The Scarlet & Black

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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Feven Getachew
Feven Getachew
May 6, 2024
Michael Lozada
Michael Lozada
May 6, 2024
Nathan Hoffman
Nathan Hoffman
May 6, 2024
Harvey Wilhelm `24.
Harvey Wilhelm
May 6, 2024

Chill cats from Chi-town

Tonight at 9 p.m., Gardner Lounge will showcase a Chicago-centric event, with performances from artists Milo & Otis, Noname Gypsy and April Fools, who all call Chicago home and are at the forefront of a beautiful musical movement.

Both Milo & Otis and Noname Gypsy center their songs around the ephemeral personality of the Windy City that shaped them. Their songs are lyrically rich and expressive in ways that inspire a sense of nostalgia for a time of early R&B.

Milo & Otis is composed of vocalist Jamila Woods, who performs as “Milo,” and bass guitarist and writer Owen Hill  (“Otis”). According to their website, they consider themselves an alt­-soul group.

“Jamila is so forceful of a vocalist … she’s almost a modern Janis Joplin,” said Damon Williams ’14, half of the sibling duo, April Fools, that will be opening the night. “Their chemistry on­stage can blow you away, and their lyrics are incredibly meaningful.”

The name Milo & Otis was inspired by “The Adventures of Milo and Otis,” an adorable Japanese film about the wonderful friendship between two unusual animals: Milo the orange tabby cat and Otis the pug. It’s a fitting metaphor for their energy. And although their songs are endearing, they address important and meaningful issues such as self-­empowerment and American culture as a whole.

“Part of the richness of the Chicago music scene is the wide breadth of modes that people use to tell a story that happens in the same place. The theme is … trying to bring people together. They do it in very different ways based on their medium, but that’s a common link,” said Daniel Kisslinger ’14, a member of the Concerts Committee and a driving force behind the event. “The fact that a lot of Grinnellians are from Chicago made me really want to bring this together. Chicago, in a way, is a home away from home … there’s a huge regional connection to Grinnell.”

Another act of the night, Fatimah Warner, who performs under the stage name Noname Gypsy, has become known as an up­-and-­comer in Chicago’s underground rap scene after being featured in the song “Lost” on Chance The Rapper’s “Acid Rap” mixtape, and she shows no sign of slowing down.

“Catch her while you can,” Williams said. “Anyone who doesn’t go to this show will be really disappointed that they missed out on this opportunity a few years down the line. She really set the tone on diversity and … is a huge part of this Chicago renaissance.”

Listening to Warner rap is the musical equivalent of eating Chicago-style deep dish pizza: it’s an intensely satisfying experience both emotionally and spiritually. Lyrics like, “Die within/lie with him/on a top notch bed of locusts/ I’m ready to make good on a bed with the roses” lay bare Gypsy’s self in such a way that begs another listen.

“She has a really interesting flow and cadence of rap,” said James Marlow ’16, a member of the Concerts Committee. “It’s very similar to spoken word. She’s a genuine poet.”

Williams and his sister Kristiana Colón, forming the group April Fools, will follow Noname Gypsy’s performance.

“Our mother’s name is April, and her birthday is also April Fool’s Day,” Williams explained. “We named our band April Fools to honor her.”

April Fools vibes with both Noname Gypsy and Milo & Otis, putting an emphasis on originality and innovation.

“We’re trying to blend the idea of being intellectual. We want to avoid sounding like other rappers,” Williams said. “Originality is my biggest goal. I enjoy taking clichés and flipping them.”

Williams took an interest in becoming a musician when he, following in his sister’s footsteps, participated in Young Chicago Authors (YCA), which sponsors writers’ workshops for the greater Chicago community, as well as the famous Louder Than A Bomb poetry festival that was started by poet Kevin Coval, who visited campus yesterday. Like Chance The Rapper, all three bands performing Friday night are YCA alumni—a program started as a means of providing Chicagoans with the necessary tools to express themselves.

“The beauty of the organization [YCA] is that the term ‘author’ is used very loosely—almost as a term to empower you,” Williams said. “It’s not somewhere for people to try and show off. Someone who just wrote their first poem yesterday gets the same applause as Chance.”

For all of these reasons, tonight’s concert brings together a lot of special performers.

“I would say that this concert will bring people together, even in the microcosm of our campus,” Kisslinger said. “Music ends up being [a] kind of niche; this one really has the potential to bring people together from all sides of campus.”

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