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LEVEL-UP! MAGAZINE Where underground is mainstream













Designer: Danyell Hopson

Creative Director: Antonio Johnson



Kush VS Pills




Legit 14 T.R.O.Y. 7

Clutch 17

Bonnie May


Rachel Jordan

Yung 6 Holla 19 18

J-Realestate and MD Nite


Kawaza Henderson Aisha Subair

Noel DuBose

Alexandria Vaughn Makeup by:

Megan Okuesa using MAC Cosmetics/ NARS & M N Artistry by Theresa Jones & Bei Smith

Head Photographer

Elizabeth Kindig Photography

Joshua Smith ALBUM REVIEWS 26





F. Williams (Toine Tracks) - CEO & Founder/Brand Manager From 2008 to 2012, it’s been a journey. First, I would like to thank the ancestors and all who have contributed to the magazine over the years. The sole purpose of this magazine is to embrace those who are part of the arts and enjoy what they do. The goals is to expose independent brands that have a strong passion for the arts. We are looking for “A” team memebers to join the family. “Branding youreslf as the attraction”, is my slogan for my personal website, in which I use to educate the importantce of being the brand attraction. @ToineTracks

B. Williams (British Tracks) - Editor-in-Chief   It’s the Relaunch everybody! We came back with some of the most talented bunch for you to observe. Making issue 5 was by far the most rewarding and equally challenging experience I’ve had so far, and I’ve loved every minute of it. The underground arts has proven to me that for every man’s hustle, the true gift shines through in their passion for what they do; it literally oozes out of their pores. Through listening to the music and seeing the fashion, our issue encompasses a wide range of talent not just from Chicago, but all the way from Jersey. I will always remain an advocate for the underground, never have I seen such a pure drive in people. It’s our turn to share that with you. I hope you enjoy this issue! @LeveLUpMagazine ISSN# 1938-2308 Coypright © 2012 by F.Williams/LeveL-Up! Magazine. LeveL-Up! Magazine is Trademark & All rights reserved. Printed in United States of America Contact: Office: 312.685.2465



Photography by: Elizabeth Kindig Styled by: Maranda Gresham ADNARAM Clothing


Yung Holla HATER FREE: A Lesson from the Dedicated By B. Tracks

Artist development is like an art; to master it takes focus. Success as an indie artist doing pretty much everything on your own is rare, but obviously artists who are really tuned in to doing what it takes, still exist in the underground scene. That brings me super ambitious Chicago artist, Yung Holla. The Chicago underground rap scene has seen many hopefuls and nay sayers, as well as the successful ones who tend to flourish in other cities after a few years. We consider Yung Holla to be the indie rap game’s total package. Not only is Holla one of the most dedicated artists I’ve met, he proves that artist karma is real. One of the first things that stood out to me was Holla’s supportive spirit for his competition. During his photo shoot, we interviewed him about how he would literally go to artist showcases throughout the week to show support including stopping in at their video shoots. The artist stereotype is rather ego centered as I’m sure we’ve all figured out over the years. During his earlier years,

Holla was focused on being an artist and soon began devoting 100% of his life force to promoting himself. His first order of business was having a plan in place to follow and surrounding himself with long-time confidants to support his goals. The creation of Chi Ill Entertainment is the genius of Yung Holla and his friends who back him 100% His mixtape The Ghost of Willie Racine is a salad bowl of sounds including club hits, slow jams, and collaborations. His top single “He a Hater,” is one of my favorites off the tape. Not only is it hilarious, I thought it was really cool how he analyzed how men and women alike are prone to hating. “Down for Me” ft. Natalie Ann is another track that separates the tape from your usual hard core rap record. Chicago isn’t the only place that Holla has made a success, his travels to Miami and the West Coast has proven that he’s only moving up and bringing thousands of fans along with him. Currently his physical mixtape cred is over 2k. @Yung_holla

Scan with your smart phone & watch the interview 6 LEVEL-UPMAGAZINE.COM VOL 2 ISS.5 2012

T.R.O.Y. When you see TROY in the streets, be sure to salute him and holler his motto, “Autobots Up!” The Co- Founder and artist of PHLIKYDZ ENT is peculiarly awesome and proves that music and fashion don’t have to be copy cat’s of what’s “in.” His love for comic book heros like Transformers and Iron Man completely reflect the voice and message in his music; out of this universe and not your “run of the mill,” average. If there were a superhero’s soundtrack, TROY would be the creator. Performing and creating avenues for other Phli kids is one of TROY’S @_Optimusrhymes major priorities. He’s proven to indie land that his avant garde ways gleam in the eyes of all phli kids! # “If you’re not Phli, you’re not living... get lifted!”


Coriz The Writa Chicago’s Rare Gem By B. Tracks

As Coriz’s song resounds, It’s sorta like an 8-0-8, I’m instantly transformed into an image of a classic songstress from the 60’s. Her official boss lady track; “Please don’t make me leave” is one of my favorite joints and the first song I ever heard from the sultry E.P. Inevitable. Lately, I’ve been noticing the quality of music in general is declining and mainstream music is beginning to appeal less. I think, R&B, in general is lacking. Even when Trey Songs’ album was red hot, the fever for R&B cooled off soon after. Having access to 8 LEVEL-UPMAGAZINE.COM VOL 2 ISS.5 2012

classic, yet new R&B is not only refreshing, it gives us hope that the indie industry is continuing to grow, especially with singer/songwriters like Coriz. When she begins to sing her soulful melodic notes, you can’t help but to start the side-to-side sway and put your hands in the air as testament to her truths. When she performs, it’s not hard at all to get into her rhythmic, velvety voice. Coriz tha Writa is seriously one of the most kept secret talents

in Chicago. It would be proper comparing her to those super heros who have a day job and seem just like everybody else until darkness falls and they bust out with the cape and super ass kicking kung fu powers. Coriz tha Writa, indeed has that rare classic touch we love to hear. The fact that Coriz has a laid back and earth centered personality, makes her brand stand out and creates a personable impression. Dedicated to promoting and getting her music heard, Coriz’s catalog recently caught the ears of Def Jam and other major labels that, let’s face it, artists wouldn’t think twice to turn down a deal with. Talking to Coriz really inspired me to look at indie artists in a whole new light. While she’s been around and has worked with some of the biggest names in the industry; Bump J, Lupe Fiasco, and KATO. Her firm decision to stay independent is deeply rooted in her knowledge of the industry. One of the major things to highlight is her Music Business degree from Columbia College,

Chicago. Having that background has been the driving force in her career choice. Her desires lay in having total creative control over her records, image, and music. While most parents frown upon their children being artists, after seeing her work twice as hard pursuing music and a nursing degree, her parents motivated her twice as hard to put 100% into her passion. “First my dad wanted me to be a doctor, but then when he saw I wasn’t happy doing that, he was like, “you know what, you need to push for your passion.” I was trying to make him happy and it came to the point where he was like, “you have to make yourself happy.” With her family’s best wishes, Coriz was nominated for an Emmy, created her own publishing company; Coriz The Writa Music Publishing LLC, and has performed at over 10 major venues. With her recent move to ATL , she is bound to grow into the {mega} star we all know she is! To see her interview, scan the QR code on page 8! @Coriz1


Kush VS Pills Sensimilia, ganja, herb, Sensimilia, ganja, herb, marijuana, Kush, green, marijuana, Kush, green, Mary Jane…. The large Mary Jane…. The large green plant has an green plant has an abundance of names, abundance of names, colors, smells, & fans. colors, smells, & fans. Today, the marijuana movement is in full effect and gaining popularity among the sick, the high, the hopeful, and legal growers. There are not only dispensaries opening up, church's like Temple 420 are gaining momentum on the West Coast and encouraging the rest of our country to join in on the 'green' movement. Although some states have earned the thumbs up for selling and prescribing medical marijuana, the idea of it being legalized across all 50 states is still a hot debate and honestly the fed aren’t happy about the prospect. But why? The push for marijuana legislation has proven that states like Illinois are considering the benefits of medical green as outlined in a very detailed April 2010 Chicago Reader article; “Medical Marijuana is Already Legal in Illinois,” and again in their December 2011 article, “Are our politicians too paranoid to reform marijuana laws?” If marijuana has proven to not cause any underlying health problems when used, why does it get such a bad “rap?” Government lawmakers are on the the offense of making what they call a “gateway” drug; legal; yet,marijuana treatment for terminally ill patients is becoming a commonly used 10 LEVEL-UPMAGAZINE.COM VOL 2 ISS.5 2012

strategy in legal medical marijuana states. These states include; Alaska, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington state, and New Jersey. Your chronic pain or debilitating illness needs to qualify you for a medical green that a doctor has to prescribe for you. If you do qualify, your prescription is then filled at a local ‘approved’ dispensary or shop. While this sounds like a great thing, medical marijuana laws are very rigid and states like California are constantly plagued with government backlash {dispensary shut downs, licenses revoked, and frozen bank accounts} as we speak. Healing through herbal remedies like marijuana is not “new” yet it has become an even more popular notion in the past few years. The more research that is put into marijuana, the more studies show that long term use doesn’t cause any health problems This includes death. Cancer patients have become main candidates for medical marijuana to balance the effects of chemotherapy treatment; the bud actually stimulates their appetite and suspends nauseau. A major contender in all of this is the multi-billion dollar pharmaceutical machine. Not only are prescription drugs expensive for the government and our pockets, last year they caused more deaths than car accidents and hospitals/doctors are still selling and promoting hundreds of different new drugs daily. Patients are literally on overkill from pain medications that are highly addictive & extremely dangerous to consume. The health risks absolutely outweigh the short term benefits. It’s like chemical wasteland.......

“In, 2011, 12 million people abused some form of prescription medication.” - Daniel DeNoon Hundreds of healthy people are prescribed Vicodin, OxyCotin/ Opana/ Methadone just for minor toothaches and pain. The result of taking something for such a minor pain is total addiction. While alternative therapies would ease some of the body’s dependecy on prescriptions for pain, insurance companies rarely cover the costs of them. Although marijuana is an option for some, you won’t see any stories about its benefits in major media. Afterall, how would the pharmaceutical industry maintain it’s billion $ cash cow? See how the numbers measure out in the chart below. Note: Deaths have been reported per year. BE INFORMED & MAKE YOUR OWN CONCLUSION.

Weed Related Deaths


NSAID Related Deaths

Prescription Related Deaths

Asprin, Aleve, etc.

Oxycotin, VIcadin, Pretnazone., etc.

300 k


Coaine & Heroin


This chart was compiled using sources from: Conan, Neal. NPR, "Prescription Drug Deaths Major Killer In The U.S. ."

You Do The Math! For more information, check out: WebMD, "40 U.S. Deaths a Day From Prescription Painkillers." "US spent $307 billion on prescription drugs in 2010." "Prescription Drug Deaths Major Killer In The U.S.” "More Hospitalized from NSAID Bleeding than All American War Casualties."


hospitalized-from-nsaid-bleeding-than-all american-war-casualties&catid=5:original&Itemid=24.


Get A Marketing Plan & Social Media Management

Legit Coloring Outside The Lines By B. Tracks

I’m vibin’ to “Fly me to the Moon” right now and taking in the lyrical new-age hip-hop genius. Sometimes I wonder if the night could get blacker. Starvin Black artist inspiring, applying to NASA. I know this shit could come faster. It’s rhymes like those that take me back to my Yo MTV Rap days. As a shorty, I would sit and watch in awe as all the hip-hop greats would come on the show and rip tracks that make you feel so good, you wish you could push rewind. Reminiscing has brought me to the reality that there’s a creative portal opened right now and Legit has manifested from that. One of the most intriguing artists coming out of the Chi, is hip-hop’s poster child, Legit. I don’t know if he is a reincarnate or what, but his ability to come to the table completely outside the box needs to be 14 LEVEL-UPMAGAZINE.COM VOL 2 ISS.5 2012

recognized. Having only begun dropping mixtapes, his craft is far from amateur and more so a la Mos Def, Rza, &The Roots. His newest creation, Coloring Outside the Lines, released the summer of {2011} is an ear tantalizing creation of thought invoking, head bobbing music. Humor, punch lines, seriousness, and Northfaces all wrapped into a neatly pressed CD configures the facets of Legit, a really cool universal sound that any niche would love to listen to. One of the striking things about Legit is he combines his talent with real life situations to give you relative music. Anyone listening won’t have to reach back far in their imagination pots to conjure up a real life replicate of life just being. @ChicagoLives

Wassup Fred!! Jersey Shore isn’t the only thing that’s providing the small East Coast state exposure. The music scene is increasingly making a name for itself through underground talents like Fred Star. The Jersey born emcee has combined his multifaceted talent to create feel good music reminiscent of hot summer days, house parties, and cool shades. Creativity and a self-made attitude has put Fred Star on a level that I haven’t seen many indie artists achieve successfully. Driven and artistic, Fred Star has merged his passions for photography, fashion, and music to create an original, brandable image. What sets Fred apart is how he networks. Looking to get his music heard on a larger scale, he linked up with the late DJ Carl Blaze of NJ’s Power 105.1 FM. He was one of the first DJ’s to embrace Fred Star’s music, and as a result, his fan base, brand, and spins increased. The unfortunate events of DJ Carl’s death opened up a window of inspiration for Fred Star, encouraging him to use pure determination and creativity to put what he calls the “underdog” of the East Coast music scene on the map. In 2009, Fred Star created M-Duce Vision, {his own photography company} and linked up with various creative talents including fashion diva Xaymara Rodriguez of Luv2Luhk Fashion House. In the short time Fred has been making music, he’s achieved a well known reputation in NJ. Starting out as a street rapper, you can easily pick up on Fred’s lyrical abilities. Changing up his flow and subject creates an unforgettable sound. Embracing his Dominican

roots, the bilingual emcee “switches from Spanish to English” frequently. Case in point, the Pit Bull esque track, and promotional single, “Girls Get Down.” It really has a dance party feel and represents that versatility Fred seems to effortlessly bring. Representing Capsquad, Fred’s crew that started rapping with him on the streets of North Jersey, and his photography company MDuce Vision {2009} he’s not only creating a trend in NJ, his fan base continues to grow. “One mixtape doesn’t delegate the next, I’m always reinventing myself.” - Fred Star {2011} @WassupFred LEVEL-UPMAGAZINE.COM VOL 2 ISS.5 2012 15

Settle Da Score He was present to witness some of the greatest artists in the game; from Rakim & Big Daddy Kane, all the way to Nas & Jay Z. Elementz Emcee’s 80’s baby existence is kicking in again. After seeing the music industry take a dramatic turn for {clears throat} the worst, Elementz can no longer hold his silence. He’s on a mission to kidnap rap and remind it that it has been lied to. As his beat banging, in your face single proclaims, “it’s time to settle da score!” Elementz “Jah” Emcee aka Chicago Defender, is bringing the classic sound and culture of hip-hop, you don’t stop back to Chicago. Representing the deeply rooted hip-hop indie label RedLine Connexion Inc., Elementz is creating a movement of bringing substance and rhymes back to music. His far from freshman E.P. Open Bar debuts the passionate story 16 LEVEL-UPMAGAZINE.COM VOL 2 ISS.5 2012

telling of true hip-hop. While his music survived its fall, he still manages to sound original, yet modern. Having roots in Chicago and California, Elementz used his knowledge of rhyming and the music scene, and meshed the sounds/styles of both influences together. One of the first projects, Crook’s for Castles emcee contest, hosted by J.U.S.T.I.C.E League featured single, “Hitman,” and proved to be one of the best tracks submitted. It was Elementz’s way of speaking to all the {bs} music/rap out there. “Chicago has a lot of dope artists man. I'm just going to do my best to make sure that I make great music and inspire others to never let go of their dreams.” - Elementz Emcee {2011} @elementzemcee

//you can say a million things in one line, so the importance of having substance to your music shows that it lives on.....”


lutch: A Classic Emcee.

Refusing to lead a cookie cutter life that his parents wanted him to follow, Chicago native and dedicated hip-hop head, Clutch is finally coming from outta the shadows of an indie industry drowing in “cracker jack rap.” Getting energy from Chicago’s, legendary pulse, he’s blunt about why Chicago artists are not as successful as others. “If you sound like Gucci and you sound like Flaka, 9 times outta ten, you don’t stay on the low end, or you don’t stay in Bronsville Chicago. Maybe you should move to where that’s poppin’ but I think you should just stay true to yourself Chicago - I’m talkin to yall.” Recognized and endorsed by music/art inspired t-shirt line Urban Knowledge Tees, Clutch is a top defender for hip-hop. His reminiscent memory of 90’s groups; A Tribe Called Quest, WuTang Clan, & DeLaSol has inspired him to bring back that same feel but with a hint of 2012 Chicago style. His ambitions to maintain a strong stance in the industry and not just be hot for “one summer’ has lead him to foucs on lyrical content and promotion. Having released two mixtapes; Blue Collar Product, and Fire for Hire; his rhymes are refreshingly different from the average trend. It’s about time we create a good music conglomerate around here. Scan QR code for Clutch’s interview + live performance on the roof top! @Mrclutch411 LEVEL-UPMAGAZINE.COM VOL 2 ISS.5 2012 17


Joshua M Smith

I t’s T-Tops, Camaro’s, Chevy’s, Capri Suns, & Jordans; any throwback 80-90’s baby dream. The Chi has blown in the best from St. Louis; a small town in the Midwest, a handful of hours away that continues to create a bilateral connection with the Chicago art and music scene. Clad in classic kicks and Hello Tomorrow tees, the Dream Team has combined their artistic era-centric talents to create an impressionable brand that doesn’t fit into just one genre. Listening to their freshman 20+ classic track mix tape Barcelona 92, reminded me of 2012 music from the real lives of college kids, sneaker junkies, and heartbreakers. Their ambition to remain outside the box is basically keeping it real while remaining genuine in how they depict their dreams and reality. With tracks like “Jordans” & “Red Rooms,” their generation conscious flow will keep 80’s babies and milleniums bobbin’ their heads. Their sound is familiar but like nothing you’ve ever heard before. A refreshing mix of old and new school, the emcee trio, Brock, Mike, & Keith each have a unique delivery. Hello Tomorrow; the Dream Team’s fly t-shirt line depicts the creativity and flavor of all five members. The 90’s baby explosion of expression using fresh, young colors and handmade designs, is filled with quirky imagery, historical messages, and cool kid humor that we can all connect with in some way. See here 18 LEVEL-UPMAGAZINE.COM VOL 2 ISS.5 2012

@SealszyDTOE @lildevin_dtoe @ogdtoe @fellsdtoe @mikeydtoe


From St. Louis to Chicago, artists J-Realestate & MD Nite now know the art of CTA train hopping, especially since their last visit to the Chi for one of the most candid interviews we’ve had this year. Acknowledging that St. Louis has a breaking point in support and promotion of underground artists, both J Real and MD revealed their recent creation; 4th Cooooooooast! It’s the newest indie record label to appear among the ranks in St. Louis and is dedicated to not just St. Louis, but to the whole indie music movement. J Real’s passion for networking and seeing success in the Midwest encouraged him and his guy MD Nite with the idea to push the 4th Coast Movement. “Our city really don’t have a voice in hip-hop. You got your east coast, west coast, and down south, you hear nothing about all the cities in the midwest.” “We wanna show love to you know, Chi town cause Chi Town is a big hip-hop city. We got substance, we got music, we got lyrics for days, everything you need.” The duo has been grinding without record deals in St. Louis for a few years and are motivated to continue to make “good music” for our generation. While in the lab this summer, both J Real and MD have whipped up some creative forms of expression. J Real’s The Mixtape before the Mixtape is a sneak peak of his talent in the lab before he “hit’s you in the face with the mixtape.” His single “Ike Turner” is a crazy mix of metaphors and what-you-wouldn’t-expect humor. MD, founder of blog hip-hop you don’t stop uses his singing skills, humor, and relationship experience to create Scholarship Volume 1, including single “Dollar Bill,” a tribute to Bernie Mack. Get ready for the movement! Scan the QR code to see them in action.@J_REALESTATE @scholarhustler LEVEL-UPMAGAZINE.COM VOL 2 ISS.5 2012



He caught the ears of 50 Cent, DJ White Owl, & D12, all while grinding as an indie artist amongst the thousands in Chicago. Using his beat battle skills, and “born and raised in Chicago” clout, he maneuvered his way across the Midwest all the way to New York where he crushed his opponents in 50 Cent’s This is 50 Smack Battle. From Hollow Da Don, to Hitman Holla, & Deacon Frost, his endurance in the ring has placed him against some of the top veterans in beat battling. His delivery and slang are direct attributes from Chicago’s underground scene, what he considers an un-tapped market that outsiders rarely get to experience. They call him Big T and he's one of Chicago's dopest Smack beat battle champions and indie artists. Representing Chicago and the Midwest, T’s gritty this-is-what-I’ve-seen attitude has gained him millions of You Tube views and album downloads. His emceeing style directly reflects his experiences growing up as a child in the hoods of Chicago. I remember the first time I saw his video – “Winter,” I was blown away by how Big T depicted the South Side and the coldness of the city in the dead of the winter. His brutal honestly and rugged rhyming is strictly Chicago style, yet versatile all around. Signed by indie label Quiet Money, he’s been on the road performing and consistently branding for the past few years. His mixtapes The Appetizer & Full Course are just the beginning in the Big T / Quiet Money saga. Recently rippin’ the Wayne “Be Back Soon” track and lacing it with Chi town flavor, Big T will remain a force to be reckoned with in the industry. LEVEL-UPMAGAZINE.COM VOL 2 ISS.5 2012 20


might get back in that ring too you know.

I love battling, I get itches after a while.

Elizabeth Kindig Photography LEVEL-UPMAGAZINE.COM VOL 2 ISS.5 2012

LEVEL-UP! MAGAZINE: I found out that you used to battle rap in The Basement at Ford City. How did that start? BIG T: That was like my first start though….The Basement. I was beatin people

in high school but I was like “let me see if I can test my talent and go against other people in Chicago.” That was the first venue to battle people in Chicago in front of a crowd. Really, that got me able to battle on stage wit hundreds of people cause we was in the mall at Ford City. Back then it was off the top rhymes so it was different then, you know what I’m sayin? The game switched up but you gotta change with the game if you wanna stay in it. The Appetizer and Full Course- are gritty Chicago style albums. What was the motivation for making tracks like “My City” and “Winter?” BIG T: The motivation for “Winter” basically was describing growing up in Chicago, of knowing things, you know, this is where I been my whole life so it showed the process of looking at it from a young boy, runnin’ around the streets to understanding’ it as a grown man. You know, just letting people know the insights of what really goes on around here. As far as “My City,” it’s basically kinda like the same song. It just basically hit on different things in Chicago. I travel a lot when I do my battling and performing. It’s just letting people know what’s going on in Chicago. It’s an untapped market that I don’t feel has been open yet. I explain stories and people look at me like “oh word?” You know, it’s a lingo- it’s a whole culture that only people from Chicago understand. Are Chicago emcees underestimated in other cities? BIG T: On the battling side yeah because they {New York emcees} was like “they didn’t know nobody battled from Chicago” but battling been going on in Chicago for a while. You know what I’m sayin? So I came out there, then they saw me, and they looked at me like “oh.” For me to come in there, they labeled me as one of the most lyrical, wordplay, and they thinking like all that come from Chicago? They thought Chicago was just Twista, fast rappin’ so it was a little opening the gate for that. Once I opened my mouth and just did my thing, they loved me out there. Getting on a little sensitive subject, I wanted to know, how have you changed as a person since the shooting last year? BIG T: Hmm… the shooting… How did I change as a person? I think I got more focused, I got more grounded. One of my boys told me, {Icon Lyric} if I would’ve died that day, that would’ve been the end. My legacy would’ve stopped that day. You never know, so I go hard in the game. This time I try to make my legacy the best, stronger than it was. And you brought the mixtape out on the anniversary of that day. BIG T:I wanted that day to be memorable of something I accomplished. I been shot - a lot of people been shot, it ‘aint too much of an accomplishment. Fighting through it is the accomplishment. Being here by the grace of GOD is the accomplishment. But ya know, I wanted to make the day a memorable day, the day the world heard Big T’s new mixtape. I just don’t want it to be remembered as the day I was almost killed you know what I’m saying? @BIGTQMB

Elizabeth Kindig Photography LEVEL-UPMAGAZINE.COM VOL 2 ISS.5 2012

ADNARAMFemme PRODUCTIONS Scarves, and beads, and lace, oh my! Live from her front room/ studio, “it” girl Maranda Yameen is more than just a designer; her brand represents a college student who simply wants to look fabulously chic everyday, no matter the weather or task. Not only can you tote your Biology book and look fabulous, throwing on one of her tops with some accessories and a scarf will brighten up any cold windy day in Chicago. Her super versatile, colorful line ADNARAM Femme PRODUCTIONS is focused on taking tops to the next level. Meticulously focusing on texture, design, and color, the “fabulosity” factor for her brand appeals to skinny and curvy chicks across the board. She has such an inbred gift of transforming a top into a super cozy and feminine focal point. Using printed jackets, unique accessories, & adorable heels, her closet will bring back memories of playing dress up in your vintage granny’s closet.

Elizabeth Kindig Photography 24



ALBUM REVIEWS I am always blown away by indie music. The underground scene is amazingly talented, will always be around, and most definitely deserves a lens or two to view the true talents that are being created. This section is dedicated to all the indie artists who for some particular reason, stood out to me, caught my attention, or just deserved to be recognized. This section is for all of you indie music consumers out there who need an honest opinion of a fellow indie music lover’s thoughts and experience with the music. Let’s dominate 2012 indie lovers!

Disco Poetry - The Rockstar Poetry Project  ★★★★ Why did the chicken cross the road you ask? To get to a discopoetry concert! The funktastic, brain energizing music of Khari B and Discopoetry is here. It’s funk, it’s soul, it’s spoken word, it’s sprinkled with bad ass guitar riffs and mixed with spirituality & history; it’s just something you have to hear on your own to appreciate. Educationally charged with underlying messages in every song, The Rockstar Poetry Project takes spoken word to another level. Eloquent poet/ emcee/musician Khari B’s 60’s beat poetry slam style demands your attention, not to mention his sensi “esque” mohawk and outfit. “Weeds” and “Being Me is the S***!!” are full of cool cat hip rock that will inspire you to look within and enjoy the beautiful frequencies of live, jazzy, funky poetry all while being you. It is the shit after all. @Discopoet

Arlum- Breathing and Believing


In 2001, the brainchild for Arlum’s  first album was in the beginning stages and being composed by front man/songwriter Michael Eliopoulos. Two years later, the hopes for the project to manifest itself became a reality and Arlum, the four group band was born. Breaking the barriers of what alternative music has become, Breathing and Believing has to be one of the most solid rock albums I’ve heard in a while. The laid back, chill tunes of Arlum are so reminiscent of 90’s alternative rock that you might be taken back to your Q-101 days. A mix between Matchbox 20, Third Eye Blind, & Semi Sonic, Arlum has effortlessly created tracks that are age proof, and replay worthy. Tracks like “Front” and “Systems Ahead” have a genuine touch of alternative music with a storyline. Alterna rock junkies are in for a treat. @Arlum

BFM- Cadillac Brougham Joints


“This is for the block, this is for the slums, this is hip-hop, this is one love.” Roll up a “j” and buckle up for a ride through the Chi. From Austin to Lake Shore Drive, straight to the wild wild, Babyface Monster debuts his classic collection Cadillac Brougham Joints. Highly anticipated and buzzing on internet blogs, BFM  brings back that grown people vibe to music. His combination of soul, R&B, and hip-hop makes for a well organized E.P. that doesn’t falter one bit. With that smooth 70’s movie vibe to it, each track speaks from the eyes and heart of BFM’s life and history. From seeing his best friend shot to having a cousin incarcerated, “Be Free” is an intimate look into his mind’s eye. Keeping it 100 about what goes on in his hood, the E.P. is soon to join the ranks of Kanye’s “Through the Wire.” Yes, the music is that solid. @babyfacemonster


ALBUM REVIEWS Na Palm- Late At Night ★★★★★ He’s had over 3,000 Chicagoans bounce to the beat of his tracks and kills live concerts like the pros. Na Palms sophomore and highly anticipated album Late Night is full of booty shakin' electronica beats that will keep the club or house party bumpin' for hours. Sounding like your favorite rapper, Na Palm attacks each trance like track with confidence and has put an official stamp on Electronica/ HipHop for Chicago. Moving to the Chi at the age of 23, the Chicago house scene awed him and influenced his national worthy sound. Na Palm creates a cult-like following through his 808 tracks and humble involvement with fans. Rocking Tricostal, his own inspired tees, the new kid to the industry is moving at light speed compared to other artists who have gone through multiple mixtapes before international recognition. “Go Girl,” the hot club banger featuring Ben One is just one of the hits that proves his super star potential and versatility. Follow one of the biggest ragers in Chicago. @NaPalmLive

James Líon- Concrete Jungle ★★★★★ He’s the lion from the concrete jungle and is so different from ‘yall, just listen. Singer, songwriter, and producer James Líon’s touting confidence is sure to set a trend in indie music. Signed under New Dimension Management, his music is taking direction in St. Louis and on social media. Freshman album Concrete Jungle squashes all the haters hopes for him to be a failure. His music is bobyour-head worthy original, and lyrically diverse. Following his own trend, James Lion brings substance and consciously stimulating music to the ears of all who want to hear. “So Different” demands attention with it’s catchy reggae feel and lyrical superiority. Track “BBMF” is literally a middle finger to the so-called friends and non supporters in his circle; a subject that many indie artists have discussed but Líon seems to express it in such a way that it seems new. Having a variety of moods, Day Job is filled with covers, like “Lions Den” the oh-so-popular Drake Cover (Marvin’s Room). Treating music like a full time job, James (the lion) Líon is holding down his territory to the fullest. @thejameslion

MOVIE WATCH Shots Fired - Writer & Director Jay Davis @Jdavistp

Shots Fired is an action/comedy about two totally opposite detectives, who are forced to become partners and work the biggest case of their careers. Kevin Payne, an overly aggressive, burned out, thrill-seeker, has cost the city millions in damages as a result of his heroics. Marcus Banks, a weed-smoking, self-hating alcoholic who not only has gotten his captain / uncle reprimanded on several occasions, but his fellow officers shot while on duty. Both of these men have different values and agendas, but they have to somehow coincide in order to solve the murder of world renowned scientist John Mangenelli Sr. Shots Fired is a non-stop action/ comedy that will leave people at the edge of their seats. LEVEL-UPMAGAZINE.COM VOL 2 ISS.5 2012 27


he portal opens and out struts five amazingly fashionable and sassy creatures. Their mission, to retake fashion, pose by effortless pose in the light and darkness of the city. Yell Designs is an avant garde fashion line that was crazy enough to dress these beings and I must say, they rocked it! The backdrop deemed necessary for the earthy, flashy, and curve hugging hand made garments that you will see on these models. Nature’s season turned frigid and windy, yet the super beings were so involved in the flashing lights of the camera, they didn’t notice the bone chilling wind blowing all around them. We present to you, one of the most interesting fashion lines we’ve seen. Designer: Danyell Hopson

Elizabeth Kindig Photography Makeup by: Megan Okuesa using MAC Cosmetics/ NARS M N Artistry by Theresa Jones & Bei Smith



Elizabeth Kindig Photography














B ubbly and full of personality, artist & designer Marissa Kendrick of Deleay Lashay should be on everyone’s watch list. Wanting to share her motivation with the world, Deleay Lashay has started a trend in fashion that many handmade markets often tried to imitate and are definitely not successful at duplicating. Her creative combination of design and style has manifested one of the most talked about independently owned jewelry lines to date. Designs have been seen on Keri Hilson, ANTM contestants, and women everywhere since their 2010 debut. Her most recent catalog features three fail proof lines that are extremely versatile. Bossy/Essence/ & Conversation Piece are three very unique experiments with style, edge, & boldness. While each piece has a theme and story behind it, Conversation Piece is by far poet inspiring as it depicts positive written messages on the actual earring. All handmade, handcrafted, and hand painted, each piece has that unique touch that retail lacks. Using “pop art prints and retro shapes,” the line is super lightweight, colorful, and sassy. One of the most amazing elements of the jewelry is the weightlessness and versatility. The pieces go from day to evening in a flash. Girls and women alike are flocking to the style. This past summer, 2011, Marissa’s desire to inspire teens landed her creative control of her own summer camp where she taught high school aged girls the elements of “Bossy,” “Essence,” and “Conversation Piece.” As she reflected on the impact the three-day camp had on her and the girls’ perception of themselves, it inspired her to continue being the bossy and successful business woman she is motivated to be.

Elizabeth Kindig Photography

“Everything I want, I will receive because I’m a conversation piece.” LEVEL-UPMAGAZINE.COM VOL 2 ISS.5 2012 37

Use Your Smart Phone! QR Board Game Missions - Scan in the fun By LeveL-Up! Magazine

Use your Android for more than just chatting and taking drunken club pictures! Take the challenge. Scan the QR codes to unlock a special mission and post your results to our Facebook page.


5 twitter/levelupmagazine


LEVEL-UP! MAGAZINE Where underground is mainstream



LEVEL-UP! MAGAZINE Where underground is mainstream




LeveL-Up! Magazine Issue 5