By Sarelle Caceido
A recent Friday night’s show was one for the books. With WBEZ’s reputation for stellar programming, the immaculate late summer weather (no humidity, just warmth!), the gorgeous setting of the Pritzker Pavilion at Millennium Park, and last but not least, the epic pairing of Roxanne Shante and DJ Spinderella-it was undoubtedly the highlight of the week for many!
For a brief intro, Roxanne Shante is known as The First Lady of Rap. She was born Lolita Shanté Gooden on November 9, 1969, and raised in the Queensbridge Projects — the largest public-housing development in North America and one of the epicenters of hip-hop culture. Fitting, as August 2023 marks the 50th anniversary of Hip Hop. DJ Spinderella, the resident DJ of the evening, is a Grammy award winning DJ, producer, rapper, writer and one of the original pioneers of hip hop music, beginning her career as one of the three members of the iconic rap group Salt-N-Pepa. DJ Spinderella has a unique connection to the event and National Public Housing Museum, as she also is the curator of the museum’s music room exhibition and lived in the Pink Houses in New York City.
Musically and energetically, they’re a perfect match, masters of their craft, and definitely brought the throwbacks, one after another-which did not disappoint. At one point, they paid homage to the late Biz Markie by leading a sing along to “Just a Friend”, followed by Roxanne enthusiastically exiting the stage, going into the audience, singing, dancing, and taking pictures with the crowd. That was certainly the move to make, as the crowd of all ages was overjoyed to see her do her thing, and connect on a human level. At one point, she said to the audience “we’re family now” which they audibly seemed to agree with.
Roxanne was the perfect MC to guide the crowd through the night-filled with stories from her childhood, introducing special guests from the National Public Housing Museum team and partners, and comedically setting up trivia regarding which well known celebrities grew up in public housing. It was a celebration of music, summer, and the fact that where one is raised does not determine your capacity for success in life.
This event served as a way to bring awareness to the museum, which is the only cultural institution devoted to telling the story of public housing in the United States. Its mission is to preserve, promote, and propel the right of all people to a place where they can live and prosper — a place to call home. A notable guest was local Chicagoan and Grammy winner Isaiah Sharkley, who is an incredible session guitarist, having played with D’Angelo, Lupe Fiasco and countless other noteworthy musicians. Isaiah was simply incredible on the guitar- to witness him exercising his craft was a beautiful thing, his talent was mesmerizing. It’s a shame there’s a noise curfew, because when it was time for the show to end, it felt as if it could keep going, easily! DJ Spinderella and Roxanne are certainly beloved and welcome back to Chicago any time.
This event was in partnership with NPHM and was sponsored by LBBA Architects and the Chicago Association of Realtors. It was also made possible by a grant from the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events with funding from the Millennium Park Foundation and Pritzker Foundation.