by David Berry
One rapper underground at the Red Line shows that the performers by the trains make a large impact.
An average day at the Jackson stop on the red line of the Chicago Transit Authority subway will see a great number of people go to and from work, school, and various different places in and around that part of the Loop. It is seen mostly as just a transition point to most, but to a select few others, there is much more meaning to platforms of the subway.
According to CTA Ordinance 006-75, performance is only allowed in designated areas in CTA areas. The performers pay $10 a year and are allowed to perform at a few different subway locations. Some of the locations include the Washington and Jackson Blue Line stations as well as the Jackson Red Line.
‘Forget an image, I’m about to go and grab me a Sprite’
SoLoW, an artist who frequents the Jackson Red Line station, is an example of a performer who has carved out a name and niche down in the subways, becoming as much apart of the subway as the trains passing by or the seats that the passengers sit on when listening to him spit his rhymes.
A performer of almost nine years on the CTA platforms, SoLoW calls his rapping “a gift, not a skill”. He consistently draws crowds who are waiting on the train coming to take them north or south. The eyes following him back and forth and the heads nodding while he rhymes are a sign that he does generate a following and interest.
But why Jackson out of all the stops to perform at?
“More people,” SoLoW admits when asked. “And people that actually care to listen. You got people that pass through and actually like music, they’re not like ‘Oh my God I just came from work I don’t want to hear nothing’! These people feel good and they want to hear some more of something else to make them feel good, so I prefer to be here.”
Just a stepping stone
Raised on the Southside, SoLoW says that he has earned the title in Chicago as the “Battle King” and if you hear just a bit of his rap you can begin to understand why. Although a record label has not approached him yet, he was able to perform at the Midwest Talent Tour and was flown out to New York to perform in front of big labels. Although that did not work out like he wanted to, he says that this is not all he wants from rap.
“That ain’t as far as I want to go,” he declares. “I want to be known as something more than just a cat that can battle or freestyle. I actually want to be a legend.”
Though there are a lot of passengers that like listening to him, he acknowledges that not every experience is good. One of his favorite memories he points to is a time when a guy came up the box he has when he performs and reached down into the box. SoLoW thought he was stealing something, but when the guy left he looked into the box and picked up a balled up bill that turned out to be a $100 bill. He described that as “cool”.
“I got a lot of good memories,” SoLoW said. “There’s always going to be some bad experiences, but I don’t consider them memories because I don’t remember them. I kind of leave the bad things behind.”
SoLoW has described his style as “real” and admitted that he did not get much attention when he first started performing. It helped him grow as an artist.
“It taught me how to make the right songs, to make people pay attention,” he said.
His style is unique because when asked who he would compare himself to, he couldn’t.
“There’s no fabrication in me,” he comments while making it clear he has more to say. “I don’t claim to be a big time gangster even though I came from the streets. I don’t claim to be a pimp or drug dealer even though I have that type of life before. I feel like I’m a down to earth person.”
An inspirational touch
Him being down to earth and a real person has also made an impact on others who want to perform. A performer who goes by the name Rufus the Real Mr. Good Bar took notice of SoLoW and now performs down there as well. The singer had good words for the rapper.
“I had three jobs before and they didn’t really work out, so one day my when my wife was down here and she saw SoLoW, and she told me about him. I really admire him and use him as my motivation to keep singing down here and maybe one day I will be discovered.” Rufus said.
SoLoW has made an influence and will continue to do so until he turns 30, at which age he says he will stop performing down there. In the meantime, he has one main goal.
“I want people to listen to me.”