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The Art of Songwriting

Chicago hip-hop artists to perform, discuss magic of songwriting with art critics

EVANSTON, Ill. --- Chicago hip-hop artists Probcause and Tree will perform at Northwestern University Nov. 13 and then join in a discussion about the art of songwriting with the hosts of WBEZ’s “Sound Opinions.”  

Sponsored by Northwestern’s Center for the Writing Arts, the free event will offer an entertaining look at how musicians craft a song -- with the same attention to structure, flow and other literary devices used in all forms of writing.

 “The Art of Songwriting,” co-sponsored by the Department of Performance Studies, will begin at 7 p.m. (doors open at 6:30 p.m.) in Annie May Swift Hall, 1920 Campus Drive, on the Evanston campus. Probcause and Tree will be interviewed by nationally recognized rock critics Jim Derogatis and Greg Kot on “Sound Opinions.” An audience question-and-answer session will follow.

Derogatis and Kot have interviewed some of the biggest names in music, from Neko Case and Yoko Ono to Radiohead and Death Cab for Cutie. Derogatis was the Chicago Sun-Times’ pop music critic until 2010, when he became a full-time lecturer at Columbia College Chicago. In addition to co-hosting Sound Opinions, Derogatis also writes the WBEZ blog “Pop N Stuff” and is the author of nine books.

Kot has been the music critic at the Chicago Tribune since 1990, covering a range of music genres and music-related news on his blog “Turn it Up.” He is the author of three books, including “The Beatles vs. The Rolling Stones: Sound Opinions on the Great Rock ‘n’ Roll Rivalry,” which he co-authored with Derogatis.

“Sound Opinions” includes every music genre in its weekly coverage of music news, critique and trends. Derogatis and Kot recommended the local talent of Probcause and Tree for this year’s hip-hop themed “Art of Songwriting.”

Probcause is an Evanston rapper known for his narrative songs and ability to incorporate various types of music, such as hip-hop, rock and dubstep. He has performed in Chicago’s North Coast Music Festival for the past four years and recently took his eclectic sound to a national stage, touring with Chicago hip-hop legend Twista and electronic DJ Steve Aoki.

Tree is a soulful Chicago rapper known for his harsh voice and “real-life” lyrics. The Chicago Tribune recently featured the artist and his impact on what age and maturity mean to hip-hop and America’s youth. Tree performed on the final day of Chicago’s Pitchfork Music Festival and has two acclaimed mix tapes, “Sunday School” and “Sunday School II.”

In recent years, the Center for the Writing Arts has invited music artists to share their writing experiences with the Northwestern community. Previous artists include OKGO, Kristen Detor and Toshi Reagon.