How Chicago Shaped Current Hip Hop Culture

How Chicago Shaped Current Hip Hop Culture


This morning The Boy Illinois tweeted about the massive influence Chicago has had on current culture and trends in the hip hop industry and it’s hard to disagree with him. From the slang to the style to the sounds, Chicago has clearly been on the forefront of hip hop culture for a while and it’s time the city started getting the recognition it deserves. It’s hard to imagine what hip hop would be like without influence from people like Chief Keef and Chance The Rapper, but Chicago’s impact is much greater than just those two artists.

It’s difficult to find an appropriate place to dive into this discussion, but Chief Keef’s rise seems like a good place to start. While the drill scene was already churning in Chicago with artists like King Louie making names for themselves, it didn’t become widespread outside of the city until Keef and the Glory Boyz Entertainment (GBE) crew took the spotlight. Nowadays the Chicago drill scene circa 2010-2013 is the stuff of legends, and a big part of that is the national attention artists like Keef, Young Chop, and Lil Durk received. This nationwide media wasn’t always positive, but that didn’t stop these artists from influencing an entire generation of young MCs, including some of the most notable hip hop artists on the planet. People like Lil Uzi Vert and Playboi Carti have clearly taken massive influence from Keef and the entire drill movement, with Uzi flat out admitting Keef is the most influential rapper of the generation. From his flow to his style to his adlibs to his melodically hypnotizing cadence, Keef has impacted this rising wave of artists more obviously than anyone else, but he isn’t the only creative mind in Chicago who deserves recognition for Chicago’s massive influence.

“Nationwide media wasn’t always positive, but that didn’t stop these artists from influencing an entire generation of young MCs”


Not only does Chicago’s sound get picked up by the rest of the country, but the visual style does as well. Directors such as DGainz and Laka Films helped popularize the gun-toting, high energy music videos that have become the standard for many drill influenced artists. Videos such as I Don’t Like may have been a departure from the traditional rap videos of the 90’s, but they also showed authentic environments and brought a realness to the visuals that appealed to a whole generation of hip hop fans. Not only did DGainz and others like him change how music videos were presented, they also helped open doors for artists who couldn’t afford classic music videos with expensive cars, models, and sets, which was the regular setup for a long time. Instead of being an insanely expensive promotional piece, videos became more accessible and easier to share, which has helped lead to the booming YouTube space with leaders such as Elevator featuring an abundance of underground artists who have been able to create visuals on a budget.

“It’s artists like Supa Bwe that have taken inspiration, run with it, and showed others how to do it.”


This innovation in videography continues in Chicago thanks to Cole Bennett who has also made a name for himself through his trippy visuals which have become a staple among SoundCloud rappers and the current underground movement. One of the artists Bennett has worked with multiple times is Supa Bwe, who has impacted hip hop in his own right. While Trippie Redd may be the flavor of the month, Supa Bwe has been making his melodic, catchy, rock inspired style of music for over a decade and is clearly Trippie’s musical predecessor. Supa has even been making his signature style of music before artists like Fetty Wap burst onto the scene, showing just how ahead of the curve he has been and how much influence he should be credited with having. It’s artists like Supa Bwe that have taken inspiration, run with it, and showed others how to do it.

Another artist that has had massive influence: Chance The Rapper. It’s hard to imagine hip hop in general without Chance’s rise and he has created a wave of indie artists inspired by his wholesome image and creative music, not to mention the fact that he has remained independent even though he’s had opportunity to do otherwise. It’s also an interesting juxtaposition to see how much influence Chief Keef had AND how much influence Chance has had despite them being on opposite ends of the hip hop spectrum. Chance’s work outside of music has also been impressive and he’s been showing artists how to use their voice and influence to impact their local communities. One thing that Chance also does very well is help promote local Chicago artists, including fashion designers.

“From the sounds to the styles, Chicago has impacted hip hop culture in greater ways than most people can imagine.”


You’ve probably seen a piece of clothing or art inspired by JoeFreshgoods, even if you didn’t know it at the time. Freshgoods has taken Chicago’s fashion scene by storm with Fat Tiger Workshop and his brand Don’t Be Mad (DBM), both of which have become staples in the city. Chance even wore one of Freshgood’s hoodies when he accepted the Grammy for Best Rap Performance in 2017, as well as helped him model his Thank You Obama Collection. Freshgoods has also collaborated with the Chicago Bears, showing just how much people have been paying attention to his work and how highly regarded it has become. While Freshgoods may have finally hit it big, it wasn’t always that way. He started DBM with only $80 and has since turned it into the highly successful, globally worn brand it is today. As Freshgoods continues to grow, more and more people are attempting to imitate his style and some of his biggest collections have received huge amounts of exposure, helping Freshgoods’ style reach an international audience. 

From the sounds to the styles, Chicago has impacted hip hop culture in greater ways than most people can imagine. It has become an incubator for creative thought that gets spread across the globe and we shouldn’t ever forget where all that innovation originated.


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