Sometimes all it takes is a promise or talent to uproot you and change the trajectory of your life. For Bryan Sledge, aka B.J. the Chicago Kid, the promise of his talent led him from Chicago’s South Side to Southern California, from backing Mary Mary to rocking the same stage as the infamous Tupac hologram at Coachella. The soul in his voice is only trumped by the passion with which he speaks of what he loves: family, food, faith, fashion and music. But it’s the voice that delivers those passions that have carried him through times that have made greater men crumble.
B.J.’s debut album Pineapple Now-Laters was more than an ode to a candy most of us grew up on, but a musical time capsule, layered with soul reminiscent of Curtis Mayfield and enough braggadocio to make Kanye West take a second look. It’s an album that flew below the mainstream radar, yet landed him a spot on the iTunes charts, a tremendous accomplishment for an artist lacking the backing of a major. There’s something about the sincerity in his music and rawness in his delivery that attracts people to him; there’s earnestness in the Chi-Town native, LA resident that finds its way to your ears through song and conversation.
You learn a lot about a man with a basketball in his hands; there’s something about the rock that’s akin to truth serum and really allows people to expose themselves. Taking a break from recording in L.A.’s famed Record Plant, B.J. opened up about the destruction he witnessed on the South Side and how the violence surrounding him spurred his decision to go west before it suffocated him. Armed with nothing more than a plane ticket, his voice, and faith, he bunked with a friend’s family while he gigged with gospel group Mary Mary and stacked enough paper to find his own place. That was a decade and 55 dreams ago, but he hasn’t turned back, ignited by a responsibility to his family, he’s pushed on through false starts and broken promises.
He’s written and sung background for a virtual who’s who of R&B and gospel artists, but this is his time. He’s spent the last few years fine tuning his pipes, gathering material and building relationships with a team to make it to this very moment. His behind-the-scenes work notwithstanding, he’s been consistent in the mixtape game (download The New Beginning, The Life of Love’s Cupid, and A Taste of Chicago) and heavy on the Los Angeles live scene getting his live show together. All of the pieces are starting to fall into place; a few months after his debut album was released he landed on a BET Music Matters bill in New York City and continued to build his fan base as he plots to release more new material in the new future.
Between jump shots he waxed philosophical about his family, the importance of being available to his nieces and nephews in lieu of his grandparents, and how that drives him to improve as an artist yes, but as a man first. “We moved up in line and ain’t nobody tell us,” is how he describes the responsibility of family that comes with maturity and losing family members. It’s at this moment you realize there’s no façade between your speakers and B.J. the Chicago Kid. At the risk of sounding redundant, the authenticity is real.
That realness is felt no less than on “His Pain”, a track that prominently features rising hip-hop star Kendrick Lamar and showcases the two telling life from both sides of the coin, but with matching anguish that leaves you discomforted by their reality. At that moment you realize that feeling is needed, but missing in music, so you take to Twitter (@BJtheChicagoKid) and Facebook (Facebook.com/bjthechicagokid) and there you have it…Chi-Town’s Finest, B.J. the Chicago Kid.
Between rhetoric and reality is where you’ll find Al-Lateef Farmer: Black man, husband, social documentarian, and slinger of Soul by the pound. His brand of social commentary rooted in independent thought can be found at http://worldaccording2teef.com, and on Twitter @wrldacrdng2teef.