And yet, the music emerging from within the city’s ever-expanding world of rap is changing, with new artists continuing to push the boundaries of the genre’s rumbling, disarmingly simple sound. Rappers like Fredo Santana, RondoNumbaNine and Johnny May Cash continue to build on the Atlanta-influenced, hollowed-out aesthetic that Chop describes as “regular good music,” while producers like LeekELeek have taken the more playful aspects of drill to even stranger, tuneful places.
Do your own shit: that’s the credo. Even within the confines of a major label system, there’s still a need to keep generating material.
The experimental squelches and squawks of Auto-Tune still weave in and out of the city’s sound, with songs like Chief Keef’s “Citgo” and Lil Durk’s “Dis Ain’t What U Want” sounding like drug-soaked psychedelic lullabies. There’s also been room for performers like Katie Got Bandz and Sasha Go Hard to coexist, providing a female perspective to the scene. “Let these girls shine too,” says Young Chop. “There’s light for everybody. There’s money for everybody. Trust me, I know.”
If there’s a recurring theme to the conversation it’s that the trappings of fame—the money, the high profile deals, the big name collaborators—don’t really impress the three that much, or at least they don’t want to seem overly impressed by any of it. More than anything, they want to stay focused on making music and creating more opportunities for themselves on a day to day basis. “I met Jay Z,” says Lil Durk at one point. “I don’t really care about all that though. It helped me out but…”
“That shit ain’t nothing, bro,” interjects Young Chop. “I already worked with Kanye and that shit ain’t really nothing. All these big celebrities…you just gotta do your own shit.”
Do your own shit: that’s the credo. Even within the confines of a major label system, there’s still a need to keep generating material, to bring more music to fans who have grown accustomed to a steady stream of new songs that document their daily life. Even with the murder rate going down, the city is still a dangerous place to be, making it all the more important for young artists to plan their next step. “I don’t know right now,” says Lil Reese when asked about his next move. “I really don’t know. I’m just gonna work.” —Dan Jackson