When Chance The Rapper received the award for best new artist at the Grammys this past February he thanked the entire city of Chicago during his acceptance speech. Chance’s meteoric rise to the top of music would not have existed without his upbringing in the Windy City. The gratitude he expressed during his speech was not just to the city for raising him, but to the idea of Chicago and its values. A couple of weeks ago, I spoke about these topics with Shala., a social impact artist based in Chicago and the founder of The Movement.
The Movement is an art house collective and social cause boutique. Think Andy Warhol’s Factory meets Tom’s. Shala’s current endeavors have him producing a Trap Rock group, a secret playlist project with some Chicago notables and a solar-powered pyramid on the Southside of the city. Shala and I spoke for over an hour and a half about philosophy, the collective consciousness, Kanye and the creative bubble in Chicago that is destined to pop. We believe Chicago is on the cusp of a huge eruption.
“We are the next hub for great artists of all genres to emerge. Chicago is going to bring forth the next wave of impactful artists because we’ve always been ahead of the curve. The world is becoming more like Chicago because people want to be unapologetically themselves. Chicago has always been raw. The rest of the world is just now catching up.”
There is no greater example than, arguably, the most prolific music artist of the past 20 years, Kanye West. Kanye personifies everything that people hate but want to be. Brash, confident, unfiltered, outspoken, relentless and unforgiving. Kanye gives us permission to be fascinating because he shows us that it is ok to be dynamic. It is ok to address our insecurities directly. It is ok to give a middle finger to the nay-sayers and it is ok to be polarizing. Guys like Kanye and Chance would not have the same success if they did not grow up with, and soak up the ethos of Chicago. If LA is the city of dreamers, Chicago is the land of hustlers. The city itself seems to have always carried a huge chip on its shoulder. More specifically, a chip in the shape of a big apple. The ethos of the city is derivative of a little brother complex with New York.
“Just as New York always felt the need to prove something to ‘Old York (England), Chicago carries the same self-inflicted burden. There’s a cynicism toward our own in this city, and it takes so much energy to push through that once you do, of course you’re gonna be as great as a Kanye, a Chance, a Barack etc.”
Chicago has always had the attitude of of being the smallest kid on the basketball court. Everybody is always yammering about New York and LA. For the longest time, people insisted that that is where you had to go in order to become a successful artist. Chicago was always put on the back-burner. We were the kid that got cut from their high school varsity team; the 30th pick in the draft that is now a cornerstone of an NBA franchise. The 3rd year point guard that asks “Why can’t I be the MVP of the league?”
Being overlooked and underrated for years has sparked a mammoth fire that is ready to ignite at any moment. Chance’s ascension is the first domino to fall in an independent ripple effect that has been coming for a very long time. Who is going to be next? Vic (Mensa)? Noname? G Herbo? BJ? Maybe it will be a different type of artist. Who will be the next Banksy, Wachowski twins? (The Matrix Trilogy, Cloud Atlas) Or Joe Swanberg? (Drinking Buddies, Easy).
If you know of any Chicago artists that are poised for a breakthrough, urge them to continue the momentum by working with other Chicago artists. Shala. has intentionally created his company to contribute further “movement” to this growing movement.
“I am glad that Chicago creatives are finally understanding that our individual successes are a culmination of our collective efforts; past present and future. I am anxious for everyone to see that; the way we have seen it with New York, LA and Atlanta. With looming success, the most frustrating part is knowing who you are before everyone else does.”
When we finally hit, we will hit big and once we go forward as a unit, there is no telling the damage we will do. If history has a say, that could be the impact of Obama, Kanye West, Fall Out Boy, House Music, Common, Twista, Chief Keef, and Chance all at the same time.