By Marlena Wadley
The vibration of drums thump against the walls, the bass bellows, and the sweet hymn of a piano slither between your ears, “Poodle,” or as others know, Sloane Crawford gracefully struts down Subterranean spiral staircase, to start her Tuesday night set. Every step captures the beat of the music. The disco jerk in her body makes you want to dance, and the rasp and richness of her voice leaves you captivated.
A disco/funk band emerging at a time where Hip Hop is dominant in Chicago’s music scene, Crawford’s band, The Ear Hustler’s Collective, is doing something in music that no one has really seen since the 70s.
Chicago has birthed big names in rap like Kanye, Chance, Lupe, Mick, Saba (just to name a few) and many artists are moving to Chicago to get a taste of the same success. Right now The Ear Hustler’s Collective are the next anecdote of one of Chicago’s music successors. A rebirth funk, disco, and soul, they leave you with the feel of your Grandma’s living room, your mama’s throwback playlist, and a mix of sultry and soul train.
Sloane Crawford was just a girl from Sacramento, California who moved to Chicago to study music at Columbia College. She studies jazz, but the songstress also sings r&b, funk, and musical theater. “Music was just something that I connected with really young. I never questioned it, it was always something I wanted to do.”
Sloane discovered her talent while doing homework at a young age. She realized it was the vibrations and frequencies in her voice that sparked her interest. “I was just doing single notes like some…” She breaks off her thought and begins singing a few oohs. “And I was just listening to the vibrations of the notes. I was singing really high tones and I liked how fast the vibrations were and I liked what I heard. It wasn’t even singing a tune it was just oohing.”
The Ear Hustler’s Collective is a melting pot of funk, jazz, and r&b. You can hear the influences of Joey Badass, Sarah Vaughn, Jill Scott, and even Bootsy Collins in their music.
Their band includes Virgil Shepp on the keys, Ben Longson playing guitar, and Jakob Allen rocking the bass. And of course Sloane, aka Poodle, lead singer. A color block of hair and clothes, you can find her doing a shoulder shimmy and bouncing to the bass in her pink, or purple, or orange wig. “Poodles are dope, their hair’s eccentric, they’re smart, and they’re elegant. If you really think about it, it’s a great dane or a poodle.”
Like everyone her music is inspired by real life experiences, but her writing process roams outside the norm of singers. Usually we relate free-styling to rappers, but Sloane tends to dabble in her own form of spontaneous lyricism. The band holds a jam session, she brings her notebook filled with songs, and they all just collab. What people don’t know is each song is completely different live from when it was written. Same melody, same instrument construction, but the words: a new formation of feeling and sentiment.
A few head nods, a couple claps, and some hips swings all fill the Subterranean as Sloane ends her set with an upbeat yet soulful song. The crowd, including her friends are all in awe. “ “Sloane connects with the audience. Her music is very relatable, it tells a story, easy to remember and the melodies are unique to her,” says friend, Sovren Gray.
After she changes clothes, she joins everyone.They surround her with greetings of amazement and audience members crowd her with compliments.
“I just hope I can take my craft as far as God will let me go. I dream that I can touch some people.”