UKRAINIAN VILLAGE — Independent record label Closed Sessions released its third volume in its decade-spanning hip-hop compilation series this week.
As the title suggests, Our Latest Compilation, Produced by BoatHouse features eight tracks of indie rappers rhyming over instrumentals by Chicago producer BoatHouse, all recorded at label co-founder Michael Kolar’s Soundscape Studios in Ukrainian Village.
These recording sessions hearkened back to the process behind the label’s first compilations, 2010’s Vol. 1 and 2012’s Vol. 2. During that pre-streaming and pre-social media era, blogs like Fake Shore Drive and label co-founder Alex Fruchter’s Ruby Hornet were peaking as influences in underground rap.
Yet, Fruchter was frustrated that “labels [were] coming in and taking Chicago hip-hop and then trying to sell it back to us, or define what it is,” he told Bandcamp last November. The early Closed Sessions compilations were meant to bring artists like Raekwon, Freddie Gibbs and Action Bronson into Chicago’s artistic orbit alongside hometown artists like GLC and Sir Michael Rocks.
“They’d fly them to Chicago, Alex would DJ, then they would pop up in the booth or perform at a show and then hit the studio the next day,” BoatHouse explained.
In 2019, Closed Sessions hosted out-of-town artists like Kemba, Curtis Roach and Khary as part of the Digital Freshness concert series, and those artists then contributed to songs with BoatHouse for the compilation.
“We tried to do that with every song,” said Boathouse, born Aidan Sigel-Bruse. “Some of them ended up being a little more on the fly,” including local artists who may not have been booked for shows but had chemistry in the studio.
Three Chicago rap acts appear on the new album: Ajani Jones, ShowYouSuck and duo Mother Nature. Chicago-born, Los Angeles-based rapper and comedian Open Mike Eagle is also featured on the compilation’s lead single “Whiskey And Push-Ups” and in a short documentary on how the song was created.
Jones, a Wrigleyville-based rapper, released his debut album Dragonfly through Closed Sessions in 2019, credits the label with focusing his artistry towards longterm success.
“They helped me by showing me the ropes in the industry, and how it works, and what it really takes to garner the attention that you’re seeking,” he said. “Before I just kept putting music out because that’s what I love to do, but I think I became a lot more aware of what my music does and what effect it can have on people.”
Jones’ verse on “What It Do, What It Be Like” continues the introspective bent of his solo work while providing a conceptual capper to Curtis Roach’s rhymes.
Rap duo Mother Nature, consisting of emcees Klevah Knox and TRUTH, announced their signing to Closed Sessions with the release of their track, “Naughty By Nature.” The two rappers trade verses about seeking serenity and “thinking 2050” over BoatHouse’s distorted kick drums.
The duo said they look forward to working with BoatHouse and the label in the future, especially given the producer’s range of skills.
“He works at a fast pace but pays close attention to detail. Musically, he is really unpredictable, he introduces us to a variety of new sounds that really show off his range as a producer. He really pushes our pens & makes us rap differently,” the pair said in a statement.
BoatHouse’s relationship with Closed Sessions began as an intern at Soundscape Studios, then a touring DJ for label artists Alex Wiley and Kweku Collins. Now a signed artist himself, the Hermosa-based producer has become the label’s “house producer.”
His creative growth comes from the label’s understanding of each artist’s individual needs, he said, “especially the artists they get down with, they really give people the space they need to create.”
He hopes to release music at least once a month in 2020, and Our Latest Compilation is the first.
The project has given him renewed confidence in his own skill.s
“Whenever people come to the studio, we always get something done when I’m sitting with them,” he said. “That’s just let me know that I can have some confidence in myself and my abilities. Even on a personal level that’s helped me grow immensely.”
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