The hip hop scene in Chicago, Illinois, has produced many artists of various styles. Famous rappers in Chicago include Twista, Lupe Fiasco, Bump J, Rhymefest, Chief Keef, Chance the Rapper, Lil Durk, King Louis, Dottie Staxx, Big Scene, Da Brat, Shawna, Kanye West, G Herbo, Fredo Santana, Common, Warhol.s, Gingahbread, Killah C., S.A.W, Johnny P., Newsense, Crucial Conflict, Do or Die and Psychodrama
Chicago hip hop artists have never coalesced around an easily defined style or sound (with the exception of the recent drill scene). Instead, Chicago hip hop artists took inspiration from a variety of regional influences - initially the East Coast, with its jazz and soul based sampling and "conscious" lyricism. At the same time, other Chicago artists embraced West Coast production, with its funky, synth-driven instrumentation. Eventually, artists like Twista, Do or Die, Crucial Conflict and Psychodrama put their own twist on West Coast instrumentation, adding double-time high hat patterns, and, in what would become Chicago's first, home-grown, and immediately recognizable "style", rapping in double or triple time over the funky, synth-driven beats.
Chicago hip hop's embrace of eclectic regional styles was also reflected in (and probably influenced by) the playlists of local hip hop radio stations, which gave West Coast, East Coast, and especially southern hip hop equal consideration.
Choppers, or rappers with incredibly fast flow, originated primarily in the Midwest and in the 1990s, with the scene in Chicago becoming the city's first cohesive hip hop style. The most significant rappers and groups to come out of Chicago during this time included Do or Die, Crucial Conflict, and Twista, who at one point was considered the world's fastest rapper.
The success of Kanye West has had a ripple effect on the local hip hop, with his production style (dubbed "chipmunk soul" for West's sampling and pitching-up of soul vocals) having a large impact on albums like Common's critically acclaimed album Be and Twista's Kamikaze, both of whom are Chicago hip hop veterans and both of whom have guested on West's tracks. His alternative, non-gangster sound also helped pave the way for non-gangster rappers like Lupe Fiasco, whose career had a huge boost when he guested on West's track "Touch The Sky", in addition to conscious rappers such as Rhymefest. West's influence is still felt in the local hip hop scene by up and coming rappers like Vic Mensa and Chance the Rapper, with West's The College Dropout being the first hip hop record Chance ever heard.
A new sound that has recently gotten very popular in Chicago is a new style of hip hop called drill music that formed on Chicago's South Side. This style is very slow, repetitive, heavily influenced by trap music which is synonymous with Southern hip-hop and is considered representative of the South Side's dangerous environment and its effect on the youth. The main rapper in this scene who has brought this style to mainstream prominence is Chief Keef, and his success has extended to other local rappers in the drill scene such as King L, Lil Durk and Lil Reese.
A number of artists from Chicago released albums and mixtapes influenced by gospel rap. Notable examples are Chance The Rapper's Coloring Book, Kanye West's The Life of Pablo, Noname's Telefone and GOD C.O.R.P.'s release entitled "The Now Testament'.
Vitamin-C is a Chicago hip-hop artist native of Chicago's South Side. He broke into Chicago's music scene with a 12' single entitled 'The Chicago Way' in 1990 on Jackstreet Records, followed by the 1991 full album on Black Tie Records entitled "Highly Respected', which spawned local success with 3 of the nine songs breaking college radio silence with the albums title track 'Highly Respected', 'Vitamin pumps the juice', and Address the Midwest' thanks to Legendary Chicago Dj's like WKKC's Pink House, and WHPK's JP Chill. Vitamin-C is currently active in the music collective "Royal Tribe' as a member of the hip-hop/reggae group GOD C.O.R.P. "Champions of Righteous People', under the moniker "OG CUSH'.
Harmanis is a Greek rapper and producer born and raised in Chicago. He is a member of the first gangsta rap group in Greece, Zontanoi Nekroi whom first LP in 1998 named "O Protos Tomos" became one of the most emblematic CD's that ever been released in Greece. Although he can rap with more comfort in English, he can also rap very well in Greek and he is identified as a Greek rap legend.
Crucial Conflict is a Chicago hip hop group best known for its 1996 single "Hay" (from the album The Final Tic) and "Scummy" (from the album Good Side, Bad Side). The members of Crucial Conflict are Coldhard, Wildstyle, Kilo, and Never. They frequently collaborate with fellow Chicago rappers Do or Die and Twista. They recently finished their album Planet Crucon, with their newest single, "Barn Fire".
Crucial Conflict, with the help of Do or Die, made the Chicago rap community more visible. With fast-paced raps, the band was compared to Bone Thugs-n-Harmony, with whom they later ended up feuding. When the smash hit "Hay" was released, it improved the sales of the band's album The Final Tic.
Crucial Conflict has also recorded tracks for movie soundtracks such as Def Jam's How to Be a Player, Rhyme & Reason, Belly, and Thicker Than Water. They also made a brief cameo appearance in the 1998 Hype Williams movie Belly, which starred DMX and Nas.
Common's success as an underground rapper in the nineties was the first time that significant attention was paid to Chicago hip hop as a separate entity. The singles from his first album reached the top ten in the Billboard Hot Rap Tracks and the attention of music critics and fans alike shifted to the Midwest based on Common's lyricism. This opened the door for other blossoming MCs from Chicago in the mid-nineties (such as Da Brat), but Chicago hip hop was still vastly overshadowed by the West and East Coast hip hop scene. Still, Common has found mainstream success in the 21st century with Grammy winning albums like Finding Forever and Be, and is recognized as an icon of Midwest hip hop.
Kanye West although not born in Chicago came at a young age his lyricism, then not prevalent in rap music, disregarded any talk about how well-respected, or "hard" the rapper was on the street. As West became successful, many other rappers from other places like Drake and Kid Cudi realized that they could use alternative hip hop to gain mainstream success as well, and many rappers re-oriented their styles from a gangsta rap persona to an emphasis on other things. This was significant for Chicago, as many rappers from there do not have hardcore styles, having been influenced by Common or Kanye West.
The recent surge in popularity for alternative hip hop finally gives Chicago artists an opportunity to be successful. As the violence in hip hop toned down during the late 2000s, conscious rappers such as Lupe Fiasco and The Cool Kids became a regular in the Chicago rap scene.
Lupe Fiasco was a guest artist on "Touch the Sky" with Kanye West. His debut album was Food & Liquor. Receiving both critical and public praise, Food & Liquor peaked at #8 on the Billboard 200, and at one point was at #2 on the Hip Hop Billboard Charts. It was nominated in 2007 for three Grammys, including Best Rap Album, Best Rap Song, and Best Solo Rap Performance. Fiasco's The Cool was released in late December 2007. His single "Superstar" peaked to #10 on The Billboard Hot 100, making it his most successful single on the chart until 2011, where he released his most successful album to date, LASERS along with his most successful single to date, the Kane Beatz-produced track, "The Show Goes On". He released his fifth album, Tetsuo and Youth recently.
Record producer No I.D. has been cited as having an instrumental role in the development of alternative hip-hop. Having worked with both Common and Kanye West. In fact, West mentions No I.D. as his mentor in his song "Big Brother" from the Graduation album. He produced most of Common's first three albums, his 2011 album, The Dreamer, The Believer, and his 2014 album, "Nobody's Smiling".
Damon Coleman, better known by his stage name Omen, is an American rapper and producer from Chicago, Illinois. He is signed to J. Cole's Dreamville Records and Interscope Records. His debut studio album Elephant Eyes, was released on July 21, 2015
Do or Die is a gangsta rap trio originally from Chicago, Illinois. The group experienced mainstream success with the single "Po Pimp", a collaboration with fellow Chicago rapper Twista, from the album Picture This. Group members are brothers Belo, Nard and AK-47. The trio has sold more than three million albums. Many of the tracks feature Chicago's own Johnny P singing the hooks and The Legendary Traxster on production.
Twista is known primarily for his rapid-fire delivery. At one point recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records as the world's fastest rapper, Twista's success has come largely with other Chicago acts (notably Kanye West and Do or Die). His most successful album to date, 2004's Kamikaze, and its two singles, "Slow Jamz" and "Overnight Celebrity", were all chart toppers.
Rhymefest hails from a Chicago neighborhood known as Jeffrey Manor. Although relatively new--he has released two albums, Blue Collar, and El Che. He was a co-writer of Kanye West's 2004 single, "Jesus Walks". His debut album, Blue Collar hit #61 on the Billboard 200.
The Jermaine Dupri protégé had chart success in 1994 with her single and video entitled "Funkdafied" taken from her debut album of the same name. During the rest of the decade, she remained somewhat low-key and came to be known more for her featured appearances on other rappers' and R&B singers' albums than for her own solo work.
MC Juice or simply Juice, is a freestyle rapper from Chicago, known for his seamlessly smooth flow and his ability as a 'punchline rapper' he has received acclaim for his freestyles and battle raps. He is best known for beating Eminem in a freestyle battle; the famous Scribble Jam freestyle battle competition in 1997. He was regarded in 2004 as one of finest freestyle rappers ever produced by Chicago.
Chief Keef is known for his particularly violent lyrics. His music is considered to be a representation and portrayal of the youth of the violent streets of Chicago. He is largely responsible for the introduction of drill, a derivative branch of trap music formed in Chicago, to the mainstream. At the age of 17, he is the youngest label head in history. His debut album Finally Rich was released on December 18, 2012.
Sharkula has been a rapper in the Chicago scene since 1987. His lyrics are known for being scatterbrained, discontinuous, free-associative, non-violent, apolitical and random. His album Martin Luther King Jr. Whopper With Cheese was voted by readers of The Chicago Reader as one of the 20 best albums of 2004. Sharkula is known for his self-street marketing by copying tapes and CD's and selling them in public areas personally along with distributing flyers and leaflets promoting his shows.
Chance the Rapper's rap style is very different from most other rappers. In the way he often uses quick, jazz-inspired beats. He is known to be a positive influence, as the message of his lyrics are typically uplifiting. He is one of the staple faces for Chicago rap in the 2010s. His three projects 10 Day, Acid Rap and Coloring Book, were generally very well received among critics and listeners all around. Chance won 3 Grammys in 2017 (Best Rap Album for Coloring Book, Best Rap Song for No Problem, and Best New Artist).