Playlist and Preview: The Fifth Annual Holiday Hip Hop Benefit Show

Hip-hop and benefit shows have been two of the biggest storylines for the 2015 Milwaukee music scene, and the two converge Saturday at the Riverwest Public House for the fifth annual Holiday Hip Hop Benefit Show. Listen to a Music Notes-curated playlist of the night’s performers.

Two major storylines prevailed throughout the Milwaukee music scene this past year: the launching of new and innovative benefit shows that exhibited a dedication to worthy causes, and the emergence of the city’s rap scene that had been burbling underneath the surface for the past few years. 2015 saw the birth of Local Coverage (a benefit for Girls Rock Milwaukee), Riverwest FemFest (for Milwaukee Women’s Center), Color & Chords (for Islands of Brilliance) and perhaps the most ambitious of all, the three-day, multi-neighborhood benefit festival, Arte Para Todos (towards the arts programs for three Milwaukee Public Schools).

In conjunction with those philanthropic causes, there was a growing sense of community amongst Milwaukee’s often autonomous rap culture. Sure, we got revolutionary albums from solitary performers like IshDARR and milo, but we also saw an unexpected gathering of the city’s finest talent coalesced into the rap collective New Age Narcissism (NAN). “This is our year/ And no one can take that away” NAN member Lex Allen prophetically proclaimed on June’s soul-pop three-song Social Me Duh EP.

This Saturday at Riverwest Public House, 815 E. Locust St., Arte Para Todos joins with youth organization Freespace to put on the fifth annual Holiday Hip Hop Benefit Show, which raises funds for arts and music programs at Milwaukee Public Schools.

The event features an expansive bill that displays the depth of the city’s scene including the likes of Lex Allen, Queen Tut, Lorde Fredd33, Chakara Blu, BLAX, Zed Kenzo, Pharaoh Mac & DMT, Dana Coppafeel, Mad Static, Bassey Etim, (mc) Mikal and Big Caption. The showcase starts promptly at 9 p.m. and the cover is a suggested donation of $5.

It’s truly the perfect way to close out a year in which Milwaukee showed that the city’s music scene was not a ravenous tournament where only the strong survive, but rather it was a sanctuary that helped itself blossom from within.

In preparation for the holiday showcase, I’ve compiled a Soundcloud playlist of the night’s performers. Highlights include Lex Allen’s soulful Instagram diatribe on “Tap for Likes,” Lord Fredd33’s glowing “Bango” and the easygoing pace of Dana Coppafeel and SPEAK Easy’s “2 mph.”

Stream of the Week

There’s been a slow release strategy of bedroom pop from the solo project Bleach Athletixx this year. First we heard the sticky sweet “California Future,” then came the fuzzy, Teenage Fanclub throwback “Squatter’s Rights.” A few months ago we got the glitch-y, laid-back tune “American Made Motorcycle” and in December came a fourth track, the slow burning “Rotation of the Earth.” The four songs are now compiled on an EP, which is available as a free download and counts as the first release from record label Close Up of The Serene.

Video of the Week

The Midwest Beat are pros at crafting a nice, quick pop song with some twang. “Vortex Hole,” a track from the band’s Free of Being landed on my best songs 2014 list. Here’s what I said about it then: “At only 90 seconds long, the song is the equivalent of speeding down a country highway with the windows rolled down and the stereo turned up.” Last week the band premiered a video for new single, “Carol Anne.” They slow things a tad, but use the extra time to squeeze in some welcomed fun.

This Week in Live Music

Tuesday, December 22: The Academy Is… with PARTYBABY at The Rave, 8 p.m. ($21.50-$26.50)

Also: Bad Wig with Marvelous Love, Jab Jugular and Blatent Blendings at High Dive, 9 p.m.  – (701 E. Center St.)

Wednesday, December 23: The Pukes with Ramma Lamma and Tapebenders at Cactus Club, 9 p.m. –(2496 S. Wentworth Ave.,

Also: Holiday Jazz with Jay Anderson, Abby Jeane, Dave Schoepke, and Michael Ritter at Company Brewing, 8 p.m. (FREE) – (735 E. Center St.,

Saturday, December 26: AR Wesley with Cool Tay, DeLikeDay, MasonHighLife and Vato at Cactus Club, 10 p.m. –(2496 S. Wentworth Ave.,

Also: The Delta Routine with The New Seven at Linneman’s Riverwest Inn, 9 p.m. ($6) – (1001 E. Locust St.,



Kevin is a freelance writer residing in Milwaukee. He’s contributed to The Shepherd Express, Third Coast Daily, Pop Matters and the sadly now-defunct A.V. Club Milwaukee. He looks forward to forging a deeper connection with the city’s impressive music scene during his gig as a Music Notes blogger. His talents include music criticism, riding a bicycle, drinking tasty beers and a crafty croquet swing. His weaknesses comprise Jean-Claude Van Damme movies, professional wrestling and his ever-growing record collection. He’s in desperate need to find more physical (and hard drive) space for the exceptional albums Milwaukee musicians keep churning out.