A Beacon of Hope on a Weekend Marred By Violence… Purple Box Celebrates One Year

On a night where violence was robbing more Chicago residents of their lives, a sign of hope, collaboration, and positivity was glowing like a beacon. Driving attendees from across the city to Bourbon on Division for the Purple Box Festival and 1 year Anniversary Concert.

With a lineup similar to the Renaissance of the Culture show back in February, it was the origin story, followed by the full saga. These types of shows have been few and far between since COVID and I for one am incredibly hyped to have them back. Thank you to APJ Films (@apjfilms), Purple Box Videos (@purpleboxvideos), along with hosts @thoughtpoet77 @facetime773_ and @sewinmonster and of course, the fans, and artists making it all possible.

Small venue, hosted, dynamic shows featuring the best of Chicago HipHop have been scarce. The Purple Box Festival had a few twists and turns, including vendor participation as well as recognition of some true legends in the game. JonnieSmalls (@jsmallz67) and @GQThaTeacha were both recognized for their contributions to the growth of Chicago Hip-Hop as well as the global landscape of producers, performers, and the industry as a whole.

A line of people waiting to enter greeted us upon arriving, a line that didn’t subside until well after 11PM. A sense of excitement filled the room as performers milled about the bar area and stage, stopping to cut it up with the vendors. This type of opportunity to stop and talk to the performers is an incredible bonus to small venue shows. There’s no VIP section, no separation, just fans and artists, connected by the love of music.

Quick Takes:

A marathon lineup got started with:

Allen The Official performing at the APJ Music Festival; Purple Box Video Anniversary

Chairman Allen (@allentheofficial) – Comfortable delivery with a command of the mic, his song transitions were filled with messages of inspiration/hope and his energy on the mic for the early place in the show was on point. Bigger things await.

CantBuyDeem live at the APJ Films Purple Box Festival and 1 Year Anniversary.

CantBuyDeem @cantbuydeem) – As the room started to fill in, CantBuyDeem entered with comfortable delivery, accompanied by his dancer, he rocked it through a tight set with energy and command of both lyrics and delivery.

Stock Marley takes the stage at the APJ Films Purple Box Festival and 1 Year Anniversary

StockMarley (@stock_marley) – Passion exuding through his microphone, crowd starting to feel it, cameras out for this energizing performance, head nodders starting to come out of the mix. Crowd livening up.

“Lost in the electric vibes of Mr. Misfit – where every chord strikes a chord in our hearts, and every lyric paints a vivid story of rebellion and resilience. 🔥 #MisfitMagic “

Mr Misfit (@33mrmisfit) – Love seeing the evolution of performers who we’ve seen multiple times. Different demands on a performer originate from various crowd, technical, venue elements. Mr Misfit is comfortable in small stage/crowd combos, like the Beats, Beds & Browns Season 2 launch concert . He is also commanding in a packed house, like the Renaissance of the Culture show, surrounded by other performers and fans. A set list perfectly matched for the vibe provided by the Bourbon on Division crowd, Mr Misfit killed it with comfort and command of the mic during a tight, mellow set. As the crowd filled in during his set, he matched the energy of the filling room.

“Diving into the mesmerizing melodies of Unchie – where every note is a journey into the depths of imagination, and every performance leaves us craving for more. 🎶✨ #UnchieVibes #MusicalEscape”

Unchie773 @unchie773) – I’ll definitely be digging in on Spotify to learn more. This was my first time hearing Unchie and I’m intrigued to learn more. A solid delivery and lyrics worth exploring further.

“Under the spotlight, Mani Jordan ignites the stage with electrifying energy, captivating ears, eyes and minds with every note. 🎤✨ #ManiMagic #StageSensation”

Mani Jurdan (@manijurdan) – Another opportunity to see a performer more than once, we initially saw Mani perform at the GQThaTeacha hosted IllSpittaz show at INNJOY. A brief set with improved focus and delivery, increased interplay between performer and crowd with multiple songs reverberated from the crowd. Big things ahead if Mani keeps the positive momentum exhibited during this performance.

“Embracing the weight of his Crownz, the stage becomes his sprawling kingdom, each lyric a decree, and every beat a testament to his reign over the realm of music. 👑🎶 #HeavyCrownz #Dirtye”

Heavy Crownz (@heavycrownz) – Fresh off his self supported International Tour, Heavy ‘with a Z ‘ returns with a newfound swagger. The confidence of his lyrical delivery is much improved along with theatrical interludes and interplay with the crowd. His seeds have been watered in more ways than one as Heavy delivered an inspired performance. Excited to see more.

“JoelQ a lyricist whose words cut through the air like a razor-sharp blade. Leaving the audience captivated in his rhythmical realm. 🎤🔥 #JoelQVibes #lyricstogo “

JoelQ (@_joelq) – seeing a performer for the first time gives me chills, I love seeing someone I’ve heard streaming or only via videos. Joel Q came out as the room stretched to capacity. His cool, confident delivery was positively impacted by crowd participation. Hecky Naw Joe was a highlight of his performance and a closing tease of the full Chicago Greats with Ju Jilla appeared to be on deck, but was nixed at the last minute. Which begs the question…

Show promoters, you’ve got all these talented artists who’ve collaborated together, find a way to do a collab show where they can all share the stage…

“Each note is a portal to another dimension, and every beat echoes the pulse of the universe. 🌌🎵 #AshaOmegaVibes #CosmicMelodies”

The Asha Omega (@theashaomega) – opening with spoken verse to capture the attention of the crowd, the first female artist of the evening to take the stage did not disappoint. A captivating performance at the IllSpittaz show led to great anticipation for her performance tonight and she commanded the eyes and ears of the audience. A veteran presence with years invested to the game, relayed supreme confidence, providing the audience a treat, between the smoke filled Bourbon on Division walls.

“At the crack of dawn, AM Early Morning takes the stage, awakening souls with melodies that stir the spirit and ignite the day with newfound energy. 🌅🎶 #AMEarlyMorning #itsmorning “

A.M. Early Morning (@amearlymorning) – A.M. is one of the performer’s I’ve seen the most on this lineup, and he delivered the goods… again. An energetic delivery bouncing between joy and anger on the mic, but with an evident love of the performance, A.M. took us on a quick tour of his discography. With a work ethic bordering on obsession, A.M. has even more projects coming thru the pipeline. Can’t wait.

“Vic Spencer commands the stage with raw lyricism and unapologetic swagger, leaving audiences spellbound in the wake of his mic mastery. 🎤🔥 #VicSpencerVibes #MicMagic”

Vic Spencer (@vicspencer) – with long intros to highlight the fit and a bottle of Raekwon Wine, Vic Spencer continued to look great up on stage. A can’t miss performer who is so consistently top-notch, it boggles the mind. Lacking the ups and downs of other performers, Vic is a can’t miss addition to any lineup and any venue. Crystal clear delivery and a thoughtful use of word play to bring you along on whatever lyrical story he’s sharing.

Freddie Old Soul (@FreddieFarted) – another spoken word entrance from an incredible female artist. The Legendary Freddie Old Soul. Last show I was at where Freddie performed I had to leave early (hey, I’m an old A$$ man, give me a break). Was excited to see a Chicago legend jump in on this incredible lineup. Freddie dropped a sharp set, commanding attention of the audience. She definitely ‘got the voodoo!

Gawd Emcee (@gawdemcee) – IamGawd came up next and delivered a powerful performance. A consistent energy throughout, matching earlier performances at Magoo’s and Promontory. A powerful rendition of Blood Stained Suede got the crowd right, once heads were noddin’ the cameras came out and the gloves came off. Your favorite rapper’s favorite rapper still hasn’t forgot how to rap. #chicagonever4gothow2rap

“Philmore Green owns the stage with his smooth verses and captivating presence, painting vivid stories of life’s journey with each rhyme. 🎤🎨 #PhilmoreGreenVibes #StageStories”

Philmore Greene @philmoregreene – Coming to the stage with chants of, Do ‘dat $hit, Do ‘dat $hit, Do It!… Philmore jumped into his set with a backdrop of prior and future performers on the lineup. This veteran delivered on the promise of a great performance and kept the crowd’s boppin’ throughout his act.

Jae Haze (@therealjaehaze)  – taking the stage after mingling throughout the crowd, an unassuming JaeHaze claimed his place on stage with a brief, energetic set. Filled with bravado, supreme wordplay and sports star references, JaeHaze raised the bar as the stage continued to fill with other performers, not robbing anything of the packed, wall to wall audience.

Rufus Sims (@rufus_sims_now) – Forming an impromptu 2/3 reunion of the Lil’ People, Rufus took the stage with JaeHaze and with only TaeButch missing, asked, Is this thing working? I been getting’ money since Nextel’s been chirpin’ With a few other tunes under their belt, they wrapped an energetic combo set. The reunion no one knew was coming, but everybody loved. Rufus covered a few solo songs and demonstrated a mastery over the more formal stage presence.

Panamera P (@panamera.p) – A smooth set, Pano took the mic amidst a full stage of artists, launching into an a capella verse to capture attention, followed by Chess Pieces with Backwood Jones (@yp27) jumped in onstage to complete the collab.

“Ju Jilla electrifies the stage with his explosive energy and razor-sharp flow, commanding attention and leaving an unforgettable mark on every listener. 🎤🔥 #JuJillaVibes #StageFire”

Ju Jilla (@gymshoeju) – Another solid set by JuJilla, highlighted by R.I.P. ODB, and Dreams off the Clocks Tickin’ album. Bonus: Sharing the stage with @cdaprophet for an impromptu on stage reunion.

After Ju Jilla’s set, I didn’t have any legs left to stand on… literally. I heard it announced that there were two more performances, but that was all I had… a show so good, I tapped out. Kudos to the hosts, DJ’s, performers and crowd for making it a Real One, a night that Chicago Hip Hoppers will be talking about all summer.

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