Author Archives: laurenmariecain

Just Within My Grasp: Lauren of Lily Monroe

In order to live your life to the fullest, you have to follow your dreams and your heart.  Growing up, I was taught how important it is to have faith and not let obstacles keep me from achieving my goals, no matter how big they may seem. My parents always told my sister and me that we could be anything we wanted. Looking back, I see why they were so adamant on us pursuing our dreams. They missed opportunities in their own lives because they didn’t have faith. Now they both work jobs they don’t enjoy, but they have always been confident that my sister and I will accomplish great things in life and most importantly to enjoy every minute of it. As a senior majoring in Communication at the University of Illinois at Chicago, I’m balancing the practical life of school with my dream of being a musician, and my parents couldn’t be prouder.

Lauren of Lily Monroe

I sing in a group called Lily Monroe with my older sister Christien Cain, who is a UIC graduate with a B.A. in Criminal Justice. The group was officially formed in 2008; however, we’ve sung together our whole lives. It is hard to classify what genre we fit into, but R&B would be the easiest way to put it. Some of the influences for our sound are Michael Jackson, Janelle Monaé, Led Zeppelin, Amy Winehouse, Beyoncé, Alicia Keys, Janet Jackson, St. Lunatics, Trey Songz, Drake, and Kanye West, just to name a few. Christien and I are both classically trained violinists, so the ways in which we structure our vocals are similar to the various parts in a traditional orchestral arrangement. Each song is performed with intricate vocal arrangements that often lead listeners to believe that Lily Monroe is only one voice instead of two. We pride ourselves in having such a tight harmony.

We’ve performed at various open mics throughout Chicago, but we didn’t start recording until recently. It started with us doing a few hooks (choruses) here and there and eventually we started working with another aspiring Chicago musician, Boogy. After doing two hooks on songs for one of his mix tapes, he agreed to help us start putting together a professional demo. Up until that point, the only recordings of us singing were videos on YouTube.

The process of recording is still a small issue. Boogy and I are both full-time students, while my sister works full-time in the corporate world. Our schedules are hectic, so trying to find time to record, perform, study, write papers, and remembering to sleep gets hard. Finding the balance between passion and priorities takes practice. For us, it is not rare to be leaving the studio at 2 a.m., just in time to get a moment’s rest for an 8 a.m. class the following morning, or having ideas for a new song running through your mind, while trying to focus on a 12 page paper that’s due by midnight.

My tuition costs almost $5,000 a semester, but it costs me nothing to record. Because of this, school has been my number one priority.  It gets tough when there is movement with my music career because I am tempted to put school on hold to see where music will take me.  At the same time, there’s a fear of never coming back to school, and I’ve come too far in my college career to quit and let all the stress, headaches, and papers be for nothing. Given the economy today and the hard work it takes to become famous as a musician, I know there is going to be a lot of hard work in my near future, but I am putting my best foot forward for both, regardless.

Christien and Lauren of Lily Monroe

Fall 2010 is slated to be my last semester at UIC. I have been working through this spring semester with the comforting thought that I am almost done with my degree. About a month ago, we received word that Umbrella Music Association is interested in signing my sister and me as artists, as well as songwriters. While this is an independent label, it still is a big step into Lily Monroe’s future.  It shows that other people are willing to take a gamble on us and that other people have faith in what we’re trying to do. We are also about to shoot a video for our leading single, “Nerdy Boy,” and start performing again at larger venues throughout Chicago with our U.M.A. family. U.M.A. also has a radio show on 88.9 every Saturday from 8pm-10pm, showcasing all of the talent on the label. With all of this happening towards the end of my semester, it’s hard to focus on schoolwork. 

My plan has always been to work on my degree until something happens with music. With summer quickly approaching and plans being made for how to market Lily Monroe, I’m watching my dream unfold before my eyes. The closer I get to graduation, the more unsure I am about what types of careers I will pursue to bring me happiness. The safe bet is starting to seem risky and my outlandish dream is becoming more of a practical reality. Either way, I will get my degree next fall and continue on towards reaching my dream.

-Lauren Cain

Download your copy of Nerdy Boy free today!

Also, visit Lily Monroe on MySpace!

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They Call Him Boogy

23-year-old Boogy

With hip-hop taking a turn, seemingly for the worst, it’s refreshing to see artists staying true to the blueprint of hip-hop. While schooling other rappers on the microphone, 23-year-old Boogy is also a full-time college student. For some, finding a balance between school and music can be a difficult task, but Boogy handles the two with ease. His lyrics demand an active listener but still manage to be colorfully playful. Boogy is patiently perfecting his craft hoping to become the pride and joy of Chicago’s hip-hop scene.

What school are you attending and what are you studying?

I attend South Suburban College in South Holland IL. I am currently studying business management, with the hopes of one day becoming an agent or manager.

How were you introduced to music? What about music attracted you?

My parents were both really musical people. My pops played drums and was into all types of music. I was always drawn to music. I have always been attracted to the soul of music. I believe every genre of music has its own soul, which is why music really is the universal language. When I was younger I was very concerned with having my parents think I was cool, so I was really into whatever they would listen to. My mom was a child of the ‘70s and a woman of the ‘80s and early ‘90s. Anything pop or R&B she was on top of. Everything from Anita Baker to Salt-n-Pepa, my O.G. was rockin’ to. My Pops is why I’m so well rounded when it comes to music. He always listened to everything. Hendrix, Joni Mitchell, Pac, Santana, Eric Clapton, Queen, Bob Marley, everything! He really got me into rock and funk the most.

Since you were introduced to such a wide variety of music growing up, what instruments do you play or interest you the most?

Since I was young, I’ve always been interested in the drums. When I would be in church I would just zone out and have visions of me spazzin’ on the drum set right in the middle of service. I never got my own set, but I did learn how to play, even got to play in church a few times. I also learned how to play guitar in 8th grade, but I forgot all that shit by now.

So, you go by “Boogy.” Where does this name come from?

I had this older cousin name Keith, I would only see him during holidays but I always liked kickin’ it with him cuz’ he smoked weed and always had dope rap to listen to. One day we were rocking to an old Big Daddy Kane tape and he was shocked I knew it. He was like, “Oh you like that shit, huh lil’ cuz? Look at T-Boogy over there jammin’ like he know ‘bout this.” Everybody laughed and kept calling me that since then.

Your music doesn’t sound like any of the commercial rap that floods the airways. Where do you get your inspiration?

The city and life really influences my music. The complexity of the average life gives an artist a lifetime worth of material. I grew up in the city and the suburbs, which help mold my music in a very major way. When you witness the highest of highs and the lowest of lows you look at the world through a different scope. You have an understanding of why. A lot more than a person who only knows one perspective. It allows me to have a genuine appeal in all of my music, no matter what I’m talking about.

What artists have influenced you?

I’m influenced by so many artists. Any artist that I listen to I try to add an element of them in my music because I strongly believe putting all of those random influences together make me an original. My favorite rapper is Jay-Z. I feel like he has done better and is unlike any one else ever. Huge fan of Biggie, Nas, Pac, Jadakiss, Outkast, Joe Budden, Rakim, Big Daddy Kane, and tons more. I’m also a huge R&B fan. I love classics like Marvin Gaye, Michael Jackson,Isaac Hayes, Isley Brothers, Stevie Wonder, George Clinton, Anita Baker, Mary J, Aaliyah, Erykah Badu,Jill Scott, Marsha Ambrosius.

Cell Blok (left) and Boogy (Right) performing

I’m into some rock and reggae also. Depends on my mood. But I take all of that and pour it into my music.

Seeing all of your influences really helps explain your sound. There are a lot of old-school undertones in your music, yet it’s still very catchy and relevant to today. How would you describe your sound?
My sound is intelligent street thought, meets classy stuntin,’ meets mood-provoking music.

How do you think school affects your music career?

Besides giving me time to write, it really doesn’t. Every now and then I will hear something in class that I may want to throw in a song, but it is very rare.

Gives you time to write? How so? Do you write during class?

You damn right I write in class. 85% of school is bullshit. They overcharge us to take a bunch of bullshit classes that teach us shit we will never use in life. So I learn what I need to learn to pass the tests, but most of my class time is spent writing.

How does school influence, if at all, your music?

None whatsoever.

How do you balance time between your music career and you schoolwork?

I get the B.S. of school out of the way as quickly as possible. The more time I have to dedicate to my craft, the better. But I also realize school is something that I have to do, so I do it.

What are your plans after graduation?

Go forward in building our music label and studio.

Aspiring rapper, Boogy

That’s excellent. Are you currently performing anywhere?

 
All over the city if I can. I’m always searching for more venues just to get my face out there and rock with the people. I have performed at many open mics throughout the city and suburbs.

Are there any musical projects coming up?

I’m currently working on three mix tapes. Schwing!, Grow Up, and Marijuana Music 2.

Download a free copy of Marijuana Music today!

-Lauren Cain

When Mojo is a Pen

The beauty of being an artist is the freedom of self-expression and appreciation for other people’s crafts. Every artist longs to find a space to share innermost feelings without fear of judgment or embarrassment. A place where the artistry put into one’s craft is treated with the utmost respect and received graciously as a precious gift. For many student artists at UIC and in Chicago, that place is Mojo’s Pen.

Mojo’s Pen started in 1981 as a student governed organization at UIC. It is an African-centered open-mic poetry set at UIC. The name comes from the belief that a “mojo” makes people feel better without the use of actual medication. Finding your personal “mojo” can be done without the help of others.   In this case, the “mojo” is found through the pen. Through writing personal thoughts and self-expression, people can cope with the stress life can bring. Mojo’s Pen is said to touch the soul and make the people in attendance experience its power to heal.

(left to right) Mosi Ifatunji, Marco Roc, Vernon Lindsay

The hosts are Mosi Ifatunji, Vernon Lindsay, and Marco Roc. These three bring energy to the atmosphere that helps make Mojo’s Pen the heart of creativity and unity that it is. Ifatunji provides painstaking insight to what is going on around the world and how it affects the Black community. Lindsay offers thoughtful words of encouragement, especially on academics, by sharing personal stories to which the audience can relate. Roc presents methods of action to give back to the community, recently leading the group in a fundraiser for earthquake relief in Haiti. Occasionally, the hosts will share pieces of themselves through their poetry. Together, the three display a special brotherhood that serves as the backbone of the set.

The performers mainly consist of students and other young musicians from the Chicago area. They are singers, rappers, spoken word poets, and even comedians. Ifatunji says, “The space is important because it allows students to express themselves in a safe space.”  Topics covered can range from what is going on in the world to what is going on in the artists’ personal lives. The artists feel comfortable sharing their experiences with the group because they consider one another to be family.

(left to right) Rik and Eazy performing

There is an undeniable bond that is present in the room once the set begins.  With various unorthodox call and response chants, Mojo’s Pen makes sure that everyone feels included in the experience. At the beginning of the set, the group picks a topic for discussion. Once the topic is selected, a piece of paper is sent around the room, where each person contributes one line to the community poem. At the end of the set, one of the hosts will perform it in front of the room. The people in attendance generally enjoy this tradition. It lets people who may be too shy to perform to still have their voices heard.

Christien R. Cain, UIC graduate and member of R&B group Lily Monroe®, describes the set:. “It is nice to come to Mojo’s and try new material on them. I never like performing new material on large audiences, when people are paying, and you’re not sure what they’ll think. Mojo’s is different. They encourage you to just be yourself without judgments.” The students seem to be very receptive to one another, encouraging people to continue after making mistakes and always giving positive feedback on their work. It is not always about how polished the performance is, but what it does for the performer’s soul. The young artists describe the setting as a very cathartic experience and say they found their personal mojo’s through their pens.

While Mojo’s Pen is an African-centered open-mic poetry set, they welcome every race, color, and creed to attend and participate. Mojo’s meets every other Thursday at 7:00pm at UIC in the African-American Cultural Center in Addams Hall. The next scheduled set is March 5, 2010. For more information on Mojo’s Pen contact Mosi Ifatunji at ifatunji@gmail.com.

–Lauren Cain