For most of the 90s Chicago hip-hop has had to struggle to be heard. Rap acts Crucial Conflict, Do or Die, and Twista have all made successful recordings for major labels in the last few years, but their heavily synthesized sound and gangsta tropes are miles away from the elemental two-turntables-and-a-microphone style that’s a staple at underground parties. But the increasing popularity of Common, an artist who builds his forward-thinking tunes on solid fundamentals, has triggered a new wave of local hip-hop–even though he himself recently signed with MCA and moved to New York. Gravity, Rubberoom, and No I.D. have all made albums for national independent labels, and last year the duo All Natural released its debut album, No Additives, No Preservatives, on its own label.

That do-it-yourself spirit is spreading: to wit, “Early Warning,” a showcase for local hip-hop Tuesday at the Double Door that may become a regular event if it goes well. “With the exception of my group, 1000, all these performers have product out that you can buy at indie stores,” says Duro Wicks, a longtime MC who used to promote events at Lower Links, Czar Bar, and HotHouse, and has produced records under the moniker Shamelove. “Most of these groups have been around since the early 90s, but they’re just realizing now that they can put out records on their own.” Wicks thinks this crop of artists will soon vie with Crucial Conflict and Twista to define the Chicago sound.

Chris Baran, the event’s organizer, has been listening to hip-hop for only the last few years, but he says he’s serious about exposing Chicago’s talent to a broader audience via a professionally run concert. “The idea is for the artists to keep it concise and representative of what they do,” he says. “We’re not trying to gear this exclusively toward the hip-hop scene, but to everyone.” The impressive bill features All Natural, 1000, Earatik Statik, Mr. Greenweedz, Mic-One, and DJs Doc West and Rude One, and the show starts at 9 PM. The Double Door is at 1572 N. Milwaukee; call 773-489-3160 for more information.

–Peter Margasak

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Duro Wicks, Chris Baran photo by Nathan Mandell.