“There’s a lot of talent here in the city,” says Salvador “Sage” Solache, co-owner of the McKinley Park-based Breaking Bread Entertainment. “But for some reason they don’t just get out there….We want to get Chicago artists recognized–hopefully sooner rather than later.”

In the early 1990s Solache, Benjamin “Phunk” Todd, and John “Swift” Tirado were part of 40 oz. Dreams, an informal crew of about 20 DJs, rappers, producers, and graffiti artists from across the city. Solache, an MC, describes the group as simply “friends trying to make it in the music industry,” and they succeeded to a degree, performing with first-tier acts such as KRS-One, Wu-Tang Clan, and Eazy-E at the Oak Theatre and the Riviera. But the crew started to splinter in the mid-90s as people got married or, in Todd’s words, “got busy with everyday life.”

Solache went the family route, but Todd and Tirado continued DJing and started to build a recording studio one piece at a time. Then, while Christmas shopping a few years ago, Solache ran into a friend who gave him Todd’s phone number. “He’d taken time to have his family, but he wanted to get back into it,” says Todd. They began to kick around the idea of starting a record label and producing music themselves. After Solache’s brother, Bobby Vega, came on board, the quartet dubbed the label Sage Vega and recorded a full-length record for a local artist called Aztec Dinero. But last November Vega decided to split, taking Aztec and some other artists with him. After that, says Todd, “we weren’t sure which direction we were going to go and who was going to stay with us.”

The remaining partners renamed the label Breaking Bread–“to show that we’re like a family.” To protect all parties–and to avoid future defections–they had the artists sign two-record contracts and guaranteed them a percentage of sales revenue.

A year and a half ago Todd and Tirado, who work part-time as security guards, moved into the second floor of Solache’s southwest-side three-flat. Solache and his family live on the first floor; the recording studio–complete with couches, cable TV, and a PlayStation 2–is on the third.

“At some recording studios you have to sit in a little room and try to work on this stuff,” says Todd. “I like a more comfortable, relaxed environment. This way we’re not as pressured with the clock and by financials.” But recording at home also has a downside. “There’s always somebody here,” says Tirado. “You can’t walk around the house naked or anything like that. The sleeping hours are funny, because people are showing up at odd times. Somebody always knows where to find you, you know.”

On Sunday, July 7, Todd will host a party for This Thing of Ours, a 15-track compilation CD that’s the first release on the Breaking Bread label. MCs H.Inc., Papa Doc, Kravin’, Lomia, Butch, and Stony Island will perform, and Jesse de la Pena, Precyse, Clash Titan, and John Swift (Tirado) will DJ. It’s at 8 at HotHouse, 31 E. Balbo (312-362-9707), and admission is $8.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Lloyd DeGrane.