’ Off The Walls” which is exclusive to this CD. Undaground Soulution “Sand Box”, a fan favorite from their live shows.
I applaud Scott Kellogg for putting Talent Fest together. I gave it plenty of spin in the car and on the radio when in dropped. I still get people who regularly hit me up about it, which was the inspiration for this post. I wish he could have been able to keep the momentum going and release more compilations or artists. He, or someone on his team, obviously had a good ear for getting the right talent. I’m not sure what happened to him after this released. If this was his only entry into the rap game, at least he stepped in, dropped a underground classic, and then got ghost…
D2ThaS-Dissing These Fools Featuring Toxic Of Tha Chamba
[audio:http://www.fifthelementonline.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/03-Dissing-These-Fools.mp3|titles=03 Dissing These Fools]
The Figure-Dream Come True
[audio:http://www.fifthelementonline.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/04-Dream-Come-True.mp3|titles=04 Dream Come True]
Stedy Serv-Better Safe Than Sorry
[audio:http://www.fifthelementonline.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/09-Better-Safe-Than-Sorry.mp3|titles=09 Better Safe Than Sorry]
BONUS JOINT: Juice-Time Travel Freestyle 11-2-95: This is the night Scott Kellogg and Juice came down to promote Talent Fest. I think this is the night I officially met Juice, though I had seen him at various functions and heard him in action before. I believe it is DJ Spank on the wheels, who was one of the early DJs for Time Travel. This is 11+ minutes of pure lyrics. There's some excellent moments in here, particularly once he gets warmed up. He definitely drops a few jewels about Talent Fest in there...
[audio:http://www.fifthelementonline.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/Juice-Time-Travel-Freestyle-11-2-95.mp3|titles=Juice-Time Travel Freestyle 11-2-95]