Sharkula in 2011
  • Courtesy of Wikipedia
  • Sharkula in 2011

Not a year goes by that 40-something Chicago rapper and sidewalk salesman Brian Wharton, better known as Sharkula, doesn’t drop some new music, though it’s a challenge to say that with authority. Every time I run into Sharkula, which I do on average of once a month, he usually tells me he’s got some new music hidden in the pile of CD-Rs he stores away in a backpack. Sometimes it’s hard to tell if he’s made a CD’s worth of new material since we last spoke or if the latest CD-R he’s trying to sell me is something he had with him the last time I ran into him. Since I don’t always have cash on me to give him for a handcrafted disc it can be a challenge to keep up—which is part of the reason I appreciate Laurie’s Planet of Sound’s Sharkula section, which the Reader named the “Best reason not to ditch your CD player” in our “Best of Chicago” issue.

Fortunately Sharkula is up to the task of keeping me in the loop on all his new tunes. A few weeks ago he called me up to ask if I’d listened to “Close Encounters,” a track he’d recently cut with Kool Keith. Sharkula tends to play well with others, and he’s got a great foil in the oddball hip-hop legend. Following Keith’s moody performance on the drowsy track Shark’s lyrical non sequitur’s linger longer than they otherwise might, such as the weighty line, “why does an infant wear a bulletproof vest.”

Sharkula’s about to release some more tunes as well. At the end of the month California label Atomic Mouse Recordings will release Shark’s “lost” album, Dirty Caviar. The album is “lost” in the same way a chunk of the rapper’s catalog is lost—he’d included early versions of a song called “Anti Dookie Pretzel Deluxe Remixer” on some CD-Rs he’s sold hand-to-hand through the years—but the Atomic Mouse release presents Dirty Caviar in its full form, ten years after Sharkula recorded it. Atomic Mouse is releasing it digitally, on CD, and as a ten-inch record, which makes Dirty Caviar Sharkula’s third vinyl release. (Dirty Caviar producer iGod is also selling a digital version of the album through his Bandcamp.)

The MC’s not just sitting around waiting for Dirty Caviar LPs to come out, and tomorrow night he headlines a hip-hop show at Elastic Arts Foundation. The Buttress, Knowshun, and Dr. Quinn open; the show starts at 9 PM and costs $7.

Leor Galil writes about hip-hop every Wednesday.