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Million $ Mano

We talk to the DJ about how he's blowing up on the scene and his hatred of 'hipster rap.'
Tuesday Jun 24, 2008.     By Maya Henderson
Centerstage Chicago Nightlife City Guide Arts

Million $ Mano will happily talk to you about music. He'll go on about The Rapture and listening to Daft Punk's Homework in his younger days. But try to get him to comment on hipster rap or the hipster dance scene, and the words go from appreciative to barely fit to print.

"It's whack to call it hipster rap," says 24-year-old Mano, born Emmanuel Nickerson, referring to the new, Chicago-centered style of hip-hop that blends hype club beats and thick bass lines. "Me, Hollywood Holt and Mic Terror were at Skribble jam, we were in b-boy battles. We have the validity and experience that a lot of artists today don't have. We're just doing things different and doing what we want to do."

Mano's passion for hip-hop and dance music goes back to when he was a kid who fell in love with DJing after seeing the movie "Juice." Mano's first taste behind the decks was in eighth grade when his cousin (Hollywood Holt's brother) got a set of turntables. He came over every day to practice (and notes that it really only took him a week to pick up on it) until he saved up enough money to get his own set his freshman year of high school.

A few years later, he caught the attention of Kanye West (right when College Dropout debuted) and people at his production label, G.O.O.D. Music, at a Teen Summit in Hyde Park.

That was all Mano needed to get serious about his craft, remixing and producing his takes on hip-hop, electro and dance music. He got a break into the local club scene as the Monday night resident DJ at Funky Buddha, developed strong connections at G.O.O.D. Music and became a staple at some of the wildest dance parties. Mano became in-demand at clubs around town, started a residency at Underground and was named to Urb magazine's Next 100 artists to watch. This past spring, he toured with M.I.A., but left early when Lupe Fiasco's label, 1st and 15th, signed "He Say, She Say," Mano's project with vocalist Drea Smith.

"It's electro with a heavy rock, new wave and punk influence, hard bass lines with dope analog synthesizers," he says. "But what separates our stuff from most electro music is Drea's voice. She's a trained vocalist who actually knows how to sing."

Mano's got a lot going on for him, which is why, even though he's easily irritated about the whole hype of the hipster scene, hes not worried about his future as a DJ and producer.

"When you hear me DJ, it's not all blog house and nu-rave. I'm not just playing the new Crookers track," he says. "I like to perform and everything is artistic expression for me."

Best Clothing Store?
There are three: Leaders, Uprise and St. Alfred

Best hidden gem in the city?
Joy Yee in Chinatown

Best under-the-radar club?
Evil Olive

Favorite drink?
Framboise Lambic Peach

Favorite track to play out right now?
Cut Copy "Birthday (Boys Noize remix)" and Mic Terror "Juke Dem Hoes"


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Get divey on Grace; go downstairs at River North's Curio.

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Go Dutch at Vincent and satisfy a familiar sweet tooth at BomBon.

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