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Music | Recapturing Memories of the Black Ark, ChiBrations x MCA: Celebrating 50 Years of Hip-Hop

September 29, 20236:30 pm - 11:00 pm

ASL interpretation and CART Captioning provided for panel and poetry readings.

Black-and-white photo of four men posed with arms around each others' shoulders. The man closest to the camera holds his left hand in front of his mouth as if beatboxing.

ChiBrations Dance Battle. Photo: Seed Lynn.

About the Program

Continuing the series of unlocking Chicago’s performance history through Gary Simmons’s Recapturing Memories of the Black Ark, the MCA collaborates with ChiBrations for a unique experience in honor of the 50th anniversary of hip-hop. The night is programmed by Sam Thousand, and includes some of the city’s contemporary artists and musicians covering different lenses of Chicago’s hip-hop history, through conversation, freestyle, performance, and more.


6:30 pm | Doors open | 1st-Floor Entrance

6:30–8 pm | Music | Kovler Atrium

Dutchess the DJ and LeftJones.

8–9:20 pm | Conversations and more | The Commons

Poetry by E’mon Lauren.

Panel Conversation with Psalm One, Freddie Old Soul, Asha Omega, and Brittany Carter.

Comedy set by Max Thomas.

9:20–11 pm | Closing music, art, and dance celebration | Kovler Atrium

Performance by LeftJones with featured guest Stoviink.

Cypher, Phenom, Mani Jurdan, JazStarr, and D2G, backed by LeftJones.

Closing set by Dutchess the DJ.

About the Artists

Binkey. Photo credit: Seed Lynn

Hailing from Chicago’s South Side, Lawrence “Binkey” Tolefree is a bonified triple-threat born into a family of musicians, artists, and performers. While his original love is hip-hop and poetry, he also specializes in acting, improv, hosting, stand-up, and much more. He created Just Us Improv, a comedy troupe that performs in venues spanning local clubs, living rooms, and sold-out theaters across the US. Some of his other accomplishments include the MGD Freestyle Champion, Mixtape Mondays Rap Battle Champion, Jokes and Notes Stand Up Winner, Showtime at the Apollo winner, and many more. When he’s not writing or performing, he’s teaching comedy and independently producing his own shows in several countries around the globe. As an artist and performer, Binkey serves not only as a household name but as a community staple in a city that proudly claims him as one of its own.


Dutchess the DJ. Photo credit: Gerald Blanc, @gblanc3.

Dutchess The DJ is a Chicago-based music enthusiast with a passion for hip-hop. Blending the most memorable beats and songs, Dutchess has graced stages and dance floors all around Chicago, leaving audiences grooving to her dope mixes. Her dedication to the craft of DJing, as well as her deep love for music, have made her a prominent figure in the city’s music scene as she consistently delivers unforgettable musical experiences.



Freddie Old Soul. Photo credit: Mikey D.

Born and raised in the “Hunnids,” aka the South Side of Chicago, Fredrianna didn’t know her father, Fredrick; she carries him with her now by taking on the same nickname, Freddie. From a young age she naturally gravitated toward poetry, joining the poetry team at Morgan Park High School. She won her school’s talent show with her poetry, growing her reputation for “starting riots with her words.” A fateful homework assignment in her sophomore year music class led Freddie to transform those poems into music, and she started rapping. Freddie’s newest album, Water, Music, & Love dropped on all streaming platforms on December 2, 2022, to positive reviews. Staying true to her sound and artistry, Freddie delivered another testament to her refreshing yet familiar authenticity to her eager and loyal fanbase. This album is a declaration of self and a recognition of the elements that bring life, balance, and therapy.


E’mon Lauren. Photo credit: Greg Inda.

E’mon Lauren is a multi-hyphenate artist and educator, from the “side of Chicago. Her work explores her philosophy coined as “hood-womanism,” as well as the intersectionality of body and language. She was given the title of first Youth Poet Laureate of Chicago. She has been featured in Vogue magazine, Chicago magazine, and the Chicago Tribune. She is the host and creator of her hit podcast, The Real Hoodwives of Chicago. Her first book of poems, COMMANDO, was published by Haymarket in 2017.



LeftJones. Photo credit: Kenneth Leftridge Jr.

Hailing from Chicago’s vibrant South Side, LeftJones is a genre-blending powerhouse band offering a unique sonic experience. Fronted by rapper M.E.R.C and driven by the musical direction of saxophonist Kenneth Leftridge Jr., the band boasts Bobby Wonderfull’s dynamic vocals and trumpet, Terry Patrick Jr.’s skillful keys, Jeremy Jones’s resonant basslines, and Alfonzo Jones’s rhythmic drums. Deeply influenced by Chicago’s hip-hop pulse, LeftJones crafts a sound that’s both authentic and innovative; and with a history of headlining venues and supporting local talents, their original compositions resonate with genuine artistry. As they continue to captivate audiences and collaborate with emerging artists, LeftJones is set to carve an unmistakable path in the music world.


Mani Jurdan. Photo credit: Imaninia Bahtye.

Mani Jurdan has brought his practice of storytelling and spiritual enlightenment to some of the largest platforms in the country, and with a stream of consciousness throughout his lyricism he has been able to enlighten and inspire. Mani Jurdan is a champion for self-love and awareness, effortlessly conveyed through every performance he delivers. Due to his creative approach to engaging with the crowd, he is recognized as a high-energy performer that keeps his audience present and in–the–moment.

Asha Omega. Photo credit: Paul Araki Elliot.

Asha Omega is an emcee and Peace Ambassador who uses her voice to bring inner-healing to all who listen to her neo-soul/boom-bap sound. Her sound takes inspiration from Lauryn Hill, Noname, and Erykah Badu, mixed with the flavor and twang that can only be found in the Chicagoland area. Asha Omega is fueled by turning her awakenings into easily digestible projects that empower listeners to have confidence in their ability to be the best versions of themselves. Her introductory EP, ALKHEMY, is a true form of alchemy, turning her trials and tribulations from her young adulthood into uplifting, intentional, and inspiring songs.


PHENOM, born Teh’Ray Hale, learned to rhyme in the backstreets of Chicago and has dedicated his life to empowering communities through his music. In 1995, First Lady Michelle Obama chose him for the Public Allies program where he had the opportunity to work with and teach youth about violence prevention strategies. With national poet K-Love, he is a co-founder and CEO of the award-winning POETREE Chicago (People’s Organized Entertainment Teaching Righteous Education Everywhere), which assisted in the development of programs such as YouMedia, The GoodLife Organization, HipHop Detoxx and L.Y.R.I.C. Mentoring (Let Your Rhymes Inspire Creativity) in 2009.


Cristalle Bowen, aka Psalm One, has been consistently recognized as one of independent hip hop’s most forward thinkers. A prolific recording, touring and mentoring artist, Psalm has been featured in publications from Forbes to Rolling Stone. Since 2006 she has commanded festival and venue stages all over the United States and Europe, sharing bills with everyone from Tyler, the Creator to Gucci Mane to Wu-Tang Clan.


Psalm One. Photo credit: Mikayla Delson.

July 2023 brought the release of “The Return of Bigg Perrm,” with Chicago’s Custom Made. Psalm One’s pen is as sharp as ever, with her social commentary and urgent vulnerability at full volume on this project. Inspired by Madam C.J. Walker, private pools, improved mental health and personal accountability,“ this EP is the soundtrack of someone who’s doing the work and finding balance in the turmoil. In other words, it’s a straightening.



Storie Devereaux and Tovi Khali. Photo credit: Charan Ingram.

Storie Devereaux and Tovi Khali (Stoviink) are performing artists and creative entrepreneurs whose artistry spans disciplines such as songwriting and event curation. Rooted in Chicago and New Orleans, Storie and Tovi combine spoken word, hip-hop, jazz, funk, and brass to amplify a message of love, joy, and self-awareness.




Max Thomas. Photo credit: Andrew Max Levy.

Max Thomas is allergic to dairy, tree nuts, and Christianity. He grew up on Jimi Hendrix, Bernie Mac, and soy milk. Max is a lightning rod of a comedian that will have you laughing from start to finish and leave you excited for more. Max has been featured on Comedy Central Featuring, Live From Austin, TX, The Comedy Store West Hollywood, The NBC Break Out Comedy Festival at The Second City Chicago 2017—2019, Zanies Chicago & Rosemont, Jokes and Notes, Tiny Cupboard Brooklyn, The Second City Chicago and Hollywood, Laugh Factory Chicago, Steppenwolf Theater, Black & Funny Festival, Chicago Shakespeare Theater, Detroit Improv Festival, Boston Improv Festival, Out of Bounds Comedy Festival Austin, TX, Kenan Thompson: The Ultimate Comedy Experience, and Lollapalooza Music Festival. He is the Chicago Reader Best Stage Actor 2022.


JazStarr. Photo credit: Thought Poet.

JazStarr is a Westside Chicago native rooted in Jazz, hip-hop and community. Her music is inspired by life, how we relate to it as spirit/human beings, and the art of music as a whole. Her biggest influences are Prince, Esperanza Spaulding, and Celia Cruz just to name a few. Starr never shies away from advocating for more than just her music. She understands the importance of “all hands on deck” for the betterment of our communities. It’s her goal for her music to highlight the need for intentional sound and words. Last year, JazStarr Released an album, entitled “Ambrosia”. This first body of work was set to be a mix of nostalgia and honesty. Speaking on the highs and lows of relationships and self love.

For the upcoming Chicago Exhibition Weekend,  your ticket comes with a free collectible map. Explore Chicago’s art scene, for every neighborhood you visit you receive a stamp which gains you entrance into a rooftop dance party on Sunday at the Blind Barber!


Lead support of Gary Simmons: Public Enemy is provided by the Harris Family Foundation in memory of Bette and Neison Harris, Zell Family Foundation, Cari and Michael Sacks, Nancy and Steve Crown, Hauser & Wirth, The Joyce Foundation, and Karyn and Bill Silverstein.

Major support is provided by the Bluhm Family Foundation; Ellen-Blair Chube; Jack and Sandra Guthman; Susie L. Karkomi and Marvin Leavitt; Kovler Family Foundation; Liz and Eric Lefkofsky; Gael Neeson, Edlis Neeson Foundation; Carol Prins and John Hart; and the Terra Foundation for American Art.

Generous support is provided by Dr. Anita Blanchard and Martin Nesbitt; Diane Kahan; Cheryl and Eric McKissack; Stephanie and Neil Murray; D. Elizabeth Price and Lou Yecies; the Rennie Collection, Vancouver; Nathaniel Robinson; and Joyce Yaung and Matt Bayer.

This project is supported in part by the National Endowment for the Arts.

Major support for Gary Simmons: Public Enemy is provided by The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts.

The Joyce Foundation logoTerra Foundation for American Art LogoNational Endowment for the Arts Logo

Lead support of Gary Simmons’s Recapturing Memories of the Black Ark is provided by Nancy and Steve Crown, the Harris Family Foundation in memory of Bette and Neison Harris, Hauser & Wirth, The Joyce Foundation, Anne L. Kaplan, Cari and Michael Sacks, Karyn and Bill Silverstein, and Zell Family Foundation.

Major support is provided by Liz and Eric Lefkofsky, Carol Prins and John Hart, and an anonymous donor.

Generous support is provided by Diane Kahan and D. Elizabeth Price and Lou Yecies.