Author Archive for Ruben Montiel

Tapping the Neighborhood

This community with so many assets–population density; diversity of color, age, and class; short, walkable blocks; neighborhood institutions– is for the most part dead after 10pm.

The Book of Jeremiah

Looking at Jeremiah Jae’s “studio,” a tiny room in his Bridgeport apartment, one is struck by the relative scarcity of recent technology on the room’s low coffee tables. There’s a small synth and a tape deck that looked like it…


The latest release by Chicago emcees S.O.M. starts off with a brooding, minor key bounce that compels the listener–per the name of the album–to “Shut Up & Listen.” It is, for lack of a better word, hot. The album’s fourth track, “Where They @,” is club-ready, built on brisk acoustic guitar chords and the thump of an 808 drum machine. A bonus track, “Let It Go,” closes the album, conjuring both the refined beats and rapid tempo characteristic of fellow Chicago rhymer Twista. From beginning to finish, S.O.M.’s beats display at times the harmonic sophistication of Kanye, at others the DIY feel of Soulja Boy. The lyricism of these young emcees, whose stage names are Gideon and J-Ark, impresses. It’s possible to get crunk to the album, but also to feel grown and sexy.

Best of the South Side 2010

To walk around Pilsen is to walk around a vibrant neighborhood–dictated not by a sense of delineated borders, but by the sense of a multitude of people sharing a space in common. On any given afternoon, you’ll see mothers walking to get their schoolchildren, hipsters sauntering out of cheap Mexican diners, street vendors with carts full of fruit, and a gamut of small business hawking everything from car insurance to prom dresses. On weekends, you won’t come across the typical bar-going crowds, but will find artists dining at Decolores or young couples shopping at the local grocery store. In short, for all the talk of gentrification and the decline of the arts in Pilsen, it’s important to remember that it is, above all things, a neighborhood–people actually live here.

The New 53rd Street

In May 2008, when the University of Chicago completed the $6.5 million purchase of Harper Court, President Robert Zimmer heralded the moment as an opportunity. “Ideally,” he said in a public statement on the purchase, “this project will be reflective…