At every mention of the windy city of Chicago, you think of Vice documentaries about its crime rate and teenagers walking around with Kevlar vests. You think of mothers wailing at the funeral of their sons gunned down before their prime in a crime-infested haze.
You think of Jonylah, the infant gunned down as her father was changing her diaper. You think of 'Jonylah Forever,' the imaginative, glowing tribute by Grammy-winning Chicago rapper, Lupe Fiasco which envisioned Jonylah in another world, growing up as a Doctor and helping people. You think of the Dick Wolf Chicago-based TV franchise.
However, Chicago is more than the crime. The windy city with the weird design at its city centre is also the home of music. Per 'Homecoming,' it's the city that saw another Chicago native, Kanye West meet his first love. Historically, the city is a home to American music. Through time, it has been home to Blues, Bluegrass, Rock n' Roll, Jazz, House, EDM and now Hip-Hop.
In the 70's, Chicago was home to Jazz. In the 80's and early 90's, the City was home to rock influences, punk. In the 90's, Hip-Hop took centre stage through Chicago for the midwest. That journey birthed the success of acts like Twista, Rhymefest, Da Brat, Kanye, NO ID, Common, Lupe Fiasco and so forth.
But in the early 2010s, something started happening. A group of teens who had grown up around each other in and around Chicago began to make music. Their sound is the jazz-rich, windy, dreamy production that only Chicago acts could produce. They also collaborated with and supported each other. Since then, they have produced a Grammy winner and numerous critically-acclaimed albums.
While the new school became noticeable with Chief Keef, better, more methodical rappers were coming through without most people noticing. Some of those rappers are; Chance The Rapper, Vic Mensa, G Herbo, Rockie Fresh, Joey Purp, Saba, Joseph Chilliams, Dreezy, Noname, KAMI, Towkio, Mick Jenkins, Tink, Jean Deaux, Lil Durk, Lil Bibby, Alex Wiley, Ravyn Lenae and so forth.
They also have producers like Thelonius Martin, Cam’Obi, Nico Segal, Thempeople, L10, Papi Beatz, Smoko Ono, Phoenix, and Nate Fox. Importantly, they also know how to work in groups and collectives like SAVE MONEY, PivotGang and so forth.
Port Harcourt, Nigeria
While the violence is also a common feature of the place affectionately known as PH, it's nowhere near Chicago's. Historically, it's also grounded in history. However, in contemporary Nigerian pop was its reputation forged as a breeding ground for pop acts that blew in Lagos.
Acts like Burna Boy, Timaya, Sky B, M-Trill, Mr. 2Kay, Slow Dogg, Nigga Raw, Duncan Mighty and so forth are Port Harcourt boys. But by 2018, they started having a 'Chicago 2011 moment.' Their artists, mostly Gen Z Trappers began bustling out the submarine of Nigerian underground. They're also finding their own brand of afrobeats.
Within that time, acts like Veen, Kiienka, Ogranya, Lyn, Illgod, Timi Kei, Sknny, Ajebo Hustlers, Merry Lynn, Slow Zeus, Rinds, Monakhy, DanDizzy, Dr. Barz and so forth are headlining that generation. In so many ways, they're emulating the Trap/Alternative Abuja set of 2016 and Jos Hip-Hop 2016 set. Like Chicago 2011, they are collaborating with each other and they are finding a sound.
They might not blow this year or even in 2021, but one should keep an eye out for these guys.
UPDATE: Omah Lay was a part of that generation as well.