The artwork for Defcee and August Fanon’s We Dressed the City With Our Names was created by Rahsaan “Sean One CBS” Hawkins and No Pulp. Credit: Courtesy the artist

The new EP by Defcee and producer August Fanon, We Dressed the City With Our Names, ties Defcee’s history in Chicago’s rap and poetry scenes to the primordial hip-hop culture of New York graffiti artists depicted in the 1983 documentary Style Wars. The first track opens with a sample of a young graffiti writer explaining that his work is for him and other writers to see—forget the outsiders—and then Defcee raps about being animated by that same desire to leave a mark on hip-hop subculture. In his verses, he reminisces about his youth in Chicago like a contemporary Nick Carraway to aspiring street Jay Gatsbys—telling his own story while providing a porthole into others’. Set at a funeral, “Tragic/Magic” is about the way memories held among a group of friends can get sanitized as they’re shared with the greater public (if they’re not kept secret entirely). The song counterbalancers its occasional melancholy with Fanon’s excellent production and the audible joy in Defcee’s raps. On “All You See Is,” the quivering sampled flute and huge rhythms recall the Donny Hathaway sample on Dr. Dre’s “Lil’ Ghetto Boy,” but the drums feel heavier and grimier. On “Just Beautiful,” Defcee recalls his youthful expectations of fame and acclaim over lovely space-age keyboard sweeps and yelping guitars. And on “Alive,” he delivers what may be his thesis statement: “It’s nerdy and it’s basic, but the closest thing to magic that we had was language.” Defcee is also a high school teacher, and he’s dedicated to helping the next generation of writers learn how to cast their own spells. We Dressed the City With Our Names proves that his methods work; it’s a testament to the power of creativity that pulses with youthful energy while dispensing the kind of wisdom that’s only born through years of experience.   v