Over Memorial Day weekend Chance The Rapper started the #SaveChicago campaign to curb violence in the "Windy City." With more meaningful new artists coming from that region than ever before, can there be a unified movement for peace in the streets of "Chiraq?"
Back in 2011 Kanye West rapped the chilling statistic "314 soldiers died in Iraq, 509 died in Chicago," in his verse from "Murder to Excellence" from the Watch The Throne album, and yet three years later 80 people were shot over July 4th weekend in the city that's come to be known as "Chiraq." Common even makes reference to the hopeless mentality of his hometown with his forthcoming album title, Nobody's Smiling.
Back in 1989, KRS-One raised money and awareness to combat violence in the streets, with some help from some of hip hop's top MCs on the song "Self-Destruction." The following year, the same thing happened on the West Coast with the song "We're All in the Same Gang," which promoted peace between gang members on the streets of California.
A lot has changed in the quarter century since those songs were recorded, but one thing that hasn't is the influence of celebrities. Chicago has been a hotbed of hip hop talent since the early '90s when artists like the aforementioned Common and Twista first emerged onto the scene and in recent years the "Windy City" has produced some of the industry's most buzzed about talent including Lupe Fiasco, Chief Keef, Lil Durk and perhaps the most popular rookie sensation of them all, Chance The Rapper, which begs the question: With so much talent in one city, could a united attack on violence really make a difference? In a way it already has.
With the release of his critically acclaimed breakthrough mixtape Acid Rap, Chance The Rapper established himself as someone with a significant sphere of influence. He put that influence to the test over Memorial Day weekend, initiating the #SaveChicago campaign at the behest of his father. That weekend not a single person was shot. Though the tragic statistics returned by the fourth, Chance proved that his word carries weight. So why not get everyone together to extrapolate the movement and hopefully bring about more permanent results?
Unlike generations past this youthful crop of budding talent exemplifies the dichotomy of urban males more than it does geographical unity. Though artists like Common and Lupe Fiasco preach peace and positivity, many of the younger MCs like Keef, Lil Bibby and Lil Durk are ominous examples of art imitating life with violence being the central theme to the bulk of their music.
For real change to take place in Chicago, the revolution must be lead by the younger generation of rappers, but therein lies the catch 22, because for many of these MCs violence and danger is all they know. Chance The Rapper has proven that he can make a serious difference in his community. Hopefully he can continue to grow the #SaveChicago movement and turn it into something bigger than music.
Hip hop is every bit as effective at inspiring change in urban communities unfortunately for Chi-Town the unity that would bring about such change is the challenge as long as up-and-coming MCs continue to ignore the problems taking place at home Chicago will continue to be a war zone. This current generation of MCs has to come together, not for a song or even a mixtape, but for a movement.