Real Ones are a Chicago-based music journalist group, who have cornered a need for coverage in the city’s thriving underground R&B and Rap scene. Started by Ben Moskow and his team of talented creatives, they have gained almost 10,000 followers across Instagram, X, and TikTok. If you are in Chicago, their presence is hard to miss–even their stickers seem to follow me around the city.
The young, unique, and spunky collective decided to put on a show titled “Jersey In Chicago” at the iconic Subterranean venue. As a girl who was born in DC, raised in a small town in Nebraska (and Denver in the Summers), the most I knew about New Jersey culture was Cake Boss, Jersey Shore, and the occasional “Fiona Apple Jersey Club Mix” trending on TikTok. Despite this, I knew I wanted to go to the show. On November 29th, a freezing Wednesday, I threw on my cowboy boots, and fast-walked my way down to the venue, hoping I would not miss a second of a night that I knew was going to be worth me needing three cups of coffee the next day.
Sici and I made our way inside, scoping the venue, going up and down the stairs, looking over the balcony, until we decided to make our way back down, tucking ourselves behind a Hello Kitty backpack and a Jersey remix of Ice Spice’s “Deli.” The lineup included all Jersey natives ranging from the sweet and poppy Mia Gladstone, easy-going future of Jersey Club, GROOVY, passionate and ecstatic Chris Patrick, and Jersey Club queen Cookie Kawaii.
The first artist of the night was Mia Gladstone, and what an opener she was. Gladstone came out in true Chicago/Jersey fashion with earmuffs and sunglasses, ready to begin the night. If any ounce of the cold traveled into the venue, Gladstone warmed it right up. Her voice is reminiscent of Remi Wolf, with a drag and an upbeat jazzy sound. One of my favorite tracks of the night was “I LEFT THE WINDOW OPEN.” Gladstone had Chicago artist, Semiratruth, join her on stage. The two of them brought Jersey and Chicago together with a track about leaving a window open overnight and welcoming the chilly air. “I'm letting go, I’m letting go/Life breathes through the tree tops/And the flowers go.” I would describe Gladstone’s sound as a flower with attitude. She built and crafted the energy of the room, solidifying a foundation of the night that was only on the way up.
GROOVY was up next for the night. He gave the crowd a burst of Jersey Club energy. The house/neo-pop/R&B artist comes from a music family, and his stage presence shows it. GROOVY is confident in his art, and his ability to get a crowd moving. Sici and I watched from the balcony for his set, seeing the crowd move and flow, forming into one mass of bubbling excitement that was ready to boil over.
After every performance, the DJ’s namesake, and DJ CLOSE FRIENDS, knew the crowd like the back of their hands. They understood how to get Chicago and Jersey together. To be transparent, I had to DM Moskow to ask what the names of the dances were (I do not want to be the shame of Jersey). I got a hilarious voice memo back from himself and Tyrel Tchinchinian (CEO of Real Ones), which they named “Jersey step, rock your hips…dsh dsh dsh,” “if you’re hitting it in place that’s the running man.” Dance circles combined Jersey with Chicago footwork melting the destinations together with a frenzy of feet, arms swinging, and steps in and out. The dances are controlled, yet passionate, there was nothing but support and love with giggles and yells of praise for every brave soul that decided to enter the circle.
Chris Patrick came on third, after a needed dance break. Patrick’s talent is impossible to ignore. He captured and demanded attention in every song–seeming to glide and float across the stage like he was a Subterranean regular. Halfway through his set, Patrick asked the crowd to pick a side–splitting us down the middle (because Central Jersey is not a thing). He asked the crowd to be North and South Jersey–filling the room with their respective “OO’s” and “AAHH’s.” Patrick’s parting of the seas created a perfect strip of the checkered floor for him. He came down running into the crowd, rapping and dancing with a supporter of his. Seeing his fans interact and be with him, physically supporting his show with home-state dances was a moment that I’m still thinking about. Patrick’s lyrics are catchy, smart, and danceable–something I’m realizing are Jersey staples.
Jersey club queen, Cookie Kawaii, closed out “Jersey In Chicago” night. She stitched together the edges of an amazing lineup. Cookie Kawaii shares the stage with a dancer, who brings incredible energy. This duo together has an unmatched synergy. It felt like Cookie Kawaii brought her Jersey to the stage, making you come along with her–she’s girly and strong with the playfulness of an energizer bunny. She combines classic Jersey club music, with her fiery energy, and modern use of beats, making tracks that you cannot help but move to.
About ten minutes into her set, Tchinchinian was dragged onto the stage for a birthday shoutout. Cookie Kawaii put on “Birthday Song” for the birthday boy. I felt like I was brought into Tchinchinian’s birthday party in his hometown. A Jersey boy himself, Tchinchinian crafted this lineup, “This is the first show I ever curated the lineup for, thank you so much for coming out here, this shit is crazy.” Tchinchinian and Real Ones know how to put on a show. There was not a dull moment. The way they weaved Jersey and Chicago music culture together is what the music scene is about. “Jersey In Chicago” was a celebration of the music community, and a beautiful debut of what the Real Ones have to come.
Overall, this show was honestly incredible. There was an energy in the venue that I hadn’t felt at a show in a while. I can’t compare it to any other Subterranean show I’ve been to. The crowd was friendly and supportive, singing, grooving, giving hugs, and “so good to see you's.” I could just feel how much fun everyone was having–it was palpable, I felt like I could grab onto it. In the cheesiest way possible, I could not wipe the smile off of my face. This show felt like a mini community to me. It was a fresh breath that the Chicago music scene needed. If this is what New Jersey is like…I might be convinced to take a trip. Until then, I have the Real Ones “Jersey In Chicago” night to hold me over.