State Champs round out DeKalb’s music scene

By Tony Martin

The DeKalb scene is, in a word, diverse. From grindcore to jazz, this town has everything.

State Champs, DeKalb’s contribution to the Illinois hip-hop scene outside of Chicago, just dropped their “2 ILL Cats in a Ford Truck” mixtape. Hip-hop is a difficult genre to navigate, since most albums have two or three outstanding tracks and 18 half-baked ideas. Mixtapes are also a slippery slope, since most of them are just collections of B-sides or throwaway tracks.

However, “Cats” is different. This mixtape is more than a delicately recorded collection of songs; this is everything that Midwest hip-hop is struggling to achieve. The beats are tight without sacrificing excellent lyrics, which is a best of both worlds situation. The lyrics had me stuck at an appreciation of their references (from Arrested Development, to Animal House to The Beatles).

At times, State Champs can be like listening to Chuck Klosterman with beats, the quality of which needs to be stressed.

State Champs pull friends out for this record, and the end result is a party atmosphere where you know everyone. Black Lung might not ring a bell to everybody, but his verses will stick in your headphones all day. Ezekiel38 has a flow as smooth as butter, and his verses really enhance the songs that he is featured on.

However, the highlight of the entire State Champs experience is the duality between the two emcees of the group, MC Fly (aka Johnny Redd) and Nick Arcade. MC Fly provides the flow like he was a lost member of Little Brother, and Arcade drops references as if he was raised in a library, only sneaking out to catch episodes of Dexter or listen to A Tribe Called Quest. The combination of the two works perfectly, as the transition between their solo verses is seamless. Highlights include the single “Party Clothes” and “Reel Good Feel.” “Music Makes My World Go” is the perfect jam for this time of year, throw it on and walk through campus and try not to smile.

State Champs are giving this mixtape away on their official bandcamp site on the “pay however much you want” platform. However, this mixtape is worth your money. I guarantee it personally. This album is like a Rob Van Dam frog splash, 5 stars.