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Chance the Rapper's four new tracks raise the curtain on an increasingly unfiltered life

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Chance the Rapper rolled out four new singles late Wednesday, and they’re not just place-holders for a long-in-the-making new studio album.

The tracks work together as Chance prepares to headline the Special Olympics 50th concert Saturday at Northerly Island. They provide a snapshot of the artist and his relationship with Chicago, his family and those who have ticked him off.

“I Might Need Security,” a track loosely inspired by a 2002 stand-up comedy special of the same name starring Jamie Foxx, is not so much a song as a rant, a musical platform for what sounds like some deeply pent-up anger about, well, you name it. Over an explicit refrain, the rapper lashes out at certain media publications, social-media trolls and high-profile politicians with escalating intensity. Chance names names. He calls out Crain’s because “they tried leaking my addy.” He blasts the Chicago Sun-Times because it called him a “deadbeat daddy” amid his child support court proceedings last year. He slams Mayor Rahm Emanuel for giving “paid vacations to murderers,” in reference to the way the city has handled police shootings of young African-Americans.

“And Rahm you done, I’m expectin’ resignation,” raps Chance, whose father was once one of Emanuel’s advisers.

And, in case that isn’t enough to pack into a couple of verses, Chance also casually mentions that he’s buying the local news website Chicagoist from public radio conglomerate WNYC. His goal, he raps, is framed as a kind of retribution: “I bought the Chicagoist just to run you racist b—— out of business.”

The track also delivers another chilling warning: “The bad guys better stay on my good side.” For much of the song, cuddly Chance is nowhere to be found. In his place is a more threatening Chance than ever in a still-blossoming career notable for its musical inclusiveness and do-gooder civic deeds.

In its raw immediacy, the track echoes some of Kanye West’s recent work on his hastily released “Ye” album a few weeks ago. Chance recently told the Tribune that he and West would soon begin working on a new album together in Chicago.

The tone of the other three singles is less inflammatory but just as Chicago-centric as the caustic “I Might Need Security.”

“65th and Ingleside” focuses on the South Side neighborhood where Chance and his fiancee, Kirsten Corley, used to hang out, and traces their evolution as a couple. The organ intro suggests the prelude to a church wedding. Chance’s vocals take on an open-hearted glow, with a slight hint of a Caribbean patois, as if channeling one of Bob Marley’s love songs. Biblical scripture underlines the testifying in the refrain: “Made a way out of no way.”

“Work Out” is a companion piece of sorts, focusing on the narrator’s determination to remain faithful to his love. String bass and organ underline the track’s delicate, dreamy tone. “I don’t want my next album sounding all Usher-y,” Chance raps, a reference to R&B star Usher and his tales of two-timing his lover on some of his early music.

The most buoyant track, “Wala Cam,” shouts out to the Chicago online platform Wala Cam TV for rising rappers, singers and dancers. It’s a late-night party track, which sounds like it was much-needed given the heavyweight topics addressed in the rest of Chance’s Thursday musical outpouring.

Whether these tracks will be part of Chance’s next album isn’t clear. What is apparent is that he continues to address his life in increasingly unfiltered fashion. His transparency is one of the greatest strengths of his music, even as it no doubt will continue to bring increased scrutiny to his every move not only inside but outside the recording studio.

These tracks aren’t just designed to keep the Chance the Rapper “brand” active. They’re designed to shake things up. If you believed that GQ headline from a couple of years ago, “How Chance the Rapper’s Life Became Perfect,” The rapper’s “I Might Need Security” takes all of four minutes to undermine it.

Greg Kot is a Tribune critic.


Twitter @gregkot

MORE COVERAGE: Chance the Rapper interview: Special Olympics headliner has new music on the way »

Chance the Rapper announces purchase of Chicagoist website on newly released song »

Chance the Rapper will not be releasing new music this week »

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'Victims of Duty' review: Michael Shannon is the smiling Detective in an absurdist trap at Red Orchid

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Michael Shannon, his acerbic biography in the program at A Red Orchid Theatre informs, is soon to be enshrined in wax at Madame Tussauds near Times Square. A lifetime achievement, for sure, but one that pales in comparison to causing a box-office stampede in Chicago for an obscure, absurdist pseudo-drama by Eugene Ionesco.

I remember the last time Shannon did “Victims of Duty” at A Red Orchid. That was 1995.

The production back then involved water, as it does now. There were puddles on empty seats.

On Tuesday night, though, director Shira Piven’s staging had to be careful not to splash the bodies crammed into every corner of the little backroom theater (one body, a theatrical neophyte, betcha, decided to squeeze out an exit just a few minutes in, nearly toppling actor Guy Van Swearingen from his ledge). Most folks, though, seemed happy to be in the door and communing with celebrity, unlike the poor souls in the standby line, forced instead to spend their evening snaking through a very unabsurdist bar called The Vig, which, a banner outside suggested, was filled with partying celebrants from the MassMutual insurance and financial services company.

Ah yes, insurance and financial services. Topics dear to the heart of Ionesco.

I only jest in part. Like his fellow mid-century cynics, Ionesco saw no way to redeem any policy that would rationalize the bizarre human experience and, in this rarely seen 1952 play about a menacing detective who arrives unannounced at the home of a middle-age and thus inevitably complacent couple, he expanded that message to make a formative theatrical critique.

Why bother with conventional plots and solved mysteries, the very meta “Victims of Duty” is saying, when life presents otherwise?

In the piece, the investigating officer (guess who?) asks the couple, played by Van Swearingen and Karen Aldridge, a brilliant conceptual actress, to probe their subconscious memory banks for any spark of substantial reflection. They do not find much. And thus the play is one long metaphor — a revelation of the soporific emptiness of theatrical conventionality and its reliance on a mode of storytelling that merely makes us feel better about the awful.

Which brings me to that which Ionesco could not have anticipated and that serves this show well: The geopolitical mainstreaming of a level of awfulness that makes our previous conceptions of the awful just not awful enough.

His play now functions as a critique of a Trumpian moment when the absurd is mainlined and whiplash a constant state of being.

Mercifully, Piven’s production has some laughs (and Ionesco always needs a giggle or two). Shannon has the requisite intimidation factor, of course; he was born therewith. But his conception of the Detective is far from his Nelson Van Alden on “Boardwalk Empire”: the dirty work of revelation is done with a goofy smile here, and Shannon, an inveterate creature of storefront theater, does not miss his chance to stare pretty much every audience member directly in the eye.

So does Aldridge, a performer who wields power differently, in that it lies in her stunning felicity with contrast, but whose presence here is essential.

Piven is a smart and resonant director who now works often in film, and she here has added little bits of movie, the images flickering against the stark white, suggesting lessons from the years after World War II, maybe, or the intrusion of fact in a world of metaphor.

At times, I thought “Victims of Duty” demurred too much, should have gone further, embraced collage more than was ideal, should have pushed yet more into the squidgy underbelly of a moment in human history gone wild — that is so lacking in any kind of adult in the room as to appear merely fictional. I also left the theater thinking that the physical staging designed by Danila Korogodsky (the lights are by Mike Durst), with its aquatic metaphor, probably was better suited to 1995 than today.

At one point, Aldridge’s character lays out coffee cups in a row on the stage. It’s Ionesco’s critique of consumerism and it suddenly hit me that the one thing I had talked about more this week than Putin was Prime Day.

One hundred million products bought, folks. Look for the white vans on your street.

Ionesco knew the perils of fascism. He’d lived them firsthand. And his cri de coeur (with laughs) really no longer needs any embellishment. So “Victims of Duty” (and aren’t we all?) works best when its actors, be they the core players or late-in-show arrivals Mierka Gierten and Richard Cotovsky, stare out at an audience, many drawn by Shannon into an Ionesco trap where forced revelation exposes only human emptiness and insecurity, and will them to better see themselves.

Assuming they can get a ticket.

Chris Jones is a Tribune critic.


Review: “Victims of Duty” (3 stars)

When: Through Aug. 5

Where: A Red Orchid Theatre, 1531 N. Wells St.

Running time: 1 hour, 30 minutes

Tickets: $50 at 312-943-8722 or www.aredorchidtheatre.org

Michael Shannon returns to the role he played in 1995 for Red Orchid’s 25th season »

Read all of the Tribune’s recent reviews of Chicago theater »

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My worst moment: 'Queen Sugar' star Bianca Lawson and a messy wardrobe malfunction

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“Queen Sugar” star Bianca Lawson started her acting career early, landing roles as as teen in ’90s shows such as “Saved by the Bell: The New Class,” “Sister, Sister” and “Dawson’s Creek.” She was acting in commercials when she was even younger.

Having worked on sets since she was 9, does that experience come in handy on the OWN series, since she shares many of her “Queen Sugar” scenes with child actor Ethan Hutchison, who plays her young son?

“You know, I never felt like a child actor, I just felt like an actor,” Lawson said. “I never felt like anyone treated me differently. People weren’t handling me with kid gloves; the adults on the set treated me like I was a peer. So I approach Ethan the same way. He’s a thespian and he’s doing his work. He’s very into the character and the moments of the scene and the great thing about him is that we can improvise. These characters are so alive for him that he can go with you anywhere. So I’m not like, ‘OK, you’re a little kid!’ It’s more like, you’re here to work. Let’s do it!”

A few years ago Lawson became related to Beyonce through marriage — her father, actor Richard Lawson, married Tina Knowles in 2015 — so when a project like “Everything is Love” comes out, is it a surprise? Or does she get any inklings or hints ahead of time?

“Ummmm, I will say certain things I knew about and — it’s, uh, there’s always projects in the mix. There’s always things going on. So certain things I’ve known about and certain things I’m like, ‘Oh wow, this is amazing!’ So, you know — I’ve answered your question without answering it!” she laughed.

“But really for me it’s wonderful to be in a tribe of people who are always creating at a high level.”

Sometimes though, things don’t work out as planned. When asked to recall her worst moment for this column, it was an audition for an HBO series that came to mind.

My worst moment …

“There was this wonderful, wonderful part on ‘Westworld’ and I just love the subject matter, of AI and the difference between humans and a robots. I was super excited about auditioning for it. It was very hush-hush when I went in for it and they didn’t tell me which part it was for and I wasn’t sure specifically who she was going to be, but I believe it was one of the prostitutes. I was so excited about it and I wanted every element to be perfect.

“This particular character, I felt she needed — this is so funny, so ridiculous — there’s this bra, I don’t know if you remember them, I got it years ago at Frederick’s of Hollywood and the padding inside is a gel. It’s like a water bra, but it’s not water; I don’t even know what’s inside that padding. I really wanted the look to be so specific. It was a seductive scene and I felt like it would make me feel a different way in my body and I would move a different way in my body if I wore this bra. So I was very specific about the look and the dress and having this hourglass shape a little bit.

“So right as I’m about to go in for the audition I notice there was this one little spot on my dress and I was like, ‘Oh no, did I drop water on here?’ Anyway I go in. And I’m doing the scene. And I’m starting to notice that my hands feel oily and my dress was sticking to me. And what happened was, the bra had burst somehow! It was a thick gooey oil and I was covered in it, because while I was doing the scene, I guess I had been touching my body and my face and my hair. So I looked liked ‘Carrie’ — but not blood, it was just this oil. Like someone had thrown oil on me! I was co-vered. This is all happening while I’m doing this audition! The dress was a delicate chiffon, it was a vintage dress, and it was stuck to my body and dripping. Oh my God.

“I was really embarrassed. But I was also like, just do the best you can. Ignore it. It is what it is.”

Did anyone in the room saying anything?

“Luckily, they stayed present in the scene with me. But I was horrified! They weren’t going to say anything about it, but I was like, ‘What is this? Why am I covered in this?’ And then one of the assistants was like, ‘I’ve never seen, even heard of one of those bras breaking,’ and I was like, ‘Me neither!’ Everyone was so lovely about it — ‘Oh, these things happen’ — but I was like, whoever is going to be watching this audition tape is going to be like, ‘What’s wrong with her? What is she covered in? What is that?’

“It all started with that one little spot. I was drenched. I’m trying to think if it was coming from one side or both — like, if I was lopsided at that point. Possibly. It was a nightmare! A disaster. I looked so crazy. I went into the bathroom afterward and I must have used an entire roll of paper towels in there trying to clean up. And it wouldn’t stop! I had to wear it home because I had nothing else to put on, so the whole drive home I was sitting in this pool of oil gel and hoping it’s non-toxic.

“The irony is that I was worried about this one little spot. If I only knew what it was going to become! If nothing else, I got a good story out of it. I’ve never even heard of one of those things bursting before. What are the chances?”

The takeaway …

“You can’t control things. (Stuff) happens! I wanted every single element to be perfect and (laughs)

“If you allow yourself to get distracted and throw in the towel, you’d never get anything done. And that’s part of the discipline of the work.

“And when you’re auditioning, the look doesn’t really matter. The essence of the character has to come through. It’s interesting because sometimes I don’t really fuss that much about the look. But for this one, I wanted to create the illusion of a different kind of woman than how you would normally perceive me. I want to create this visual transformation.

“But I approach every character differently. With Darla on ‘Queen Sugar,’ the note for the audition was actually the complete opposite of what I did. They wanted her to be very put together. All the other actresses there were dressed up and they looked really stunning and stylish and this and that.

“But I don’t know, there was something about her that was very raw to me and I wanted to go in and be incredibly simple and completely unadorned and clean. I loved the idea of her being so exposed and not hiding behind makeup and hair. So I was in just some old jean shorts and a tank top, no makeup, my hair just in a messy bun. That made me feel more connected to the Darla that was on the page for me. So for that, it wasn’t like, ‘OK, I want to do exactly what they are looking for’ — I wasn’t attached to getting the role or figuring out what they wanted. I just wanted to have the experience of my version of her. Just for myself. I loved this character so I went in and did the version of Darla that I would love to play — how she jumped off the page for me.

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Chance the Rapper interview: Special Olympics headliner has new music on the way

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It’ll be a busy week for Chance the Rapper. He’s finishing up the follow-up album to his Grammy-winning 2016 release “Coloring Book,” which he says will be out in a few days. He’s preparing to begin work on another album with Kanye West this month in Chicago. And he’s producing and headlining a major multiact charity event, the Special Olympics 50th Anniversary concert Saturday at Northerly Island.

The rapper, born Chancellor Bennett 25 years ago in Chicago, has turned his career into a series of intersecting artistic and civic projects, a tradition that has been part of the city’s musical fabric for decades. The Staple Singers marched with Martin Luther King Jr., Curtis Mayfield wrote anthems that became the soundtrack of the civil rights movement, Common has formed a foundation for underprivileged youths alongside his musical and acting careers, and Jamila Woods is an educator and executive at Young Chicago Authors besides being an acclaimed poet, performer and songwriter.

“I look up to Mavis Staples and Common, and especially Curtis Mayfield in terms of my life, in the way he talked about revolution,” Chance says. “It’s part of my family — my own great-grandmother marched with King. As a family we felt like we were supposed to be part of the community. My dad made me read about Jesus as a kid. The way I was raised and the way I understand the world, you have an impact being alive and being around people, and an obligation to make it as beneficial as possible to everyone around you.”

His alignment with certain civic causes often has a personal connection: donating $1 million to Chicago schools (he was a Chicago Public Schools student), sponsoring regular open-mic events for teen artists at the Chicago Cultural Center (where he developed his craft as a teenager), leading a march of fans at one of his concerts to an early voting site during the last presidential election (his father has been an adviser to two Chicago mayors and President Barack Obama).

His commitment to Special Olympics is no different.

“I haven’t done as much work as possible with the intellectual and physical disabilities community,” he says. “But overall we’ve been about access, just trying to make sure everyone is given their chance at greatness. And greatness isn’t something segregated. When I looked into the history of the Special Olympics, that it started here 50 years ago and how many (Special Olympics) athletes we have in Chicago — 7,000 — I felt we should be a part of it.”

The idea merged with the launch of his own production company, Social Function Production, with his concert lighting designer, Michael Apostolos, who was still attending St. Patrick High School when he first started working with the then-relatively unknown rapper a few years ago. It’s the latest facet to a growing, self-contained operation that has made Chance one of the most successful independent artists in the digital era.

It enables him to book shows and write and record music on his own timetable rather than working for a multinational corporation. At the same time, he’s not averse to striking one-off deals with companies if they can help him achieve certain goals. In 2016 he gave Apple Music exclusive rights to distribute “Coloring Book” for two weeks in exchange for $500,000 and a promotional TV commercial. Chance would say only that his new album will be out this week, not how it would be made available. He prefers to keep his options open.

“I’ve never been against selling music,” he says. “Music has value. I put my music out there for free because I wanted people to see and notice it as a beacon for what I’m doing, in terms of how unorthodox I wanted my approach and my delivery of each piece of music to be. On the other side, it’s not really difficult for me to make music and deliver it to the fans, because there are so many more platforms now, a bunch of streaming sites. The bigger concern for artists now is navigating the legal issues of owning your music, your publishing, your distribution. It has been difficult for me to release music with artists who work with the majors. A lot of stuff I’ve worked on hasn’t come out since ‘Coloring Book’ because it’s hard” when collaborating with artists limited by record deals.

The musical drought may be ending, though. “I got that feeling when people do something that has a new feel to it,” he says of his new album. “I’m excited for everybody to get that. It’s going to come out just in time for the Special Olympics.”

His long-discussed collaboration with West may also be closer to reality, he says. They “casually” worked on two songs a few weeks ago while Chance visited West in Jackson Hole, Wyo., where West was completing a series of albums for himself and artists such as Pusha T and Kid Cudi.

“We’re up in the mountains around these wild animals — it’s very different out there — and we got some music done, and then he asked me if he could do an album with me,” Chance says. “I don’t know of a timeline on it yet, the trajectory of it, but he’s coming here to work on it some more. We’ve just started making it, but I don’t want to manipulate the situation and impose any time frame, because that can hinder you.”

At the time of their Wyoming collaboration, West was feeling the backlash from fans about comments he made in support of President Donald Trump. Chance, though not a Trump supporter, defended West when he wrote on Twitter that “black people don’t have to be Democrats.”

“I think what Kanye has done successfully is speak his mind unapologetically, come under fire for it and bounce back in an awesome way,” Chance says. “That is his dance that he has been doing forever. We had a little conversation about it and we don’t have the same politics, we’re not the same dude, we might disagree. I know the same thing goes for all black people — we’re not monolithic. Because of our disenfranchisement in this country it’s perceived that we have to serve one party, one movement, and that’s just not the way it is.

“I responded the way I did because I was watching people go crazy on someone who is a mentor, a friend, an older brother. Plus, I understand as a Chicago resident about how f—– up all political parties are.”

By speaking out, artists — and especially artists of color — put themselves at risk. And for many young black men in Chicago, every day holds the threat of violent death. One of Chance’s friends, rapper Rodney Kyles Jr., was stabbed to death in 2011. Another friend, Kevin Ambrose, was shot to death while waiting at an “L” stop in 2013, prompting Chance to tweet, “I’m scared I will die in Chicago from gun violence. … We’re not supposed to be dying like this.”

These circumstances led Kendrick Lamar to speak out at his United Center concert in 2017 when he brought Chance on stage. “Forever you must protect Chance,” Lamar said.

“I understood what he was saying,” Chance says. “It’s a reality. I’ve known Kendrick since 2012. He’s been very instrumental in my life and he understands that my place in the industry from an anti-establishment perspective can put me in danger. It’s not like he’s protecting me from a hit, but where I stand with my faith, where I stand on police, equality, it can make me a target.”

Yet Chance says he’s never been in a better place than he is now. A few years ago he acknowledged that he felt like he was in “limbo.” He was still “figuring it out” as a 22-year-old trying to forge a career and build a family after the birth of his daughter, Kensli, with his girlfriend, Kirsten Corley. The couple recently announced their engagement.

“Being a dad changed (my) approach to everything,” he says. “It’s made everything a lot stronger. It’s built on a foundation of marriage, which just closed my family up. I’m more confident in everything I’m doing. I feel I know how the story will end, so I can write it way better, so there is no misunderstanding.”

Chance the Rapper with Usher, Francis & the Lights, Smokey Robinson, Daya, Jason Mraz, O.A.R.; 5:30 p.m. Saturday at Huntington Bank Pavilion at Northerly Island, 1300 S Linn White Drive, sold out; www.livenation.com.

MORE COVERAGE: Chance the Rapper is a man with a plan in a ‘dead industry’ »

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Michael Che at the Vic: 'Uncle Grumpy' gives a blunt, funny toast to Chicago

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In a neon green hoodie, jeans and white tennis shoes, comedian Michael Che, a stand-up comic best known for his “Weekend Update” co-hosting gig on “Saturday Night Live,” took the stage at the Vic just before 11 p.m. for the second of two shows on Saturday night. Holding a red Solo cup in one hand and the mic in the other, he sat on one of two wooden stools placed at center stage and started into a relaxed back-and-forth with his host and opening act DJ Cipha Sounds.

“I’m not a big fan of R. Kelly’s music,” Che deadpanned. After a pause, he added, “I love his movies.”

For those familiar with Che’s skill in dishing out unexpectedly cutting quips or stating (and then defending) unpopular opinions (two talents put on full display in his excellent 2016 Netflix special “Michael Che Matters”), lines like this — thrown out with a straight face followed by just a hint of a mischievous grin — embody the kind of dark humor Che excels at.

Che — who closed out the American leg of his “Uncle Grumpy Tour” in Chicago and is scheduled to co-host the Emmys in September with his “Weekend Update” co-host Colin Jost — approaches his punchlines with a confident bluntness only occasionally softened with a short mid-sentence chuckle that reveals a childlike goofiness hiding behind his sober tone. His deliberately-paced delivery gives weight to his every thought, especially when he’s implying that the audience might not be able to handle him.

“I was gonna say something, but now maybe I shouldn’t,” he said early on, sipping his drink and looking around the room placidly as if deciding whether to move forward or not. Despite this performative wariness, throughout his 70-minute set he seemed delightfully unconcerned with how the audience would react to his more controversial thoughts.

“A lot of people blame the Jews for killing Jesus,” he said, scanning the room carefully. “But I don’t blame the Jews. … I imagine going around telling everyone you were God 2000 years ago would be like going around today … telling everyone that you’re God.”

He seemed to particularly relish the reactions to jokes that got both laughs and uncomfortable titters. “Depression. That’s the most privileged disease you could ever have,” he stated confidently. “Depression implies that your life is good enough that you shouldn’t be sad.”

His nonchalance may be a bit more put on than he implies, though, since like Dave Chappelle and Chris Rock did while on tour, he used Yondr — a phone-locking service — to prevent audience members from accessing their cell phones for the duration of the show. Mentioning this during his set, he joked that the reason he did this was “… because I thought it’d be funny.”

In fact, Che does seem like a performer seeking to entertain himself onstage as much as the audience, intentionally seeking out audience members who interrupted. “We can talk about it,” he said patiently at one point after someone responded verbally to one of his jokes, “This is what I’m paid to do.”

He also spent the last 20 minutes of the night casually drinking Malort with featured opening performer (and native Chicagoan) Correy Bell, declaring, “This is black people drinking Malort!,” before taking his first of three shots of the infamous Chicago liquor.

Though Che was still tossing in stand-up material — including some sketch ideas of his that never made it on “Saturday Night Live” — his banter with Bell became the true highlight of the night. “This has never gone past Roosevelt,” she declared, holding up her cup and pointing at the Malort bottle. “You are not walking into Englewood like, ‘Let me get a fifth of Malort!’”

The two then traded attempts at describing the taste, comparing it to “contact solution,” “hair spritz,” and even “something my grandfather puts on his knee.”

As the show came close to wrapping up, Bell raised her third and final cup of Malort and made a toast to Che. “This is by far the largest live audience I’ve ever performed for,” she gushed. “I’m representing for Chicago — and I’m going to drink turpentine!”

Perhaps it was the Malort, but Che seemed moved, admiringly acknowledging her display of “genuine human emotion,” abruptly thanking the crowd for coming and giving Bell a hug before walking off the stage.

Zach Freeman is a freelance writer.


Twitter @ZachRunsChicago

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Read all of the Tribune’s comedy coverage in Chicago »

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'What's up with that white voice?': The tricky art of linguistic code-switching

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In high school, a friend told En Low that she used a “white girl voice” during a class presentation. The observation took Low, the daughter of Malaysian Chinese immigrants, by surprise – it was the same bubbly voice she used while taking phone orders at her parents’ carryout restaurant in Northern Virginia, and that she would again adopt a few years later while working at a call center for the University of Pennsylvania.

“I had done it since I was really young,” said Low, now 20. “This was just what you were supposed to do.”

Code-switching, or altering the way you speak based on the audience, is a widespread phenomenon among those whose accents and dialects stray from the national standard, long considered in the United States to be the language patterns of the Midwest. A Southerner working as a news anchor in the North might avoid using elongated vowels. A Latina might ditch the Spanglish slang she uses with friends while interacting with white co-workers. After a scolding, an African American child might refrain from speaking in vernacular English at school.

Unconsciously or not, people code-switch to present what they believe (or are told) is a more favorable version of themselves – an instinct often heightened when interactions are conducted over the phone, as is the case in the new movie “Sorry to Bother You.” Boots Riley’s absurdist flick centers on Cassius Green (Lakeith Stanfield), a black telemarketer in Oakland, California, who discovers that the secret to professional success is talking to potential customers in his “white voice,” or one dubbed here by an extra-nasal David Cross. It’s like when you’re pulled over by the police, his wise co-worker Langston (Danny Glover) tells him.

The comment is in line with the movie’s biting satire, which raises a larger question about the telecommunications industry: People already hate getting calls from these strangers, whose jobs rely on coming off as trustworthy while still being persuasive. How does one deal with linguistic bias on top of an already difficult juggling act?

“It’s stressful,” said Lariese Reeves, 45, who works in an auto-financing firm’s customer service department. For whatever reason, customers who call sometimes exhibit a great deal of animosity. She referred to her job as an “adult day care” because she must put up with verbal abuse daily – whether the fault is her department’s or not – and soothe angry customers by using an upbeat tone.

Reeves isn’t entirely sure what “upbeat” means in this context but knows it is a word her bosses consistently use in evaluating her performance. Santander, the finance company, uses a speech analytics software called CallMiner that grades employees based on their diction and word choice. Reeves, a longtime Texas resident with a “country accent,” has a tough time with it. She says the right words, but CallMiner can’t always detect them – meanwhile, her bonus has dropped from about $600 each month to just $92.

“It’s very stressful,” Reeves said, “to have your job on the line for an automated system.”

In a sense, CallMiner is a mechanized version of the linguistic profiling that sociolinguist and current Washington University in St. Louis professor John Baugh studied after he experienced discrimination during a housing search in the late 1980s. He found that Bay Area landlords who invited him over the phone to view apartments would often express surprise that he is black when he arrived: “Oh, there must be some mistake,” they would say.

So Baugh conducted an experiment in which he made calls to the same landlords using African American, Mexican American and “standard American” dialects. The results, published in 1999, found a significant difference in the number of appointments granted to the “callers” with minority dialects and confirmed that racism can extend to phone conversations.

This concept also plays a part in another summer movie: Spike Lee’s upcoming dramedy “BlacKkKlansman,” set in the early 1970s. Ron Stallworth (John David Washington) is the first black detective to serve in the Colorado Springs Police Department and, determined to prove himself, leads a sting operation against the Ku Klux Klan. He puts the theory behind Baugh’s experiment to an extreme test by “joining” the KKK over the phone, posing as a white man while speaking to local chapter leader Walter Breachway (Ryan Eggold) and even David Duke (Topher Grace) using “King’s English.”

Stallworth can instantly switch between dialects, something many people of color might find familiar. Shereen Marisol Meraji grew up in Sacramento with an Iranian father and Puerto Rican mother, whose family they lived near. Meraji, now 40, would speak English to her parents and Spanish to her grandparents – sometimes within a single conversation – which, coupled with hanging out with mostly Latinos in college, contributed to a Spanglish-infused vocabulary.

Meraji began to work as a production assistant at NPR in the early 2000s, which she recently described as a “huge shock to the system” despite her liberal arts education. Her co-workers used the adjective “uber” regularly. They spoke in references to the Economist and the New Yorker. They were overwhelmingly white.

“I need to be able to speak the language these people are speaking in because my ideas are going nowhere,” Meraji thought at the time. “I learned how to code-switch into NPRese.”

She eventually did, and when she landed 2 1/2 minutes of airtime to talk about hip-hop legend Nate Dogg on “All Things Considered,” she was so excited about the segment that she posted it on Facebook. A friend messaged her privately: “I didn’t want to put this on Facebook, but what’s up with that white voice?”

“It really occurred to me that something was going on inside my subconscious mind,” Meraji said. “It’s this deliberate thing NPR people do. They pronounce everything very deliberately, and it’s slower than I would normally talk.”

Meraji now co-hosts the popular podcast “Code Switch.” Though she works in radio and didn’t deal with the irritated recipients of telemarketing calls, her experience would probably resonate with those who mimic higher-ups or call to mind politicians who adopt the vernacular of their audience.

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Deafheaven review: A duel between catharsis and melodrama on 'Ordinary Corrupt Human Love'

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Deafheaven has never fit neatly into any one genre. While adopting some of the sonic signifiers of black metal — ultra-harsh vocals, blistering tempos, progressive arrangements — they also incorporate ballads, acoustic instruments and introspective lyrics. The California quintet is as comfortable submerging itself in cheesy beauty as it is in conjuring mayhem, all in service to the neo-poetic lyrics of singer George Clarke.

That boundary-free approach makes the band’s fourth album, “Ordinary Corrupt Human Love” (Anti), both a divisive and energizing listen. Metal purists may cringe at the vulnerability, but Clarke and the band’s cofounder, guitarist Kerry McCoy, are in the catharsis business.

At times Deafheaven’s embrace of melodrama verges on malpractice. There’s the bright piano melody and the sound of the sea rolling in at the top of “You Without End,” and actress Nadia Kury reading earnestly from a short story. On its way to Broadway the song unfolds into something straight out of a Queen or Boston album, with a guitar solo riding major piano chords into Valhalla, or something. Also misplaced is “Night People,” a goth ballad in which Clarke sings tenderly alongside Chelsea Wolfe, as if auditioning for a slot on an “American Horror Story” soundtrack.

Amid those duds, the album delivers four epic tracks, all excellent and all pushing past the 10-minute mark. The rollercoaster “Honeycomb” piles on the guitars over strafing drums, before bottoming out into an elegiac coda, topped by wordless voices. “Honeycomb” picks up the elegiac thread, a tour de force for guitarists McCoy and Shiv Mehra, culminating in a strangely moving, if lurid closing chant.

The album draws its title from a passage in Graham Greene’s “The End of the Affair,” and like the 1951 novel, many of the characters in Clarke’s songs are seeking closure that never quite arrives. Regret underlines “Worthless Animal” and “Glint,” in which Clarke imagines a world where a lost loved one is “surrounded by your children and children’s children.”

That image is beautifully set up by “Near,” a stripped-down arrangement that turns a couple of lines into a wistful chant, repeating in the distance behind shimmering guitars. There’s nothing overwrought about these five minutes of music, just the raw ache of what might have been.

Ordinary Corrupt Human Love


3 stars (out of 4)


MORE COVERAGE: Greg Kot picks his top albums of 2018 … so far »

‘Bad Witch’ is compelling, if not vintage Nine Inch Nails »

Joni Mitchell, Liz Phair and the musical blueprint for #MeToo »

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Christians surprise Pride parade marchers with signs apologizing for anti-LGBTQ views – CBS News

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Jamilah Salvador was walking in her first ever Pride parade this weekend in the Philippines when she came across something unexpected at the finish. Christians were holding signs apologizing for ways the religion had hurt the LGBTQ community.

The 19-year-old was marching with thousands of others in the annual parade in Marikina City, east of the country’s capital, Manila. The parade came to a close at Marikina Stadium, where Salvador was pleasantly surprised by the Christian group.

“My heart really felt light upon seeing them,” Salvador told CBS News. “I stopped when I saw them and read all of their messages and immediately felt goosebumps all over my body, then my tears started to build up.”

The main banners held by the group listed the ways “Christians harmed the LGBT community,” including statements, such as “I’ve rejected and hurt your family in the name of ‘family values.'” The other individual signs varied with messages like, “God loves you, so do we,” and “I used to be a Bible-banging homophobe Sorry!!”

Salvador said, “people absolutely loved” the group’s display, explaining that many marching in the parade had intense reactions to the messages. The teenager told CBS News that some “started bursting into tears upon seeing the signs. Some hugged and talked to these Christians. Some took photos, like what I did, and others just stood there in awe.”

The photos that Salvador snapped and then posted on Twitter quickly went viral, along with other attendees images.

The group who brought the signs to the parade is from the Church of Freedom in Christ Ministries (FICM), an Evangelical and Pentecostal church in Makati, Philippines, reports BuzzFeed News.

The church’s pastor, Val Paminiani, said that he has been going to Pride parades for around four years as a part of the organization’s “I’m Sorry” campaign.

Paminiani told BuzzFeed News, “We are apologizing for the way Christians have hurt the LGBT community, especially by using the Bible in condemning and judging them.”

The pastor continued that, “I used to believe that God condemns homosexuals, but when I studied the Scriptures, especially the ones that we call ‘clobber Scriptures’ that are being cherry-picked from the Bible to condemn LGBT people, I realized that there’s a lot to discover, including the truth that God is not against anyone. God does not discriminate against people based on gender.”

Paminiani stated that he hopes other Christians will not utilize Scriptures to condemn the LGBT community, because it is keeping people from participating in the church and from Jesus, according to BuzzFeed News.

“We pray that more and more Christians will act, speak, and love the LGBT people like Jesus would,” he said.

If Salvador’s reaction is any indication that the pastor’s campaign is impacting the community some Christians condemn, this church is fulfilling its mission tenfold.

© 2018 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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Arte al Rescate provides relief to victims of Hurricane Maria through art

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On Sept. 20, when Category 5 Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico, Erica Sanchez panicked. In the two weeks before Sanchez heard from her sister Tanya, the panic grew.

Tanya finally called Erica while she and her close friend, Janice Aponte, were buying supplies for their families at Target.Both Sanchez and Aponte have relatives in Puerto Rico, and they wanted to be ready to send emergency supplies if needed.

“I had waited so long just to hear her voice … I felt a wave of relief,” Erica Sanchez says. Aponte and Sanchez rejoiced over the small victory in the checkout line. But they knew other Puerto Ricans weren’t as lucky, and wanted to help more than just their relatives.

It was then, Aponte says, that the women decided to turn their distress into action. The Puerto Rican women from Humboldt Park began an organization that has raised over $18,000 to benefit victims of Hurricane Maria.

At work Aponte and Sanchez would weep at the barrage of graphic news reports from Puerto Rico: gas line fires, displaced people wandering the streets without access to clean water or electricity. Their weeping became so routine that someone from human resources called a meeting with the women to check in on them.

Aponte and Sanchez were disappointed to hear how aid appeared to be “dripping in” from larger organizations such as the Red Cross and the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Sanchez says. “If we just write a check to a larger organization, then that’s the end,” Sanchez says. “You don’t really know where it’s going,” Aponte adds.

An artist-in-residence at Workshop 4200 in Kelvyn Park, Aponte turned to her art for inspiration. She and Sanchez decided to start an art-driven nonprofit organization that could collect donations and provide art-based relief to victims of Hurricane Maria, and Arte al Rescate (“Art to the Rescue” in Spanish) was born.

“We’re trying to rescue Puerto Rico so it only makes sense, right?” Aponte says. “Especially (with) the name being in Spanish, it creates curiosity about our work.”

Their first project, an art show, was in October at Hairpin Arts Center in Logan Square. Aponte put out a call for artists on Facebook and received an outpouring of support. Within two weeks, Arte al Rescate collected more than 100 pieces of artwork from such places as New York, Wisconsin, Texas, Spain and London.

Chicago also showed support. Aponte and Sanchez went door to door around Logan Square and Humboldt Park to businesses, advertising the art show and asking for donations or raffle items, “crying most of the time,” because of how kindly they were received, Aponte says.

Donations fueled the show by helping provide food vendors, a raffle, event staff and a live band. In one night, Aponte and Sanchez raised $17,000. “The only thing we spent money on was paper plates,” says Sanchez. “100 percent of the proceeds went directly to Puerto Rico, which felt incredible.”

This is when the real work began for Arte al Rescate. Using their connections, Aponte and Sanchez identified people on the island whose homes were severely damaged. Arte al Rescate focused its initial efforts on two particularly vulnerable groups: children and the elderly. They used money from the show to send medical supplies to elderly citizens who lived alone. Aponte’s mother, Milagros, and her sister Denise, still in Puerto Rico, scouted families in need.

Aponte and Sanchez’s personal connections to the island as well as their openness are what prompted Mike Vazquez, a building manager at Workshop 4200, to offer his space as Arte al Rescate’s headquarters, he says. “I’ve been disappointed by the lack of transparency a lot of relief organizations display in their work, but Janice and Erica are passionate, and so open about what they do,” says Vazquez, who is of Puerto Rican descent.

Next, Arte al Rescate targeted schools on the island. “We wanted to find ways to give these kids comfort and normalcy through donations and more importantly, give them routine back … they basically had nothing,” says Sanchez.

They partnered with Colegio Mi Primera Ensenanza, a primary school in Puerto Rico where Sanchez’s sister, Tanya, teaches English, to donate school and art supplies. As of December, the school had one functioning toilet and no electricity. So Aponte and Sanchez surprised Tanya’s class with Christmas gifts.

“It’s hard to do well and be happy at school when your family is suffering on a daily basis,” the teacher says. “Their (Arte al Rescate) gesture gave some happiness back to the community.”

Aponte and Sanchez want to sponsor more school missions and supplies for artists who lost work after the hurricane. They especially want to assist families who “can’t prove they own their homes and so can’t get federal support from FEMA, but also families who may have access to their electricity again, but their appliances have burnt out,” Sanchez says.

The women are eager to build more support for their mission, increase donations and prepare for their fall art show at the Green Exchange in Logan Square. “We don’t sleep,” Aponte says.

In one of the program’s most recent missions, Arte al Rescate donated supplies to support an arts program for “at risk” teenagers at Agustin Stahl High School. Aponte said that she wants to highlight not only the physical devastation wrought by the hurricane, but also the impact on victims’ mental health.

“People didn’t get an opportunity to see the devastation firsthand, and if you didn’t really know about it … through family or friends … the desperation of what people were going through is glazed over in the news,” says Sanchez. “But art is a great outlet to cope with the underdiscussed depression and anxiety brought on by the hurricane.”


Twitter @thewordsmithm

MORE COVERAGE: Puerto Rico issues new data on Hurricane Maria deaths »

A new Latin-themed club complex is planned for Humboldt Park »

Reclaimed art steals the spotlight at Loyola University Museum of Art’s summer exhibitions »

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Cleveland Browns Training Camp 2018: DL Preview, Part 1 – Dawgs By Nature

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Our next position to preview leading up to Cleveland Browns training camp is the defensive line. This preview will be broken down into three parts, covering all 15 of the team’s linemen. Part 1 will look at the top 5 defensive ends, Part 2 will look at the top 5 defensive tackles, and Part 3 will look at the rest of the bunch.

NFL: Cleveland Browns at Cincinnati Bengals

Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

1. Myles Garrett – Starting Right Defensive End

Height: 6-4 | Weight: 272 lbs | Age: 22
Experience: 2 years | College: Texas A&M

In the past few years, there are two moments that just zapped my fandom from the ultimate high to the ultimate low in a moment’s notice. The first came just before the start of Day 2 of the NFL Draft in the year we took Johnny Manziel, because that is when we learned that Josh Gordon was being suspended. The other moment came just before the start of Week 1 last year when we learned that Myles Garrett would miss the opener (and more time) with an ankle injury.

Garrett played 11 games as a rookie, finishing with 31 tackles and 7 sacks, including a sack of QB Josh McCown on his first career snap. Here is a quick highlight reel from his first season as a pro:

Despite his shortened season, Garrett delivered the goods according to Pro Football Focus. They had him graded with the most sacks, hits, and hurries among rookies at his position. He had high marks among all 4-3 defensive ends as well. The sky is the limit for Garrett’s potential, and the expectation should be that he delivers a Pro Bowl caliber season in year two while having less of a pitch count on his reps.

Final Roster Odds: 100%

NFL: Cleveland Browns at Houston Texans

Shanna Lockwood-USA TODAY Sports

2. Emmanuel Ogbah – Starting Left Defensive End

Height: 6-4 | Weight: 275 lbs | Age: 24
Experience: 3 years | College: Oklahoma State

Gregg Williams has a lot of faith in Emmanuel Ogbah. When the team was weighing whether to draft Bradley Chubb or Denzel Ward at No. 4 overall, it’s believed that Williams influenced the decision. Part of his thought process was, “I already have Garrett and Ogbah; I don’t need another top defensive end compared to a top cornerback.”

Through 10 games last year, Ogbah had registered 29 tackles, 4 sacks, 6 passes defended, and 2 forced fumbles. For two seasons now, he has played the run at an above average level. After his season ended abruptly due to a broken foot, Cleveland’s run defense suffered immediately. PFF said that teams averaged 2.41 YPC when running toward Ogbah’s side when he was healthy. In the first couple of games without Ogbah, that number skyrocketed to 4.55 YPC.

Because of Garrett’s injury coming at the beginning of the year and Ogbah’s coming at the end, we only got a small taste of what the dynamic duo could do together. That should make for a lot of excitement in 2018 if they both stay healthy.

Final Roster Odds: 100%

NFL: Cleveland Browns at Detroit Lions

Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

3. Carl Nassib – Backup Defensive End

Height: 6-7 | Weight: 275 lbs | Age: 25
Experience: 3 years | College: Penn State

This could be a do-or-die camp for Carl Nassib, who is now entering his third season. He was the benefactor of Garrett and Ogbah being hurt last year, but he wasn’t able to take advantage of the opportunity much, finishing the year with 3 sacks and 5 passes defended. He also had several costly penalties last year, including what could have been “the play of the season” — a pick six by Myles Garrett that was negated because Nassib was offsides (and it didn’t even matter to the outcome of the play).

In terms of a roster battle, Nassib now faces competition from rookie third-round pick Chad Thomas. And even though he’s not listed in this preview (it was more convenient to include him in the defensive tackle preview), the signing of Chris Smith likely puts him ahead of Nassib at defensive end too. I believe Nassib is now fighting with Nate Orchard and the undrafted players for the fifth defensive end spot. The good thing is that I’ve always felt Nassib would be better suited for specific packages, when he can use his length and hustle to impact the game.

Final Roster Odds: 50%

NFL: Combine

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

4. Chad Thomas – Rookie Defensive End

Height: 6-5 | Weight: 278 lbs | Age: 22
Experience: Rookie | College: Miami

The Browns selected Chad Thomas with the 67th overall pick of the draft at the beginning of the 3rd round, which was considered somewhat of a reach.

After drafting Thomas, VP of Player Personnel Andrew Berry called him “one of the most physical defensive linemen in the draft,” citing that “his run defense will (allow him) to play immediately in the NFL as a left defensive end.” Berry also said that Thomas can rush the passer from the inside. The significant dropoff in 2017 from when Ogbah left the lineup comes into play here when you think of Thomas’ abilities against the run.

Waiting for Next Year did film review on some of Thomas’ college work, which included his ability to set the edge against the run as a strength. Despite his hands being a potential strength, WFNY points out his lack of consistency in using them as a weakness, to go along with his lack of finishing plays or displaying a counter move in pass-rushing situations.

Thomas missed mandatory minicamp due to a groin injury, but it is believed he will be ready-to-go for training camp, where he should fit in to the second-team defense pretty quickly.

Final Roster Odds: 100%

NFL: Cleveland Browns at Chicago Bears

Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports

5. Nate Orchard – Veteran Defensive End

Height: 6-3 | Weight: 255 lbs | Age: 24
Experience: 4 years | College: Utah

Nate Orchard is entering the final year of his rookie contract, and is stunningly considered the “veteran” of these five players. He was written off for making the roster last year, but still stayed around as a rotational player. That becomes more difficult to do in 2018 due to the aforementioned players that have been added.

What is funny is that Orchard is just one of two players remaining of the 12 that Cleveland selected in the 2015 NFL Draft. The other player will stick around — that is RB Duke Johnson. Last year, Orchard registered 25 tackles and 2 sacks. I think Cleveland would love to trade the former second-round pick for another player or a low draft pick, but I don’t know if the market will be that hot for him. I think Orchard will make it through most of camp as an insurance policy for depth if other players get hurt, but as things stand, he’s not favored to make the roster.

Final Roster Odds: 40%

In Part 2 of our DL preview, we will look at the top 5 defensive tackles on the roster. Our poll question today asks whether you believe Carl Nassib and Nate Orchard will make the roster in 2018.


Will Carl Nassib & Nate Orchard make the roster?

This poll is closed.

  • 8%

    Carl Nassib & Nate Orchard will make it

    (105 votes)

  • 63%

    Only Carl Nassib will make it

    (791 votes)

  • 8%

    Only Nate Orchard will make it

    (111 votes)

  • 19%

    Neither player will make it

    (244 votes)

1251 votes total

Vote Now

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