For generations, Chicago’s music has provided the soul-stirring soundtrack to everyday Black life while offering a lens into the culturally rich neighborhoods that comprise the Windy City. At its roots, Chicago has always been a mainstay in blues and gospel, dating back to the days of Muddy Waters and Chuck Berry records lining the Maxwell Street Market and the uplifting sounds of Thomas A. Dorsey -- widely regarded as the father of Gospel -- permeating the halls of Black churches along the city’s southside.
In more recent memory, drill music -- Chicago’s homegrown rap sub-genre -- has taken over as the dominant sound of the city. In the early 2010s, Chief Keef ’s “Don’t Like” and the Kanye West-backed remix triggered a wave of drill rappers like Lil Durk, King Louie and G Herbo who blew up as their rugged DIY visuals and grim (albeit, infectious) brand of street stories converted young onlookers to fans in droves. Known for its menacingly booming production, the sub-genre would go on to attract the attention of big name collaborators like Pusha T, Rick Ross and Waka Flocka Flame whose drill-charged remixes would effectively shine a spotlight on the artists bubbling up from that scene and, in turn, the city as a whole.
All eyes were on Chicago and that newfound limelight set the stage for an adjacent wave of artists (some of whom are featured on Billboard's new Chicago Emerging R&B/Hip-hop Artist chart) who rose to mainstream notoriety in the wake of drill’s early prominence. Influenced by everything from Kanye’s effervescent creative spirit to the city’s soul music heritage, these artists colored outside the lines, framing a more complete picture of the eclectic and enduring nature of Black Chicago.