Chicago soul singer and karate instructor Doug Shorts might not have the audience he enjoys today had he not met Brian “Robust” Kuptzin in the late 2000s. As I explained in a 2013 feature on Shorts, the singer had put aside his decades-long pursuit of music stardom when he met Kuptzin, a rapper with releases on local hip-hop indie Galapagos4. They became friends while Shorts worked as a doorman at a condo building where Kuptzin’s girlfriend lived, and Kuptzin introduced Shorts to beat maker and record buyer Andrew Brearley. In 2012 Brearley and his wife, Sheila Hernando (aka DJ Shred One), launched Cherries Records, debuting with a seven-inch by Shorts. The following year, the Jazzman label released compilation of mostly 70s material by Shorts’s old soul band, Master Plan Inc., and Shorts also has an album in the can that he cut in 2012 with Dap-Kings drummer Homer Steinweiss and rap producer Frank Dukes, who’s since collaborated with Kanye West, the Weeknd, Lorde, and Frank Ocean.
The Steinweiss-Dukes-Shorts album, Silver & Gold Featuring Doug Shorts, has yet to see the light of day, but last week Grand Rapids label Heardrums Records dropped a seven-inch single Shorts recorded with Kuptzin. On the A side, “Bigger Dreams,” Shorts’s warm singing gives the boom-bap track a lived-in quality; it arrives in brief, repetitive bursts, so that it’s hard to tell whether producer Flevprod sampled his phrases for the hook. Kuptzin crams in as many syllables as he can between breaths, rapping about the sort of big dreams that turn up pretty reliably in hip-hop songs—oodles of cash, international flights, and other things you can buy with oodles of cash. That kind of success might not be a plausible goal for either of these musicians, but Kuptzin has at least helped Shorts hang on to his dreams.