Bonelang
Credit: courtesy of artist

Chicago alternative hip-hop group Bonelang seem to want to make hip-hop that sounds like anything but hip-hop. The core duo, MC Samy.Language and producer-vocalist Matt Bones, both split the difference between rapping and singing—they often enunciate their pristine, staccato verses like they’re delivering a solo in choir or talk-singing in a Broadway musical. They also embellish their complex beats with percussion flourishes—vibraphone, hand claps, marching-band drums—fit for a symphonic indie-rock album. Bonelang temper this creative audacity with urbane polish, so that even when an idea doesn’t quite hit the mark they at least sound good trying to make it work. Their chutzpah comes through clearly on May’s self-released Nervous Oracle EP, which opens with an appearance from former G-Unit rapper the Game; Bonelang catalyze a strange joy by combining his grizzled voice with their twisted Beach Boys harmonizing on the hook for “Gluten-Free Gluttony,” though the rest of the song doesn’t always clear that very high bar. Bonelang sometimes get distracted by silly wordplay, which is bound to happen with a group more interested in sound than sense, but their songwriting always has a profound emotional core. Even as they dazzle you with bold stylistic acrobatics, they don’t forget what it’s all for. The bittersweet, cinematic “Sleepy Lion” demonstrates this directly, stripping away the ostentatious touches so you can feel the heartbeat in their music.

Bonelang Aaron Day and friends open. Thu 12/29, 8 PM, Schubas, 3159 N. Southport, $20 in advance, two-day passes sold out, 18+

Bonelang Kweku Collins and Carlile open. Fri 12/30, 9 PM, Schubas, 3159 N. Southport, $20, two-day passes sold out, 18+