What Hip Hop Can Learn From Chicago

In the wake of an uprising at a Donald Trump rally in Chicago, protesters of Illinois’ major city have been on everyone’s radar. Organizers all over the country, most popularly in Missouri and Ohio, have since decided to follow in Chi-town’s footsteps. Chicago may have become 2016’s blueprint for resistance, but there’s another area they’ve set the bar in; Hip Hop.

The city’s first placing on the map came in the early 2000s with soulful MCs like Lupe Fiasco, Common, pink-polo Kanye, and tongue-tying Twista. After a leave of absence, it seemed as if they’d started poppin’ overnight. 2012 officially became the year that a new sub-genre, drill rap, would emerge into hip hop’s mainstream. Although it was an introduction to rappers like Chief Keef, Lil Durk, Lil Bibby, and more, it was also the beginning of many with poetic styles like NoName Gypsy, Chance the Rapper, Saba, Vic Mensa and Mick Jenkins.

Unlike many other regions, Chicago Hip Hoppers are mastered in portraying their realities of oppression, while also balancing their creative expression and joy. This demonstration of duality in Hip Hop is critical, being that many purists often exclude drill rap with beliefs that it’s detrimental and isn’t “lyrical” enough.

I think it’s safe to say that Chicago’s ability to embrace all parts of the culture goes hand-and-hand with its ability to merge mediums. The city’s art scene makes sure to let us know that the lines between Hip Hop and poetry are nonexistent. In fact, many of its prominent, previously mentioned recording artists show patterns of beginning in spoken word poetry, namely a youth organization named Young Chicago Authors, and still have close connections to this day. From poet and newly-signed vocalist Jamila Woods to the birth of popular poetry anthology The BreakBeat Poets: New American Poetry in the Age of Hip-Hop, Chicago’s artistry has no limits and shows the significance of community in Hip Hop. In other regions, New York City especially, rhyming and rapping are often condemned in the poetry community, while spoken word almost never finds its way into a record. Not only does Chicago teach us ways to dismantle generational gaps and to be inclusive even to the drive-by rappers, but it also shows us the potential for breaking binaries in Hip Hop. Take notes y’all.

Makayla Posley About Author

Makayla is a poet and journalist based in the tri-state area. She was a member of Urban Word NYC’s 2015 slam team for Brave New Voices International Poetry Slam and co-facilitator of Urban Word’s writing workshop BreakBeat Reporting. She has performed/been featured at venues such as the New Jersey Performing Arts Center, Nuyorican Poet’s Cafe, Apollo Theater, New York Live Arts, Monmouth Arts Festival, New York University, The Waiting Room, and more. You can also find Makayla’s writing published in places like ForHarriet and Blavity. She loves hip-hop, all things black, a good debate, and listening to people talk about their dreams.