Mohawk Johnson makes his big return to live music behind the fiery single “Outside”

From August 2020 till June 2022, after being arrested at a Loop protest to defund CPD and abolish ICE, Chicago rapper Jeremey “Mohawk” Johnson was subject to the torments of Cook County’s buggy electronic monitoring system and its Kafkaesque bureaucracy. During that same period, he released music that’s boisterous, funny, and vulnerable. The bulk of it came out in the first half of 2021, ending with the intense single “Villainous”; then he was silent till the searching EP Trash on Valentine’s Day 2022, which closes with a soliloquy about a toxic relationship, victimhood, and community. Four months later, a Cook County judge released Johnson from electronic monitoring, and a few weeks ago the rapper released his first piece of new music in eight months: the big-footed, acerbic single “Outside.” The song pairs Johnson with producer Naughta, who collaborated with him on his very first single (2018’s “Hush”). Naughta expanded Johnson’s taste in dance music, and you can hear that all over “Outside”—the instrumental stokes the rapper’s exuberant performance with clusters of minimalist, blown-out bass, an ascending staccato percussive loop, and a sample of what sounds like a siren. Johnson switches his flow between ironclad and butter-smooth while taking aim at the broken justice system and gassing himself up. “Outside” commands everyone in earshot to get on their feet and move, which bodes well for Johnson’s gig at the Promontory; this will be his first in-person concert since the start of the pandemic.

Mohawk Johnson Eliy Orcko headlines, Mohawk Johnson and Davis the Dorchester Bully open. Thu 10/28, 7 PM, the Promontory, 5311 S. Lake Park Ave. West, $20, $15 in advance, 18+

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