Introducing ‘Notes from Mr. Sandman‘ – a column slapping a spotlight on lyricists overlooked, under appreciated, or just plain criminally slept on. Or like a man named Nas once said, “I never sleep, cause sleep is the cousin of death.” Enter Mr. Sandman with what y’all missed while chasing the REM dragon.
When you have a guy like Chief Keef running around getting love from myopic taste makers, Chicago rap can come across as slight and one dimensional. What gets lost in the shuffle is a faction of artists who’ve been grinding hard everyday with twice the talent and almost none of the fanfare. Artists like the Molemen, Juice, Serengeti and Jeremiah Jae – Rhymefest, Rubberoom, Psalm One – the list goes on.
All Natural – the collaboration between Capital D and Tone B Nimble – is one such voice. Any hip-hop head in the city knows about the impact they had and how they laid a cornerstone for the next generation to build upon. They’re lively and prudent and have a deep appreciation for craft, Tone with his deft ear for soul samples and Cap D with a pen as sharp as a sword. Together they embody a different side of Chicago, more ambassadors than warmongers.
2001’s Second Nature is one of their best, with “Renaissance” serving as a benchmark. The Ahmad Jamal piano loop (“You’re My Everything“) is a vast expanse where Cap can roam freely and reflect, his diction is hungry and vivid. You can almost see him sitting on the lakefront, thoughts absorbed in dutiful responsibility: [LISTEN]
The song is indicative of All Natural, Cap D in particular. He truly is a Renaissance man, and has worked hard to get to where he’s at. As a unit, All Natural speaks of universal truths, and they do it without losing the hard edge that defines the city. Their approach is attentive and patient, and while so many artists are consumed with getting what’s theirs, All Natural is always looking for ways to give back.
After all these years they’re still grinding away making good music and spreading their brand of soul. Maybe not at the clip they once did, but at this point they’ve more than earned the right to take their time. Their place in Chicago history is well documented, it’s just time now for a new generation to brush off those pages and learn about one of Chicago’s more elegant scribes.