This post is written by and includes photography by Devon Thomas, a Portland, OR-born writer and film photographer based in Chicago, IL.
On Thursday, May 4th, at Golden Dagger, rap duo defprez marked their arrival on the Chicago scene with a monumental performance marking the release of their debut album, It's Always a Time Like This.
The night sported a rich lineup, with supporting sets from Semiratruth and J Bambii that each made a case for the breadth and quality of Chicago's underground rap scene. J Bambii opened the night with a short reflection on making art as an independent, Queer, Black musician before diving into a notably poised and fluid solo set. About halfway through her performance, J Bambii rapped, "I don't need that type of church, I got my altar" – which was entirely accurate. Rapping from the stage like a preacher in a pulpit, she delivered her sermon verse-by-verse to a faithful audience.
"I don't need that type of church, I got my altar..."
- J Bambii, from "3PM" (feat. Akenya)
By the end of J Bambii's set, the room was filled, drinks were pouring, and the show's attendees were easing into the night. The energy of the audience was, by all accounts, incredibly supportive, and the sense of community between the artists and the audience alike was palpable. As testimony of this, the large crowd remained highly respectful of the show's mask requirement throughout the night.
Semiratruth followed up J Bambiii with an eclectic solo set equal parts vulnerable and confident. They wove tender, raw vocals in and out of their dynamic bars with finesse, which were the perfect compliment to their music’s mellow and sultry grooves. The icing on top of the cake for the performance was Semiratruth's live sample manipulation using a Roland SP- 404 sampler. The fusion of these elements put the audience in a trance that only broke once the set ended.
The night's main event, defprez's first performance post-album release, lived up to the high precedent set by the night's supporting artists. CRASHprez and defcee, the two emcees who make up defprez (along with producer knowsthetime), were forces of nature on stage. They performed It’s Always a Time Like This in its entirety, intermingled with other songs from their catalogs. Both incredible emcees in their own right, the combination of their flows and attitudes on stage brought vitality and uniqueness to their set, creating undeniable excitement amongst the crowd.
With a packed out room, good vibes, and stellar performances from the night’s three acts, I can’t imagine how the night could’ve gone much better for defprez’s album release show. The Golden Dagger was a great host for the night too, as its cozy dive bar feel contributed to the intimacy of the three performances, and provided the perfect amount of space on stage and off. Altogether, the night appeared to be a win all around, and left me with a deep appreciation for the artists, and an intense anticipation for what they’ll do next.
Thank you, Golden Dagger! 'Till net time.
defprez: Defcee, CRASHprez, and knowsthetime (DJ)
Semiratruth: solo set
J Bambi: solo set
Here is a list of upcoming Golden Dagger shows to look out for in the next few weeks:
5/13: Fake English, Smooth Rogers, Snake Pond
5/23: GroupChat, Yasmine, Dahzi, Ranika
6/7: Soft and Dumb, Raavi