Chicago hip hop is a regional subgenre of hip hop music that originated in Chicago in the late 1980s in the form of hip house.[1] The hip hop of Chicago is sometimes called "Chi-town"[2] in the music industry. It became commonplace for serious rappers to cite the Nation of Islam, a Black Muslim organization headquartered in Chicago, as a lyrical and ideological influence in the 1980s and 1990s, a rap theme often resulting in controversy. Beginning Throughout the years, Chicago Hip Hop has taken the world by storm, producing some of the most famous and well respected rappers to ever live. Although already successful in the music industry from record labels such as Chess Records and Vee-Jay Records (each primarily producing soul and jazz), Chicago needed a new style after these companies and many others were bought by larger ones. The solution: Hip Hop, a relatively new genre already being popularized with rap groups such as N.W.A.. Chicago was quick to join the trend, with them joining in a few years later than the first rap song was ever made. Now we can see that Chicago has the fourth largest underground (also known as “grassroots”) rap music in the nation. These rappers are not affiliated with any large production companies, sometimes having contracts with record labels, but otherwise staying unheard of. Although there are less big names to compete against, having so many aspiring young rappers, the resources are scarce, and it causes a very competitive environment. Any person trying to make a name for themselves will have to fight against thousands of other people to make it big. This can cause rappers to have to find other ways to make a name for themselves. A way this is done is battle rap. Chicago is one of the easiest places to find a rap battle, as rappers are constantly competing against each other to showcase their talent. (Harkness, Geoff). Chicago Rap Beef and Drill Another way that rappers diss each other is rap beef, which Chicago has produced a plethora of. Many instances of the beef stem from gang related feuds, as gangs are a very prominent problem in Chicago. One of the most notorious rappers in beef is Chicago rapper Chief Keef, also known as Keith Cozart. His first rap beef being with other Chicago rapper Lil Jojo, also known as Joseph Coleman. After Coleman was shot and killed in a drive-by shooting, police began to investigate Keith Cozart due to the intense beef they expressed through rap. Not only has Chicago been one of the main places where rap beef stems from, but gangsta rap has also been widely popularized by chicago. Whilst not originally from Chicago, it has become an essential part of music from Chicago. Modern day, we can see lots of gangsta rap, or commonly called “drill rap” coming out of the infamous “O Block”, a small area in Chicago densely populated with gangs. Drill rappers such as King Von or Dayvon Daquan Bennett, Keith Cozart (Chief Keef), DD Osama or David DeShaun Reyes all being born in O Block. Rappers such as these are now keeping modern day Chicago Hip Hop alive, each collecting hundreds of millions of streams on apps such as Spotify, but rappers such as Kanye West and Ludacris are what made it big in the first place. (Harkness, Geoff). Biggest Chicago Rappers Although only living in Chicago for eight years, West prodfully boasts living in Chicago, even going so far as to say on a Jimmy Kimmel Live episode “Never think that I'm not from Chicago for one second”. You can see many other rappers boasting about their birthplace in their lyrics, including Ludacris, Twista, Common and more. Hip Hop is a huge part of Chicago culture throughout the nearly 40 years it has been there, and Chicago has influenced Hip Hop throughout the years. Some of the most essential and important rappers are from Chicago, and without Chicago, there is no way to tell where Hip Hop would be right now. (Harkness, Geoff).

[3] In the 2000s, Chicago produced artists such as Kanye West and Common.[4] In the 2010s, Drill music became popular in Chicago, which was very different from Chicago’s previous artists. The genre was criticized by Lupe Fiasco. Drill music originated in Chicago’s South Side and was influenced by trap music and gangsta rap.[5] Graffiti artists, breakdancers, activists, hip hop writers, rappers and hip hop producers have existed in the city for decades.[6]

Notable artists

Further information: Category:Rappers from Chicago


  1. ^ Kernodle, Tammy L.; Maxile, Horace (17 December 2010). Encyclopedia of African American Music [3 volumes]. Abc-Clio. p. 200. ISBN 9780313342004.
  2. ^ "Chi-town - Rap Dictionary".
  3. ^ Swartz, Mike (2005). "Entries: Rap". Encyclopedia of Chicago.
  4. ^ Collins-Dexter, Brandi (20 September 2022). Black Skinhead: Reflections on Blackness and Our Political Future. Celadon Books. ISBN 9781250824110.
  5. ^ Reese, Eric (9 March 2022). The History of Trap.

Harkness, G. (2014). Chicago Hustle and Flow; Gangs, Gangsta Rap and Social Class. Minnesota, University of Minnesota Press.

See also