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The hip hop scene in Chicago, Illinois, has produced many artists of various styles. Rappers in Chicago include Polo G, Juice WRLD, Kanye West, Do or Die, Common, Da Brat, Lupe Fiasco, Chance the Rapper, Vic Mensa, Rhymefest, SEVENSIXX, Bump J, Chief Keef, Lil Reese, Cupcakke, Lil Durk, King Louie, King Von, Shawnna, Noname, Fredo Santana, Calboy, G Herbo, Jay Lyn Gatz, Lil Bibby, Crucial Conflict, Open Mike Eagle, Jeremih, Juice, Mick Jenkins, Saba, Ramaj Eroc, Big Frogman, Lud Foe, Twista, Young Pappy, L’A Capone, and RondoNumbaNine.


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The M.F. Boyz were the very first rappers to release an official album, titled, "Back In The Days," in December 1988. The group consist of three rappers, DJ Double D, Psycho III, and MC Dice (currently known as Player Dyse G).

MC Dice's solo song, "The Godfather of Rap," was the first solo rap song from a Chicago artist.

Musical styles

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, Triple Darkness, Snypaz 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.[citation needed]

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.[citation needed]


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, DaWreck and Twista, who at one point was considered the world's fastest rapper.[citation needed]

Chipmunk soul

The success of Kanye West had a ripple effect on the local hip hop scene, with his production style (dubbed "chipmunk soul" for West's sampling and pitching-up of soul vocals which are reminiscent of Alvin and the Chipmunks' signature sound) 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 been guest rappers 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 Vic Mensa and Chance the Rapper, with West's The College Dropout being the first hip hop record Chance ever heard.[citation needed]

Drill scene

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 Von, Lil Durk and Lil Reese.[1]

Gospel rap

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, GOD C.O.R.P.'s release entitled 'The Now Testament', and Smino's NOIR. (Smino is from St Louis however has extensive connections to the Chicago rap scene working on projects with Saba, No Name, and Chance the Rapper)

Notable musicians


Vitamin-C is a Chicago hip-hop artist native of Chicago's South (SS) 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 album's 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.

Chilldrin of da Ghetto (C.O.G)

Chilldrin of da Ghetto also known as C.O.G was one of the first gangsta rap groups in the nineties that produced what is known to be Drill music to Chicago hip hop as a separate entity. C.O.G was based on life and adversities on Chicago's West Side, a notoriously rough area which had gained a reputation for gang violence and drugs, which had a similar beat to it like fameous rappers and rap groups like N.W.A, the trio rap group had gained the likes from rappers like Mack 10, Soultre, MC Eiht, Juvenile, and B.G. The group became big that two of their singles "It's Time to Roll" and "Drug Lord" were originally heard in the 1999 film Thicker than Water and were also released on the film's soundtrack. The album spawned two singles: "Wild Side" and "Luv at First Sight", the latter peaked at number 67 on the Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs and at number 6 on the Billboard Rap Songs. Along with a single, a music video was released for the song "Wild Side"[2] with cameo appearances by MC Eiht and Mack 10. Chilldrin of da Ghetto was one of the first rap groups ever to create drill music, which is popular today especially with rappers from Chicago's South Side, like Chief Keef, King L, Lil Durk and Lil Reese.[citation needed]

Crucial Conflict

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.

They have collaborated and worked with such artists as Three 6 Mafia, Do or Die, Twista, R. Kelly, 2Pac, Warren G, The Outlawz, George Clinton, Project Pat, Da Brat, Busta Rhymes, and many others.

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.[citation needed]

Kanye West

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.[citation needed]

Lupe Fiasco

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.[3] 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,[4] 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.

No I.D.

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".[5]


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

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,[6] 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 Jeffery Manor, a neighborhood on the Southeast side of Chicago. 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.[7]

Da Brat

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

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 Scribble Jam freestyle battle competition in 1997. He was regarded in 2004 as one of finest freestyle rappers ever produced by Chicago.

Chief Keef

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.[8] 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.[9] 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.[10][11][12]

Chance the Rapper

Chance the Rapper's rap style is very different from most other rappers; he often uses quick, jazz-inspired beats. He is known to be a positive influence, as the message of his lyrics is typically uplifting. 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 three Grammys in 2017 (Best Rap Album for Coloring Book, Best Rap Performance for No Problem, and Best New Artist).

L'A Capone

L'A Capone's is a respected Chicago drill rapper who died in September 2013. He was known for his unique flow on songs. Following his death and subsequent added online popularity, Capone now has approximately 52 million views on his largest hit "Play for Keeps".[citation needed]

King Von

King Von, a respected Chicago drill rapper who died on November 6, 2020, was known for rapping about problems and real life situations in the South Side of Chicago, especially in his former area of Parkway Gardens. His lyrics are known to reflect the violence of gang rivalry between the Black Disciples, of which he is a member, and the Gangster Disciples. His song "Crazy Story" caused him to go viral.

List of notable musicians


  1. ^ "Chicago Rap Blazes Up From the Streets". Retrieved July 13, 2013.
  2. ^ Chilldrin of da Ghetto - "Wild Side" (official video). YouTube. Retrieved 2010-02-01.
  3. ^ "Top 10 R&B/Hip-Hop Albums: Lupe Fiasco's Food & Liquor". Archived from the original on March 4, 2016. Retrieved October 6, 2008.
  4. ^ "Artist Chart History – Lupe Fiasco". Retrieved October 6, 2008.
  5. ^ Vozick-Levinson, Simon (October 31, 2007). "Don't Call It a Comeback". Retrieved October 6, 2008.
  6. ^ "Fast Talk, Slow Climb". Archived from the original on December 10, 2008. Retrieved October 6, 2008.
  7. ^ "Discography – Rhymefest". Archived from the original on July 6, 2015. Retrieved October 6, 2008.
  8. ^ Hopper, Jessica. "Chicago's insurgent rap scene is all the rage, and Chief Keef is at the head of it". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved January 5, 2013.
  9. ^ "The Best Local Releases of 2004". Chicago Reader. Retrieved December 25, 2015.
  10. ^ Leor Galil. "Cult Rapper Sharkula and Finding Your Audience". Forbes. Retrieved December 25, 2015.
  11. ^ "Hip-Hop Hustler". Chicago Reader. Retrieved December 25, 2015.
  12. ^ ""Hey, You Like Hip-Hop?" On the streets with Sharkula – Newcity Music". Newcity Music. Retrieved December 25, 2015.