There is a home for Chicago’s underground hip-hop heads and a place where lyrical skills are put to the test; it’s free and open to the public. 606 Hip-Hop Open Mic Night is held every Tuesday from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. at the Subterranean Lounge, 2011 W. North Ave., in Wicker Park.
Artists from different parts of the city, and sometimes the country, come out to see what others can do as well as challenging their own MC skills. The show is hosted by Simeon “Shadow Master MC” Norfleet and the music is provided by DJ Norm Rockwell, both are members of 606 Entertainment group.
While DJ Norm Rockwell plays some familiar, old school hip-hop tunes by some well-known artists like A Tribe Called Quest to Notorious B.I.G. and more, Shadow Master starts the night off with a free-style, calling all MCs to the stage. Slowly, members of the audience begin to approach the stage in waiting for the hip-hop round to begin. Each artist is given 16 bars to rap until the audience members count them down to pass the microphone to the next MC.
The cypher goes on for about an hour as some artists shine after a successful rhyming session while others are obviously motivated to improve for the following week.
The show started in 1998 by an MC who goes by the name Rex 4 of the Pacific Crew and after not being able to make the weekly shows; he offered his hosting position over to Simeon “Shadow Master MC” Norfleet.
“Rex was the original host… the guys from the Pacific Crew that actually started it… after a while Rex’s schedule couldn’t allow him to continue to go on and he passed the torch to me, since I was always [at the open mic].”
Shadow Master MC has been hosting for seven years now and said, “The original purpose [of the open mic night] was really to have a place to say something… This is the only place that gives us free reign; this is our therapy.”
“This is the only place we come to speak our minds and get stuff off of our chests.”
He said that Subterranean Lounge was the only venue, at the start of their affairs that would allow 606 Entertainment members to conduct the way they wanted.
“There was a lot of places where everybody tried to give, at least, a once-a-month night; Subterranean was really one of the first places, in Wicker Park, to open up their doors and say, ‘you know what, do what it is you feel, as long as you get bodies in here’.”
He said the first months of the event only included different hip-hop crews that already had some kind of outside connection but “word-of-mouth” brought fresh faces to the venue.
Although there are guest DJs every night, with this Tuesday’s guest being DJ Score, DJ Norm Rockwell is the original DJ assigned to spin for the event. He said the crowd has always been pretty steady but around 2005 they were using the upper level part of the venue because of the huge turnout.
“Honestly, there was just nothing going on Tuesday nights and at the time this neighborhood was still in transition and there were not many free bars because we were also charging and we stopped charging to compete with the other bars.”
Today they only use the lower level of Subterranean and continue to get a sufficient enough of an audience to fill the venue. They also continue to get artists coming who are not afraid to get on the mic.
“There’s always going to be people with more talent that you can spot so we encourage them with crowd participation.”
Andrew Branch who is a frequent goer of the event said that he enjoys the show because, “it’s different cultures, different people expressing themselves in different ways, normally in song or rap, but we’re all poets and we’re all artists just coming together to express ourselves.”
This event is 21+ and beer-pitchers are $5, so if you have nothing to do on Tuesday nights, or Wednesday mornings, check it out.