Beverly Review - May 3, 2006
Local musicians put the rap on Beverly in third release
By Patrick Thomas
The lyrics of each Chi-Town Kids album are so saturated with local
references that it's no challenge to figure out where they're
from. But trying to figure out how seriously to take three white
rappers from Beverly is another issue.
The group -- consisting of Mark Wlodarski (Swing Master M), Chris
Walsh (Soul Daddy C) and Ryan O'Malley (Honey Well R) -- met almost
20 years ago when they walked into a Sutherland Elementary School
kindergarten class. Fast forward to April 2006; the Chi-Town Kids
have already released their third album, "Pottie Scippen,"
a collection of dance-fused pop, rap and piano anthems dedicated
to the South Side that would make any Sutherland graduate proud
-- or slightly embarrassed.
They throw out ryhmes about St. Sabina Parish Pastor the Rev.
Michael Pfleger and downing shots of Jaeger, the nickname for
Jaegermeister, a popular liqueur. They rap about drinking Sunny
D and purple stuff, or resurrecting the Plaza movie theater. The
thank-you notes on the sleeve of the CD pay homage to TV and film
characters Marty McFly, Kelly Kapowski and Dr. Richard Kimble.
A St. Xavier University radio station disc jockey once mused that
if the Beastie Boys and Weird Al Yankovic conceived children,
they might have given birth to Wlodarksi, Walsh and O'Malley.
All silliness aside, the trio keeps making more albums, and teenage
girls keep lining up for more. Just how serious the listeners,
local or not, are in considering the trio as future stars in music
remains to be determined, Wlodarski said.
"We kind of want to make it a mystery. We want to stay incognito,
so it makes people want to check us out even more," Wlodarksi
From age seven to 70, fans of the Chi-Town kids include children
and grandparents, all attracted by their youthful energy.
"People come up to me all the time and tell me, 'My little
cousin love you.' They might be 7, 8, 9 [years old]," Wlodarski
said. "The melodies of the songs, the way the beats are put
together, kids just want to dance around."
While most hip-hop artists use a hard drum and bass line, the
Chi-Town Kids rely heavily on Walsh's talent on the keyboard.
Walsh, a computer programmer for JP Morgan Chase by day, also
plays the keys for a 13-piece calypso band called Lord Mike's
Dirty Calypsonians with Beverly native Pat Muldoon.
Wlodarksi and O'Malley might pen the lyrics, but Walsh is the
brains of the operation and knows his way around the studio. He
has been playing the piano since he was 5, learned the drums on
his own, played the tuba in the Br. Rice High School band and
picked up the guitar around the same time and taught it to Wlodarski.
Walk said the quality of the group's latest album is the best
of their efforts, mainly because the recording studio went from
Wlodarski's bedroom A-track system to Walsh's computer.
"If you hear the quality, it [can be interpreted as] serious.
But if you hear the content, and it's actually like 'What the
hell is this?' It leaves people perplexed and saying, 'What are
you trying to do here?'" Walsh said.
The content reflects an exuberant pride and youthful energy for
their beloved sports teams and Beverly home.
Their songs make reference to Chatham Rug, Rainbow Cone, Ridge
Beverly Little League, Adrianna Furs and jumping into Lake Michigan
to skinny dip with Chicagoans Jenny McCarthy and Scotty Pippen.
Anything is a possibility with the imagination of the Chi-Town
"Every other hip-hop artist, you know where they're from.
You never hear anyone say anything about 103rd and Western. I
always hope that someone makes it from the South Side and I turn
the radio on and hear them shout out something about Janson's
[Drive-in], Western Avenue and Carlton Fisk," Wlodarksi said.
They spit a rhyme out about throwing pennies out car windows and
fighting snakes. Other times they are dissin' the rest of the
community's elementary schools while boasting about their Sutherland
almamater. Wlodarksi said their lyrics are merely "good-natured
ribbing." There are no existential messages, he assured.
What listeners hear is what they get.
"We try to make the songs as weird as possible," said
Wlodarski, a carpenter and former longtime employee at Ridge Park.
The group's record label, "Table Cat Records," is named
in honor of Wlodarski's dead cat, Walsh said.
"Every group has to have a record label," Walsh said.
"Mark's old cat used to sit on his dining room table, so
we nominated him to be the owner of our record label."
All three of the 24-year olds take part in the vocals. When the
microphone is passed to O'Malley, a branch manager for Wells Fargo
Financial who is described as the comic relief of the group, he
uses a voice that reminds Wlodarski of "Mr. Ed dressed like
Walsh said the group's music is for everyone. The fun they have
making it is intended to spill over to their fan base.
"We basically try to make the songs as catchy as possible.
There is a pop element to them, but we're also coming up with
obscure references from our past, our friends or the neighborhood.
These are songs that only our generation can understand."
However, they're finding that a younger generation is also taking
notice, Wlodarski said.
"We tried to make ["Pottie Scippen"] for more mass
appeal, more singing, more harmonies and more dance. We wanted
to make it more appealing and not just rap and hip-hop,"
The group said they plan to dub an initial 500 "Pottie Scippen"
CDs, but their new release can be downloaded at their website,
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