You know Chicago’s hip-hop scene is on the rise when a) Kanye West cameos on hometown rapper Kid Sister’s “Pro Nails,” and b) big, beer-chugging guys wave their cuticles in the air to its girlie chorus: “Got her toes done up with her fingernails match.” Last night at Hiro Ballroom, the pint-sized diva, backed by West’s DJ A-Track and sporting a platinum-blonde bob, got the crowd bouncing to kiss-off anthems like “Telephone” (chorus: “Nigga, quit callin’ me!”), the Tangerine Dream-remixing “Let Me Bang” and the old-school banger “Control.” But “Pro Nails” topped the show. “You ladies remember when you went to prom just because you wanted to dress up like a bride and get your nails did?” she asked, by way of introducing the track, and at least one quarterback-shaped dude hollered back in response.
Earlier that night, Cool Kids echoed the same Eighties-style vibe as Kid Sister, adhering to the golden rule of old-school hip-hop: As one journalist in the crowd put it, “When in doubt, rap faster.” While a video screen mashed up Muppet Babies footage with clips from Michael Jordan-era Bulls games, the Chicago duo kicked things off by asking everyone to shake their key rings to their version of LL Cool J’s “Jingling Baby,” moved on to the M/A/R/R/S-sampling “Pump Up the Volume,” and even played a track called “88,” where they bragged about taking things back to the days of acid-washed jeans. At nineteen years old, the group’s MCs, Chuck and Mikey, are probably too young to root their nostalgia in that part of the past. But their fresh, stripped-down sound definitely feels like it has a future.