Tris J is definitely not a household name at this point, which is why he’s on this list. The Chicago rapper is affiliated with Sir Michael Rocks, not only as his blood cousin, but as part of Rocks’ Toothpick Clique crew. This is where and when we first gained notice of the deep-voiced MC.
Tris J aka Tristan Casanova only began stepping out as a rapper in his own right in 2012, he’s got just two mixtapes under his belt at this point; the first is Tris World, which is definitely a good introduction to the style of Tris, and the second is Tristal. Tris J’s deep voice flows over beats like molasses, and he strings his words together without a care, often injecting humor into his lyrics. Tris is jokes, plain and simple. He’s a fan of the cowbell, as are The Cool Kids, and his beat choice may be somewhat interchangeable with the more well-known Mikey Rocks, but that’s not to put shade on either rapper, in fact their choice of production should be praised more often than it is.
Giftz is grimy and gritty like the streets of the Chi, and he puts it all into his music. The 22-year old MC counts himself a member of the F.O.C. crew (Focused On Cash). The rapper came up on the East Side of Chiraq, which he makes evident throughout his music.
As a relatively new face on the scene, he’s released a few things in 2012 but 2013 offered his biggest project to date, Position Of Power, which is filled with hard production and poignant narration from the MC. Young Giftz trades rhymes with fellow Chicago rappers on the tape(some of whom makes an appearance on this list) like Lucki Eck$, Tree, Freddie Gibbs, Rockie Fresh and King Louie. He obviously has the approval of his peers, and the trap/drill influences of his surroundings make him much less niche than counterparts like Tree, which only means he’s that much more accessible. We’ll definitely be checking for his next project, Mirrors, for which a leak dropped this past week, "Movie."
Giftz says: "Chicago definitely has a big impact on the music I make! I'm pretty sure people from out of town hear some of the words not only myself but a lot of artist from Chicago say and wonder what the hell we talking about. It's dope to hear mainstream artist like Meek Mill and Rich Homie Quan use our slang like "Thot" and "Hittas"...the city also gives me a lot to rap about since it's so many different cultures and life styles out here...if you grew up on the west side of Chicago the East Side would seem like a totally different world to you..."
Tree hails from Chicago’s Cabrini Green projects and he first started making a splash with his grimy Sunday School mixtape in 2012, although he had been writing and rapping for about 12 years prior, and it was not his first release (he began in 2010 with a project called The 3rd Floor). Since then he’s grown and developed a fan base as well as some respect in the city.
Part of Tree’s uniqueness is the fact that he has his very own version of trap, which he dubs soul trap. It’s a pretty interesting sound, with soul at the forefront of the production and his gritty, raspy voice adding to the whole vibe. Tree seems like he’s really on his own tip, and while he’s known to get a little ignant from time to time you will also find lyricism and a not-often-heard realness in his music. He followed up the first Sunday School with an even more impressive and cohesive effort (not to mention better mixing and mastering) Sunday School II, which serves as the perfect way to get to know Tree, not only as a rapper but as a person, as he delves into his personal life and past troubles. There’s also an even more recent project from Tree, THE @MCTREEG EP, however, if you have just one project to check out, we recommend Sunday School II.
Tree says: "Chicago has impacted me and my music tremendously, whether it be the slang, dialect or the way we talk to the way we dress. The Chicago culture is evident in all of us (Chi artists). With every artist you can - if you're from chicago - kinda get a sense of what neighborhood or side of town that someone is from. West siders ride Cadillacs and town cars on 26's and southsiders do box Chevy's etc. In return, all that ends up in the music. I'm a project cat so I talk about project shit at times. We're all from the same place, but in the end there are so many different facets to Chicago and the music that comes out of the city."
Alex Wiley hasn't been on the radar for too long, but what he has done in that amount of time is impressive. The 20-year old MC hailing from Chi-town's South Side first introduced himself to the world with his Club Wiley mixtape, which was presented by himself. Alex Wiley x Alex Wiley. The tape, which arrived this past June, has strong, mainly uptempo production while Wiley gets a little bit wild, creating the perfect party soundtrack. The nasally-voiced rapper may remind you of Chance The Rapper, but it's in the best way possible. In fact, after listening to his debut project, you may find yourself swaying to Wiley's side over Chance. And if they sound similar, it's only natural, as the two are acquainted, although Wiley is not an official member of the SAVEMONEY crew. Nonetheless, Wiley has collaborated with both Chance and Vic Mensa several times, some of which are featured on Club Wiley.
This year, Wiley has collaborated with another rapper on the list, Mick Jenkins, a few times. Most recently, we heard his new single "Own Man" which sounds much more subdued and serious in tone than the party-oriented Club Wiley mixtape, perhaps a sign of things to come from Wiley's sophomore album Village Party.
While Lil Bibby is officially on the cusp of something big, after releasing the highly praised mixtape Free Crack, his homie and fellow Chicago native Lil Herb is still making his way up the ranks, although having Bibby as a friend definitely helps get his name out there. Lil Herb going by G Herbo these days, is very similar to Bibby, which is perhaps unsurprising as they entered the rap game together, having been friends who recorded music together on their phones and in various closets (we think it’s safe to say they no longer have to resort to such tactics).
Herbo’s voice isn’t quite as shockingly-deep as Bibby’s but it still has this deep and gritty quality to it, portraying his passion and his ferocity, a reflection of the neighbourhood he grew up in and his desire to get it. While it would be all too easy to lump Herb in the drill scene, it may not be appropriate. Similar to Lil Bibby, there’s a certain element to the music we’ve heard thus far that makes it soulful, and Herb often paints a striking picture of hard times he’s endured from his real life tribulations. Herb only released an official debut this past month, with Welcome To Fazoland: The Motion Picture. He delivered nothing less than a blockbuster, with a touch of the drill, a touch of the soul and a touch of griminess. G Herbo will soon be carving his own lane, perhaps beside the drill lane.
Lucki Eck$ is a Chi-town native who is truly doing his own thing in this rap game. He hasn’t been doing it for too long, he’s only a 17-year old teenageer after all, but he’s already developed a unique style and delivery which is sort of (but at the same time not really) summed up in his debut mixtape’s title Alternative Trap. It seems like Tree isn’t the only rapper dubbing his own style of trap music.
The Westside of Chicago native has plans for the unexpected, and if that’s the case, his mixtape is a step in the right direction...although, how can we really say, if Eck$ wants to do the unexpected? Despite hailing from West Chicago his Twitter bio says he’s from Xan-land—which sounds pretty accurate, to tell the truth. Eck$ is one laid-back rapper, with an I-don’t-give-a-fuck flow that rarely picks up or changes pace. He slurs his words together, almost like he’s off the Xans , with trippy or melancholy beats. Definitely not your Average Trap, of which there is plenty.
We haven’t seen much from the femcee Jean Deaux as of yet, but we expect that’ll be changing very shortly. What we have heard from her, has peaked our interest in a very good way. Similar to our one other female on this list, Tink, Jean Deaux does a bit of singing and a bit of rapping, although, unlike Tink, she seems to do a tad more rapping than singing. We’re quite content with that too.
You may recognize her name from Isaiah Rashad’s new Cilvia Demo as she was featured on “Menthol.” Or perhaps you saw her pop on the Pro Era track recently, A La $ole & Rokamouth’s “Dirty Dancing.” We encourage you to peep her solo content, although her debut project, Solar System has yet to drop, she kicked off a “RAW” series in 2013, which contains unwritten, unmastered, unmixed music—thus , raw. Despite not being mastered, the content is still strong, proving the power she has an artist. A lot of it has an ethereal, mellow, r’n’b vibe as she displays her extremely soulful and soothing vocals whether that be singing melodies or spitting a few bars.
Jean Deaux says: "Being from Chicago is one of the greatest parts of my life. It's a part of my identity and I love my city. I was born and raised on the Westside where the culture can be traced back to runaway slaves going "north" and ending up in this giant city. My great grandparents are from Memphis and before them, my great are from the slums of Puerto Rico. But both of my parents were raised right here. I grew up listening to a lot of latin music, house & disco music, but my mother was also really into rap -- B.I.G, Pac, Do or Die, Crucial Conflict, and so on. She also played a lot of gospel & RnB. The culture of Chicago was prominent in my house. The diverse music we listened to, the different blood lines pulsating through our veins, the neighborhood of city kids & seasoned elders. Strong identities are found in Chicago and that's been passed to me."
If Chicago’s rap scene is really divided between drill and soul trap, well then, Ibn Inglor fits neither of those descriptions. He’s definitely left-field, and while he’s received comparisons to Kanye West because of that, a ‘Ye comparison isn’t quite accurate. Ibn Inglor is on a dark, distorted vibe, with lyrics that can be equally as cryptic and abrasive as the production. The rapper started gaining buzz in the Chi around the release of his debut studio effort, GawdsSpeed, which was entirely recorded in the young MC’s bedroom in the Chicago projects Altgeld Gardens. This should take nothing away from the listening of the project—we know that many rappers made their debut simply recording music in a closet, after all, Juicy J is said to have recorded his hit “Bandz A Make Her Dance” using a cheap mic in a small apartment.
If you’re looking for something markedly different in your playlist, Ibn Inglor offers that, and he seems to pay no mind to what all his fellow Chi-town MCs are doing—meaning you won’t see him hop on any bandwagon. His latest mixtape, New Wave, continues the spiral of weirdness we’d expect from Ibn and the title is appropriate enough, as the rapper is definitely heralding a new wave.
Mick Jenkins is a relatively fresh face when it comes to the Chi-town rap scene, having only really surfaced in 2013. We definitely would not place him in the dominant drill category, and he’s not exactly soul trap either—although he definitely has some soul. Mick finds himself in the realm of intellectual MCs who have a wide span of references in their music. He is lyrical and he often paints a vivid picture when he’s rapping. His debut effort was released in April 2013, Trees And Truths, and funnily enough, it’s sort of reminiscent of a rapper from our Detroit Players list—Denmark Vessey. This is if only for the religious/Adam and Eve undertones. As we stated with Vessey, it was interesting yet dope to see a rapper take on religious themes, not in a preaching way, but more in a critical regard. Jenkins does this as well, although the project isn’t strictly about the Garden of Eden, it is referenced in every skit which ties the project together as a whole. Mick is now prepping a new release for March, The Water(s), which by the sounds of it, will one-up Trees And Truths—we’re basing this off the crazy sample on the leak “Martyrs” (more religious undertones, perhaps?).
Mick is definitely someone to keep on your radar, considering how ill he already is, he can only get iller. In the words of the man himself, you see the trees, you see the leaves, but homie sees the roots.
Mick says: "Chicago has influenced my music in so many different ways. Its such a vibrant and diverse city, and those words are accurate descriptions of type of people and experiences you'll have here. I grew up on 91st and Langley. I went to school at Hirsch High School on Chicago's Southside (79th and Ingleside ). My mother encouraged me at 14 to start going out on my own on the train and seeing the city for myself, and that is where Chicago tightened it's grip on me. Its no secret that chicago is a heavily segregated city and as I moved through each area and neighborhood I gained different experiences and from that new aspects of self."
Tink is an interesting look from Chicago’s rap scene. She’s not exactly a rapper, although she does it from time to time. However, she spends most of her time singing, and she does it well, both with and without help from autotune.
The female triple-threat (singer/rapper/songwriter) grew up in Calumet City which is actually outside of Chicago, and was influenced by her mom who is a gospel singer. Tink soon joined a choir at church cultivating her skills. She released her first project, Winter’s Diary, at age 18, and followed that up earlier this year with Winter’s Diary 2. Much like a diary, the project is a display of whatever may be on Tink’s mind, a lot of which has to do with lust, love and men. Every track incorporates singing from Tink, while the project as a whole is laced with some of her raps. Unlike her rap peers from the area, Tink really blends hip-hop with r’n’b, although we must say it leans slightly more towards r’n’b. That’s not a bad thing, as having the ability to sing will hopefully give her a leg up, and we could definitely see her curating some sort of r’n’b hit in the future, if she continues down this path.
Tink says: "Chicago has made me wanna keep my music authentic cuz the city is a tough city. And the respect real so I just gotta keep it 100 at all times...."
HotNewHipHop breaks down 10 different Chicago artists on the come-up that you should know about.
In December we cooked up 10 Detroit Players From The Underground. The feature was meant to give you a close look at rappers hailing from the D, who may not be on your radar/the mainstream radar. It was only right we move to another Midwest location for this next batch of artists, who all count themselves Chicago natives.
We've seen Chicago's rap scene become a focus of the industry over the last two years, thanks in most part to Chief Keef's sometimes unintelligible and turn-up worthy raps. Since Keef's break out, a lot of the attention for the Chi has been on the drill scene, and with that, the surmounting violence. However Chi-town's rap scene is definitely not limited to violence & drill music. For 10 Chicago Players we take a look at dope MCs that have a range of styles, from the aforementioned drill to soul to new-age. We aimed to choose rappers that aren't already buzzing to the tenth degree (i.e. no Chance The Rapper or Vic Mensa).
Keep open ears and click through the galleries above to learn more about the likes of Mick Jenkins, Giftz, Tree, Lucki Eck$ and six others.