Chicago-based duo Rich Jones and Montana Macks are bonded by a love for hip-hop’s roots and the classic dynamic between a producer and their go-to MC. While their careers have been characterized by different collaborations and diversions into other genres, the soul of rap’s culture and history remains at the core of their artistic identity. On How do you sleep at night?, the Chi-town veterans reignite their musical partnership and heritage for a jazzy affair that confronts 2020’s social and political turmoil from a blunt point of view.
Recorded in the initial months of the pandemic, Jones’ writing for the project became informed by the grim realities unfolding before him on both social media and in the streets of his own city. He meditates on the normalization of police brutality (“Groceries”) and the blatant corruption of politicians small and large (“How do you sleep at night?”), calling into question the privilege and lack of empathy of not only the ruling class but the average unconcerned citizen (“Give It Back”). But Jones also offers a response to this overwhelming paranoia. On “And It Was Beautiful” and “Locals Only,” he shows defiance towards upper class agendas and revels in the joy of his peers and community, channeling the spirit of the Chicago everyman and propping up the notion that true power belongs to the people.
Over the album’s ten tracks, the production from Montana Macks is simple, organic, and steeped in cool-tone sounds that nod to ’90s greats like A Tribe Called Quest, Gang Starr, and Souls of Mischief. The beats often maintain a melancholy tone to support Jones’ mellow and reflective vocal style, but when necessary, add an uplifting backdrop to drive home a motivational message. No matter the mood, Macks’ instrumental palette is the perfect compliment to the direct and forthright lyricism Jones brings to the table, a testament to their longstanding creative relationship and undeniable chemistry.