OKRP launches #312Soul for Black History Month

Chicago agency O’Keefe Reinhard & Paul has officially launched #312Soul, a four-week, four-part multimedia online showcase promoting Chicago’s Black Music History from 1955 through 1990.

Featuring original video essays, interviews, playlists, artifacts and more, #312Soul will continue throughout February to celebrate Black History Month and also reinforce 2020 as the Year of Chicago Music.

ALSO READ: City designates 2020 as the ‘Year of Chicago Music’

While the story of Chicago’s Blues scene has already been well documented, this initiative reveals another side to Chicago’s music history that’s just as interesting and influential, if not as celebrated and understood.

OKRP partnered with Chicago music impresario and founder of Slang Music Group Vince Lawrence to launched the campaign, officially titled, #312Soul: An Unfinished Retrospective of Chicago’s Black Music History.

This new series will share the untold stories and introduce the unsung stars who lived through each exciting era from Horns to House, Soul to Straight-up Funk.


The heart of our best work
“Music is at the heart of our best work,” says Matt Reinhard, co-founder and Chief Product Officer at OKRP. “Music inspires how we shape stories for brands — the jingles we write for clients, the range of genres we tap into for online video and network commercials, and even the playlists we curate for the agency.”

“We partnered with Vince Lawrence to help bring together Chicago’s living music legends, providing a digital stage to share their untold stories.”

#312Soul takes viewers through the evolution of Chicago music by celebrating some of its biggest influencers, from the break-out sounds of the Blues and beyond.

Among the first video sessions conducted by Lawrence is a conversation with Grammy Hall of Fame artist Gene Chandler, who explains how he and his band created the 1962 number-one hit “Duke of Earl” during a warm-up exercise.

Other features include a Soulstress Spotlight on the women who drove Chicago music, from The Opals to Chaka Khan; and “Soul Samples” that link old-school hits to new-school chart toppers: Etta James to Avicii, and the Chi-Lites to Beyoncé.

“Chicago has been at the forefront of music culture for the last 50 years,” explains Lawrence. “Every relevant culture shift in Black music has stemmed from Chicago, changing the face of music as we know it. Chicago has given birth to some of the greatest artists of all time who have in turn had profound influence on other artists around the world. Just consider the impact of Chicago’s Curtis Mayfield, Etta James, Herbie Hancock, Chaka Khan, Earth Wind and Fire, and the list goes on.”

ALSO READ: City of Chicago honors Vince Lawrence for his contribution to house music

Horns to House
One of the highlights of the series is “Horns to House”, the theme music for #312Soul. The original song was created by Lawrence who, in addition to being an innovator of House music, is also a multi-platinum-winning music producer.

“Horns to House” was arranged by Tom Washington, a three-time Grammy-nominated artist known for, among other things, Earth Wind & Fire’s smash hit, “September.”

The recording of the original song featured a who’s who of Chicago music playing at Soundmine Studios on Chicago’s South Side.

“Music is a way for humans to express their emotions,” says Washington during the recording. “And it isn’t finished until it has the horns and strings.”

The Eras
The multimedia showcase will feature “era-themed” content and playlists starting with the mid 1950s through the mid 1990s.

Week One (1955 – 1966)
Chicago performers including Gene Chandler, Major Lance, Etta James and Betty Everett. Also included is Jerry Butler and the Impressions whose “For Your Precious Love” was considered Chicago’s first soul hit in 1958.

Week Two (1967 – 1976)
A new generation of innovative Black Chicago artists such as The Impressions’ Willie Henderson, The Staples Singers, The Chi-Lites, Baby Huey and Curtis Mayfield. Mayfield’s 1970 hit “Move on Up,” became a classic of the Chicago Soul sound. Eddie Thomas, who in partnership with Mayfield formed Curtom Records, is interviewed.

Week Three (1977-1984)
Disco and DJ era of Chicago’s dance music scene with featured artists Linda Clifford, Earth, Wind & Fire, The Emotions, Chaka Khan and interviews with Captain Sky. This era closes with Jesse Saunders & Vince Lawrence’s 1984 dance club hit “On and On,” which many say inspired the House Music movement.

Week Four (1985 – 1990)
House Music and its global influence on DJs and dance club culture. Recordings from DJs and Producers such as Frankie Knuckles, Ron Hardy, and Marshall Jefferson are represented at the forefront of this time period.

In addition to original content created by OKRP and Lawrence, curated links to third party content such as podcasts, rare vinyl tracks and previously conducted interviews will be available on the site as well as shared through social media.

Top photo: a frame from #312Soul

About OKRP
Chicago-based OKRP, named by Advertising Age as a 2019 “A-List Standout Agency” and a 2018 “Agency to Watch,” is a new model independent advertising agency that delivers big brand creativity with start-up ingenuity. With its belief that success as a new model agency relies on the ability to be nimble and to bring together the best talent for its clients, O’Keefe Reinhard & Paul has practiced the “high art of selling” on behalf of clients such as Chili’s, Ace Hardware, Groupon, Illinois Lottery, Illinois Office of Tourism, Nike Chicago and Home Chef among others.