Wearing his wife's fur-trimmed coat and a white angora hat, Fred Donini-Lenhoff adjusts the mic from which he will "spit rhymes."
Freddy Flow, Donini-Lenhoff's rapping persona, opens his set with a question.
"Are there any fans of AARP in the house tonight?"
At 51, the River Forest resident calls himself "the oldest rapper in captivity." But this claim is disputable considering hip-hop is at a point in its history where its pioneers are aging.
Still, the once shy Donini-Lenhoff's late arrival to rap has raised eyebrows among his friends — and some in the crowds in which he performs once or twice a month.
"Some people were surprised. They say, 'What's happened to Fred?" said Donini-Lenhoff, who changes up his look a bit, sometimes wearing a seersucker suit and going by "the Very Most Rev. Freddy Flow."
"Most people in a midlife crisis buy a Ferrari or have an affair. I'm rapping," he observed.
A hip-hop mix tape a nephew gave him for his 48th birthday inspired Donini-Lenhoff to explore rap. After performing at parties, he was encouraged to take his act public and he has been fine-tuning the mostly tongue-in-cheek character for the last year.
He plays violin — maybe a first for rap — and incorporates an artsy video installation that plays on a loop behind him onstage.
And what is the gospel according to Flow? "The gospel of the Flow is love and laughter, connecting people from different generations," he said. "I don't take myself seriously. It's just fun."