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‘A Soup of Racial Harmony’ - Two generations come together to create a diverse hip-hop project

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Yvonne Boose
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Brandy Gilliam and Steven Warrenfeltz at Kiss the Sky record store.

Technology has given consumers an easy button when it comes to buying and listening to music. An Aurora hip-hop artist and a Batavia record store owner are bypassing the current technology by going old-school for an upcoming music project.

Kiss the Sky record store, 180 First St., has been around for about 25 years. Steven Warrenfeltz is the owner of the music store. He said he met Sonz of K.A.O.Z. and P.O.B.U.M.S. SOCIETY member Brandy Gilliam around the time the store opened, and they've been friends ever since. Warrenfeltz said when Gilliam mentioned the idea of promoting Fox Valley area artists, he wanted to help.

“I explained to Brandy that I had a little bit of experience in having records pressed,” he said, “and thought it would be awesome if we pressed it on a record and then we just kept going back and forth and talking about things.”

The project is the third installment of the A-illa series.

“A-illa is a slang hip-hop term for the city of Aurora, Illinois," Gilliam explained. "So, when we shorten it is A-illa. So that's what that means.”

Gilliam said area hip-hop artists started using this term back in the mid-90s.

Prior installments also focused on hip-hop collaborations for local artists. The first one was called “A-illa Angle – Last Days of Hip-Hop!” This was done to shine a light on the underground hip-hop scene in Aurora.

The second project was “A-illa Angle – Operation B.L.A.C.K.” Gilliam said the strategy for this was to reduce Black on Black crime and any cultural genocide.

“Blacks, Latinos, Asians, Caucasians, against cultural killings," Gilliam said. "So that was the second project where we brought together some new artists and old artists and like we put that project out too. And that project was all digital, no physical copies.”

Gilliam shared that it was hard for him to get the third installment off the ground. He said it seemed that people were just not interested or didn’t have time to take part in the new compilation. Things changed when they heard that he was partnering with the Kiss the Sky owner.

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Yvonne Boose
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Warrenfeltz’s touch to the project introduces an old format to fresh ears. He said there’s one thing to love music but it’s another thing to enjoy a rich sound.

“And I think that vinyl is the format. It's the best there is. It's analog. It's what our ears have become accustomed to hearing. Records have been around for 100 years plus," Warrenfeltz said.

"Because you know, like everybody put stuff out on CD, digital platforms, streaming and stuff like that," Gilliam added. "But like when you say, vinyl, that's like, you know, it means something to people."

Warrenfeltz said creating a physical album doesn’t mean that the music shouldn’t be available for streaming.

“I mean, put it on everything. But on vinyl. It's going to make a difference," he assured.

Warrenfeltz said it would be cool if they could get the record pressed in six months. Most artists must wait anywhere from eight to 12 months.

The third installment “A-illa Angle: Return of the Emcee” will be a double LP. There are 26 contributors so far and the artists come from different ethnic backgrounds. Gilliam called this "a soup of racial harmony.”

“Well, honestly," Gilliam said. "KRS-One has said this a lot, the only place that Dr. King dreams lives, actually lives and his practice is in hip-hop. Hip-hop is the only modern art that has everybody is accepted to the art.”

There is no cost for the artists who want to contribute. All proceeds made from the sales will go to an Aurora non-profit. A documentary will also accompany the LP. The deadline to submit is June 1. Those interested should send an email to pobumssociety@gmail.com.

  • Yvonne Boose is a current corps member for Report for America, an initiative of the GroundTruth Project. It's a national service program that places talented journalists in local newsrooms like WNIJ. You can learn more about Report for America at wnij.org.