California Dreamin’: From Chicago to LA

February 8th of this year I packed up my car and moved from Chicago, Illinois to Los Angeles, California.

The idea of leaving Chicago had been something I played with for years but uncertainty kept me home, going through the motions. Then in December of last year I was told the bar I had been working at was closing. Soon-to-be-unemployed, single and too close to 30 for comfort I decided “fuck it” and started packing for LA. According to the Chicago Tribune, Chicago is leading the U.S. in population loss for the second year in a row. The publication cites high taxes, state budget issues, crime and the unemployment rate as major reasons for why people move out of state. I left Chicago because I saw a bigger market for my social media management agency AN Social, I’ve never been one to stay put for long and I thought a little sunshine would do me some good. Everyone has different reasons for making that leap and in this piece I talked to three other Chicagoan’s about their transitions to Los Angeles.

Jordan Eversley – Marketing and Strategic Partnerships Coordinator / Hip Hop Caucus (@younghustle8)

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Jordan “Hustle” Eversley grew up off 87th and Jeffery on Chicago’s Eastside. His marketing and public relations background came into play while working with King Louie, Jeremih, G Herbo and Dreezy to name a few people. His work ethic and ability to seize opportunity earned him the nickname “Hustle” which is still very much a part of his character.  Eversley moved to LA in July of 2015 for better opportunities and to get away from Chicago’s persistent violence. “The violence is just real. And for me to be safe and working is everything”.  The hardest part of his transition to LA was leaving his family behind. “Not having family, that’s super big,” says Eversley. “You don’t really realize how important family is until you don’t have it”. Getting set up in LA wasn’t easy but he’s definitely made the most of the past two years. Not only is he a vital part of the Hip Hop Caucus team but he is also the National Director of A&R for A3C, one of the largest music conferences/festivals in the country. He says he misses Chicago but moving to LA has given him peace of mind. “Things lined up the right way and I took the opportunity,” he says. “Having peace of mind is so much more important than people think”.

Christina Gray – Chef / What’s On the Menu (@whatsonthemenu_) 

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Tenacity is extremely important when trying to make a name for yourself in a place like LA and Christina Gray has plenty of it. Gray moved around Chicago growing up; from the west side to the 100s to the south suburbs. She started contemplating the move to LA in November of 2014 after a terrible breakup but finally took the leap January of 2015 after her mother announced she was moving. “I didn’t know what my next step was. I didn’t know if LA was the place I needed to be in”, says Gray “My mother moving to Arizona felt like a clear sign it was time for me to leave”.  She saw greater opportunity in LA to expand her brand as a chef and to raise her son in a safer environment. “Chicago is really a harsh city and I didn’t want my son to have to grow up in that. California is a place where u can be free to be whomever u are, almost like a judgment free zone. So that played a big part”.  One of her best friends, comedian Lil Rel (Get Out and The Carmichael Show) was moving to LA at the same time so that gave her somewhere to stay during the transition. Gray is focused on what she came here to do which shows in the growth of her catering company What’s On The Menu. Amazingly creative and delicious dishes combined with Gray’s effortlessly cool personality makes What’s On The Menu a success but she still remains humble and focused on getting to where she wants to be. “Of course people think “oh u made it” when u move to LA but they really don’t understand it’s more of a struggle living here. It’s unfamiliar land. I definitely haven’t “made it” YET. I’m honestly trying to figure it out every day”.

Jonathan McCoy (Pavy) – Artist (@pavyworld)

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Rapper and Chicago Washington Heights native Jonathan McCoy (stage name Pavy) is honest when it comes to why he moved to LA. “I lied and told myself it was for my career but it really wasn’t. I was honestly just running away from a lot of the responsibility I had back at home and I thought somehow being 3,000 miles away would fix all of my problems”.  Three years later he’s adjusted to the west coast and is focused on his social calendar, getting fits off and most importantly, his music. McCoy describes his sound as “upscale rap music” and wants to create songs for people to enjoy every day. Luxury and good vibes are themes that are apparent in McCoy’s rhymes, inspiring people to live their best lives. “There’s no way my music would have improved sonically & topic wise had I not moved,” says McCoy “I’m around so many different cultures now & having experiences I would have never had back at home so obviously it effects my music. I honestly feel like I’m making the best music I’ve ever made right now”. Initially hating LA, McCoy now admits his time here has made him a more well rounded person. He’s nonchalant about missing Chicago but does admit he made the transition too soon. “I felt I made the wrong decision (moving to LA) for the longest time, I actually still feel like I made the wrong decision but more so with the timing of rather than the actual choice”.  He was forced to grow and stand on his own in moving to LA which is something I identify with. Some people leave their comfort zones and crumble but some rise to the challenge and McCoy has definitely risen.



10 years of Food & Liquor and what it means to this Chicago kid. 

Today marks the 10 year anniversary of hip-hop artist Lupe Fiasco’s debut studio album Food & Liquor. This occasion has me thinking about what kind of person I was in 2006 and what kind of impact the album had on my life.

I was 17 in 2006.  I was a high school junior who was starting to realize that I was different from my majority Caucasian and Hispanic classmates. I grew up in a Catholic household with white parents in a majority white area where you had to drive to the next town to purchase an album that wasn’t edited. I was born in Chicago, lived in the Hyde Park neighborhood of the city until I was 7, bounced around for a bit but landed in the west suburbs at 9 and stayed there most of my life. I remember bits and pieces of Chicago as a child. I remember the building on 47th & Woodlawn where I had my first bike stolen from underneath me. I remember having to take the stairs at my moms boyfriends apartment in Cabrini Green because the elevator didn’t work. The spoken word intro on Food & Liquor by Ayesha Jaco brought me into a world I had only seen in glances since we moved.

“Food and liquor stores rest on every corner
From 45th and State to the last standing Henry Horner
J&J’s, Harold’s chicken, good finger licking
While they sin, gin, sin sin at Rothschild and Kenwood Liquors
The winos crooked stagger
meets the high stride of the youth searching for the truth
They rebel and raise hell across alleyways and in classroom settings
They get, high off that drum bass and 20/20 rims
They rock braids, Air Force Ones and Timbs”

Food & Liquor was access to a world my mother worked hard to keep me away from. Chicago. The West side. The neighborhoods where my grandmother raised my father and uncles. The places where people looked more like me, had my type of hair and my type of lineage.  I grew up 25 minutes away from the west side of Chicago that Lupe hailed from but it felt like galaxies away.  The music was my connection to Lupe and his world. I found comfort in the music of someone who was black like me, who was nerdy and loved language like me.

As someone who was raised by just my mother “He Say She Say” helped me appreciate her hustle in a time when I was dealing with teenage angst and wanted to hate the world. The first verse in “Daydreamin'” is still one of my favorite verses of all time. Lupe’s enchanting and intricate description of the robot he’s commanding was my first realization of the connection between hip-hop and storytelling and my first glimpse into his lyrical genius. “Kick, Push II” is still a favorite of mine because of the diversity of the story.

“Traveling band of misfits and outcasts…..”

Everyone in the song had their own struggles but everything became ok when they got together to skate. That need for a community where you feel accepted is important and was something I longed for at 17 when the album came out.

With Food & Liquor being 10 years old today I’m reminded of the impression music can have. There are albums that just fall into your life at the right moment and Food & Liquor was that for me. This album is a part of my hip-hop foundation. It influenced me at 17 and helped lead me unto the path I’m on today.


Dedicated. To my grandmother. Peace.

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Skinny man, fat dreams: A spotlight on Chicago creative Desmoney

Sometimes you meet people who are electric. Who are rare and doing things that are not only cool, but important. South side native Desmond Tutu Owusu (Des for short) is building and if you’re smart, you’re paying attention. Des has been lending his fresh perspectives to photography for two years now with a portfolio including Nike, Complex and recently, a children’s book called Too Fly Not To Fly.  


“I was messing around with the iPhone and I was getting better, getting good and Trash (Trashhand) was telling me “Yo, you should make this a serious hobby”. I came by his crib and he let me borrow his (Canon) Mark III for 3-4 weeks and after he saw the shots he told me to really think about getting a camera. I bought my first camera July 2014, a Canon Rebel T5i”.

Des’ photography centers around human interaction and urban settings. He gravitates towards anything concerning life and works at becoming better at his craft constantly. In the two years I’ve seen Des grow as a photographer what he’s gained the most is a confidence in himself.

“I trust my ideas more” he says, “I’m not afraid to make mistakes right now. I’m comfortable with myself and my ideas”.

Through his lens you see an honest and somewhat softer side of Chicago. This can be seen in his work for Too Fly Not To Fly, an alphabet book created by him and writer/teacher Briana McLean. The book is meant to spark discussions for children and help them critically examine issues affecting their lives. Since the release in early June the book has done extremely well, selling out within a few days.

“The reaction we got from a lot of people was that the book was a breath of fresh air,” says Des “the kids felt like stars. We wanted to give them something to be a part of and feel proud of”.
young gifted and black

Des explores the city with his camera and a purpose; unifying a city that is constantly being torn apart.

“We got so much culture here but it’s so fucking segregated. The segregation within the city affects how Chicagoans treat each other. With my photography I want to show people that we’re the same”.

This idea of unification and love shows up not only in his photography, but in his clothing campaigns, including the “Chicago Girls Do It Better” tee that drops today online and in store. Des has worked with his friends Vic, Joe and Terrell in clothing design for quite some time now, each one with their own projects that are unified by the store Fat Tiger Workshop. Since an image of the shirt was posted on social media earlier this week the demand for it has an been insurmountable.

“Chicago women don’t get no love and I feel like we got some dope ass ladies here. This is something to encourage our women. I love them and want them to be the best”.


The “Chicago Girls Do It Better” tee will be available online or at Fat Tiger Workshop (1043 W. Grand) today at 12pm central. Follow Des on Twitter @_desmoney for more info.


SEO Basics for Creatives

tumblr_o67odqhJjp1ueosrro1_1280(Image via Tumblr)

You’re a creative. Musician, writer, visual artist or actor who’s trying to break out in your industry. You have passion, a stack of business cards, an awesome website and a manager (your cousin who’s never managed anyone before but he’s got a car so …), but there’s one more thing you should consider adding to your list of many talents: basic SEO knowledge.

SEO (search engine optimization) is the umbrella term for all the methods you can use to ensure the visibility of your website and its content on search engine results pages. So basically SEO helps you get noticed in web results. Let’s say you are a photographer for hire in the Chicago area. By utilizing SEO, when people do a web search for photographers in Chicago your goal is to have your website show up in some of the first search results. This will drive more business your way which is always a good thing (that whole “starving artist” thing is so overrated).

I’ve narrowed it down to three SEO basics I think are important in helping push any creative to having their most efficient web presence possible.

1. Your name

Once you’ve decided what kind of creative career you want to pursue one of the first things to consider is your name. Let’s say you decide to use your real name. This can be difficult if you have a very common name like Ashley Smith (ahem). SEO is about optimizing search results but if your name is too common you will get lost in a sea of people with the same name as you. If you decide to use an alternative or “stage name” there are three things to keep in mind. First try to use more than one word. Names with more than one word help diminish some of the general terms, allowing artist distinction. Second avoid special characters. Remember when Prince changed his name to that weird symbol in the 90’s? It worked for him because he was already an insanely popular artist and internet searches weren’t prevalent (Ask Jeeves wasn’t even a thing yet). But now things are different. When choosing a name you should pick something that can be typed easily on mobile devices. Special characters are very difficult to type, which compromises some of your SEO value. Lastly, use misspelled words with caution. Keep in mind that Google auto-corrects misspellings, especially when the artist isn’t widely known or searched often. So putting your own spin on the names of already popular artist will probably backfire.

2. Timeliness and quality of website content

When people use search engines they are looking for the most relevant and current information possible. If the information on your site is old and inaccurate it only makes things more difficult. If your site has an email address that doesn’t work how are people supposed to book you? The same goes for the timeliness of your content. Let’s say you are a singer and a fan of yours wants to know more about your music. They do a Google search on you and the most current results are gig videos and music links from five years ago. Even though you’ve released more current work if you don’t update your web content people won’t know. Staying relevant is one of the most important things for creatives. Understanding SEO basics can help with that. Using the proper tags can also increase your chances of a searcher clicking on your result. Tags are used to tell search engines and visitors what your site is about in the most concise and accurate way possible. A lot of artist have websites or blogs but don’t utilize keywords or tags. Hashtags can help you stand out as well. Using one unified hashtag across all platforms will make it easier for fans to find your work.

3. Social

As a creative, you know the importance of building a buzz. The best way to do this is through social media marketing. Although this is non-technical SEO, it’s still one of the most important and cost efficient ways to get your project out into the world. When creating social accounts try to keep your usernames as concise as possible. If you’re JoshThePainter on Twitter and Snapchat but JoshRobins on Instagram people who want to find your work now have to remember two names and for a lot of people that’s too much effort. If you’re looking to build your brand in the digital world you need lots of content and mentions to boost SEO and search result relevancy. Once your name is out there search engine algorithms will adjust in your favor. Lastly but most importantly in social media marketing it’s important to interact with people. Using social media as a channel and genuinely interacting will show people you are human and relatable. Relatability is VERY important, no matter what your talent is.


Chicago’s Rap Villian: Vic Spencer 

 Vic Spencer is pushing for honesty. He’s pushing for realism in hiphop and like always he’s pushing people’s buttons. 2015 was a good year for Chicago’s rapping bastard. His album “The Cost of Victory” received plentiful buzz including the number 19 spot on Rolling Stone’s Top 40 rap albums of 2015. Spenser made it on to the list with no label, no pr and a meager budget. David Drake of Rolling Stone magazine said “Vic Spencer’s music sounds like nothing coming out of Chicago. Spencer is not positive. (He) has his own sound, own style, own obnoxious sense of humor”. Spencer was also featured on Hip Hop DX’s Top 25 albums (so far) last May where it was said “The Cost of Victory is a chanting on good music suffused with Vic’s signature realism and lamentation”. 

 Another artist who made our list was Lupe Fiasco whom Spencer notably had controversy with last winter. A Twitter beef developed as Fiasco challenged any mc to a battle and Spencer stepped up to the plate. “It was a lot of tit for tat going on,” says Spencer “and people made it bigger then what it was. It wasn’t anything serious, he followed me on Twitter later on and DMed me and told me I did good. I just got tired of him battling nobody’s”. Spencer said he battled Fiasco to “bring integrity back to the game”. Spencer is always stepping up to the plate and taking on giants because he believes in himself but he’s also not afraid to burn bridges along the way. Immediately after finding out he placed on the Rolling Stone list he had words for his naysayers. “It was like a slap in the face to everyone talking shit. I don’t care about what people say musically and personally,” says Spencer “I just do me and hope it can be an addition to what’s going on”. 
“The Cost of Victory” is a funny, controversial and political addition to the Chicago rap catalogue. It showcases Spencer’s lyricism and his signature curmudgeon ways. Whether it has you nodding your head, rolling your eyes or laughing this album will make you feel something and that’s what music is about. Check out “Carrot Juice (feat. Sulaiman)” and “First Aid Kit” and expect more solo and joint ventures from Spencer this year. His project Who the f**k is Chris Spencer done with Chicago’s rowdy emcee Chris Crack has been described by Spin as “90s-esque styling and virtuosic”.  


Love is for suckers: 4 films to watch on Valentine’s Day

If you’re single, cynical or simply have no plans on Valentine’s Day here are four films I’ve chosen to get you through the most romantic day of the year. These stories are about love and longing in all of its twisted, dysfunctional and beautiful glory. Enjoy! 

1. Blue Valentine (2011)  


A perfect contrast to “The Notebook”s Ryan Gosling, Blue Valentine is no storybook romance. The film sharply cuts back and forth between the sweet beginnings and the heartbreaking end of Dean and Cindy. This film shows the dim realities of love. The ups and downs and realizations that sometimes it just doesn’t work out. The performances are so raw that at times it makes the viewer uncomfortable. Like they’re watching some private moment that wasn’t meant to be shared. Blue Valentine is honest, intimate and the perfect film to watch on V-Day while you cry over that asshole who left you before Christmas. 

2. The Virgin Suicides (2000) 


One of my favorite films, the Virgin Suicides is hypnotic. It has this beautiful sadness that is perfect. It’s about the Lisbon sisters who float through life living under the strict control of their parents. The youngest of the sisters takes her life and sets off a chain of events that are oddly romantic. A group of neighborhood boys become obsessed with the sisters and become involved in something much bigger than themselves. The Virgin Suicides is about infatuation and disappointment in reality. It examines love and the fragile nature of adolescence. 

3. Gone Girl (2014) 


Nick and Amy are a normal married couple living in Missouri. Until the day of their fifth wedding anniversary when Amy goes missing. And investigation begins and as it progresses the suspicion that Nick is involved increases. To save his own name Nick uses the clues that his wife left as a cute anniversary scavenger hunt to try and find out what exactly happened to his wife. Gone Girl is a psychotic thriller that will leave you side-eyeing your special someone. On a day when love is in the air this film will suck all the air out of the room. Smart and dark, Gone Girl is a winner. 

4. Requiem for a Dream (2000) 


Based on a novel by Hubert Selby Jr (one of my favorite authors) Requiem for a Dream is disturbing, artistic and sensual. It follows four addicts through their drug induced utopias. We see their hopes and dreams muddied and are given a front row seat to their demise. Their is a love story within the plot but just like real life addicts, the drugs win above all else. Requiem for a Dream is an escape. It might literally be the most unromantic film ever but the cinematography is perfect and the acting is amazing. 


Chicago pays tribute to Dj Timbuck2 

On December 19th we lost a true legend. Timothy Francis Jones, known as DJ Timbuck2 passed away from stage four renal cancer at the age of 34. The day he passed I wrote this:

The impact DJ Timbuck2 had on not only Chicago, but the worlds hiphop culture will be remembered & carried through his loved ones. 
I remember when I first met Tim. I was 21 and walked past him in the hall at Shrine and thought he was so fine lol. Then I heard his Dj set & was blown away. So I started following him wherever he spun. Timbuck2uesdays became my home, one of the first places in the city I really felt accepted. I used to get in trouble when I was bartending at Shrine cuz I’d say I was in the bathroom but I’d actually sit up in the booth & watch Tim work lol. Timbuck2 made me curious about music history and was just a good guy who made me proud to be from Chicago. After dealing with my uncle passing from MS I know how hard terminal illness can be & I’m glad he isn’t suffering anymore. 

Thank you for all you gave us Tim

Last Tuesday the city came out to Beauty Bar to show their respect. The bar was at capacity by 11:30 with people hugging, drinking, crying and dancing while remembering Timbuck2. Tonight there will be a special event at the Metro to benefit Tim’s family and spread cancer awareness. “The event will include a silent auction, tributes from some of the best battle dj’s and a special Go-ILL segment with local artists” says Timbuck2’s friend and protégé Boi Jeanius.
There isn’t anywhere you need to be tonight in Chicago besides the Metro. Trust me.
If you can’t go but want to donate to Tim’s family please click here