When Roosevelt Burkett launched his rap career three years ago under the name “Slang Bang,” he had been working as a custodian at the University for over a decade.
His work has been simmering since then, laying just under the radar of the Illinois hip-hop scene. But between U of C students on Facebook and the small army of fans he has cultivated over MySpace, Burkett—now a custodian at South Campus residence hall—seems to have grabbed hold of something that demands attention.
Burkett dubs his work “ventmusic,” a concept he developed himself and hopes to someday copyright, which consists of simply setting a beat and “going on a rant.” His YouTube channel, “Mr. Slang Bang,” is alive with videos of him “venting” in such a way.
“I rap about, you know, that street life. I grew up on the South Side. I’m just like a street analyst. I just tell what’s going on,” he said.
Reverbnation.com, a website that promotes and rates up-and-coming musicians, has documented Burkett’s considerable success for a new rapper, ranking him 10 among Illinois rappers out of more than 1,000. He has garnered 12,774 fans on the site and his MySpace profile combined.
This has translated to gigs, booked through Chicago-based labels Process of Progress and Rush Entertainment, and he performs at various venues in the Chicago area, such as Exedus II in Wrigleyville and Adrianna’s Club Ballroom in the south suburbs. He also performs monthly at the Checker Board Lounge in East Hyde Park in a show sponsored by Rush Entertainment.
Though Burkett wants to continue togrow his rap career, he says it’s for his own satisfaction rather than the publicity.
“I do this for the love, whether I get fame from it or not,” he said.
Still, his longtime facilities job at South Campus weighs on his mind.
“I’ve been working for the University of Chicago for 16 years. I’m just trying to get out of my situation. I’ve been doing custodial work for a long time, and I just feel like I’ve got talent. Some people think I don’t, but I’m not going to stop for nobody.”
The next stage for Burkett’s music is a DVD compilation of music videos, the first volume named The Black and Blue Mix Tape. The videos, each their own song, will tie together to tell a larger story, which Burkett hopes will provoke people to critique them.
But Burkett isn’t the only South Campus custodian in the underground rap scene. He owes some of his success to his co-worker, Eric Jackson, who raps under the moniker DJ E and has served as a mentor to Burkett, guiding him throughout his rapping career.
“He tells me about the game,” Burkett said. “He’s been in the hip-hop scene for a long time. When I started, he just showed me what I needed to do as far as getting in the underground scene and making an impact.”
In addition to his gigs throughout Chicago, students on campus have recognized his work. One student posted a music video for his song “You Don’t Want None” on the Overheard at UChicago Facebook page a few weeks ago.
Burkett is grateful for student interest in his work, but said there is still much more to come and hopes people continue to follow his music.
“I appreciate the student who did that—I wish I knew his name. Everybody walks up to me like, ‘Oh, when is the next one coming out?’ and I just try to be a humble guy. I got more work to do.”