A strangely anchoring dichotomy lies at the heart of Chicago’s hip-hop music scene, from which the most segregated and violent city in the United States pivots, bends, twists and turns itself around, looping together a rich tapestry of talent and cultural diversity.
One need only blink in the direction of the vastly differing career trajectories of Kanye West and Lupe Fiasco, two of the city's hip-hop alumni, in order to realise this is a scene, filled with rules, codes and boundaries, yet undeniably open to contradiction and false word. Say what? On the one side stands self-proclaimed Messiah, Kanye, having irrevocably changed the face of hip-hop and R&B all the while *insert any one his “oh he just being Kanye,” antics here.* While on the other stands a comparatively humble Lupe Fiasco, conscious hip-hop advocate who takes advantage his position as a lyricist in the limelight to excoriate corporate America for its gas-guzzling tastes and establish youth empowerment initiatives.
Even the city’s latest YouTube-sensation-come-dance craze, “Bopping,” embodies the city’s unwillingness to present a unified whole other than in its collective and total abandonment of that very notion. Made famous by Lil Kemo’s appearance in Drill artist, King Louie’s video for My Niggaz, bopping, with its frenetic footwork on the bottom and loose freestyle of elbows and shoulder shrugs on top is, as Meagan Garvey notes, business on the bottom and party on top.
In light of Vic Mensa’s new track, Feel That, come with us as we look at four of the cities male hip-hop artists, taking over from the Kanye’s and the Lupe’s and forging a path of their own.
19 year old producer Young Chop, is an embodiment of the unlikely collisions that happen in the windy city. Credited with essentially creating the city's prominent, hyper-masculine and violent Drill scene from a desktop computer in his mother's home, a gang-affiliation free, straight-edged and clean-record Young Chop can be seen being driven around the south of Chicago by his mum in the Beemer he paid for, and, despite having ventured to Paris to collaborate with Kanye West on the latest Pusha T album, had never been to The Chicago Bean before Vice forced him up town on a webisode of Chiraq. A true demonstration of just how racially and socio-economically segregated Chicago can be. Now signed to Warner Records, Young Chop is one of the most sought after hip-hop producers in the western world, and has been an integral cog in the sky rocketing career of Bieber from the wrong side of the tracks, Chief Keef. Producing songs for the 3 Hunna member like I Don’t Like, Love Sosa, and of course, 3 Hunna. Young Chop has gone on to collaborate with Big Sean, Soulja Boy, Juicy J, Wiz Khalifa and Travi$ Scott.
This kid. If you know anything about the Drill music currently pouring out of Chicago, it’s likely that you’re also acquainted, almost to the point of exhaustion, with Gucci-flashing, dread lock-sucking, belt-enthusiast, Chief Keef. At a mere 17 years old, Keef is the face, inspiration and indeed pin-cushion of the entire movement. Having hit Young Chop up on Facebook, while on house arrest in his grandmother’s living room the two collaborated on his 2012’s album Finally Rich. A boy of few words, Keef is also the semi-absent star of Vice’s 8-part web series Chiraq and gained even more exposure when Pitchfork took him to shooting range for their interview, whereby violating the conditions of his parole. Keef represents a reality of Chicago often neglected by the media, and outsiders. A reality of projects and extreme poverty, in which guns are prevalent, death is old news and gang-affiliations everything. It’s a world in which reality and social-media seamless collide; Twitter is one's jury and cases are fought on the streets, often resulting in real loss and heartache. Now signed with Interscope Records, Keef has performed and produced with the likes of Drake, Kanye West, Wiz Khalifa, 50 Cent and fellow drill artists Lil Durk, King Louie and Lil Reese.
Chance The Rapper
Unlike the “brawl out,” gun-toting, motherF*&King spits of Chief Keef and his Drill affiliations, so intimately entwined in the city’s gang wars and gun violence, 20 year old classicist, Chancelor Bennett, aka, Chance the Rapper, offers us a different perspective on the same place called home, reminding us instead of Chicago’s soulful history with his rich textures and smooth rap throwbacks. Since his first mixtape 10 Day, partially recorded while on a 10 day suspension from high school, Chance’s second mixtape Acid Rap, filled with acid jazz sounds, and equal parts Eminem / Kanye references, has graced multiple “Best” lists, including Rolling Stone, Pitchfork and Complex Magazine’s. He has collaborated with the likes of future R&B stars, SZA and Tinashe, Childish Gambino, Joey Badass and fellow savemoney crew member Vic Mensa.
Off the back of the colossal popularity of his first solo mixtape Innantape that debuted earlier this year, Chicago local, and savemoney member, Vic Mensa has been touring with the likes of Disclosure and Danny Brown. Since turning his back on band Kids These Days and a shiny label deal, Mensa’s solo career has gone from strength to strength but it’s unlikely the bourgeoning superstar will be satisfied until he’s “earning more money than his dad.” Recently, J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League producer, Cottontale, told The Fader “Mensa’s the rare talent who can write, produce and sing with equal flair. I don’t think he’s just a writer and rapper. He’s definitely a producer in his own right. He has a lot of potential.” Telling of the camaraderie that exists at the centre of Chicago’s hip-hop scene, Drill or otherwise, Mensa also appeared on an episode of Vice’s Chiraq, attempting to gather enough money to post bail for fellow savemoney crew member, the aptly titled, Joey Purp. That’s love.