Chicago''s Takin'' It to the Streets festival report

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Takin'' It to the Streets festival
Marquette Park, Chicago
Sunday, June 24

B-boys at Takin' It to the Streets (photo Max Herman)

In a city known for its large-scale summer festivals, Takin'' it to the Streets may take the crown for being Chicago''s most hip-hop centric. Thrown by the Inner-city Muslim Action Network (IMAN), this all-day annual event drew upward of 10,000 people on this humid Sunday, June 24. While some spectators were more interested in seeing guest speakers like IMAN co-founder Amal Ali than Lupe Fiasco, the beauty of this festival was that it offered something for everybody.

One Be Lo at Takin' It to the Streets (photo Max Herman)

Capital D (photo by Max Herman)

Being held in Marquette Park—a locale with a history of racial tension—it was good to hear one of the hosts declare, “We will never keep anyone out. Ever.” And this theme of unity and inclusion was prevalent throughout the day. B-boy and graf battles set off the festivities in the Elements Stage area. It was here where the first half of Takin'' it to the Streets went down and focused on bringing indie, mostly Muslim acts from Chicago to New York onstage. Detroit-area stalwart One Be Lo got one of the strongest responses with his heated, no-frills mic rocking while his affiliates Capital D and All Natural appeased the crowd with Chicago hip-hop favorites like the jazzy anthem, “The Renaissance.”

Lupe Fiasco (photo by Max Herman)

Following a series of speakers/poets, it was time for the main event: Lupe Fiasco, A Tribe Called Quest''s Ali Shaheed Muhammad, Brother Ali and the Rock Steady Crew. One of the F.E.W. DJs began on the main stage with a turntablism set, which attempted to string together Muslim-related hip-hop vocal snippets, but it suffered from awkward transitions and too much silent airtime. Thankfully, De Jam Poetry performer Amir Sulaiman picked up the pace with a brief yet thunderous set before passing the mic over to Lupe Fiasco.

Always an energized entertainer, Lupe had hundreds of cameras and camera phones clicking away as he rocked the best material off of his debut, Food & Liquor. While performing the emotive “He Say, She Say,” Lupe took a nasty fall off stage but impressively got back up to perform his seminal song about skateboarding, “Kick, Push.” Just when we thought he couldn''t get any more resilient, the sound went totally flat while he was performing “American Terrorist,” making it difficult to hear his vocals much less the music. But Lupe kept on trucking, and the crowd loved it.

Up next was Tribe''s DJ/co-producer Ali Shaheed Muhammad for a set of hip-hop classics. Sadly, the sound was still all off at this point, which lead some crowd goers to hit the exits. While spinning KRS-One''s lively, b-boy jam, “Step Into a World,” suddenly the sound kicked back in properly as did the show. The thinning crowd reshaped as Muhammad played an undeniably tight set. And when the original Rock Steady Crew joined him onstage, Muhammad got these b-boys moving with fast rap favorites from Eric B & Rakim and essential break beats like “Apache.” As impressive as Lupe was, this combination of raw selector skills and b-boy mastery was arguably the highlight of the day.

Ali Shaheed Muhammad (photo by Max Herman)

But the show wasn''t over. Headliner Brother Ali had a tough act to follow, though he did his thing in an abbreviated closing set—particularly on the bluesy hit “Forest Whitaker,” which had the crowd singing along. And for a song about loving yourself regardless of what others think, this final performance was the perfect ending to a festival rooted in positive vibes. —Max Herman

Brother Ali (photo by Max Herman)


Akbar (photo by Savera Iftikhar)


Primeridian (photo by Savera Iftikhar)


B-boy (photo by Max Herman)


IMAN live graffiti (photo by Max Herman)