Lately, Chicago’s breakout musicians have been more rap than rock. It’s only fitting that RedEye Rock ‘n’ Vote, our annual local band contest, would follow suit.
After readers and music fans cast about 40,000 votes, all three competing rappers (Samy.Language, Martin $ky, SoloSam), as well as R&B singer Daryn Alexus, were chosen from our Rock ‘n’ Vote Top 10, selected from more than 200 submissions. Below read about and listen to the acts that will appear Thursday, May 22 at Lincoln Hall ($12, 18+; tickets on sale now) and compete for on-site text votes and judges’ approval to win a slot at Taste of Chicago. See you at the show!
“I’m so excited!” Daryn Alexus screams about being part of the Rock ‘n’ Vote Final 4. She certainly put in the work to make it happen. The Bronzeville-based R&B singer walked up to crowds of people on buses, trains, sidewalks—everywhere—showing them her picture in the paper and even singing to win them over. The 23-year-old Columbia College Chicago grad’s younger friends got the word out on campus, and Alexus’ co-workers—whom she previously had kept in the dark about her music—were stunned and impressed. That seemed to be a theme: On one bus, a woman saw Alexus in the paper, confirmed she was mere feet away from a rising star and announced to the entire bus, “This girl is on Page 17!” Says Alexus, who performs with a full band and was asked to speak at South Shore International College Preparatory High School because of her recent exposure, “It was something out of a movie.”
To drum up Rock ‘n’ Vote support, 23-year-old Samy.Language says he didn’t personally do that much. However, the Ravenswood resident’s “huge network” of family and friends worked tirelessly to vote and spread the word, including managers getting bar patrons to vote on the spot and an intern who worked to generate votes at DePaul, the rapper’s alma mater. The promising, electronic-driven MC (born Samy Sabh) plans to use the Rock ‘n’ Vote concert as a release show for his debut, “The Skinny Cairo Tape,” out Tuesday, noting that his performance (featuring a live drummer and horn section) will be what really earns new fans. “[Rock ‘n’ Vote] has brought on a feeling of, ‘Hey, maybe I’m not wasting my time,’” he says.
During the Rock ‘n’ Vote voting period, rapper Martin $ky spent time in L.A., where he was selected to perform at an ASCAP showcase. It wasn’t the South Loop resident’s only nationwide look: Rock ‘n’ Vote fans in Chicago, New York and California showed social media love for the ambitious 19-year-old artist, currently finishing his freshman year at Columbia College Chicago with plans to focus on music full-time afterward. For support in the poll, he texted everybody in his phone, and they texted people in their phones, and, well, you know what happens from there. All ears are open to Martin $ky, who says he has “no doubt” he’ll be part of XXL’s 2015 freshman class.
“He literally every day was like, ‘Did you send out five tweets?’” says River North hip-hop artist SoloSam of a friend pushing him to self-promote. “I’m like, ‘No.’ He’s like, ‘Send out five tweets.’” That helped, but the 21-year-old Valparaiso University sophomore (born Samuel Akainyah) also had various university groups sharing his jazzy, lyrically driven tracks. SoloSam, who freestyled on campus to generate additional attention, says whether or not he wins Rock ‘n’ Vote, he hopes new listeners “want to go home and look me up.” He’s all about enthusiasm, actually. “[Bleep] yes!!!” he shouts when finding out he made the Rock ‘n’ Vote Top 4. “I’m sorry, my bad, man. This is a big deal for me.”
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