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Photo by Kristie Kahn

Sidewalk Chalk aims for timeless music

Hip-hop group Sidewalk Chalk will play Aug. 9 at The Bridge.

By Cat Geissler | Aug. 8, 2012

Tags: Music

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Chicago’s art scene is a thriving one that has put some of the world’s most coveted and sought-after hip-hop musicians like Kanye West, Common and Lupe Fiasco on the map. Each of these artists shares a common bond: they’ve shifted the direction of hip-hop and emerged when a change was needed inside and outside the music industry.

Sidewalk Chalk is the newest group of game-changers that appreciates the sound emerging from poetry and eclectic instruments, as well as rhythm from the body.

Only a few weeks after meeting at Columbia College, the musicians played their first gig together as a group and have allowed each member to be a distinct piece in the puzzle. This has become a driving force for this eight-piece hip-hop band since the beginning.

“It just happened naturally, and I don’t know where that comes from," keyboardist Charlie Coffeen says. "But it was really about the music and the people. The fact that we’re a diverse group, being the way we look or our musical background, is just a coincidence.”

The band’s name was inspired by a talent show that urged Coffeen, bassist Garret McGinn and emcee Rico Sisney to pick a name. Later, tap dancer Jumanee and horn section duo David Ben-Porat and Sam Trump were added to the mix. The group also now includes vocalist Maggie Vagle and Jumaane Taylor on taps.

Links between people in the band keep a group this big from hitting a standstill.

“Me and Maggie [Vagle] definitely gel off each other really well, and obviously there’s a good dynamic between the eight of us, but there’s also little interactions that happen that makes it that much easier to write,” Sisney says.

McGinn says he thinks this collaboration has been very comfortable and natural from the beginning. They might all come from different places, but similar influences led them to come together in 2008.

Trump says he listens to the music to determine what to do next.

"Part of creating music is knowing when to stop,” Trump says. “If you’re a perfectionist, sometimes you’re holding on to the music too long before you think it’s ready.”

The mutual admiration and respect the band's members have for one another might be Sidewalk Chalk’s shield from the pressures of the music industry that inevitably cause the all-too-familiar downfall.

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