This weekend, Grinnell will host a triple bill of rising hip hop artists. IshDARR, one of the leading voices in the Milwaukee DIY scene will perform alongside Yung Eddy and Kweku Collins.
IshDARR is an 18-year-old rapper from Milwaukee, Wis. During his senior year of high school in 2014, IshDARR released his first EP, “The Good Life.” A complete album surfaced earlier in 2015, entitled “Old Soul, Young Spirit.” On “Old Soul, Young Spirit,” IshDARR enthusiastically proves that he is a voice that deserves your attention. The rising MC engages with a huge variety of beats that inflect sounds of house music, bounce and vintage 90s hip/hop, rendering the 12-song collection an exciting exploration in style as well as a window into IshDARR’s life in urban Milwaukee. The stacked, sometimes disparate instrumental flares don’t sound excessively scattered, but only assist in highlighting IshDARR’s voracious conviction.
IshDARR’s energetic, wide-eyed personality is at the forefront of “Old Soul, Young Spirit,” and the influence of modern, boundary-pushing hit makers like Kendrick Lamar and Chance the Rapper are obvious. Like these two rappers, IshDARR’s diction explodes through the dense, layered production on many songs. Between his lines, you can sometimes hear IshDARR gasping for breath, making rapping sound like a visceral, physical experience for him. This is earnest, inspired rap music and “Old Soul, Young Spirit” is the album that IshDARR needed to create.
IshDARR seamlessly moves between socially conscious critiques of urban life in Milwaukee and unabashed displays of bravado throughout the album. The song “Only You” is an earnest love letter to the girl of his dreams, and “Vibe” is a party-starting anthem fit for any Top 40 radio station. Commentaries on artistic ambition and his desire for success are pervasive on many of the songs as well, most evident on the manifesto-like opening track, “For You” and “Overdue.”
IshDARR helps lead the pack of an emerging enclave of rappers from the DIY scene in Milwaukee, alongside artists like WebsterX, Pizzle and Mic Kellogg. As a native Minnesotan, I get really excited when Midwestern cities that typically fly under the radar start receiving the recognition they deserve as dynamic sites of art and culture. I think it would have been easy for many of the Milwaukee-based artists to flee to Chicago. Instead, they chose to build something powerful and palpable in a city that lacked an active rap scene.
Evanston, Ill.-based MC Kweku Collins and Yung Eddy, a rapper from Houston, Texas, will open up the show on Friday night at 9 p.m.